Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: 30 January 2019
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Thai
At a party, a group of friends and I were talking about Ratatouille the movie, and my friend brought up another story he knows about rats. This is a legend that he heard throughout middle school and high school from classmates while growing up in New York. He’s never seen it himself, and never wants to.
“This is a legendary being that lives in New York, called the Rat King. So, the Rat King, is what happens when a bunch of rats get stuck in a room, and uh, as they squirm around each other, their tails get tied together. And eventually they’re all tied together, and they become the rat king. But because they’re tied together, only one of them can survive. So the other, so the one rat, survives, by eating the bodies that are tied to him and drags it around, as he, or she, walks, like scurries, around New York. Just a rat tied to a bunch of maimed and um eaten, half-eaten, other rats. And sometimes they say that, if you look really hard into the subway tracks, especially the ones around Times Square, you can see the Rat King scurrying with his tail tied to all the other dead bodies.”
This piece of folklore seems very believable, as there are millions of rats living in confined spaces in New York. However, there doesn’t seem to be any live evidence of one Rat King eating its way to “freedom” and control. This legend makes my skin crawl, and that’s probably its main purpose. As this is a story that was apparently heavily shared in middle school to freak people out.