A fairytale explaining–in case you needed to be reminded–why you shouldn’t be mean to magic frogs.
Once there was a mean little boy who lived in the tiny hamlet of Flytown. It had no business being named Flytown. It was fewer than two hands of huts around a lake—not big enough to call itself a village, much less a town.
The mean little boy’s name was Lammer. He had been mean all his life. He was mean to boys and mean to girls. He was mean to adults and mean to babies. And he was especially mean to animals. Nobody ever tried to stop him, except to say, “Oh no, please don’t do that, Lammer. That’s not very nice.” After which Lammer did whatever it was, again, with more gusto.
One day Lammer was amusing himself by destroying things at the lake shore. When he saw a frog, he knew just what to do. He poked it with a stick. He thought the frog would jump. Then he could chase the frog around, and have fun poking it some more.
Instead, the frog jumped to one side just far enough to avoid the stick. Then the frog spoke, which was odd. The frog said, “That’s a very mean thing to do, little boy. You should stop.”
Lammer had never heard a frog talk before. He made a mental note to put “talking frogs” on the list of things he was mean to. Lammer wasn’t sure what you were supposed to say to a talking frog, but this one clearly needed to be poked with a stick. So he tried again.
Again, the frog jumped to one side, easily avoiding Lammer’s stick. “Hasn’t anyone ever told you that it’s not nice to poke animals with sticks?”
Lammer cocked his head to one side, thinking. “Yes.” He tried poking the frog again, having not learned from the last two times.
If the frog could click its tongue, it would have. “You should have listened to them. Now, you should listen to me. If you don’t stop, you’ll be sorry.”
Now Lammer was curious. What was the frog going to do, lick him? So he tried poking the frog one more time.
This time, the frog jumped high up in the air. It landed right on top of Lammer’s head. Before Lammer could move, the frog did indeed lick him. Right on his forehead. Then it peed on Lammer’s head. Then it jumped off and disappeared into the reeds.
“Ewww,” whined Lammer. He learned a new thing: he did not like having pee on his head. But it wasn’t bad enough to make him feel sorry. So he wiped the pee off with his hand, wiped his hand on his pants, and laughed. “Ha. Stupid talking frog. I’m glad I was mean to it.”
By the next day, Lammer was getting closer to feeling sorry. At least, he was feeling the consequences of his bad deeds, and wishing that he weren’t. That was the closest he’d ever been to feeling sorry. Lammer was sluggish and swollen and queasy. His skin had gone all bumpy and slimy. It was so disgusting that even his own mother didn’t want to touch it.
Lammer told his parents that an evil frog at the lake had made him sick. It must have cursed him, for no good reason.
Lammer’s parents thought it was pretty unlikely that a talking frog would ever come to Flytown. But then, since nothing much ever happened in Flytown, it was worth looking into, either way. They told all their neighbors, and everyone followed Lammer to the spot where he had seen the frog.
Lammer’s father called out. “Talking frog, you come out here right now and explain yourself. What have you done to our boy?”
The frog jumped out and landed on the edge of the lake shore. “Are you admitting that this mean little boy is your son?”
Lammer’s mother stepped up and took her husband’s arm. “Lammer is our son and we love him. You had no right to make him sick with your evil frog eye! You’d best make him better right now, or we’ll come and get you!”
If the frog could sigh, it would have. “I punished Lammer because he was mean. Should I punish you as well because you raised him to be mean?”
Lammer’s father snarled. “Lammer isn’t mean. He just likes to play rough. That’s what little boys do.”
The frog tried to talk some sense into Lammer’s parents. But all the sense it piled onto their heads rolled right off without going in.
The neighbors looked at each other, not sure whose side they should take. On the one hand, Lammer was a mean boy. He probably deserved to be cursed. On the other hand, the talking frog was a stranger, and might curse them next. It was a hard call, requiring careful thought. Much easier to let someone else make the decision and just follow them.
The neighbors were not used to conversations that took this long. They got antsy. Someone shouted that they should kill the frog. It wasn’t clear how this would cure Lammer’s illness, but it would probably end the conversation. The neighbors were relieved that someone had decided what to do. They picked up sticks and rocks, and closed in around the frog.
Lammer was feeling better already, watching other people being mean to the frog too. “Don’t let him land on your head and lick you. That’s how he made me sick.”
Everyone put one hand on their head to keep the frog from jumping on them. Except Lammer, since the frog had already cursed him.
If the frog could giggle, it would have. It said something then in a weird language. Nobody understood any of it except for the word “Flytown.”
The neighbors looked at each other nervously. Everyone else looked silly with one hand on their heads, but otherwise, nobody seemed any different.
“You see, I don’t have to jump on your heads to curse you.” The frog jumped up high and landed on Lammer’s head. “I just did that so that I could pee on the mean boy’s head.”
Lammer was too sluggish to swat at his head in time. The talking frog peed on Lammer’s head, again. Then it jumped off and was gone.
By the next day, everyone in Flytown was sick. Lammer was even worse. His neck and torso had swollen up, and his fingers and toes were stretching out. His tongue was getting longer and his eyes were bulging out. He barely looked human.
By that evening, Lammer had started to shrink. His bumpy, slimy skin was hanging loose off his bones. Lammer’s parents watched in horror as his skin split down the middle of his back. He peeled it off, like a coat.
Underneath his old skin, Lammer looked like a small, frog-shaped boy. Or maybe a large, boy-shaped frog. Then he ate his old skin, with his big, wide frog mouth.
Lammer’s mother cried. She reached out to stroke her son’s head, but recoiled. It was even slimier than before. “Oh, my poor son, look what that evil frog did to you. Maybe if you said that you’re sorry, he’d believe you, and turn you back!”
Lammer looked up and said, “Ribbit. Ribbit.”
* * *
A few weeks later, some travelers came to Flytown and found it empty. They spent the night there, listening to the relaxing sounds of crickets, and owls, and frogs. The frogs may have been a bit louder than usual, but otherwise it was quite pleasant. As the travelers left, they wondered aloud about this mystery.
It was so lovely here. Why would anyone have ever deserted such a peaceful little hamlet?