Friday, October 18, 2013

Rat Kings and the Bishop of Hatto

Students in Reading Your Way through History, my fifth period class have moved into the middle ages where they are reading various novels that take place during this time.  They learned about King Canute, King Alfred, and more recently the Pied Pier of Hamelin.  We had a discussion about rats and their own role in folk history and fears.  The rats that we have in Salem are the descendants of the Norwegian plague rats that came across on ships.  These rats do not carry the bubonic plague any more...but they are still a nuisance. Bishop Hatto, who lived during the 8th century, had a reputation as a cruel and heartless man who locked up his peasants, but was latter devoured by rats when his deed was uncovered.

But what is really startling are the very rare discoveries of rat kings---when rats become stuck in small places, their tales become tangled and they cannot escape.  There are rat kings that have been discovered and preserved.

Rat kings, and the idea of a king rat are usually signs of bad omens in stories and legends.   They have mostly been found in medieval houses in Germany, but others have been found outside of Europe.  Pretty creepy, huh?