The joy of frogs
Abigail Toland ponders ponds
Saturday 02 August 1997
For years the frog has received a bad press. Remember how the handsome prince was imprisoned in the frog's hideous form by an evil witch, and how his only possible escape was if a beautiful princess summoned up the courage to kiss his algae-green mouth? The frog has also unjustly suffered because of a resemblance to his cousin the toad, so often a vital ingredient of vile spells. This century he has done a little better, with his starring role alongside Sir Isaac Newton in The Tale of Jeremy Fisher, and an alluringly buxom girlfriend in Miss Piggy, who longs to be caught in Kermit's webbed amplexus. (What animal other than a frog, incidentally, has a specific word for its mating hug?)
The frog is the aquatic accessory for the 21st century. Lithe in the water, he swims his own version of breaststroke, using only his strong and rubberily athletic legs, also used to devastating effect on land. And he's brighter than the average goldfish: faced with feline attack, the frog does not swim blindly towards the clawed paw but leaps swiftly to safety. When you've spent your childhood as a jelly bubble and adolescence as a frail tadpole, you know better than to end it all as cat food.
The frog's main role, in these ecologically aware times, is to act as an amphibious pesticide, hoovering up any slugs in his path and lapping greenfly from the air with his ludicrously long tongue. He also serves as an accurate pollution detector, rapidly abandoning any unhealthily clogged waters. Preserve the frog; do not fear him; he is here to help.
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