The Frog’s Tale
By Tom Trumpinski
Once upon a time there was a wide-mouthed frog. Like all frogs, he had a name made up of a series of rumbles, a series of croaks, and a ribbet with a burp thrown in. For our purposes, however, none of that is important, so we’ll just call him Frog—it’s easier.
Frog lived in a big pond in the woods with lots of juicy flies and mosquitoes. He was happy, for the most part, but something was missing. As time went on, he watched all of the green frogs, peepers, and tree frogs find a girl and settle down. There were no frog girls like him, though, and that made him sad.
There was an old witch who lived in a hut in the woods and was said to be wise. Frog figured if anyone would know how to help him, it would be her, so he set off down the path, one hop at a time, to ask her.
The path was dangerous for a small amphibian. There were foxes and lynxes in the woods; weasels lurked in the shadows. He was careful to hide as they passed by and after they were gone, he continued on his way. Finally, shortly after dawn, he arrived at the door to the witch’s hut and realized that, being a frog, there was no way to knock. He settled down next to two toads in her garden to wait.
“Been here long?” he asked the larger of the two.
“Yep,” the toad answered him, “you waiting for the witch, too?”
Frog blinked his eyes twice to show agreement. “I want to know why there aren’t any girl frogs for me. You have any ideas about this?”
The smaller toad said in a feminine voice, “Could it be you don’t have enough warts? I find warts very attractive,” and kissed the larger toad.
This wasn’t helping him any, but before he had to wait much longer, the witch emerged from the hut and came into the garden. “What are you doing here? Want to become ingredients, eh?” She jumped at the toads and they scattered, not stopping until they had reached the edge of the woods.
Frog was still there. “So,” she said, “you must have something very important to ask me. The scare was to chase off the riff-raff—I’d never have a minute’s peace if I didn’t have a selection process. Come on.” She put her hand down on the ground and Frog hopped into it.
She took him inside and set him on her table. The hut was dark and smoky; a fire burning in the hearth had a pot bubbling over it that gave off unidentifiable smells. The witch’s black cat hissed at Frog and retreated to a corner of the single room to wash itself.
“I came here to ask you for help,” Frog said.
“Everybody does,” replied the witch. “Sometimes I even give them some. You look healthy enough—big pop eyes, slimy skin, green as grass. Whatever could be the problem?”
“I’ve never met a girl frog like me. There are all kinds of other frog-girls, but I’ve been alone all my life.”
“Well, my dearie, that’s because you’re a magic frog.” She walked to her bookcase, pulled out a black-leather journal, and blew the dust from its pages. Opening it, she ran her fingers down first one page and then another. “Here we go—you’ve got a magic power, even. If a human princess kisses you, she becomes a frog, too. Looks like you’re descended from royalty, me boy.”
“Princesses?” he asked. “There aren’t any princesses in the woods. There aren’t any people at all, just talking animals—most of which want to eat me. What should I do?”
The witch slammed the book down on the table next to Frog, scaring him so much he jumped over two plates and a sugar bowl and landed in the witch’s lunch. “What a dumbass,” she said, “they won’t come to you—you have to go to them! When the path crosses the stream, follow the water upstream. You’ll come to a town with a castle and the princess there has a lily pond just right for a frog like you.”
“Thank you, thank you, oh wise witch. I want to reward you, but I have no money, how can I repay you?”
“That’s all right, you’ve provided more than enough entertainment for one day. Now, get out of my bean salad before I stick a fork into you.” She opened the door and Frog headed off down the path.
His journey took days, hiding from predators while constantly heading toward the town. On the morning of the last day, he could see the towers and battlements of the castle in the distance, so he hopped twice as fast. In the moonlight that night, he slipped through a hole in the castle wall and found the lily pond.
The next morning, he was sitting on a lily pad when a beautiful golden-haired human girl came to sit beside the pond. She had a songbook with her and sang of knights and their ladies, dragons and their wickedness, and kings and their wisdom. Frog sat, transfixed, as her voice echoed off the garden walls and provided harmony. This person was the most wonderful thing he had ever encountered.
She fed the pond’s goldfish breadcrumbs and then went back to her room and her studies. Late in the afternoon, Frog could see her leaning from her window above, watching the clouds as they shifted and billowed in the blue, blue sky.
Day after day, she came back. Sometimes she sang; sometimes she read poetry; sometimes she just sat and sewed. After a week of watching her, Frog got the nerve up to speak to her.
“Hello,” he said, “princess?”
The princess looked around for the source of the voice, standing up to peek around the gate into the garden. “Hello?” she said as she looked up at the windows of the tower above.
“Over here,” said Frog, “in the pond. I’m on the lily pad.”
“Oh,” she said, coming over to kneel next to the water’s edge, “a talking frog. You must be magic. Are you a prince, like in the stories?”
Frog was worried now. He was magic, of course, but the princess shouldn’t know that. She was beautiful and had thumbs and could do all sorts of wonderful things; he couldn’t ever ask her to give that up. So, he lied.
“No, not magic at all—well, except for the talking part, but everything in the woods down the road can talk. It must be some kind of natural law or suspended disbelief or something. I do like to listen to you. What’s your name?”
“Estrella,” she said, “it means star—there was a nova on the day I was born that lit up the sky.”
The two of them spent the rest of the day talking. She told him of court life and of the princes who came to court her, none of whom would ever say “no” or have a backbone. He told her of life in the forest—swimming in clear water, singing all night, and being able to catch things on the fly with his tongue. Before they parted for the night, Frog sang her a lullaby with notes so deep, they made ripples in the pond.
They did this every day that summer and long into the fall. Every day, Frog fell more deeply in love with the princess and was only happy when he was with her. It was getting toward the beginning of winter—the time he’d hibernate—when she came through the garden gate, crying.
“Oh, princess,” Frog said, “what’s the matter?”
“Frog, you’re going to go to sleep for the winter soon and I don’t know how I can stand to be away from you for that long. I would do anything to keep you with me. I love you.”
“Oh, heavens,” Frog thought, “she feels the same way about me. Should I tell her?” He tossed the question back and forth through his little froggy brain until, finally, he couldn’t stand it any longer.
“Estrella,” he said, “you were right when we first met. I am a magic frog, but not the kind you thought I was. I can cast a spell with a kiss, but it won’t change me—it’ll change you. If you kiss me, you’ll become a frog just like me.”
“Really?” she asked. “A frog just like you?” She reached down into the pond and scooped Frog up in her hand. Holding him close to her mouth, she put her lips together and gently touched Frog on his. Nothing happened. Not to be deterred, she tried again. Again, nothing.
Frustrated, she said, “Maybe you’re supposed to kiss me, instead. Go ahead.” The princess closed her lovely blue eyes and puckered. Frog hopped to the edge of her hand and planted the biggest kiss he could on her. Still nothing.
“This is insane,” she said. “What are we doing wrong?” Her voice broke with anger. “We’ll figure this out, but in any case, you’re not going to hibernate this year, come on into the castle—I’ll explain you to my parents later on.”
Estrella and Frog spent the first of many happy days in the castle. Over the months, their love grew until they were inseparable, Frog riding on her shoulder or behind her tiara, whispering love poetry in her ear. At last, a year later, news came to them that the witch was in town buying materials for her potions. Here was their chance to find out what had gone wrong.
The princess sent her two guards, Guido and Max, to the market with orders to bring the witch before her. It didn’t take long. Soon, the old crone was being frog-marched, if you’ll excuse the expression, up the red carpet into the princess’s corner of the throne room. Guido dropped her and asked, hopefully, “You need anything broken, your highness?”
“No, Guido,” Estrella said in tired voice, “that won’t be necessary, thank you.”
The princess turned her attention to the witch, who was now dusting herself off. Frog watched from her shoulder, trying to figure out what was going to happen now.
“All right, witch,” she said, “you have some explaining to do. You told my companion,” she ran her fingers gently over Frog’s back, “he was a magic frog and that if I kissed him, I’d turn into a frog just like him. This has not happened, even though we’ve been trying every night. What’s with this?”
“Oh, the frog, the frog,” the witch stepped forward and squinted, “oh, I remember now. Pah, he’s not magic, I was just screwing with him because he interrupted me gathering herbs. Kissing won’t do anything to him, nothing at all.”
The Frog looked at the princess. The princess looked at the Frog. Both of them looked at the witch, who looked back at them.
“Besides,” said the witch, “it looks like you two are doing perfectly well just the way you are. Why on earth would you want to change when you’re both good enough already? The idea, young lovers, is to find someone you like just the way they are and love them for it. You’ve got my blessings.” The witch turned and walked away from the two of them. Estrella motioned for the guards to let her pass and they opened the door.
As the two lovers looked into each other’s eyes—hers, blue as the sky, and his, round as the world, they realized the old witch was right. They kissed, not because of magic, but because of love.
And they lived happily ever after.