Fairy tales are something of a universal canvas for telling stories and teaching lessons. Although they’ve existed for centuries, modern society has seen no slowing in this handed-down tradition. Most interesting of all may be the different ways these stories and folktales have been adapted for a wide variety of today’s audiences. Movies like the Shrek series offer a playful interpretation appropriate for the whole family. Television series like Grimm play to an older audience by revealing the often dark truths behind these stories’ origins. Author Ilana Waters aims for the family-friendly audience with Paying Piper, a retelling of the Pied Piper of Hamelin story.
While the inspiration for the Pied Piper – though debated – typically ranges from dark to sinister, the general plot of the story is the same. The town of Hamelin is suffering from a terrible rat problem, so the mayor hires a mysterious stranger to lead the rats away with his music. Upon completing the task, the piper fails to receive the promised amount of payment. In retaliation, the piper leads all of the children away. Depending on the version of the story, the piper either eventually receives his payment and returns the children, or the little ones meet a grisly or mysterious end.
Waters’ version takes a different look at the story. Rather than simply being a lesson about paying those who are due, the author digs into the motivations behind a few of the key characters. Part of the story focuses on the rats’ perspective, showing them to mean no intentional harm and failing to understand why the humans can’t coexist with them. The motivations of the Pied Piper himself are also made clearer. His anger is not so much about the fact that he didn’t receive the expected payment. It’s about how abhorred he is with the way the people of the town treat others. Once the rats are gone, the adults of the town quickly turn their pettiness and anger on their own children. As a parable, the story becomes a lesson about the proper way to treat everyone else in the world, regardless of species, age, or social status.
Children’s stories are a fantastic tool for teaching kids the valuable lessons of life, and Paying Piper is no exception. Being a childless adult I’m certainly not the core audience here, but Ilana Waters‘ take on a folklore classic appears to be a solid short story for parents to share with their kids. There are even some discussion questions at the end to emphasize to children some of the lessons they should take away. Even for some of us adults, it’s a fine reminder that if we don’t do what’s right, we’ll someday have to pay the piper.
Paying Piper is currently available for FREE on Smashwords, Kobo, and directly from Ilana Waters’ website. You can also check it out on Amazon, Amazon UK, and Barnes & Noble.
© 2013, The Indie Mine. All rights reserved.