Sketch for The Frog Who Would Stop Winter one of the children’s stories that I will be offering to publishers at the Frankfurt and Miami Book Fairs.
If you are an author and have only one book, or one variety of books to offer, you have a fairly simple choice as to how to plan your attendance, finding who to see, etc. Because I am writing and have written a variety of fiction and non-fiction materials, I need to contact a wider variety of publishers. I have, for example, a group of children’s stories that I self-published in the 1980s that never went anywhere. Below is one of four that I am working up for the Frankfurt and Miami book fairs.
The general plan is to take one printed copy of the four stories and take an additional copy on a thumb drive. If a publisher wants to read them at the event, I will allow them to make a copy from the thumb drive. Most will glance though the materials and want to have them submitted via. email on one of their standard forms. Few of the thousands of industry attendees want more books or bulky handouts to take home.
Besides the one below the other stories are: War of the Spotted Ants, Alfred the Purple-Horned Snail and The Not So Goody Gum Drop Shop.
The Frog Who Would Stop Winter
K-thump, k-thump, k-thump, boom, splash. K-thump, k-thump, k-thump, boom splash.
The call for a frog assembly echoed across Frogdom Swamp. Only once, years ago, had a meeting of all the frogs in Frogdom been called to drive away a predatory alligator. As each frog hopped and swam towards the great cypress stump, they asked, “What is wrong? What new peril faces Frogdom?”
From the dark reaches of the back swamp came the bullfrog clan. The tree frogs came from the forest and even the toads came out of their burrows. All of the frogs from all the clans gathered, and before long frogs were all that could be seen from the top of the cypress stump.
There were huge bullfrogs, medium-sized frogs, small frogs, baby frogs and even tadpoles forming a living blanket covering every inch of water, log and brush. So closely were the frogs packed around the stump that frogs were sitting on top of frogs that were sitting on top of frogs.
The swamp rang with the sound of frog voices. There was the deep base of the bullfrogs, “K-Boooom.” The twitter of the tree frogs, “Tweep, a-tweep, a-tweep,” and the croaks of the toads, “Croaaaaaaak.”
Still the question on every frog’s lips was, “Why are we here? What is wrong?” was thus far unanswered.
“Boom, Boom, Boom, – Boom, Boom, Boom.” The call for silence came from the largest of all the frogs sitting on the top of the cypress stump. All voices stopped and all eyes were turned to see Phidias Frog, the largest frog in Frogdom Pond, sitting on top of the stump.
“My friends. Fellow inhabitants of Frogdom. We are in grave danger, but I have thought of a way to avoid it and bring a time of joyous plenty to Frogdom. Will you let me speak to you on this matter?”
“Speak. Speak. Speak,” the frogs replied in their different voices. “Speak. Speak.”
“Now it is summer and a time of good living. Our stomachs are full and our young are growing stronger every day. Soon winter will come and all of this will change. It will become cold. Frogdom Pond will freeze, and we will have to borrow deep into the mud to survive.
“If you elect me king, there will be no more winters in Frogdom. Think of it. Every day will be summer. Our young can grow up without danger of suffering from winter’s cruelty, and no more will be have to fret about being safe from winter’s frigid blasts.
“What do you say? Elect me King, and there will be no more winter forever.”
From thousands of frog voices came the cry, “Yes. Be our King, King, King. Save us and be our King, King, King.”
But Leopard Frog, who had seen many winters come and go, was silent. He climbed high on the stump to attract the attention of the other frogs.
“All of frogdom. Listen and hear what I have to say,” Leopard Frog shouted.
When the noise quieted down, Leopard Frog began to speak. “I am an old frog. In my years, I have seen much, heard much and learned much. There is no way anyone can stop winter from coming. You are being tricked. You are being fooled.”
“Boo! Boo! Boo!” came the reply from the throats of thousands of frogs as the shouted down Leopard Frog’s unwelcomed news. Hardly a single one would pay attention to what he was saying. He attempted to speak once more, but is voice was lost in the clamor.
Phidias Frog sat on top of the stump and smiled because he felt sure that he would soon be king.
“My friends. My friends.” Phidias Frog said. “From the deepest part of my red-beating heart, I thank you. Let me tell you how I will forever banish winter from Frogdom, and if my idea is pleasing, you can elect me king.”
“Yes. Tell us. Tell us.” The multitude of frogs replied.
“Everyone knows the 12 months of the year bring six months of winter and six months of summer,” Phidias Frog began. “If we want to do away with winters, all we have to do is to change our calendars. We will keep the months of April, May, June, July, August and September. We will forever remove from the calendar the cold months of October, November, December, January, February and March. If we do this, winter will be gone forever, and cold weather will never return to Frogdom.”
“Hurray. Hurrah. Hurray. Hurrah for King Phidias frog. Hurray. Hurrah.” Came the reply from the bullfrogs, toads, tree frogs and all the other frogs at the meeting.
Only leopard Frog was silent. “What foolish frogs,” he thought. “They will not let me tell them anything, if they want Phidias Frog as King, let them have him. They deserve no better.”
Far into the knight the frog assembly continued.
A King must have a title and so Phidias Frog became, Beloved of Frogdom, The Magnificent, The Worshipful, The Great, King Phidias Frog the First.
A King must not work so that he can devote his full attentions to his Kingly duties. A tax of 10 percent of all the flies in Frogdom was levied for the King.
A King must have tax collectors, ministers, servants and bodyguards, and so another 10 percent tax was imposed to support the King’s household.
Each day King Phidias sat on top of the cypress stump passing laws and settling Frogdom’s disputes. It was not long before Leopard Frog was brought before the King for failure to pay his taxes.
“I am told that you have not given the 20 percent of the flies that you have caught to my tax collectors,” King Phidias asserted.
“I did not and I will not pay any such tax.” Leopard Frog replied. “I do not want you or any other frog to be my King.”
“You have three choices. You may pay all present and back taxes and remain in freedom. You may elect to be banished from Frogdom, and if you return you will be killed. You may join me and become one of my ministers and never have to hunt flies again.
“The choice is yours. What do you say?”
“You are not fit to be king,” Leopard Frog replied. “You have led all of Frogdom on the path of destruction by your impossible promise to banish winter. You may have told all of Frogdom that you can prevent winter from coming, but you have not convinced me. I would gladly leave, rather than serve you.”
“So let it be written. So let it be done. By your own words you have chosen your fate.
“Guards, take Leopard Frog to the edge of the kingdom and set him free. If he comes back, kill him. This is the judgement of Beloved of Frogdom, The Magnificent, The Worshipful, The Great, King Phidias Frog the First.
So Leopard Frog was banished. For a time all was well in Frogdom. King Phidias sat on his stump much of the day eating a portion of the flies that were collected as taxes. After the first four months of his reign, King Phidias became so fat that he could not move, and rolls of frog fat covered his legs and the top of the stump. Finally, he could only move his head from side to side and flick out his tongue to eat.
As the warm days of August passed into September, the first cool breezes of the approaching winter descended on Frogdom.
“Have faith, have faith, dear subjects,” King Phidias told a tweeping group of tree frogs who assembled at the stump at the first hint of cold weather.
“Next month it will be April again, and warm weather will return.”
Sure enough, September passed and during the first week of the next month the weather was sunny, fair and warm.
“See, it is just as I said.” King Phidias proclaimed. “Winter has been banished and will come no more. Next week we will have a grand gathering to celebrate the end of all winters.”
Word of the coming celebration was spread throughout Frogdom, and it even reached Leopard Frog who was busily preparing his winter den beyond the outskirts of the Kingdom.
“How silly they are,” Leopard Frog told no one in particular. “How Silly. As sure as dark follows day, so will winter return to Frogdom.
“They did not listen to my warning, and they banished me. Let them share whatever fate awaits them. I care not.”
Obscured by dark brooding clouds, little sunlight fell on Frogdom the day of the celebration. The warm breezes turned into a freezing wind driving flakes of falling snow.
Once again the assembly call was given. K-thump, k-thump, k-thump, boom, splash. K-thump, k-thump, k-thump, boom splash. This call was sounded with an increased urgency brought on by the increasing accumulation of snow.
“Winter is coming. Winter is coming. Winter is coming. What shall we do?” was the urgent question asked from the mass of frogs huddled at the base of the cypress stump.
“Go saaave yooourselveeees,” was the weak reply coming from King Phidias who was rapidly being covered by snow.
“Let him die,” said one of the King’s fattest ministers. “He lied to us. He said that he could stop winter from coming and he did not. Let him freeze.”
All the frogs scurried about hastily digging dens in the mud of the bottom of Frog Pond, in the ground or in rotted trees in hopes of making a shelter good enough to let them survive the deep cold that was coming.
Only two frogs, King Phidias and Leopard Frog did not take part in this frenzied activity. A tree frog, hurrying to find a warm place to spend the winter deep inside the hollow of large tree, told Leopard Frog of the happenings in Frogdom.
Leopard Frog, cozy in his den, at first thought that the former King of Frogdom had received a just reward, but the more he thought about the King’s fate the more troubled he became.
“King Phidias was not all bad, and no frog deserves to die alone in the cold,” he thought. “I must return to Frogdom and see what I can do.”
By the time Leopard Frog arrived at the stump, snow was falling rapidly. A large rounded mound of snow on top of the stump now covered the bulky hulk of the despised King.
“Can you move?” Leopard frog asked.
“No. I cannn noooot,” came the wavering reply from under the snow.
Leopard Frog kicked the snow from the skin of Phidias Frog and began to haul up leaves and mud to cover the top of the stump to protect the former King.
“Will anyone help me save this frog that was once your King?” Leopard Frog asked. He received no answer. Not one of the frogs that passed by would lift a foot to help Phidias Frog.
Through the night and into the next day, Leopard Frog labored to mound leaves, moss, grass and mud on top of Phidias Frog to prevent him from freezing.
He worked until a fringe of ice began to form around the edges of the Frog Pond before he fled to his own warm den.
“Perhaps he will live. Perhaps he will die. I have done my best.” Leopard Frog thought before he drifted off into his winter hibernation.
Spring once more brought life to Frogdom. Only a mound of mud and leaves on top of the cypress stump was left as a reminder of the reign of Beloved of Frogdom, The Magnificent, The Worshipful, The Great, King Phidias Frog the First.”
One day the mound stirred and a loud k-booooom was heard. Out from the mud and leaves emerged a leaner Phidias Frog.
He found Leopard Frog at the edge of Frogdom Pond and said, “When no other frog would do anything to help me, you did. Why did you save me?”
After a long pause, Leopard Frog Replied, “For good.”
“For good? Is that all you have to say?” Phidias questioned.
“Great good and great evil can be done by kings and governments. Sometimes even trying to do something on which nearly everyone agrees can have a bad ending. Nonetheless, solutions to life’s problems should always be sought, even though many will not succeed.”
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