The Tale With Crocodile-Frogs In
A long time ago, there was an old kingdom that existed in peace and plenty. For many years the kings of this kingdom reigned, and each king was more beloved than his father. Until one fateful day when a pair of crocodile frogs moved into the swamp which fed the kingdom's main river. With their magic, these two frogs prevented the water from leaving the swamp, and by their actions caused a drought in the peaceful kingdom.
The people suffered the drought as best they could, but when it became clear that the kingdom would not survive if t continued, the king sent a messenger to ask the crocodile frogs what their demands might be. As the messenger never returned, but the waters again began to flow, the beloved king and his kingdom sadly concluded that the frogs required the sacrifice of a man before they would release the waters.
The next year, the crocodile frogs again blocked up river, and the kingdom determined that the only way to choose fairly who would be the next sacrifice was to draw lots. This sorry state of affairs continued for many years, until at last the king's name was drawn.
"Fare thee well, my son," the king said to his eldest as he prepared to leave. "Rule the kingdom with justice and kindness."
"No, Father, you cannot go," cried the prince. "You are yet young, and the greatest ruler our kingdom has ever known, crocodile frogs be dammed. Should you give yourself up as the sacrifice, then it is likely that our kingdom will die of a broken heart. Only let me go in your stead, and take my brother as your heir."
The king did not approve of his son's noble attempts at sacrifice, but he was eventually won over, and the prince departed. Before he could properly and willingly give himself over to the frogs, however, there was one person to whom the prince needed to speak.
For the prince had for his lover the son of a poor man, and he went to him and said, "I am come to tell you that I go to be the frog's sacrifice this year, that the waters might flow again. Do you stay here and live life as long and as well as possible."
But the son of the poor man fell to the ground weeping at his words. "I cannot live without you, oh my dearest, only let me come with you and share your fate. There is no life here for one such as me."
Seeing that his lover was determined, the prince agreed, and the two of them traveled together to the edge of the swamp. Before they properly entered the wetlands, however, the poor man's son pulled the prince into a stand of tall reeds. "If this is too be our last peaceful moment together, let us embrace once more," he said.
The prince readily agreed, and pressed his lover to the soft and damp ground. They had not gotten much further along when a noise that was most like a croak, but also like a roar, echoed through the cattails. "The frogs are come," the prince whispered, taming his wandering hands because some positions were simply too undignified to perish in.
The two young men lay still, not wishing to hasten their fate, and listened as the roaring croak was answered by another. There were then two great splashes just beyond the clump of reeds, and the two rearranged themselves that they might see, yet remain unseen. There were two frogs there, resting in a shallow pool. Each was half as large as a man, with fearsome teeth and spikes down its back. One was a sickly shade of yellow, while the other was a pale blue.
"Did you hear that we are to receive the king as a sacrifice this year?" asked the blue one of his companion, speaking in the tongue of men.
They yellow one laughed a horrible laugh. "Then we will be as gods among me," she said.
"Yes," agreed the blue one with a raspy chuckle of his own. "For if we but receive the king as a sacrifice before we receive his son, then—"
"—We will receive immortality, and shall inhabit this river forever, with a steady supply of manflesh," the yellow frog finished for him.
"If only the king knew to send his son," said the blue frog.
"It would do him no good," replied the yellow, "for the prince's companion would need to be sent as well, and even should they kill us, we will only return to live, unless they should cook and eat of our hearts."
"And our hearts will only poison them," said the blue frog, "unless the prince should eat of my, the blue frog's heart, and his companion of your, the yellow frog's heart. But should they do that, then they will be able to produce gold and brass from their mouths whenever they might wish."
The yellow frog croaked. "But they will never know these secrets in time to save the kingdom, not if we are to receive the king as a sacrifice."
"Not so!" cried the prince, jumping from the bushes and drawing his sword. His companion followed him, and together they fought a furious battle against the two frogs, and eventually emerged victorious. Once the frog's hearts were cooked and eaten as the frogs had directed, the two companions lay upon the swampy ground.
"The frogs are dead and our kingdom is saved," said the prince. "We should return."
"The kingdom is saved," agreed his companion, "but it is not a safe place for those such as us. The tyranny of the frogs caused everyone to turn a blind eye to our actions, but with them gone, we will be forced apart. Nay, let us journey onwards until we find a quiet place where we might live as ourselves."
"A rich kingdom, with a bit of corruption," agreed the prince, "where our gold and brass will buy us privacy." He experimentally coughed up a few nuggets of gold.
Laughing, the prince's companion coughed up gold of his own.
The two companions left the swamp, and traveled for many days. They were passing through a forest when they came upon a trio of dwarfs fighting.
"Why are you quarreling?" asked the prince.
"We are fighting over this hat," said one of the dwarfs.
"It is magical," added the second. "Whomever should wear it is invisible to the eyes of all creatures who walk the earth."
"Or fly in the air," added the third.
"But there is no fair way to divide the hat among us," said the first dwarf.
"We can determine this for you," said the prince. "Only give me the hat, and let you go to the edge of this forest. You will race back here, and the first to arrive will receive the hat for their own."
Agreeing that this was a fair method, the three dwarfs fled to the edge of the woods. Meanwhile, the prince slipped the hat onto his head, and taking the hand of his companion, they, too, ran through the woods, escaping with their new treasure.
After traveling for more days, the two companions came at last to a kingdom which was had a great gathering in the central square outside the king's palace. When the prince asked what all the ruckus was about, he was told that the king had recently died without leaving any male heirs, and the citizens had all gathered to watch the election of their new king.
"How is your new ruler chosen?" asked the prince's companion.
"It has been foretold that a magical ring will be tossed from the tallest tower of the castle, and whomsoever catches it will be our next king."
"That is a foolish way to choose a new ruler!" exclaimed the prince to his companion. "Come, we must find a better place wherefrom to watch." He led the way to a tree in the middle of the court, and the two companions climbed up to sit in it's branches.
After a time, an old seer appeared at the top of the highest tower of the castle. Leaning from the window, he tossed a silver hoop towards the crowd. Everyone cheered and reached their hands into the air to catch it, but the ring was caught on the branches of the tree.
"No, this cannot be!" cried the people. "We cannot have a tree as our king!"
The seer sighed from his place in the tower. "Let us see who is hiding within the tree," he said.
And so the tree was searched, and the two companions were found. "Hooray!" Shouted the people to the prince, "you shall be our new king!"
"We cannot have a foreigner as our king," complained the old vizier loudly. "Let alone a poor and filthy traveler such as this."
"Perhaps I am filthy," said the prince, "but poor I am not." and with that he coughed up some gold, and handed it to the vizier. Everyone was duly impressed, and they agreed to have the prince as their king.
"This is not what we were searching for," said the prince's companion. "We sought peace and acceptance."
"I have not forgotten," said the prince, and he turned to address his new kingdom. "For my first act as king, I will wed—"
"The old king's daughter, of course," interrupted the old vizier, and everyone cheered wildly. The prince tried to explain that that was not what he'd meant, but the celebration was fully set in, and no one would listen. "Your friend can be our minister," the vizier added.
The prince—now the king—smiled. "You're fired," he said to the vizier, though the damage was already done.
The king was able to put off his marriage to the old king's daughter for some time—not forever, but for awhile. The princess was beautiful, sweet and kind, and the king found that he admired her well enough.
This made the minister quite jealous, and he began to feel that the princess did not show the proper attention to her betrothed as she should. Watching her actions closely, the minister noticed that she disappeared every day in the early afternoon, and was quite inaccessible until the next morning. Wondering what she could be up to, the minister borrowed the cap of invisibility, and began to follow the princess in the evenings.
Each day she would go to her rooms and prepare all sorts of wonderful foods to eat. She would then take them to a certain pavilion in the garden, where she arranged everything quite delightfully. She would then place herself upon a pile of pillows and closely attend to the window.
Most nights that was all that occurred, but the minister knew that there must be more, knew that she was waiting for someone, and so he continued to hide himself and watch. Finally his patience paid off, and one night the minister was witness to a large bird alighting on the windowsill. From the side of the bird there opened a door, and from that door stepped a most beautiful and handsome young man.
The princess exclaimed with delight and welcomed him into her arms. She treated this stranger to all sorts of good foods, and chatted with him long into the night.
Burning with jealousy, but unable to find the words to tell the king what he saw, the minister continued to follow the princess each night.
Finally one night, the bird-man told the princess that he would appear the next day. "For," said he, "I wish to meet this man who will be your husband in."
"Cannot you take me away?" asked the princess, clinging to her lover.
"I cannot," said the bird-man, "for I am cursed to live as I am unless someone should throw my bird-form into the fire while I am still inside."
The princess cried out in anguish and horror, and clung even harder to the bird-man, but the minister did not stay to watch, instead returning to his chambers thoughtfully.
The next day the princess and the king were walking in the palace courtyard when a giant bird alighted on the ground. Crying in delight, the princess made for it at once, though the king held back.
The minister, however, was hiding nearby with the cap of invisibility. As soon as the bird was comfortably settled on the ground, the minister grabbed him and cast him into the fire. The princess attempted to fling herself in after him, but the king held her back, and together they watched as the feathers burned, and the fire popped. At last a heavy wind arose and the fire went out. From the ashes arose a young man, his skin lightly browned from the fire, and his hair as dark as soot. He stepped from the fireplace and the princess threw herself into his arms, weeping and sobbing in terror and relief
The minister removed his cap and stood beside his lover. "She has gone to see him near every night, and loves him dearly."
The king nodded. "Nearly as much as I love you," he said. The king then turned to those of his people who were present. "The princess shall marry her love," he declared, "as I will marry mine." He gestured to his minister, and the people cheered.
The next day two weddings were celebrated, and many new traditions were begun.
Awesome, innit? Maybe someday I'll write something resembling a book again. ha.
This tale was inspired by "The Adventures of the Beggar's Son" from Folklore and Legends: Oriental by Charles John Tibbitts, although if you're googling the book, you should also check out "The Perfidious Vizier" for hilarity's sake.