Have you ever wondered why frogs have five toes on each of their back legs, but only four toes on each of their front two legs? Well, wonder no more. The answer lies (possibly a double-meaning here) in today’s story. This charming and instructive tale was first published in Abbie Phillips Walker’s Sandman’s Goodnight Stories, 1921. We hope you enjoy it! –Sam
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The Frogs and the Fairies
by Abbie Phillips Walker, illustrated by Rhoda Chase
In a pond in a dell lived a big family of frogs, and one day when the sun was shining all the young bullfrogs came up out of the water and hopped on the bank. “I think it would be good fun to see what is in the dell beside this pond,” said Billy Bull, who was a young and inquisitive frog.
“What do you fellows say to a lark to-night by the light of the moon?”
“We’ll go, we’ll go, Billy Bull,” said all the other young frogs in chorus.
“Better stay home, better stay home,” croaked old Grandfather Bullfrog from his seat on a stump by the edge of the pond.
“Oh, hear old grandfather croaking!” said Billy Bull; “he never went out of this pond in all his days, and what does he know of the dell?”
“Better stay home, better stay home,” croaked Grandfather Frog.
“You can, Grandfather Frog, if you like, but we young frogs are going for a lark tonight, and when we come back we will tell you what is in the dell,” said Billy Bull.
That night when the moon was up and shining through the trees, out of the pond leaped all the young froggies.
“Better stay home, better stay home,” croaked Grandfather Frog from his seat on the stump, but the young froggies only laughed as grandfather’s warning followed them through the dell—”Better stay home, better stay home.”
It happened that the Fairies were holding a party that night, and when Billy Bull and all the other young frogs hopped and leaped into the middle of the dell they saw the bright lights of the fireflies’ lanterns.
“Looks to me like all the fireflies in the world had gathered for us to feast on,” said Billy Bull. “What luck for us.”
Away off they could still hear Grandfather Frog croaking his warning: “Better stay home, better stay home.” But it was no warning to the young froggies; they only saw the fireflies and the feast in store for them.
The froggies had never seen the Fairies before and they thought they, too, were little insects, so, without stopping to think or look closer into the midst of the Fairy revel, in leaped Billy Bull and all his cousins.
But the Fairies were as quick as the frogs, and no sooner had they leaped than up went all the fairy wands, and there stood each frog still and stiff.
“What are these creatures that dare to disturb us?” asked the Queen.
“Your Majesty, they are frogs,” said a fire-fly, “and I expect they intended to eat us.”
“Eat the lantern bearers of the fairies!” said the Queen. “They shall suffer for this.”
“Off with a toe on each front foot, and then perhaps these frogs will stay at home and not hop about at night. Where do they live?” asked the Queen.
“In the pond at the end of the dell,” said the fireflies.
“Send them home,” said the Queen, “and every time they wander far from their pond they shall lose a toe.”
Down on the foot of the froggies went the fairy wands, and where the frogs had five toes there remained only four on each of their front feet, and then with their wands on the heads of the froggies the fairies turned them around and drove them back to their pond.
“Better stayed home, better stayed home,” croaked their Grandfather Frog as the young froggies leaped sadly into the pond and buried themselves in the mud at the bottom.
And that was the way it is said frogs came to have five toes on each of their hind feet and only four toes on each front foot. If they had listened to their grandfather’s warning they would still have their other toes.