Oral Literature. Thieving Frog

Why does the frog croak? Why are its eyes always bulging out of their sockets? And why does it live only in ponds? This story from the ethnic group of the Birrwa-Limba (Sierra Leone) will explain it all to us.

The sun was setting and all the animals had gathered around the pond to drink. When they had quenched their thirst, Ngiovo the elephant told everyone to wait because he had important news to tell them. He raised his trunk to call for silence and began: “Friends! This is a serious matter! There is not a drop of honey left to sweeten our lips.”

“It’s true!”, insisted Kamba the tortoise, “I don’t know who to turn to either.”

“Tell me about it”, interrupted Chule, the frog “I can’t even smell it. When I think of honey, I want to die!”

“We have to find a solution”, continued the elephant, “Please give your opinion, and based on your suggestions, we will make a law to solve the problem.”

“It is clear that if we all eat honey every day, it will run out. Consumption must be reduced,” ruled Nsazu, the honey bird who always knows where the bees are working.

“A year without honey? Do you want me dead?” grumbled the frog.

“Shut up, Chule!”, said the elephant, laughing. “Does anyone else want to speak? I see there are no other suggestions. Kamba is right. So, the law will be this: for one year, no one will touch the honey. Anyone who disobeys will be put to death.”

In a short time, the animals got used to living without honey, so much so that some of them stopped eating it for the rest of their lives. The frog, however, could not accept this. During the day he talked about honey, and at night he dreamed about it.

The buzzing of the bees made his abstinence unbearable. He wandered here and there to at least enjoy the smell of the honeycombs. He talked to the bees, urging them to increase production; he marked the places where the honeycombs were so that he could remember them better at the end of the year. It seemed to him that time would never pass. The temptation was great.

One day, Chule was out in the countryside. The sweet smell of honey came from a lonely eucalyptus tree. He went up to smell it. In a hollow at the foot of the trunk, he saw two swollen honeycombs. His mouth watered. “Just a little bit. What harm can it do?” he thought. ‘There’s the law! What if someone sees you?’ his conscience told him. “But who can see me?” said Chule, looking left and right. “There is no one here, not even a butterfly. And I will take just a tiny little piece.”

With that, he grabbed the nicest honeycomb and disappeared into the grass. What a treat! Finally, some honey after so much fasting. He ate it quickly and would have liked to try the other one, but decided to save it for the next day. He finished licking his ‘moustache’ and lay down in the shade of a small tree.

“What a surprise! What are you doing here?”  Chule woke up and squinted his eyes, looking for the animal who had disturbed him. He could see nothing but a twig moving, even though there was not a breath of wind. Finally, he saw an insect the size of a stick. It was the praying mantis. It went on: “Can you not answer? What are you doing here?” The frog tried to reply, but the words turned into a stunted, hoarse, trembling croak. “I beg your pardon. I’m so sorry… I …”

“What’s the matter, Chule? You look so frightened, like a thief.”

At the word ‘thief’, the frog ran away in terror. He was ashamed and thought he had been caught. He ran away, not knowing where he was going.

“Where are you staggering off to? Watch your step.”

The frog almost fainted at the sudden voice. He blinked and found himself facing the snout of Kalula the hare, who was quenching his thirst at the edge of the pond. Instead of the usual voice, there was a hoarse croak coming from the Chule’s throat. “I am so sorry … excuse me!”

“What’s wrong, Chule? Are you ill? Your eyes are popping out of your sockets.”

“I’m not ill… it’s nothing… nothing”, he replied.

“Yes, you are. You must have something. What have you done? Did you steal the honey? You stole it, Chule, didn’t you?” Hare’s questions grew more insistent and his voice more threatening. Chule trembled with fear. Seized with despair, he jumped and disappeared into the water of the pond, where he made his home from that day on, keeping out of sight of the animals as much as possible. His beautiful voice never returned and he continued to croak for the rest of his life, and his eyes remained bulging out of their sockets forever. (Photo: Pixabay)

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