Kindertransport by Diane Samuels

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3 Der Rattenfänger – There are several versions of this story, which is usually anglicised as ‘The Pied Piper of Hamelin’. The tale itself is ancient and may even reflect some historical occurrence in the town of Hameln in Lower Saxony, such as an outbreak of plague or some other tragedy involving the death of large numbers of children. Most modern versions derive either from ‘The Children of Hameln’ by the Brother’s Grimm, published as part of their book Deutsche Sagen (‘German Legends’) or from Robert Browning’s poem ‘The Pied Piper of Hamelin’. The importance of the story to the play is simply that the Ratcatcher (‘Der Rattenfänger’), is refused his agreed fee for luring all of the rats of Hameln into the River Weser and takes his revenge by, in turn, luring the town’s children away from their homes and families, disappearing with them either into a cave or through a ‘crack’ that opens up in the side of a mountain. The children (at least in many versions of the story) are never seen again.

3 She is well turned-out – Helga and her husband are wealthy, unlike Eva’s foster-mother, Lil.

3 ‘What’s an abyss, Mutti?’ – Eva has read this word in Der Rattenfänger and it is almost certainly a reference to the ‘cave’ or ‘crack’ into which the children of Hameln disappear. The Ratcatcher, seen as a tempter and seducer, bears some resemblance to the devil and ‘the abyss’ is a common enough term for hell. ‘Mutti’ is the German equivalent of ‘mummy’.

3 ‘A huge gash in the rocks’ – Eva is clearly reading the ‘crack opening in the mountain’ version of the story. The word ‘gash’ adds an impression of violence to an already terrifying idea.

3 ‘EVA: What’s a…/ EVA puts down the book. Music stops.’ – Eva has slipped in the childish habit of asking her mother question after question, but here she suddenly stops in mid-sentence as if she has recalled the ending of the Rattenfänger story and applied it to her own situation. The enticing ‘Ratcatcher music’ ceases to play, and this is presumably another indication that Eva is contemplating the ‘abyss’ that swallows the children when the Pied Piper ends his tune.

3 ‘Eva, sew on your buttons now.’ – This is a task a mother would normally do for her child. Helga is encouraging Eva to be independent of her, before she is sent away.

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Diane Samuels