Once upon a time the land was very dry. It was so dry that a fire started and nobody knew how to put the fire out.
First Woman was the mother of all the people and she felt very sad. As the boss it was her responsibility to take care of everyone and protect them. So she went around trying to find a way to put the fire out. Nobody had any good ideas, and she was practically ready to cry when she came to a swamp where Frog lived.
“Friend Frog!” she cried. “We know you have enough water here in this deep swamp to cover the whole land! Will you take some out of your swamp and use it to put out the fire that is burning everything up?”
Frog raised his head out the water and saw First Woman standing among the reeds waiting to talk to him, so he swam out and sat on a lily pad. Once upon a time, Frog had been tall and strong, with a pleasant face and straight legs, but now his legs were crooked, his back was hmped, and his eyes bulged from his head. But still he wore a beautiful coat made of green mosses, a vest of white lichen, and gloves of bright yellow, and he was considered something of a dandy. In one way Frog was a most unusual person, for he wore two coats. One was the usual coat of shiny skin common to all the Water People, but the outer coat was like a coat of green sponge. It was porous, filled with lots of tiny holes. It could sop up lots of water, just like a sponge. Then when Frog didn’t want the water anymore, he would squeeze his coat and let go of all the water- just like when you squeeze a sponge. Then he could hide in the water if he felt like it, and no one could find him.
First Woman knew all about that. So she spoke to him very politely. “We all know you are a magic person and have control of all marsh water. If you will take some to the fire and put it out, we will be so grateful to you!”
“Hmm,” croaked Frog. “I think I can, I think I can.”
He dived off the lily pad and swam deep, deep under the water. He swam so deep that all the Bird People and Human People standing around started to wonder if he had changed his mind and would never come up again. But really he was soaking up all the water at the bottom of the lake, like a sponge. Everyone saw the lake getting smaller and smaller, drying up. When Frog had all the water he could carry, he got out and stood on the shore.
“Now I have plenty of water to put out that fire,” he croaked. “But someone will have to carry me to the fire. I cannot fly, and if I walk, it will take too long.”
The Birds were worried. “If we take him, our sharp talons will poke his coat and all the water will leak out,” they said.
First Woman had an idea. She took some reeds and made a little swing for Frog. He could ride in it just fine. But who would carry him?
White Crane said he would do it. He clamped his talons tight on the Frog swing and spread out his great white wings, and took off.
Vintage illustration from the original source.
It was hard! Frog was so full of water that he was very heavy! Crane started out flying high, but soon began to sink lower and lower. He just wasn’t strong enough. He thought he could hold Frog no longer.
“Ohhh, Frog,” he groaned. “I have to let you go!”
“No!” croaked Frog. “”Don’t do that or we will never put out the fire! I will squeeze out a little water so I won’t be so heavy!”
He squeezed some water out of his coat and it fell down hard on the fire below, a big torrent of rain, and it put out the flames. But that was only a little part of the fire. There was still a lot more.
Crane felt better, but soon began to get tired again. “Ohhh, Frog,” he groaned. “I am so tired- I am going to drop you!”
“No, don’t do that!” xoraked Frog. “I can make myself lighter!” And again, he squeezed, and more rain fell out of his coat. He did it bit by bit, little by little, until all the fire was out out.
Now he was easy to carry, so Crane flew him home.
They landed in the marsh by First Woman. “We did what you told us,” they said. “The fire is out. The problem is, our marsh used to be a lake but now it is only mud and puddles. So please, in payment, promise not to take any more water from the marshes or we will run out.”
“We will never take water from a marsh,” agreed First Woman, “and what’s more, cranes and frogs will always live there together.”
Frog and Crane were made bosses of all the rain. Crane could call white rain by waving his white feathers, and Frog could call blue rain by using his cheeping, croaking songs.
That is why, if you find a white feather or you hear a frog sing, it just might rain pretty soon.
Snip, snap, snout
My tale is all told out.
*This story was adapted by me from a wonderful find from a used bookstore: “Frog Creates Rain”, Navaho Folk Tales, Franc Johenson Newcomb. 1967, 1990, University of New Mexico Press. pp 151-161.
I simplified it a lot to make it suitable for young children.
Next week we will learn how to tell the story orally and remember everything, and how to act it out!