A Frog Who Worked Like People

A long time ago, Frog lived on land. When time came for Frog to marry, he decided to take for a wife a very beautiful girl from the human race. The girl came from a home which practiced cultivation. They grew mainly finger millet. Shortly after their marriage, Frog was summoned by his in-laws to come and help them harvest millet from their shambas. It was Naikesa, the season of harvest. Frog was obliged to offer his help. Accompanied by his wife, Frog set off in the wee hours of the morning so that sun rise would find them entering his wife’s ancestral home.

Both Frog and his wife were warmly welcomed when they reached the in-laws’ homestead. They were given water to quench their thirst as it had been a long journey.
Frog was showered with praises. His wife called him muvule, the strong one. His in-laws called him “fortune, the wise one, our help”. This was done so that when the baskets were brought out and placed on his head, he would be too indebted to refuse.

When his in-laws sent him to harvest the millet, Frog was surprised to discover he was the only one going. Despite that, he could not refuse since he had to be mindful of all the praise that they had heaped on him. They brought out huge baskets in which the millet was to be collected, and placed them on his head. They also gave him a sickle for cutting the fingers of millet. Without any help, not even that of his wife, Frog set out to harvest the millet. He did not grumble.

Frog got to the first shamba of millet and was amazed by its vastness. Seeing how far he had to go, he started working immediately. He placed the baskets down and tried to pick up the knife. But he could not. His hands, and fingers were not designed to hold knives. He persisted in trying to handle the knife, but failed. Finally he decided to find an alternative way of harvesting the millet. He was quite eager to please his in-laws and his wife.

With a solid resolve, Frog hopped on to one stalk of millet and started nibbling off the fingers with his teeth. He did not have very sharp teeth, so by sunset he had managed to harvest only one finger of millet. He was exhausted and put the lone finger millet in one of the baskets. He left it in the shamba and went back to his in-laws.

On his return, he found his in-laws drinking a pot of malwa. When his wife saw him, she boiled water and poured a bath for him. After Frog had taken his bath, his brothers-in-law invited him to drink with them. He joined them in the circle around the pot of malwa. The eldest boy thanked him for his hard work and asked him how much millet he had harvested.
“I worked as much as a man could,” said Frog.
On hearing this, Frog’s brother-in-law instructed his sisters to go and collect the baskets of millet from the shambas. He also asked them to fetch the biggest cock and cook it for Frog. While some of the girls went to collect the baskets, Frog’s wife and some of her friends remained behind to prepare his meal. The meal was ready and Frog was served before the girls could return from the shambas. No sooner had Frog finished eating than the girls were seen returning from the shambas with empty baskets. In the topmost basket was a single finger of millet. In fury, the in-laws turned to Frog and demanded that he explain to them what he had been doing in the shambas the whole day.
“I worked as much as a man could,” replied Frog.
“Did you harvest only one finger of millet?” the eldest brother asked.
“Yes.That is as much as I could do,” replied Frog.

Frog’s wife started lamenting that her husband had caused her disgrace in the family. Frog’s in-laws picked up sticks to beat him, as they accused him of deception. Moreover, he had eaten a whole cock after doing nothing in the shambas. As the men in the family began to throw their sticks at Frog, he started to run. They chased after him for a long way. Frog realised that he could not compete with the speed of his youthful brothers-in-law, so he jumped into a swamp to escape. The boys tried to follow him there but they could not.

Since that day, Frog lives on both land and water. Whenever a man approaches, he jumps into water because he still thinks his in-laws are hunting him down.

May the muvule tree in the home of my mother grow as I also grow.


Retold by Kiwalya Patrick. Translated from the Lugwere by Betty Kaigo.

4 thoughts on “A Frog Who Worked Like People

  1. Great tale. I love the way our oral traditions draw inspiration from nature. Clearly, the idea of a woman marrying a frog is fictious but in this tale, the reader inevitably finds that they believe in its possibility.

      • Hi Joyce,
        In good time there shall be marriage stories. Right now we are translating some more and shall be back collecting folk tales from villages. Which other genres would you like to read?

  2. Great folk tale. I appreciate Frog’s effort to harvest a single finger of millet. I wonder why the human in-laws could’t go to the garden too? He would have been better off with them. This is fiction, but still, I would relate this to people with disabilities who work hard in their lives yet there are ablebodied people who are lazy and only want to eat.

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