While waiting an incredibly long time for medical treatment at their local emergency room, Nanny Piggins tells the tragic of her great great great great aunt, otherwise known as the Pig Piper of Hamlin.
While waiting an incredibly long time for medical treatment at their local emergency room, Nanny Piggins tells the tragic of her great great great great aunt, otherwise known as the Pig Piper of Hamlin.
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Hello, and welcome to Bedtime Stories with R.A. Spratt. Today's story is... The Pig Piper of Hamlin’ as told by Nanny Piggins.
Here we go...
Nanny Piggins, Derrick, Samantha and Michael were sitting in the Emergency Department waiting room. They had not intended to visit the hospital, but as is so often the case when you are an internationally renowned circus star, sometimes the Emergency room is where you end up.
Especially when you eat so many chocolate croissants at your favourite bakery, that the influx of sugar to your brain causes you to think it is a good idea to demonstrate tight rope walking on some nearby power lines.
Nanny Piggins’ tight rope walking had been flawless and of course, spectacular. But inevitably some busybody had called the emergency services and a trigger-happy animal control officer had soon arrived on the scene.
Upon seeing a farm animal on top of an inner-city power pole, this animal control officer had panicked (there had been nothing in his training specifying how to deal with this precise dilemma) so he had tried to shoot Nanny Piggins down with a tranquilizer gun.
Luckily he was a terrible shot. His dart whistled past Nanny Piggins, just brushing her fabulously coiffed hair. But that is where things started to go wrong. Nanny Piggins was so incensed to have been nearly been tranquilized, without even a ‘please may I tranquilize you?’ or ‘Excuse me while I fire this dart at your hind quarter.’
She flew into a rage. In her haste to descend the power pole, her Yves Saint Laurent couture dress snagged on the control box, and shed had to yank herself free. One thing lead to another and by the time she got to the ground her wrist was sprained and the entire city and all 30,000 residents were without power.
Suffice it to say, Nanny Piggins had some very stern words with the animal control officer, and a few stern stomps on his foot too. She sent him home to write her a full letter of apology and to buy her a lovely bunch of flowers while the children escorted her to the hospital. She was able to drive herself, if Derrick did the left-handed bit of holding the steering wheel.
Now they were in the waiting room and they were extremely bored. Waiting rooms are boring at the best of times but hospital waiting rooms are extremely so. No one is ever up for a nice conversation. They’re too busy moaning from pain or trying to pass out from internal bleeding.
Usually there is a television in the waiting room. For some reason it’s always attached to the ceiling, which is really inconvenient for the patients with neck pain. And this television is always tuned to the most miserable show possible. Nanny Piggins secretly suspected the nurses do this on purpose to punish the patients for complaining too much.
But on this day, even the television didn’t work. A geriatric old lady with a case of double pneumonia had got so sick of watching the Indonesian Regional Golf Championships that she had stood up (the first time she had done that in 6 years) picked up her cane and smashed the screen in. All the other patients in the waiting room burst out in applause and even a few cheers. She was quite the hero of the day, until a heart patient figured out how to get smarties out of the vending machine without paying and stole her thunder.
So anyway, Nanny Piggins and the children were in the waiting room, waiting seemingly endlessly to see the doctor and they were very very very bored. The television had already been smashed so there was nothing left for them to do.
Nanny Piggins sighed loudly. She was a talented pig. But if she did have one weakness, it was her total and utter impatience with boredom.
‘Couldn’t we just go home?’ complained Nanny Piggins.
‘No, you need x-rays in case your wrist is broken,’ said Samantha.
‘I don’t mind it being broken,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘It’s only pain. I’ll get used to it. Especially if I can go home and bake a few dozen cakes to eat and take my mind off it.’
‘You won’t be able to bake cakes if you haven’t got the strength to holding a mixing spoon,’ said Derrick.
Nanny Piggins gasped. That thought had not occurred to her. ‘Not be able to bake cake! Why that’s unthinkable!’
‘Which is why you need to see the doctor,’ urged Derrick, to make sure you’re alright.
The children loved their nanny dearly and they wanted what’s best for her, the fact that this also meant that they would get more cake was just a side bonus.
‘But this is soooooo booooring,’ complained Nanny Piggins, slouching inelegantly on a plastic chair so uncomfortable it can only have been designed by a medical expert so dastardly he/she knew the exact pressure points in the human bottom to cause maximum misery.
‘Why don’t you tell us a story?’ suggested Michael.
‘I’m the one in pain,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘You should be telling me a story.’
‘Okay,’ said Michael. ‘Um… er… once upon a time…’
‘Yes, yes, once upon a time,’ snapped Nanny Piggins. ‘Everyone knows that, get to the good bits! The action, the fighting the romance!’
‘There was a boy who liked to…’ continued Michael.
‘Oh that’s enough!’ snapped Nanny Piggins. ‘I love you Michael. You are a wonderful boy. But please, leave storytelling to the experts. It is an art form more fine and infinitely harder to master than any of the other creative arts, and it is dangerously tedious in the wrong hands.’
‘Okay,’ said Michael. He wasn’t the least offended. He knew Nanny Piggins was in pain, so her manners were not as good as usual. He also knew that if he let her take over and do the story telling it was sure to be magnificent.
‘Alright, gather round,’ said Nanny Piggins.
‘We are gathered round,’ said Samantha. They were already sitting either side of her.
‘Not you,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘All the other patients here waiting. That’s right, you over there with the eye patch and the old lady in the corner who keeps spitting in her cup. I know you’re all secretly listening to me because you’ve never met a pig this impossibly glamorous. Come closer so you can hear properly. The tale I’m about to tell you is the greatest you have ever heard or will ever hear.’
‘I’M DEAF,’ said an old man near the vending machine.
‘Well you should come closer too,’ yelled Nanny Piggins. ‘You’ll still miss out on the story, but you can gaze on my beauty instead. Studies have shown that just seeing a beautiful person can have medicinal benefit.’
‘Is that true?’ asked Samantha.
‘I don’t know,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘But it should be true. And if you say anything confidently enough people will believe you, especially if you really are stunning.’
The patients all shifted closer, bringing their ice packs and bandages and settling themselves in.
‘The story I am about to tell you is called…’ Nanny Piggins paused for dramatic effect. ‘The Pied Piper of Hamlin!’
‘We all know that one,’ complained the old woman, she emphasized her point by spitting into her cup again.
‘Really?’ said Nanny Piggins.
‘It is quite famous,’ said Derrick.
‘It’s the story about the man who lead all the rats out of Hamlin,’ added Michael.
‘Pish!’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘That’s not the story I’m going to tell. My story is much better. That’s not the way it went at all. My story is about the piper who lead all the people out of Hamlin.
‘What?’ said Samantha.
‘You see, this was a long time ago. Centuries and centuries back,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘I had a great great great great great aunt who was a roving pipe player. She wandered from town to town, because no one likes listening to pipe playing.’
‘What?’ said Michael.
‘Well you know what a pipe is don’t you?’ said Nanny Piggins.
‘It’s a type of flute, isn’t it?’ said Derrick.
‘Gosh no,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘Flutes sound rather lovely if played correctly. No, a ‘pipe’ as they called it in the olden days is what we now call a ‘recorder’!
Several of the patients visibly flinched at this dreaded word.
‘That’s right the most loathsome musical instrument of them all,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘The recorder. The first instrument every child is handed by their deranged primary school music teacher, and then sent home to practise. Where upon the sweet little beloved child proceeds to drive their parents insane.’
‘But surely a recorder sounds nice when played by a professional?’ said Samantha.
‘No!’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘It does not. Because people who play recorders are all lunatics. They don’t play nice songs from the top 40. They play horrible old fashioned music called madrigals.’
‘What’s a madrigal?’ asked Derrick.
‘My dear boy,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘Trust me. You do not want to know. You must never ever utter those words again, just in case a medieval music enthusiast overhears you and whips out a recorder to demonstrate.’
‘Right,’ said Derrick.
‘Anyway, my aunt, Gwyneth Piggins, roamed town to town playing music for the local people,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘Now you have to understand, this was back in the days before television, or radio or mass produced books. People were desperate for entertainment.’
‘So they enjoyed her recorder music?’ asked Michael.
‘They were desperate but they weren’t deaf!’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘They would gather around to hear her play but as soon as the first sound wave vibrated out of her instrument they realised they’d make a dreadful mistake. On the whole, they were good well-meaning folk. They desperately tried to be kind and polite. But they could only keep it up at most for a day, a day and a half tops if it was really rainy and they couldn’t hear properly. Then, when they couldn’t bear it a moment longer they would kick her out. Sometimes literally with kicking.’
‘Poor Gwyneth,’ said Samantha.
‘Don’t feel sorry for her,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘People who play recorder only have themselves to blame.’
‘Now while all this was going on, there was one town, called Hamlin and it had a terrible problem,’ said Nanny Piggins.
‘With rats,’ said Michael nodding knowledgably.
‘No,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘It was the rats who had the problem, with the humans.’
‘What?’ said Derrick. Which shows how bamboozled he was because he usually had good manners and would have said ‘I beg your pardon.’
‘The humans in Hamlin were so lazy and disgusting and unhygienic the rats were fed up with them,’ said Nanny Piggins.
‘I don’t understand,’ said Michael.
‘Well you see rats usually survive by eating all the scrap food that no one else wants,’ explained Nanny Piggins. ‘They’re neat freaks. They like to tidy everything up.’
‘Really?’ asked Samantha. She’d always had an entirely different impression of rodents generally and rats in particular.
‘Oh yes. These people were so disgusting and lazy,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘They ate all the rotten old scraps themselves. All the left overs, all the potato peelings, all the biscuits that they dropped on the floor. They just picked them up and ate them.’
‘What if someone stood on a biscuit after they dropped it?’ asked Michael.
‘Even if someone stood on it with dog poo on their shoe,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘These people were so vile, they’d still eat it.’
‘Ew gross,’ said Derrick.
‘That’s what the rats thought too,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘So they decided. These humans have to go. Not only are they disgusting, they eat everything that isn’t nailed down and a few things that are. The poor rats were starving. They had to go out into the countryside to search for food. And it was on one of these search trips that one of the rats overheard Gwyneth playing.
He had just stopped to lie down and gasp for breath from sheer exhaustion when he heard a terrible ear splitting torturous noise. The rat tried to clap his hands over his ears. But of course rats have very short arms and quite disproportionally large ears. That would never work. So he went in search of the heinous noise, hoping that perhaps he might be able to bite the cause into submission.
And what he found was of course – Gwyneth, sitting on a fallen log practising her madrigals. The noise was so appalling all the woodland creatures were desperately fleeing trying to get away. The birds, the deer, the rabbits, even the butterflies were all rushing to escape and this gave the rat an idea.
The rat stepped out into the clearing and said loudly, ‘What a marvellous tune.
‘I beg your pardon,’ said Gwyneth. No one had ever paid her a compliment before.
‘That was lovely,’ continued the rat. ‘The people in my town are great lovers of music. Please, it would be a great honour if you would come with me to my town and play for them.’
‘Really?’ said Gwyneth. She was used to people hurling abuse at her when she played, sometimes they hurled pots and pans as well.
‘Oh yes,’ said the rat. ‘You mustn’t play out here where no one can hear you. I insist you come and play for all the people of Hamlin.’
‘Now Gwyneth had not slept in a house for months,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘She smelled a little pongy, felt very hungry and would love a chance to wash her clothes in water that hadn’t just melted off a glacier. So perhaps she wasn’t being as sensible as she should have been. Plus she did love to play music. And being an optimistic pig, even thought no one she had ever played for before had ever enjoyed her music, that didn’t stop her hoping that perhaps on this one occasion she had found someone, or at least, some rat who did.’
‘Are you sure?’ she asked.
‘Absolutely,’ said the rat. ‘In fact, we will make it worth your while. If you come and play for all the people of Hamlin. I promise you will have a place to live for the rest of your life.’
This was a dream come true. She had never had a home. Gwyneth leapt at the opportunity. ‘Alright, you’re on,’ she said, picking up her recorder and joining the rat. ‘Shall we go right now?’
‘Indeed,’ said the rat.
‘Would you like me to play while we walk?’ asked Gwyneth.
‘Gosh no!” exclaimed the rat hurriedly. ‘I mean, please save your talent for the whole town to hear.’
So Gwyneth followed the rat back to Hamlin. There was a big town meeting that night to discuss who’s turn it was to take the trash out. No one liked taking the trash out in Hamlin, so they would fight about this every year. All the trash would pile up in the middle of the town square until the mayor forced one poor citizen to take the whole lot out and dump it somewhere, usually in the middle of the forest. They were not great environmentalists back in the olden days. Just as the meeting was about to begin Gwyneth stepped up onto the stage.
Can we help you?’ asked the mayor.
‘I have been asked to play for all the people of Hamlin,’ said Gwyneth, upon which she took up her recorder and launched into a tune. She became so caught up in her own music she was transported. She closed her eyes and was lost in the song. So she did not notice the audience desperately trying to cover their ears, writhing in pain and rushing to get away.
When she did open her eyes, half the crowd had disappeared already, only the older and infirm people were still in the room although they were all hurrying for the exits.
Gwyneth didn’t want them to miss out. She was a kind hearted, if delusional pig, so she chased after then. They hurried faster, several of the infirm actually overcame their infirmities that night in their bid to get away from her.
But Gwyneth was quite a fit pig. All that recorder playing had been good for her lungs, so she kept up with them. The townspeople ran and she ran after them playing the whole while. She chased them all the way to the next town, where eventually she was stopped by the closed doors of the city wall. It was late at night by this stage and the doors were shut in her face.
‘Go away,’ cried the guard from the city wall.
‘But I just want to play for the townspeople,’ called Gwyneth.
‘Here take all our gold,’ cried the mayor. ‘Just leave us alone, please, we’re begging you.’
‘I don’t want gold,’ said Gwyneth. ‘I just want a place to live and people to play for.’
‘You can stay in Hamlin,’ said the mayor.
‘Thank you, that’s jolly kind,’ said Gwyneth. ‘I’ll play for you every day.’
‘We’re not coming back,’ said the Mayor. ‘You can keep it. Just leave us alone.’
‘Piggins!’ called a doctor in a bored voice. Everyone was snapped out of the story. They all remembered that they were in an emergency waiting room waiting for urgent medical treatment, ‘Consultation room 2.’
‘Now is not a convenient time for me,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘When I first came in, an hour and forty five minutes ago, then yes I may have been free to accompany you to your second consultation room. But at the moment, I am busy amazing and entertaining your patients. And since you have sadly neglected them yourself you should be grateful.
‘You’ll lose your spot in the queue,’ said the doctor.
‘That is a terrible way to practise medicine,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘What if I was dying of a low blood chocolate count. Threatening me with a queue would hardly be professional. It’s your fault I’ve been forced to amuse these people. Don’t take your poor time management practises out of me.’
‘We have a hospital to run here,’ lectured the doctor.
‘And the hospital will still be here in ten minutes when I have finished,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘Now be a good doctor and stop interrupting or I shall have to send you to the naughty corner.’
‘You don’t have a naughty corner,’ Michael reminded her.
‘Yes, I do,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘It is the corner furthest from the chocolate vending machine.
‘But these patients require treatment,’ said the doctor.
‘Hands up which you want first,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘Treatment or to hear the end of the story? Not you Mrs Stephanopolous, don’t raise your hand. We don’t want you dripping any more blood on the floor. There you are. Everyone wants to hear the end. So be a dear, and sit quietly. I won’t take long if you stop being such a fuss pot.’
Nanny Piggins launched back in to her tale.
‘Oh,’ said Gwyneth, Finally realising that the people of Hamlin may not have enjoyed her playing as much as she thought they did. ‘Oh, I’ll be going then.’
So forlournly Gwyneth trudged back to Hamlin. When she got there, she could hear music and singing. Her heart lifted. She loved music. She stepped into the main square and was astounded. In the few hours since she’d driven out all the people, the place had been transformed.
The city had been cleaned top to toe. It was spic and span and shining. And right there in the main square the rats, who had done it all themselves, were holding a massive party with food and music and dancing. It was a wonderful sight to behold.
Gwyneth was so proud to have brought so much happiness to Hamlin. She took out her recorder and joined in. But, with the first discordant squeal of her instrument the rest of the music ground to a halt, the dancing stopped, even those who were eating stopped mid mouthful. They were so horrified by this sound.
‘What are you doing back?’ asked the rat.
‘You promised me a home forever in exchange for playing for the people,’ said Gwyneth.
‘Why should we let you stay here?’ asked the rat. ‘We just go rid of all the people. We don’t want to let a pig come and live here to leave all your mess lying around. Go on, get out of here!’
‘But you promised,’ said Gwyneth.
‘Promises don’t count when you make them with recorder playing pigs,’ said the rat.
‘Yeah, said another rat.
‘Yeah,’ said all the other rats.
‘You can’t make me,’ said Gwyneth. ‘I’m much bigger than you and I’ll bonk you all on the head with my recorder.’
‘Well I’m sorry to say,’ said Nanny Piggins that Gwyneth did slightly under estimate the abilities of the rats at this point. ‘Just as an ant can carry 8 times its own body weight. A rat can carry many times it’s own body weight. So when several thousand rats gang up together, they can easily hoist up a 40kg pig, carry her out of town and chuck her in the nearest creek.
Gwyneth spent another night cold and alone in the woods.
‘You’ll regret the day your dismissed my recorder,’ said Gwyneth shaking her trotter at them. During that night Gwyneth had a lot of time to think about life, music and revenge. She hardened her heart and came to the decision that if people and rats would not let her use her music for good, then she would use it - for evil.
The next day the rats of Hamlin were going about their business. They were having to work very hard ever since the people left. They had never realised how much work the people actually did.
Sure they ate everything and left their things lying around, but the people had harvested the crops and churned the milk and ground the corn to make flour. The rats had no idea how to do any of those things for themselves. Doing chores was exhausting.
The rats were just sitting down for an afternoon rest. They hadn’t had any lunch because they’d eaten all the food at the feast the night before and they hadn’t grown any more yet. And at this moment then they began to hear a rumbling.
‘What is that?’ asked a young rat.
‘It sounds like an earthquake,’ said his mother rat.
‘We don’t get earthquakes here,’ said a grandfather rat. ‘We aren’t on the edge of a tectonic plate.’
The rumbling grew louder.
‘Perhaps it’s a storm,’ said another rat.
‘But the sky is clear,’ said yet another rat. They all looked up at the sky and it was a clear blue.
But the rumbling grew louder and louder. The houses and the furniture was all starting to shake now.
‘What is it?’ asked the chief rat.
And then they found out. Because at that moment people started to flood back into the city. They were all running as fast as they could. Rushing up the streets, taking shelter in houses and hiding in any building, then locking themselves in and nailing the doors shut.
‘It was the people of Hamlin coming back,’ guessed Michael.
‘It was more than that,’ said Nanny Piggins, ‘It was the people of Hamlin and everyone in the neighbouring city. They were all desperately trying to escape.’
‘From what?’ asked Samantha.
‘From Gwyneth,’ said Nanny Piggins. She had gone to the neighbouring city and played and played until the people could bear it no more, then she drove them all to Hamlin. When every last man woman and child was writhing within the walls of that city she finally stopped. The people were so relieved and yet still frightened no one dared step food out of Hamlin for a whole year.
‘But what happened to Gwyneth?’ asked Derrick.
‘She became the first mayor of Gwynethsburg,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘She went back to the neighbouring city and claimed it as her own. She renamed it Gwynethsburg and it became a bustling metropolis.’
‘Of people who loved recorder music?’ guessed Samantha.
‘No, no such people exist,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘She ran her city as a refuge for all people suffering from industrial deafness. They loved her for taking care of them. And she loved them for being the best audience for her recorder music she had ever known. The end.
‘Can we see the patients, now?’ asked the Doctor.
‘I suppose so,’ said Nanny Piggins. ‘If you promise to be good and not interrupt story time again.’
‘Yes, Nanny Piggins,’ said the Doctors meekly as they lead away the patients to deal with them.
Thank you for listening. To support this podcast just buy a book by me, R.A. Spratt. There's a lot to choose from across the Nanny Piggins, Friday Barnes and Peski Kids series of books. You can order them through your local bookstore or go to my website raspratt.com and click on the Book Depository banner. They have all my titles and free international shipping. That's it for now. Until next time, goodbye.