[From Congo Life and Folklore by John Weeks, 1921. See item #197 in the Bibliography.]

A Frog, having built a nice town, received a visit from several well-dressed young men. The Frog welcomed them, and they very civilly answered his greetings. The Frog asked them where they were going, and they replied, “We are not going anywhere in particular; we are just walking about, visiting the towns.”

The Frog called out his thirty wives to come and pay their respects to the visitors, and they came out of their houses and greeted the young men. The wives asked their husband how he came to know them, and he replied, “I do not know them but, seeing them well dressed, I saluted them.”

“Oh! You welcomed them because they are well dressed,” they retorted, “yet ever since we married you, we have never received any new clothes from you.”

“Never mind,” he said. “I am well known as a great chief who has built a whole town and married thirty wives.”

“Oh yes,” they answered, “you are well known, but we work and farm, and we have no clothes, only rags; hence you don’t respect us like those who are well dressed.”

The Frog could say nothing in reply to his wives.

Then he asked the young men where and how he could buy some clothes, and they told him that if he carried some peanuts to Mboma, he could buy plenty there, and the road was not difficult to find, for if he followed the river he would reach there in a few days. The Frog was glad to hear this, and thereupon he killed six chickens and made a feast for his friends, and he told each of his wives to bring him a large basket of peanuts in the morning, for he said, “Although I am a big chief of a large town, I feel ashamed because my wives have had no new clothes since I married them, and they do not dress properly.”

The next morning the peanuts were brought and tied into a load, and for the journey some food was prepared, and the Frog started, telling his wives that he would be back in twenty days. On the third day of his journey, the Frog reached a large baobab tree that had fallen across the road, and while he was considering how he, a person with such short legs, could jump over it, he heard a voice say, “If you are a strong man, please put down your bundle and save me, for as I was on my way to visit my wife’s family, this tree fell on me and has held me here for twenty months. Have pity on me, and help me now from under this tree.”

When the Frog heard this, he at once put down his load and went under the tree, and swelled and swelled until he lifted it and the Snake (for that was who was under the tree) was able to crawl out; then the Frog let the tree down again and went to pick up his load to continue his journey.

The Snake, however, immediately caught him by the leg and told him to get ready to be swallowed. The Frog said, “What have I done that you should swallow me? For although I had a right to be paid for helping you, yet I did not ask for anything! Let me go on my way to Mboma.”

While they were arguing about this, an Antelope arrived, and he was asked to judge between them, but when he had heard the whole matter, he was afraid to settle the affair properly, for he said to himself, “If I let the Frog go, who is right but little, then the Snake will kill me.” So the Antelope gave the verdict in favour of the Snake.

The Snake quickly said, “Do you hear that? Get ready at once and I will swallow you.”

But the Frog cried, “He would have given me the verdict, only he is afraid of you.”

While they were discussing this point, a Fox arrived on the scene, and he wanted to hear all about it. When the case was laid before him, the Snake said, “Am I not in the right? For I am very hungry and want to swallow the Frog.”

But the Fox said, “Did the Frog truly lift that tree?” and would not give the verdict until he had seen the Frog lift the tree, so he said to the Snake, “Release the Frog’s leg, and let him go and raise the tree,” which the Frog did at once.

The Fox said, “Truly, the Frog is very strong to lift so large a tree. Now, Snake, you go under it, and show us how you were lying beneath the tree.”

So the Snake went, thinking he would surely win the case as the judge was taking so much trouble over it, but the Snake was no sooner under the tree than the Fox called out, “Frog, let go the tree,” and down it came right on the Snake, holding him so that he could not get away.

The Fox then said to the Snake, “You are entirely in the wrong, for your friend did a kindness to you in helping you in your trouble, but you want to repay him by a bad deed — you want to swallow him.”

Thereupon they all went away, leaving the Snake under the tree, as no one would help him again for fear of his ingratitude. The Frog thanked the Fox for saving him and gave him his load of peanuts, and they became great friends.


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A Reader's Guide to African Folktales at the Internet Archive Copyright © 2022 by Laura Gibbs is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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