Ballad of the Mud Girl by Jeannie Nadja
Deep in the swamplands lived an old bullfrog, and each night he croaked a long, sad melody with the crickets whirring their violin legs in harmony. One evening, a village girl happened along the edges of Old Bullfrog’s bog.
Enchanted by his song, she believed him to be a prince, and longingly called out to him. Hearing this beauty upon the border of his marshy realm, Old Bullfrog jumped with delight. Hopping along the lily pads, weaving through the reeds, he approached the lovely maiden waiting near the waters.
Seated below her in the mud, Old Bullfrog serenaded his lovely maiden. And so there they sat, Old Bullfrog and the lovely maiden, surrounded by the reeds and crickets. But the maiden couldn’t see her handsome prince, for she had not realized he was merely an Old Bullfrog, swimming in the muddy waters below. Soon Old Bullfrog realized his darling village girl was unaware, and felt shame in being just a frog.
“I mustn’t lose such a darling, not to pass my days here, lonely and forlorn,” thought Old Bullfrog.
As the sun slowly set, the lovely maiden returned down the path to her village—fireflies lighting where she gently glided through the weeds. And Old Bullfrog sat somberly, wondering how he would ever convince such a beauty to love a creature as ugly as he.
The full moon rose, and soon all the swamp and bordering fields were alive with nightly creatures, including a scruffy tom cat. Seeing the Old Bullfrog sulking upon the lily pads, Tom Cat indecorously asked him, “Why the long face my muddy friend? The moon is full, night warm, and air bursting with mosquitoes—yet you seem ungrateful for such a lively evening.”
Old bull frog huffily replied, “Young Tom Cat, you know not the pain I suffer, for you have never loved a beauty who would not return your eye.”
“Well, well, I see now the frown is due to matters of the heart. This, my old sir, I can help you with as I’m friends with a forest witch.” Tom Cat boasted.
“You would help an old bullfrog such as I? Why? Wouldn’t you rather snatch me up and have me as your dinner?” Old Bullfrog croaked skeptically.
“My old sir, you’re too tough and sinewy for my tastes. Besides, I’m a romantic at heart—though most may not think this of me, being a scruffy tom cat. I insist! Please let me help you wed this lovely girl.”
And with that Tom Cat, waved his crooked paw, beckoning Old Bullfrog to follow him down a reedy path.
The two creatures, hopped through the marshy trail, until they came upon a tiny grove where a huge willow tree grew.
“Here! Here! This is the home of the forest witch,” Tom Cat smiled, “She doesn’t like the floors of her home to be muddied, so I will need to carry you inside the tree.”
Reluctantly, Old Bullfrog agreed, and Tom Cat quickly scooped him up into his fanged mouth…
And then he swallowed Old Bullfrog.
With a loud defiant croak, Old Bullfrog bellowed from the belly of Tom Cat, “YOU SAID YOU’D NOT EAT ME!”
Laughing, Tom Cat replied, “I never said such a thing! Only that you’d not be as tasty as I’d like.”
And with that, Tom Cat happily returned to the swamp, belly full of Old Bullfrog.
The following day, evening approached and the crickets whirred, Old Bullfrog felt compelled to sing along—even though he sat within the belly of Tom Cat.
As it should happen, the lovely village girl had returned, and sat by the bog, humming the tune of Old Bullfrog. She hoped to finally meet her prince, and brought with her a basket of tasty cheeses, breads, and meats.
Smelling these delicacies, Tom Cat, still hungry, approached the beautiful maiden. However, she did not take kindly to a scruffy creature sneaking for her food, and quickly shooed him away.
“I’ve got to have those delicious treats,” Tom Cat deviously thought to himself. Suddenly, he had an idea, and grinned ear to ear, purring contently.
“Say! Old Bullfrog—I feel bad to have deceived you. I wish to release you from my belly, but first you must sing. You must sing your loudest and very best, as this will surely cause me to be ill, and purge you from my insides.”
Naively, Old Bullfrog began his nightly serenade—it was the loudest, proudest, most beautiful of all the melodies he had ever sang.
Tom Cat quickly hid himself among the reeds next to the lovely girl and opened his mouth—Old Bullfrog’s song came bursting forth.
The maiden, turned suddenly and rushed towards her handsome prince! But as she waded into the muddy waters, pushing through the reeds, Tom Cat dashed between her feet, tripping the lovely girl. She fell with grace, but landed deep in the mud, mired down by the bog’s thickness.
Frightened, the maiden thrashed forth, trying to free herself. However, the muds were heavy, clinging to her gown, they sucked her further into the stagnant depths.
“Help! Help! I am stuck in this mire and surely I will drown.”
Tom Cat, because he could never overlook an opportunity to gain something more, peered down from a rock into the mud and asked, “My dear girl, what have you done?”
“I’ve fallen into these muddy waters looking for my prince. Please Tom Cat, please go to the village and get help!”
“Oh my child, I just don’t know. It’s a long walk and I’m quite hungry.”
“My basket is full of goodies which I brought for my prince. But please, eat as much as you need to make the journey.”
Now Tom Cat had every intention of eating all the treats—he didn’t need to ask permission from the trapped maiden. But he knew there may be more snacks than this one basket. So Tom Cat began deviously thinking again, a new plan.
“My dear, dear child, this basket is quite wonderful, but I fear that I have a large litter to feed. These snacks would be well enough for my children while I am gone, but not enough for my journey too. I should starve if I strode so far without a full meal upon return.”
“I see, Tom Cat. In my pocket, I carry a few small gold coins. With these you could reach the village to ask for aid, and once dispatched, buy yourself a most large delicious dinner.”
“Very well, I think that I can assist my dear. Let me lean out to you for the coins, and soon I will be off to fetch a few strong villagers for help.”
As Tom Cat precariously climbed upon the reeds, leaning towards the maiden, who was ever so mired in the mud, she suddenly reached towards him. Grabbing Tom Cat’s tail, the girl tried to pull herself from the mud.
Off broke Tom Cat’s tail from the weight of the girl and the force of the mud pulling her down, down deep into the bog. Yowling in pain, Tom Cat leaped onto a lily pad, and in his distress, he vomited up Old Bullfrog.
But sadly, the lovely maiden was not saved, as the mud sucked her to the bottom of the bog, her dainty hands clutching Tom Cat’s tail.
Heartbroken, Old Bullfrog cried—his tears welling into a small pool of water which rested upon the mud. From this pool sprouted a clump of tall plants, with fur-like tops.
And that is why cat tails grow along the edge of muddy waters where you hear the bullfrogs.