Folk tales For Kids - How The Frog Got its Warts

 How The Frog Got Its Warts

Once upon a time, in the southern forests there lived an old man and his wife. It was spring, and before the rains set in, they had to clear the forest slopes around their small hut and prepare the ground for a crop. The old woman, clearing the underbush alongside her husband, muttered to herself as she worked. The old man would occasionally nod, as a matter of habit. Being partially deaf there was little he understood, but it sufficed that he nodded. As they toiled, they would pause occasionally to rest, and it was during one of these brief intervals that the old woman thought she heard a voice say, "I'll snatch that axe and sickle from the old couple." At first, she imagined that she was dreaming. Then looking around, she noticed a toad peeping from the hollow of a tree. "Did you say something?" she inquired. "I did," replied the toad. "That I was going to snatch your axe and sickle." The old woman turned to her husband.

"Old man," she shouted in his ear, "that toad says he is going to snatch our axe and sickle!" The old man merely shook his head and went on with his work. After a while, the toad croaked again and said, "These two old people think I am joking. Watch the fun when I run off with their axe and sickle." At that, the old woman paused and stare at the amphibious creature with its smooth grey-green skin, protruding eyes and squat ungainly body. "Go away and leave us alone!" she shrieked. But the toad croaked and stared at her. "Did you hear what that toad just said?" she demanded. The old man ignored her and continued with his work. She moved some distance away from where the toad sat glaring at her. But she need not have moved. A few minutes later she heard the same voice, "I'll certainly snatch your axe and sickle!" She turned and discovered that the toad had followed her and was seated on a rock close to where she was working. "Do you hear, my old man?" she shouted as she grabbed her husband's arm and shook him. "This toad keeps repeating that he is going to snatch our axe and sickle." The old man raised his head and stared at the toad. Having heard what his wife had said he grew alarmed. "How can we work if this creature takes away our axe and sickle? Let's go away," he cried. The old couple scurried along the path through the forest. In their haste to get away from the toad, they did not notice a snake moving across the path. The old man short-sighted as well as hard of hearing stepped on the snake's tail as he ran, the old woman, close on his heels, stepped on its back.

The snake lashed his tail in anger, "These humans!" he said to himself, "They think they own the forest!" Angry with the world at large he darted through the underbush bent on destruction. When he saw a tailor bird's nest hanging on a bush quite close to the ground, he poked his head into it. There lay three eggs. "Serves the tailor bird right for leaving her nest," he thought as he ate all three though his grievance was against the old human couple. Then he slipped quietly away into the forest. Meanwhile, the tailorbird, who had gone in search of her supper, returned and found to her dismay that the eggs which she had laid had disappeared. Dejected, she left her nest and flew deep into the forest. On and on she flew and paused to rest on the branch of a big tree on which lived a hornbill. The tailorbird shook his feathers and some dirt fell on the hornbill who sat on a lower branch. Disgusted at the unseemly behaviour of the newcomer the hornbill left the tree and flew down into the valley. He stopped when he came to a tree which was laden with the jackfruit. Giving vent to his anger he struck at the largest of the jackfruit with his beak and then flew away. The jackfruit fell with great force on a deer's back. The deer startled at the violence of the unexpected blow dashed through the valley and did not stop until it reached a field where some wild fowls were feasting on grain leftover from the harvest. The deer, still smarting from the blow, pranced and jumped, kicking his hind legs high into the air. The wild fowls in alarm flew in all directions. 

They went to report the matter to the king. As they neared the palace they discovered that the king's grain, after a rich harvest, had been spread out to dry on the ground outside the palace. The fowls forgot their mission and began to eat the grain. They were in the midst of a royal feast when one of the palace guards happened to pass by. "What are you doing with the king's grain? he yelled. "I shall report your mischief to the king!" The king sent the palace guard back to fetch the wild fowls and asked them why they had eaten up his grain. "If it pleases Your Majesty," said one of the fowls. "we were on our way to the palace to report the deer who had frightened us. But we forgot all about that at the sight of the excellent grain and..." The king decided to send for the deer. The king's soldiers searched the forest and finally found the deer resting in the shade of the same jackfruit tree. "Why did you disturb the wild fowls?" asked the king when the deer was brought before him. "Your Majesty," replied the deer, "I stopped to rest under the shade of a tree when a jackfruit fell with great force on my back and hurt me. So I ran and did not know when I threatened the fowls in the process." The jackfruit must be sent for, decided the king. The soldiers were sent into the valley. On the ground beneath the tree lay the jackfruit. Before the king, the jackfruit said, "I did not mean to hurt the deer, Your Majesty. If the hornbill had not struck me so violently with his beak. I would not have fallen from the tree." 

The king sent for the hornbill. The hornbill was discovered deep in the forest and reluctantly appeared before the king. When asked why it had hit the fruit, it replied, "I was resting under a tree, Your Majesty, when a tailor bird came and splattered dirt all over me. That is the reason why I attacked the fruit on the tree." The king was determined to get to the root of the matter. So he sent for the tailorbird. Now, the tailorbird had built itself a new nest in the forest, and it was some time before she could be found. When she arrived at the palace the king asked her why she had insulted the hornbill. "Your Majesty," came the reply, "I did not intend to insult the hornbill. I was upset because a snake had eaten all the eggs I had laid." "All your eggs? That's rather serious," said the king. So the search for the snake began. Now snakes are difficult creatures to find in the forest because in the day time they hide themselves amongst rocks and in crevices and in holes and even coil themselves around the branches of trees. However, it was found and brought before the king. "I was hurt and angry, Your Majesty when the old man and his wife stepped on me," said the snake when questioned, "and I ate all the tailor bird's eggs in order to wreak my vengeance on somebody. I had no particular grievance against the bird." The couple were sought out soon. "The toad terrified us, my lord, and in our haste, we did not see the snake," the old man said. "So the toad is at the bottom of all the trouble, thought the king. "Let us send for him and see what he has to say." The toad when he was sent for, had, strangely enough, nothing to say.

"Why, why, why? persisted the king, did you threaten to take away the axe and sickle belonging to this old couple?" "I was only out to tease them, Your Majesty," came the sheepish reply. "I did not think they would take me seriously." The king, at first confounded, decided to teach the toad a lesson. "I shall punish you so that you and all other animals in the forest will remember to be thoughtful and considerate in future," said the king. "Did you not think of the harm you were doing by teasing the old man and the woman? You frightened them for nothing, but look at the chain reaction! They hurt the snake, the snake ate the tailor bird's eggs, and the tailor bird upset the hornbill, and so on and so forth till I lost some of my grain! Think of the damage you have done." He sent one of his courtiers into the royal kitchen and ordered a flat iron, well heated in the fire to be brought to him. This, he thrust on the toad's back. In an instant, thousands of wart-like blisters covered its entire back as the skin sizzled and burned. The toad howled in pain and hopped out of the palace, and hopped and hopped away into the forest, howling as he went. He was never seen again. That is the reason why, the animals of the forest say, that the toad has a wart-like skin even to this day and remind their young ones to be thoughtful before doing anything.

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