The Pied Piper

20th June 2003 at 01:00
English and drama activities by Crispin Andrews.

Many years ago the town of Hamelin in Germany suffered from a terrible plague of rats. After trying everything to get rid of them, the Mayor promised 1,000 guilders to anyone who could put an end to the plague.

Days passed but no one claimed the 1,000 gold coins.

Then one day a stranger came, dressed in bright red and yellow clothes. He told the townspeople he could rid Hamelin of the rats. The mayor, desperate to rid the town of the rodents, promised the stranger he would pay him 50,000 guilders if he could do what he said.

That night, the stranger played a soft hypnotic tune on his flute, luring all the scurrying creatures out of the houses and barns. The rats followed the Piper towards the river Weser and he made them jump in, and they all drowned.

With the rats gone, the Mayor refused to pay the Piper. "Playing a tune on a flute is not worth 50,000 guilders," the Mayor told him. "Get out of Hamelin!"

On Sunday morning, when all the grown-ups were at church, the Piper returned playing the same magical tune. This time, all the children followed him, out of the town gate and towards the mountains. When they reached the biggest mountain, a cave opened and they all went inside.

The entrance to the cave closed behind them and neither the children nor the Pied Piper were ever seen again.


KS2 These activities will help children explore how drama and narrative forms work (plot, motivation and mood).

* After reading the re-telling aloud, ask small groups to identify a key dramatic moment and represent it as a still-life freeze frame. Ask them to think about the point in time their characters are frozen in, in relation to the story as a whole. What have they just done or said? What will they do next? How might their characters' actions influence what is going to happen?

* Ask pupils to react without speaking to statements like: "You have an extra hour's homework to do" or "You are all being kept in at break time today, because Gemma didn't finish her work" or "You don't have to come to school tomorrow because it's a teacher training day."

* Next, make the groups a set of six cards, each with a different reaction word and then read out an offer from the Pied Piper to rid the town of rats - you can even use verse six from Robert Browning's poem:

"If I can rid your town of rats "Will you give me a thousand guilders?''

"One? fifty thousand!'' - was the exclamation Of the astonished Mayor and Corporation.". As the statement finishes, ask children to show different reac-t ions. Can other children guess what their reaction is? (Who is happy, sad, disappointed?)

* After the earlier "still-life freeze frames", children should be beginning to use their new-found use of gesture and expression to communicate their meaning more clearly. Now a narrator (possibly in the guise of a TV reporter) can ask questions of the groups, such as "Who do you think is paying the Pied Piper and why?" Turning this into a group competition, with points for sensible answers, should help ensure you get some good responses. What is being explored here is the mood of a particular character or group of characters.

* Link the above activities to short pieces of writing describing how characters in the story might feel at a particular dramatic moment.

For the full text of Robert Browning's poem, go to: www.indiana.edulibrcsdetextpipertext.html

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