When I was in grade school, we put this story on as a play. It was a fun, silly production. My sister and I were both rats. We were dressed in black leotards and tights, complete with rope tails and hoods that covered our hair and had huge eyes and ears sewn onto them. The play started with several 'townsfolk' describing the rat problem. When we, the rats, actually came out onto stage, there were dozens of us and we would dance around and jump and swing our tails. It got a laugh from the audience every time. As the play proggressed, we would run through the audience, flicking people with our tails and being as annoying as possible.
It was fun, but the real story wasn't so light-hearted. Many people believe this story was an allegory for the Black Death or some other medieval catastrophe, but I'm not so sure. The first origins we have of the story are twofold: 1) A stained glass window in built around 1300 BC which shows the Piper leading the children away. 2) An entry in the town chronicles in 1384 that reads: "It is 100 years since our children left."
(That's just creepy if you ask me! Or maybe just tragic.)
The rats (the obvious symbol of the plague) weren't added to the story until the 16th Century. It seems to me that they were added as a way of explaining the Piper's actions. It seems obvious that some major tragedy befell the town and/or it's children, but no one seems to know what that tragedy was. No one knows now; no one knew even in the 16th century, which is why the story was expanded.
Some believe this might have been the result of the Children's Crusade. Hundreds of children went on that crusade and were lost in battle, never to return home. They were lured toward war with pretty, deceptive words, and not told the whole truth about what they would experience there. (Hmm. Someone that survives the Children's Crusade and returns home afterward would make an interesting character. Sorry! Rambling thoughts!) Anyway, this sounds like a plausible explanation for the Piper to me. Still, it's all just speculation.
If that is what happened, what were the specifics? Did the parents beg the children to stay? Did every last one of the kids leave? What words did the 'Piper' use to persuade them? And why a Piper, rather than a priest or soldier that served the monarchy?
And what if it wasn't the Children's Crusade? Sorry to be negative, but something about the Piper screams pedophile to me. What if the tragedy was of an entirely different nature?
I've long wanted to write a story based on the Pied Piper legend, but there's so much fodder there for creative fiction that I don't know where to begin!
What do you think? What angle would you take on this legend?