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->''"'The rat,' said O'Brien, still addressing his invisible audience, 'although a rodent, is [[SomewhereAMammalogistIsCrying carnivorous]]. You are aware of that. You will have heard of the things that happen in the poor quarters of this town. In some streets a woman dare not leave her baby alone in the house, even for five minutes. The rats are certain to attack it. Within quite a small time they will strip it to the bones. They also attack sick or dying people. They show astonishing intelligence in knowing when a human being is helpless.'"''
-->-- ''Literature/NineteenEightyFour''

Rodents are widely reviled, but not very threatening; after all, anyone can set a mousetrap. So how do writers make them a legitimate threat? By having a [[ZergRush very, very large swarm]] of them all at once! One rat isn't scary, but a huge wave of rats eating a victim alive, [[DeathByAThousandCuts one bite at a time]]? Horrifying.

Rats and mice are perfect for the "huge swarm" treatment, since, as any exterminator will tell you, they tend [[ExplosiveBreeder to breed a lot. And really fast]]. Also, as omnivores, they can and will eat meat -- sometimes even if said meat is still alive -- and rats in particular have strong enough teeth to chew through metal.

Sometimes used as a threat to prisoners in a dungeon.

See also CruelAndUnusualDeath and RodentsOfUnusualSize. Contrast with EvenTheRatsWontTouchIt, and with ReducedToRatburgers, an inversion. Not to be confused with YouDirtyRat.

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!!Examples:

[[foldercontrol]]

[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
* PlayedForLaughs in the second ''Manga/RanmaOneHalf'' movie (''Nihao My Concubine'') the antagonist unleashes a load of rats to scare all the girls, of course Ranma gets all superior about this, saying [[GenderBender she]] isn't scared of little furry animals. The rats are then pursued by a herd of cats (which are Ranma's WeaksauceWeakness). HilarityEnsues.
* In the ''Manga/{{Akira}}'' manga, after [[spoiler:Akira causes the destruction of Tokyo upon reawakening]], there's one scene where Chiyoko is waist deep in a pool of water underground and swarms of starving rats swim to her trying to eat her.
* In one episode of ''Anime/SailorMoon'', Zoisite follows Luna and another cat into the sewer. Worn out by the chase, he places his hand on the wall... only to realize it's ''moving''. What follows stirs up a literal wave of rats that is shown swallowing him up at one point.
* In one ''Manga/CryingFreeman'' story, Bugnug lies crippled in a sewer and a swarm of rats attacks her. She defends herself by ''[[CrowningMomentOfAwesome killing the rats with her teeth]]''.
* In the Yotsuya arc of ''Anime/AyakashiSamuraiHorrorTales'', rats are a recurring motif. At least one character is killed by an application of this trope.
* Taken UpToEleven in the [[HorrorAnimeAndManga horror manga]] ''Manga/{{Region}}'', as a plague of starving rats swarms across the entire nation of Japan.
* Combined with RedEyesTakeWarning, A huge horde of rats is what is shown chasing [[Anime/YuGiOh The Kaiba Brothers]] in episode 174 of the [[FillerArc DOMA / Waking The Dragons Arc]]. you know things are bad when you have to flee a huge horde of possibly mind controlled rats ''By Car''.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Ballads]]
* In some variants of the Literature/{{Child Ballad|s}} "Literature/SirAldingar", the queen's hair is unkempt from the mice and rats gnawing on it while in prison.
* In some variants of the Literature/{{Child Ballad|s}} "Literature/YoungBeichan", the hero's hair is gnawed on by rats in prison.
-->''O whan she saw him, Young Bekie,\\
Her heart was wondrous sair!\\
For the mice but an the bold rottons\\
Had eaten his yallow hair.''
* In Robert Southey's ballad "God's Judgment on a Wicked Bishop" (1799, based on 14th century legend) evil Bishop Hatto is eaten alive by the giant army of rats.
-->''They have whetted their teeth against the stones,\\
And now they pick the Bishop's bones:\\
They gnaw'd the flesh from every limb,\\
For they were sent to do judgment on him!''
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Comics]]
* In ''CountdownToFinalCrisis'', Una is eaten alive by a swarm of mutated rats, and shows her {{Determinator}} street cred by continuing to fight them long enough to will her flight ring to another character, who escapes.
* ''The Shooting Star'' has ComicBook/{{Tintin}} hugging a lamppost to escape rats swarming through the streets.
* In one issue of ComicStrip/ThePhantom, set in Victorian London, this is the fate of the UsefulNotes/JackTheRipper inspired villain Hack Jack, who gets trapped in the sewers while fleeing the current Phantom, and is devoured by a horde of rats. His remains arent found until weeks later.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Film]]
* ''Film/IndianaJonesAndTheLastCrusade'' had a whole catacombs full of them under the city of Venice.
* Similarly in ''Film/FromRussiaWithLove'', after the explosion in the Russian embassy, Bond and Tatania's escape route in the underground reservoir is diverted by a swarm of rats.
* In the movie ''Film/ElNorte'', the brother and sister sneaking over the Mexican border crawl through a sewer line at one point and are nearly eaten alive by a swarm of rats. They survive, but [[spoiler: the sister contracts a disease from a rat bite and dies later.]]
* ''Film/{{Willard}}'', after the title character befriends the rats in his basement and trains them so he can exact revenge on his boss. In the 2003 movie, the swarm of rats even consume a [[TheHunterBecomesTheHunted live cat]].
** TruthInTelevision about the cat, as colonies of rats can and will mob a predator to defend their nests.
* ''Film/{{Titanic}}'' had a non-threatening example. Some of the Third Class passengers decided the best way to find their way abovedecks was to follow the swarm of fleeing rats.
-->'''Tommy Ryan:''' If this is the direction the rats are going that's fine with me!
* In ''Film/WildBeasts'', a horde of PCP-crazed rats ascend from the sewers and kill a couple making out in their car. They prove to be so bad that the officials have to deal with them with a flamethrower.
* ''Film/{{Ladder 49}}'' had this. It wasn't a ''swarm'', though...more of a ''sea'', really...
* ''Film/GhostbustersII'' averts this when the guys are down in the subway system.
--> '''Winston''': Just shut up about the rats!
* The mutant rats in ''Film/DeadlyEyes'' move in one swarm around a city, attacking people after another. Once they make a move against a new subway tunnel, they receive a fiery death in a crowded space.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Folklore and Mythology]]
* A rat horde plays a McGuffin-type role in "Literature/ThePiedPiperOfHamelin" and may well be the UrExample.
* Some versions of the "Literature/DickWhittington" tale have a plague of rats, the ''{{Pantomime}}'' versions nearly always has one with the character of King Rat being the major BigBad.
* UsefulNotes/{{Pol|and}}ish tradition holds that Prince Popiel, supposedly a tyrannical ruler that lived in the 9th century, [[JustDesserts was eaten alive by mice]] while he was being besieged in a tower.
* Similarly, according to the legend, Archbishop Hatto (either Hatto I or II) was eaten alive by either rats or mice as divine punishment for [[KillThePoor locking many poor peasants into a barn and then burning it]].
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Literature]]
* The clan in ''Discworld/TheAmazingMauriceAndHisEducatedRodents'' like to pretend to be this as a scam in a spoof of "Literature/ThePiedPiperOfHamelin": then they come into contact with a real (mind controlled) rat horde.
* ''Literature/WarriorCats'': Bluestar loses one of her lives to a horde of rats in the first book. In the Super Editions ''Firestar's Quest'' and ''SkyClan's Destiny'', a huge HiveMind swarm of rats serves as a major antagonist. There are so many that when one character tells Firestar "you can't see the ground for all the rats", Firestar thinks he's exaggerating, but realizes when he goes to fight the rats himself that the cat was right.
* In ''Literature/TheJungle'', Stanislovas is eaten by rats after being locked in the lard factory he works in at night.
* The short story "The Burial of the Rats" by Creator/BramStoker features a character recounting a tale where a bunch of hungry rats had cleaned a corpse clean from flesh, [[StrippedToTheBone leaving only bones behind]].
* The trilogy of novels ''Literature/TheRats'', ''Lair'' and ''Domain'' by Creator/JamesHerbert.
* Subverted in "The Pit and the Pendulum" by Creator/EdgarAllanPoe. The rats don't injure the hero (much, and anyway, what's a few rat bites when there's a heavy, razor-sharp pendulum about to cut you in two?)), he uses them to escape his bonds.
* Subverted in ''Literature/TheLionTheWitchAndTheWardrobe''. After Aslan is killed, mice descend on his body. But it turns out they're only chewing through his ropes.
* The Creator/HPLovecraft story "The Rats in the Walls".
* In ''AnitaBlakeVampireHunter'', you have the rodere, groups of giant wererats. As if that wasn't frightening enough, they can call regular rats to an extent to horde around them, and so can some vampires.
* In ''[[Literature/GauntsGhosts Straight Silver]]'', Gaunt and a team of infiltrators are sneaking through an abandoned siege tunnel when an artillery bombardment starts. This sends a horde of rats straight through the team. While no one died, they still bemoaned their situation and all of them were bit multiple times.
* Creator/EdgarRiceBurroughs' ''Literature/JohnCarterOfMars'', section "John Carter and the Giant of Mars". John Carter fights a swarm of ulsios (six legged Martian rats) and is captured by them.
* A novel-only sequel to ''WarriorsOfVirtue'' had Tsun return to her home, an underground Lifespring facing a nasty rat infestation. Several times, she has to deal with the rodents being so thickly packed on the ground that there's hardly any place to step, and reacts to being bitten at least once.
* In ''Literature/NineteenEightyFour'', {{Room 101}} contains, [[spoiler: for Winston Smith anyway]] a caged-apparatus that immobilises the body while letting rats crawl over every inch of skin. This proves frighteningly effective at carrying out [[DespairEventHorizon the room's ultimate purpose]], especially because [[spoiler:Winston is absolutely, utterly [[WhyDidItHaveToBeSnakes terrified of rats]]]].
* In ''Literature/TheRunelords'', at one point the One True Master of Evil unleashes a horde of plague rats against human villages.
* In ''Literature/TheBoneCollector'', one of the victims is chained to a sewer pipe and left to be eaten by rats. Lincoln chews out his assistant for shooting one the rats off of the victim and thereby contaminating the crime scene.
* The Creator/StephenKing short story ''Graveyard Shift'' (from the ''Literature/NightShift'' collection), as well as being an example of RodentsOfUnusualSize.
** Rats also appear in the novella '1922' from ''Literature/FullDarkNoStars''.
* In ''Literature/TheWonderfulWizardOfOz'', a swarm of friendly rats help get the Cowardly Lion away from a field of sleep-inducing poppies. This would have been too difficult to replicate in the 1939 film version of course.
* In Valerie Martin's novel ''A Recent Martyr'', the main character, Emma, is on an outing to a public park near the river when she sees an army of dying rats being cleaned up (i.e., hidden) by city workers. This is foreshadowing for the epidemic of bubonic plague that occurs later in the story.
* In the novel ''Literature/{{Metro 2033}}'' Artyom's backstory includes him losing his mother at the age of five when the station they were living in was overrun by a horde of rats. Artyom only survived because his mother gave him to one of the three men who managed to escape after begging him to save him.
* In the Literature/FafhrdAndTheGrayMouser story Ill Met in Lankhmar, sorcerer Hristomilo's {{familiar}} can summon a swarm of rats.
* In ''Literature/TheLotusWar'' novel ''Stormdancer'', [[spoiler: the Royal Huntmaster]] calls up a swarm of rats in fight.
* Horror writer Creator/JamesHerbert made his name with debut novel ''Literature/TheRats'', where London's rat population mutates into an intelligent hive-mind, grows to monstrous size, develops a taste for human flesh, and can transmit a terrible new plague into the bargain. London is soon taken over and the war of humans versus rats begins. ''The Rats'' spawned several sequels and plays on the oft-repeated assertion that in London you are never more than twenty feet away from a rat.
* Stephen Gilbert's ''Literature/RatmansNotebooks'' involves a reclusive young man who trains an army of rats to do his bidding. Adapted into two different films called ''Willard''.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Live Action TV]]
* ''Series/OneThousandWaysToDie'' had a man killed by rats that had gnawed through his face and head into his brain.
* In one episode of ''Series/{{Survivorman}}'', Les Stroud is stranded on a tropical island that is utterly overrun with hordes of ship rats, against which Stroud has to build a shelter. Of course, this being ''Survivorman'', he also ends up eating several of the rats.
* In a rare ''friendly'' example of a Swarm of Rats, an episode of ''{{Series/Hoarders}}'' featured a man who'd let his one male and two female pet rats escape from their cage, then didn't have the heart to stop feeding the resulting horde of offspring. By the time help arrived, he'd been forced out of his own house, which was completely overrun by more than 3000 drywall-gnawing, furniture-destroying rodents. Luckily, animal rescue shelters from all over the state were able to mobilize one of the biggest hoarding-recovery operations of all time, and all but a few severely-injured animals were shipped out to rat-lovers statewide.
* An episode of ''Series/{{Grimm}}'' featured a creature called a reinigen essentially a rat-man that could summon SwarmOfRats to do his bidding. He was nearly framed for the death of a music teacher.
* ''Series/{{Dollhouse}}''. At the start of Season 2, a pissed-off Dr Saunders puts lab rats in Topher's cupboard, in a not-too-subtle message of what she thinks of him. His female assistant Ivy has to retrieve them while Topher [[EekAMouse climbs the nearest railing to get away]].
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Pinball]]
* "Bat Mode" in ''Pinball/BramStokersDracula''.
* In ''[[Pinball/WHODunnit WHO dunnit]],'' each trip to the Sewers rewards a "Swarm of Rats" and 1,000,000 points.
* Creator/{{Gottlieb}}'s ''Pinball/HauntedHouse'' is filled with large black rats.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Radio/Audio Drama]]
* The 1937 short story "Three Skeleton Key", by George G. Toudouze, was adapted several times for the horror/mystery anthology series "Escape" and "Suspense". Creator/VincentPrice starred in two of these adaptations. The story features three French [[LighthousePoint lighthouse]] keepers who are trapped in their tower by a starving horde of rats.
* In the BBC's "Dick Barton - Special Agent" (a 1972 re-recording of the lost original serial "Dick Barton and the Secret Weapon"), the heroes are lured into a room by the villain, who traps them there with a pack of bloodthirsty rats.
* In Stephen Gallagher's "The Last Rose of Summer", a 1977 science fiction production for Manchester's Picadilly Radio, the protagonist is attacked by rats in the dark buried streets below a future city.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Table Top RPG]]
* The Skaven in ''TabletopGame/{{Warhammer}}''.
** Packmasters breed and command swarms of rats, and their Grey Seers even have spells that summon them.
* ''TabletopGame/DungeonsAndDragons'' has rules and stats for swarms of rats (and many other types of vermin).
* ''TabletopGame/{{Paranoia}}'' adventure ''Send in the Clones''. One of the many threats the Troubleshooters will face in Sewerworld is swarms of hungry, mean, housecat-sized rats. They rush out of the darkness and attack the {{PC}}s.
* This is a staple trope of ''MagicTheGathering'', which has cards like [[http://magiccards.info/m11/en/113.html Relentless Rats]], [[http://magiccards.info/arb/en/44.html Sanity Gnawers]], [[http://magiccards.info/dpa/en/31.html Ravenous Rats]], [[http://magiccards.info/mr/en/37.html Sewer Rats]], [[http://magiccards.info/fut/en/79.html Stronghold Rats]], [[http://magiccards.info/9e/en/166.html Swarm of Rats]], [[http://magiccards.info/mbs/en/55.html Septic Rats]], [[http://magiccards.info/shm/en/73.html Plague of Vermin]] and even [[http://magiccards.info/di/en/113.html Hellhole Rats]], which are ''[[IncendiaryExponent on fire]]''. Relentless Rats is notable for being an exception to the normal "maximum four copies of a card in one deck" rule. You can have as many as like, and the more you have the stronger they get.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Toys]]
* ''{{BIONICLE}}'': the Stone Rat and Kinloka Rahi are notorious for being voracious eaters and gathering in swarms.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Video Games]]
* The in-universe manual of ''VideoGame/BrutalLegend'' offers two explanations what a Ratgut is: either a humanoid with a [[BodyHorror swarm of rats inside his stomach]] or a rat hivemind controlling a dead human body.
* ''VideoGame/PlanescapeTorment'' has cranium rats, which are rats that share a HiveMind with other cranium rats in close proximity and get smarter in higher numbers. With enough of them, they are capable of human (or superhuman) intelligence and even spellcasting if enough of them gather in one place - several areas of the game feature a ZergRush of rats coming at the player character, tossing balls of lightning. There is even [[spoiler:a huge collection of cranium rats that form a mysterious being known as Many-As-One, who acts as somewhat of a king of a rat kingdom]].
* One of the more gruesome deaths in ''VideoGame/FearEffect''. One GameFaqs writer had listed this above Franchise/ResidentEvil and Franchise/SilentHill as the worst fate to befall a video game character.
* Swarms of rats are a common enemy in ''VideoGame/{{Dishonored}}'', also being the carriers of a terrible plague that's gripping the game's setting. The protagonist can weaponize rats as well, by magically summoning them to either attack the enemy or to make a quick escape by possessing one of them while the others deal with enemies. The number of rat swarms you encounter is directly proportional to how many people you kill in the game, since corpses attract rats.
* In ''Videogame/SouthParkTheStickOfTruth'', one of Princess Kenny's abilities is Swarm of Rats, in which he summons a huge wave of rats to sic at his enemies (though it can backfire if he fails the prompt, causing them to devour him). Similarly, if he's defeated in combat, rats come by to rip his corpse apart, preventing him from being revived until two turns, after which he comes back by himself.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Webcomics]]
* In a 2011 arc of ''MindMistress'', Forethought is trapped in the backfire of time manipulation device, leaving him moving at a sixtieth of normal speed. At one point, an agent sent to check on him finds rats about to feast upon his apparently no-longer moving body. Imagine a SwarmOfRats moving sixty times faster than in real life and coming at you...
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Web Original]]
* ''TheOnion's'' "world history" book has "Corpse eating rats become greatest power in europe" during the World War 1 newspaper headlines.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* Starfire's "demise" in ''WesternAnimation/TeenTitans'' episode "Fear Itself".
* In the early seasons of ''WesternAnimation/SouthPark'', Kenny's [[TheyKilledKenny death of the week]] was often followed by rats swarming to the body to pick it clean.
* PlayedForLaughs in ''WesternAnimation/{{Ratatouille}}'', where the rats swarm around the health inspector's car, then come back with him gagged and tied.
* In an episode of the 80's ''[[WesternAnimation/TeenageMutantNinjaTurtles1987 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles]]'' cartoon, Donatello accidentally creates an evil clone of himself, who then joins forces with a mob boss and clones thousands of rats to take over New York City.
** Any episode involving the Rat King also tended to involve this, since he kept hundreds of rats as pets in his sewer home.
* Done to frightening effect in the ''CodeLyoko'' episode "Plagued". Think a swarm of rats is bad? Try a swarm of rats [[DemonicPossession possessed]] by an [[AIIsACrapshoot evil computer program]]!
* Happens in the "Planet Radio" episode of ''{{Superjail}}'', where a rat eats the vocal chords of an inmate and starts to talk and rule over other rats.
* ''TheHauntedWorldOfElSuperbeasto'' ends with thousands of rats coming out of a guy's arse (you read that right).
* Used horrifyingly in the ''WesternAnimation/BatmanTheBraveAndTheBold'' episode "Gorillas in Our Midst", in which TheSpectre turns a supervillain into cheese--but leaves him alive and conscious--and then releases a swarm of mutant rats to eat him alive.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Real Life]]
* The [[http://www.neatorama.com/2007/01/30/worlds-worst-mouse-plague-millions-of-mice-attack-australia/ Australian mouse plague]]. Not only did the mice destroy the whole crop, the livestock were in danger of being eaten alive.
** [[http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-12994713 Also mass migrations of Long Haired rats in 2011]]. Confirming AustralianWildlife's reputation as RealLife horror.
* ''Creator/TheBBC'' reported a similar plague of rats in India during 2007, [[http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/7141067.stm details]].
* There have been increased reports of rats swarming elderly people at nursing homes who are too weak to fend them off.
* Taft, California was invaded by millions of mice in late 1926.
[[/folder]]
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