Hamelin: 'We need more rat catchers'
This story starts like the famous legend - city elders in Hamelin are appealing for rat catchers. But rather than a rodent problem, it is hoards of tourists which require the talents of a colourfully dressed, charismatic whistle-player.
Last year Hamelin's official rat catchers appeared at 600 public events, greeting groups of tourists, opening new buildings and even offering tours of the town in Lower Saxony.
This work was, until the start of this year, shared between five actors, who each had a suitably colourful outfit to fit with the legend of the Pied Piper of Hamelin.
But two of these have now stepped down, leaving head rat catcher Michael Boyer and his two colleagues hopelessly overloaded.
"It's easy to play the rat catcher," said Boyer. "But like all art, it is not easy to do well. One needs to be spontaneous and to show empathy."
As well as learning the historical details of the legend immortalized by the Brothers Grimm, a potential rat catcher must be musically gifted and have some acting talent.
"The value of the rat catcher to Hamelin cannot be overestimated," said city spokesman Thomas Wahmes.
"The rat catcher is our number one emblem. He made Hamelin famous around the world."
The 13th-century legend talks of the city being overrun with rats. The city fathers promised to pay a travelling rat catcher if he could help them. But after the Pied Piper had charmed the rodents into the River Weser with his flute playing, the politicians refused to pay up.
He returned and played his flute again, this time leading the city's children away, in revenge. One boy with a crippled leg supposedly returned to tell the tale but none of the others were ever seen again.