The Friendly Frog
The queen made no reply. She did not attempt to look for flies, but sat down beneath a tree, and gave way to tears. “Oh my dear husband,” she cried, “how grieved you will be when you go to fetch me from the castle, and find me gone! You will suppose me to be dead or faithless; how I hope that you will mourn the loss of my life, not the loss of my love! Perhaps the remains of my chariot will be found in the wood, with all the ornaments I had put on to please you: at sight of these you will not doubt any more that I am dead. But then, how do I know that you will not bestow on someone else the heartfelt love which once belonged to me? At all events I shall be spared the sorrow of that knowledge, since I am never to return to the world.”
These thoughts would have filled her mind for a long time, but she was interrupted by the croaking of a raven. Lifting her eyes, she saw in the dim light a large raven on the point of swallowing a frog which it held in its beak. “Though I have no hope of help for myself,” she said, “I will not let this unfortunate frog die, if I can save it. Though our lots are so different, its sufferings are quite as great as mine.” She picked up the first stick which came to hand, and made the raven let go its prey. The frog fell to the ground and lay for a time half stunned; but as soon as it could think, in its froggish way, it began to speak. “Beautiful queen,” it said, “you are the first friendly soul that I have seen since my curiosity brought me here.”
“By what magic are you endowed with speech, little frog?’ replied the queen; “and what people do you see here? I have seen none at all as yet.”
“All the monsters with which the lake is teeming,” replied the little Frog, “were once upon a time in the world. Some sat on thrones, some held high positions at court; there are even some royal ladies here who were the cause of strife and bloodshed. It is these latter whom you see in the shape of leeches, and they are condemned to remain here for a certain time. But of those who come here none ever returns to the world better or wiser.”
“I can quite understand,” said the queen, “that wicked people are not improved by merely being thrown together. But how is it that you are here, my friendly little frog?”
“I came here out of curiosity,” she replied. “I am part fairy, and though, in certain directions, my powers are limited, in others they are far-reaching. The Lion-Witch would kill me if she knew that I was in her domain.”
“If you have fairy powers,” said the queen, “I cannot understand how you could have fallen into the raven’s clutches.”
“That is easily explained,” said the frog. “I have nothing to fear when my little crown is on my head, for that is the source of my power. Unluckily I had left it in the marsh when that ugly raven pounced upon me, and but for you, Madam, I would have been eaten. Since you have saved my life, you have only to command me and I will do everything in my power to lessen the misfortunes of your lot.”
“Alas, dear frog,” said the queen, “the wicked witch who holds me captive desires that I should make her a fly-pastry. But there are no flies here, and if there were I could not see to catch them in the dim light. I am likely, therefore, to get a beating which will kill me.” “Leave it to me,” said the frog. She gathered more than six thousand of her friends and they all smeared sugar all over themselves and then went to a place where the witch had a large store of flies, which she used to torment some of her luckless victims. No sooner did the flies smell the sugar than they flew to it, and found themselves sticking to the frogs and were soon taken to the queen. Never was there such a catching of flies before, nor a better pastry than the one the queen made for the witch. The surprise of the Witch was great when the queen handed it to her, for she was baffled to think how the flies could have been so cleverly caught.
The queen suffered so much from want of protection against the poisonous air that she cut down some cypress branches and began to build herself a hut. The frog kindly offered her services. She summoned round her all those who had helped in the fly hunt, and they assisted the queen to build as pretty a little place to live in as you could find anywhere in the world.
But no sooner had she lain down to rest than the monsters of the lake gathered round the hut. They set up the most hideous noise that had ever been heard, and drove her so nearly mad that she got up and fled in fear and trembling from the house. This was just what the monsters were after, and a dragon, who had once upon a time ruled tyrannously over one of the greatest countries of the world, immediately took possession of it.
The poor queen tried to protest against this ill-treatment. But no one would listen to her: the monsters laughed and jeered at her, and the Lion-Witch said that if she complained to her again she would give her a sound thrashing.
The queen was therefore obliged to hold her tongue. She sought out the frog, who was the most sympathetic creature in the world, and they wept together; for the moment she put on her crown, the frog became able to laugh or weep like anybody else. To be continued…
I have nothing to fear when my little crown is on my head