From ‘When the World was Young’, by Verrier Elwin. The book is a fascinating collection of folktales from the tribal peoples of India. Elwin was a pioneering anthropologist; he spent his entire life getting to know the ways of life of the tribal peoples.

There was a time when the Frog had thick legs and he lived on land. He was so very different from the frogs that we see today, with their thin spindly legs and their watery homes. So it is time to ask, “What changed the Frog’s looks and life forever?” The answer is, the Frog’s friendship with the Tiger.

Yes, the Frog with thick legs was very friendly with the Tiger. They helped one another in times of need. And often, the Frog would visit the tiger in his den, share a meal with him or sit and exchange jokes.

One day the Frog thought he would repay the Tiger for his kind hospitality. He invited his friend home for dinner. “Dear friend, I have visited your den so many times, and shared a delicious meal with you. Now I would like you to come to my house for a meal,” said the Frog. He had a nice little house under the shrubs.

A Frog's Friendship [Illustrations: Sudheer]
A Frog’s Friendship [Illustrations: Sudheer]

The Tiger gladly accepted his friend’s invitation. But the Frog soon realised that he had a problem. He would have to serve meat to the Tiger. Where would he find meat? The Frog hunted high and low for meat, but could not find any meat.

Then he walked back home feeling dejected. He was ashamed of himself and had no idea how he would face his friend, the Tiger.

When the Tiger knocked on the door in the evening, the Frog’s heart was beating fast. He felt miserable. Suddenly he had an idea. He quietly went up to the attic and started biting off his flesh, to give to the Tiger. But the pain was too much to bear. And he cried out loud.

The Tiger came running up to the attic and was horrified by what he saw. He could not believe that his friend had thought of serving his own flesh as food to him. “Dear friend, did you really think that I would eat your flesh? Our friendship is more important to me than eating meat for dinner.”

But the frog felt so ashamed that he left his house for good. He went to a place where no one would be able to see him – he went underwater. Since that day the Frog has lived in water. And he has had thin, spindly legs with hardly any flesh on them.

446 words | 4 minutes
Readability: Grade 4 (9-10 year old children)
Based on Flesch–Kincaid readability scores

Filed under: folktales
Tags: #tigers, #tribal peoples, #friendship

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