One of the stories I get asked all the time about Fred the Frog is how he learned to speak. Well, the truth of the matter is that he learned it at school. Yes, Fred told me the story of school and how he learned to speak and I’ll share it with you.
You see, Fred started out life the normal way for a frog He was born in a small pond on a farm; started life as a young tadpole (but a really big one) and then over several years in the pond, he grew up into the handsome frog that we know and love. He told me that one spring when he was sitting on a big rock and harrumping the way frogs do when they want to attract a lady frog (Fred was very good at attracting ladies – frogs or otherwise – so he harrumping voice worked pretty well) he was suddenly caught up in a huge net. The net whisked him away from his lovely perch on the rock and he was soon put inside a big wooden box.
Fred was scared.
You would be too if one minute you were serenading the ladies down at the pond and the next second, you’re in a wicker basket and you think you’re about to become fish bait. Fred didn’t know what to do; there was no way out of the basket and every time the lid opened a tiny bit – another frog came tumbling into the box. Once, Fred said he almost made it out of the box with a determined leap but the box lid came down on his legs and a huge hand grabbed him by the back and stuffed him back into the box.
Fred was really scared.
Not as scared as the time a big heron tried to eat him because that time… but we really don’t have time for that story right now, it will have to wait for later.
Fred said he was in the box forever. I think forever is a bit long to be in a box but that’s how long Fred said he was there and we all know that Fred doesn’t lie. Fred stretches the truth a bit now and then but if he said it was forever, I guess it might have been two or three hours.
Anyway, Fred said he and the rest of the frogs were dumped into a big bathtub with really high sidewalls and there were already a hundred or more frogs in there when he joined them. The bottom of the bathtub had a bit of water in it (frogs like a bit of water) but it was already crowded with frogs. Frogs of every kind and colour. Frogs from Fred’ pond and from other ponds he’d never heard of before (frogs don’t do a lot of traveling on their summer holidays).
There were bright lights on top of the bathtub and a bunch of young people starting down into the tub. There was also an older person with a clipboard staring down at Fred and his fellow inmates. Fred referred to himself as a captive inmate for the time he was in the tub. Afterwards he’d refer to that bathtub as prison. When I got to know him, he would scare little frogs with his stories of life in prison but we all know it was just a bathtub (but maybe a bathtub is really a frog prison?)
In any case, the older person said to the younger ones, “Pick out a frog for science class.” Fred didn’t know what that meant but he didn’t like the sound of it very much. Especially when all the students started trying to catch the frogs. And worst of all, most of them were trying to catch Fred because he was the biggest. There were hands groping everywhere explained Fred – and he was jumping as high – if not higher – than the rest of the frogs. There were frogs everywhere. In fact, Fred got very lucky. One of the other frogs jumped at the same time as Fred. Fred – being bigger – jumped a bit higher and when he started coming down, Fred landed on the back of the other frog. Fred, a very smart frog, realized he was halfway up the side of the bathtub so he immediately jumped again and from the back of the other frog, Fred jumped right onto the edge of the bathtub.
Well, he didn’t stay there long. All the students were reaching for him so Fred jumped right at one of them in the biggest jump he had ever made in his whole life. The student yelled and tried to grab Fred anyway but he missed. Fred landed on top of a desk and immediately started his famous triple frog jump – Sproing! Sproing! Sproing! Soon Fred was a long way ahead of the chasing boys and girls. The teacher was a bit faster than the students and he was just about to catch Fred when Fred did a trick he had learned when the big heron was trying to catch him.
Fred spun around, did a back roll and jumped right away again. This meant he went flying in the opposite direction from where the teacher thought he was going to be. Fred landed right on top of the teacher’s bald head and quickly jumped again. Sproing! Sproing!
Fred landed on top of the light fixture high up by the ceiling where nobody could reach him. He peered over the edge with his frog-bulgy yellow eyes to see what they were doing. They were all staring back at him trying to figure out how to get him down.
Fred was happy.
The boys and girls were happy because Fred had jumped on the teacher’s head.
The teacher was not happy.
Nobody could convince Fred to come down from on top of the light. No way! Fred lived on top of the light fixture for the rest of the school year. He ate all the flies that came up there and he snuck down at night when nobody was looking to get some water from the water tap.
And, Fred listened to the teacher give his lessons every day.
Fred learned about mathematics, reading, geography, science (Fred learned he was a frog) and most importantly, Fred learned how to talk by listening to all those students learning how to read and write properly. Fred really liked the stories the teacher read to the students and he became the world’s first talking frog. Actually, he also became the world’s first singing frog because Fred – who we already knew loved to sing frog songs – loved to sing human songs too. When the teacher had his class singing, Fred would join in and that’s how I met Fred – but that’s another story.
But nobody could convince Fred to come down from his perch and he didn’t tell anybody he could talk. Why should he? The rest of the frogs became science projects and Fred didn’t want to end up like them.
So, that’s how Fred learned to talk.