Saturday, March 26, 2011

Samedi: The Frog With the Banjo

We have talked before about the importance of keeping quiet when in the midst of a magickal undertaking. Even after the thing is done and finished, whether successfully or not-so-much, the wise root worker keeps it to themselves, perhaps discussing it with a trusted companion or two but nothing more. Rumination on this time honored truth yesterday brought two things to my mind. The first involved the wisdom of this blog and the second involved an old hoodoo story about a reptile playing a stringed instrument.

The story, as I originally heard it, involves a frog with a banjo. Other versions I have sense collected include turtles, lizards and alligators as well as frogs playing banjos, guitars and fiddles. In one unusual case I found a version from Arizona that tells of an armadillo with a guitar, clearly a sign of not just hoodoo influence but Latino as well. Generally speaking, though, the animal is native to the bayous and swamps of the south and the instrument is either a banjo or a guitar. Here is the way I learned it:

A boy was out fishing in the bayou and the sun was going down. Unfortunately he had not been lucky and he wanted to catch something substantial before he headed home. He dipped his hook in the murky water and closed his eyes tight, praying for a healthy fish to take home to Grandpa. After a minute, the boy swore he heard someone strumming a banjo and then he heard singing too. He opened his eyes in surprise because this spot was not usually visited by anyone else.

Imagine the boy’s astonishment when, on a log floating by, he saw a frog playing a tiny banjo and singing in a handsome, tenor voice. The boy stood up, dropped his pole and with his heart thumping in his chest he ran home as quick as he could. He burst in to the little house where he and his grandpa lived.

“Grandpa! Grandpa! You’ll never guess what I saw.”

“Probably not,” Grandpa said without looking up from his paper. “You catch anything?”

“Yes! No! Grandpa, I saw a frog playing a banjo!”

Grandpa looked up this time, his white eyebrows raised and his dark brow furrowed. “You what?”

“I saw a frog playing a banjo down to the bayou, and he was singing too. Come on now. This is something you – ”

For as old as he was, Grandpa moved pretty well and before the boy could finish his sentence Grandpa grabbed him by the arm. The boy got a whipping he would remember all his life for lying, and Grandpa sent him to bed without supper.

The next day, after school was done, the boy managed to talk his grandpa into going fishing with him. He prayed the whole way down to the fishing hole that the frog would float by again, singing in his sweet voice and strumming on that banjo. After a time of silence, the boy started to talk about the frog again. Though Grandpa said he’d hear no more about it, the boy couldn’t help himself. As the sun began to go down, Grandpa was about to give that boy another whipping just for lying twice over.

All of a sudden, the sound of a banjo floated over the water and a handsome, tenor voice was heard singing along with the melody. Grandpa looked and there was that frog just like the boy had said, with a banjo in his little, amphibian hands. And the frog sang: “You all have seen me. Don’t tell all you know. Live happy now.”

The boy and Grandpa went home, and never again did either of them mention that magickal frog. In return, no matter when they went to that fishing hole they always caught enough fish to feed themselves and a few neighbors besides.

Of course the frog is a totem animal, otherworldly and only capable of working his magick if the creatures he looks after keep their mouths shut. The lesson is well taken. If we speak too freely, the ancestors will doubtless give us the beat-down. Faites attention, mes amis ~

Header: Frog Playing a Banjo in Moonlight via


Le Loup said...

Good story, thank you.

Pauline said...

Thank you, too. I just love this story and it's one my kids have heard more than once. "Really Mom; again?"

Timmy! said...

And I wouldn't be surprised if this story wasn't the inspiration for the "Michigan J. Frog" character from the old Warner Brothers "Looney Tunes" cartoons from my childhood, Pauline...

Pauline said...

I believe you are correct, sir. Michigan J. Frog is that guy with the banjo moved on to an urban landscape. Go figure.