Themes and Issues
The theme of greed is shown in two ways. The townsfolk are portrayed as fat and greedy. Indeed, when the Pied Piper first appears, the Mayor is dreaming of eating a plate of turtle soup. When it comes time to pay the Piper, the townsfolk justify not paying him by saying that they could have a great feast for half the cost, another sign of greed. The second way in which greed is highlighted is through the rats. They bite the babies in their cradles and lick the soup off the cooks' own ladles and cause general havoc. Rats are commonly looked upon as greedy creatures, consuming or destroying everything they come in contact with. The notion of a rat plague personifies this greed.
Loss of a Generation
The play climaxes with the loss of an entire generation of a town. All the children except for one lame child, who is unable to keep up, are taken away from the town. It is hard to imagine a town without children. The townsfolk have certainly been taught a lesson and the legacy of that lesson is a constant reminder to them of their sins.
The Suggestion of Heaven
There seems to be quite a strong suggestion that the Pied Piper leads the children into some form of ‘paradise' or ‘heaven'. In the children's song the children state that they are happy to follow the Piper because they do not wish to live in a town where the grown-ups do not keep their promises. They are therefore rewarded for their moral decision. In this production of the play there is certainly an emphasis of a heaven-like place, as when the children exit, they walk towards the light. The only glimpse the audience receives of this mysterious place is through the eyes of
the lame child, who does not make it. However no one knows what happens when the mountain closes. In Cool Rat's closing speech he speculates about a tribe in Transylvania, whose parents had risen from a subterranean prison. What does this mean? Were the children enslaved in some kind of hell? Have they risen as vampires? Or did the Piper take them to a heavenly place? We can only speculate about the events that followed the closing of the mountain, but they are interesting questions which can be explored depending upon the age and ability your students.
What would it be like?
In groups of four, get the children to discuss and then draw a picture of what they imagine the place where the children are taken to looks like. Give the students ten minutes to formulate and create their pictures, then have each group present their drawing to the class and explain their drawings. You might want to show them the following picture from the cover of one version of the poem as an example - http://www.indiana.edu/~librcsd/etext/piper/ Discuss.