Story by Margaret Melicharova
how to make a crane
- big frog longer version of the story in the book
- star people interactive story
It was springtime in the Pond. Frog puffed himself up and rolled his eyes and croaked as loudly and fiercely as he could.
Two newts sat on a lily-pad and stared beadily at the frog. 'What are you doing?' asked one.
'I'm Big Frog. I'm being terrifying,' said Big Frog between croaks.
'We're not terrified,' said the other newt. 'It hasn't worked.'
The first newt said, 'Why do you want to terrify us anyway?'
Big Frog let out the air in his chest and went back to his normal size. 'I want you to think I'm wonderful,' he explained.
'How can anyone think anybody's wonderful if they're trying to scare them?' said the second newt, not unkindly.
Big Frog thought about it. 'What if I shared my delicious supper of gnats and mosquitoes with you?'
'You're wonderful!' said both the newts together.
But Big Frog still wanted to be king of the Pond. He sat on a rock in the middle of the Pond, puffed himself up and croaked loudly and fiercely, 'This is MY Pond, and the insects in it are MY breakfast.'
The two newts, who had just finished theirs, looked at each other. Then they set off on a quiet swim to visit their friends and neighbours. Big Frog sat puffed up on his stone throne, smiling and sniffing the sweet smell of the water-lilies.
After a while a deputation of insects arrived, keeping a safe distance from Big Frog. They demanded that they should be allowed to dance and lay their eggs before they became anybody's breakfast, by Pond Law.
Several toads lumbered over to the stone throne to claim that their families had been squatting round the Pond for as long as they could remember, and they had Pond Rights.
All the goldfish swam up together, making the lily-pads wobble on their stalks. They had come to complain that the water-snail colony had dwindled, so the Pond water wasn't as fresh as it ought to be. What was Big Frog going to do about it?
The stream of Pond Life coming to tell Big Frog their problems went on all day, and by dusk Big Frog was thoroughly weary. 'It's a frog's life!' he muttered, too tired to catch any of the nimble Pond flies for supper.
The newts, who had been watching, grinned: their plan had been a success. Then they swam over with a mouthful of mayflies each to share with Big Frog. He didn't say thank-you - he just grunted - but he gobbled up the mayflies in two shakes of a newt's tail.
But when Big Frog woke up the next day he was still grumpy. He felt as though he wanted to stamp and kick and hit things. He crunched some water-beetles that he found among the reeds (where they had died after full rich lives) and went off to find some other frogs. He wanted to boss them about.
By midday he had got a big band of frogs together. Big Frog told them, 'I'm Big Frog, boss of the Pond, and don't you forget it. We're off to deal with my enemies. My enemies are YOUR enemies. Come on, and bring weapons with you. Remember: Frogs Are Cool.'
The other frogs were impressed. They were even more impressed when they saw the Pond. They lined up along the bank, holding the sticks and pebbles they had brought with them. 'Hey, frog, is this REALLY all yours? Wow!'
'No it isn't!' buzzed the water-flies, hovering overhead.
'No it isn't!' barked the toads from under their stones.
'No it isn't!' bubbled the goldfish grazing just under the surface of the water.
'YES IT IS!' screeched Big Frog. 'Come on, frogtroops! It's us or them! Frogs For Ever!'
The frogs leapt into the water at once, where they began spitting pebbles from their mouths and beating the plants with their sticks and whipping up the water with their arms and legs.
The gang rampaged like this for a long time, until they were worn out. Then they all climbed on to the bank and lay there panting and croaking feebly. Some of them had been cut by the sharp Pond grasses. Some had bruised themselves on the tough lily stalks.
But Big Frog, who had spent the whole time sitting comfortably on the bank being fanned by a nervous dragon-fly, was cross with them. 'What's the matter with you? I don't believe I'm seeing this. You're frogs, and frogs are supposed to be Smart,' said Big Frog, puffing himself up and leaping majestically about.
But the members of his collapsed frog army were past caring about being Smart. They just wanted, well, the things that frogs want.
So they looked around for flies to eat. But the flies had all flown away when the frogs first appeared. Even the dragon-fly had now darted off: though nervous, it was really Smart.
The frogs looked for fresh water to drink and wash their wounds in. But the water was cloudy and dirty from all their splashing about, and it smelt really horrible.
They looked for lily-pads to sprawl on. But in their battle with the Pond they had stripped and split and broken all the leaves.
The frogs looked at the wreckage in disgust. 'This is a ROTTEN Pond,' they said, and went limping and hobbling away.
Big Frog sat beside the ruins of his home and hoped no-one could see him crying with disappointment. After a while he fell asleep, and he slept for a long time.
When he woke up he found a newt sitting on either side of him. 'Fancy a touch of breakfast, mate?' said one, and they shared their grubs and worms with Big Frog.
Then the newts said, 'Everyone's come out of hiding, ready to get the Pond sorted. The water's cleared up a bit, and we can all do the rest. We're just waiting for you to give the word.'
So Big Frog croaked 'NOW!' as loudly and proudly as he could, and all the creatures whose home was the Pond began to clear up the mess.
And by the time the summer came, the Pond was almost its old self again.
It was a VERY hot summer. The sun shone every day and the sky was cloudless. It got hotter and hotter. Presently the Pond began to shrink. Where water had been there was just mud, and the mud soon dried and cracked. The reeds and weeds and cresses shrivelled up. Soon there was just a tiny Pond left in the deepest part of the old one, and it looked as though that too would disappear.
Big Frog hid from the sun under the last sun-scorched lily-pad. He was feeling very ill and very miserable. Most of the creatures he knew had died in the drought, and he was lonely. And hungry. He lay half-dozing, dreaming of the old days, when the Pond had been Big and so had he. Or had he? Maybe he had got that wrong.
Suddenly there was a scamper and a rustle, and two pairs of beady eyes were looking up at him.
'Right, mate,' said one of the newts. 'Time to go.'
'There's a stream still flowing, quite a way from here.' said the other. 'It's fed by a spring, so it won't dry up before the rain comes.'
So they set out together. Sometimes the newts gave an arm each to Big Frog, to help him along. Sometimes Big Frog carried a newt on his back, to give them a rest.
It was a long, hard trek, but at last they reached the stream - they heard it long before they saw it - and tumbled down the bank into the water. Oh, the coolness and freshness of the water! Oh, the richness of the trailing water weed, the deepness of the shadows among the water cresses! And there were some deliciously juicy worms and delightfully crunchy flies....
In no time, the newts were frisking and playing. They were so witty and agile that Big Frog got tired again just from laughing.
You can't keep a big frog down, it seems. As soon as Big Frog had got his health and strength back, some of his old self came back too.
One fine autumn evening Big Frog sat on the bank of the stream, puffed himself up, rolled his eyes, and croaked loudly, 'This is MY stream!'
The newts popped their heads out of the water and looked at him sadly.
'Be afraid!' said one to the other.
'Be very afraid!' said the other, giving a mock shiver.
Then they both balanced on their tails in their sporty way, and called out to anyone listening, 'Now then, who does the stream belong to?'
All along the bank, and up from the smooth shining stones in the stream-bed, and through the rushing water (into which no-one can step twice), and out of the rustling reeds, came the voices: the voices of many more creatures than the Pond had ever known. And above and underneath and through them all was the voice of the water itself. The voices said: 'All of us!'
'Including me,' said a melodious murmur, and a brightly patterned salamander climbed gracefully out of the reeds. 'Who are you?' said the salamander, smiling, to Big Frog.
'I'm B - ,' Big Frog began. Then he stopped, his croak cracking. He tried again. 'I'm Froggy to my friends,' said Big Frog hopefully.
The newts, still standing on their tails, lost their balance with astonishment.
The sparkling salamander smiled some more and settled down beside Big Frog as if they'd been friends for years.
'Would you credit that!' said one of the newts.
'Well, Sal, you've done something the rest of us couldn't,' said the other.
'We'll be off, then, Froggy, old mate,' said the first. 'We know when two newts are two newts too many.'
But Froggy paid no attention to them. He was deep in earnest conversation, his big eyes fixed on the scintillating creature at his side.
As the two newts flicked their tails and swam cheerfully away upstream, they distinctly heard Big Frog say, 'You're wonderful!'