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The Fairy Frog

from Jewish Fairy Tales And Legends





Once upon a time there lived a man of learning and wealth who had an
only son, named Hanina. To this son, who was grown up and married, he
sent a messenger asking that he should immediately come to his father.
Hanina obeyed, and found both his father and mother lying ill.

"Know, my son," said the old man, "we are about to die. Grieve not,
for it has been so ordained. We have been companions through life, and
we are to be privileged to leave this world together. You will mourn
for us the customary seven days. They will end on the eve of the
festival of the Passover. On that day go forth into the market place
and purchase the first thing offered to thee, no matter what it is, or
what the cost that may be demanded. It will in due course bring thee
good fortune. Hearken unto my words, my son, and all will be well."


(Page 255).]

Hanina promised obedience to this strange injunction of his father,
and events fell out in accordance with the old man's prediction. The
aged couple died on the same day, were buried together and after the
week of mourning, on the day preceding the Passover festival, Hanina
made his way to the market place wondering what adventure was in store
for him.

He had scarcely entered the market place, where all manner of wares
were displayed, when an old man approached him, carrying a silver
casket of curious design.

"Purchase this, my son," he said, "and it will bring thee good
fortune."

"What does it contain?" asked Hanina.

"That I may not inform thee," was the reply. "Indeed I cannot, for I
know not. Only the purchaser can open it at the feast which begins the
Passover."

Naturally, Hanina was impressed by these words. Matters were shaping
just as his father foretold.

"What is the price?" he asked.

"A thousand gold pieces."

That was an enormous sum, nearly the whole that he possessed, but
Hanina, remembering his vow, paid the money and took the casket home.
It was placed upon the table that night when the Passover festival
began. On being opened it was found to contain a smaller casket. This
was opened and out sprang a frog.

Hanina's wife was sorely disappointed, but she gave food to the frog
which devoured everything greedily. So much did the creature eat that
when the Passover had ended, in eight days it had grown to an enormous
size. Hanina built a cabinet for his strange possession, but it
continued to grow and soon required a special shed.

Hanina was seriously puzzled, for the frog ate so ravenously that he
and his wife had little food for themselves. But they made no
complaint, although their hardships increased daily. They were
compelled to dispose of almost everything they possessed to keep the
frog supplied with food, and at last they were left in a state of
abject poverty. Then only did the courage of Hanina's wife give way
and she began to cry.

To her astonishment, the frog, which was now bigger than a man, spoke
to her.

"Listen to me, wife of the faithful Hanina," it said. "Ye have treated
me well. Therefore, ask of me what ye will, and I shall carry out your
wishes."

"Give us food," sobbed the woman.

"It is there," said the frog, and at that very moment there was a
knock at the door and a huge basket of food was delivered.

Hanina had not yet spoken, and the frog asked him to name his desire.

"A frog that speaks and performs wonders must be wise and learned,"
said Hanina. "I wish that thou shouldst teach me the lore of men."

The frog agreed, and his method of teaching was exceedingly strange.
He wrote out the Law and the seventy known languages on strips of
paper. These he ordered Hanina to swallow. Hanina did so and became
acquainted with everything, even the language of the beasts and the
birds. All men regarded him as the most learned sage of his time.

One day the frog spoke again.

"The day has arrived," he said, "when I must repay you for all the
kindness you have shown me. Your reward shall be great. Come with me
to the woods and you shall see marvels performed."

Hanina and his wife followed the giant frog to the woods very early
one morning, and a comical figure it presented as it hobbled along.
Arrived at the woods, the frog cried out, in its croaking voice:

"Come to me all ye inhabitants of the trees, the caves and streams,
and do my bidding. Bring precious stones from the depths of the earth
and roots and herbs."

Then began the queerest procession. Hundreds upon hundreds of birds
came twittering through the trees; thousands upon thousands of insects
came crawling from holes in the ground; and all the animals in the
woods, from the tiniest to the monsters, came in answer to the call of
the frog. Each group brought some gift and laid it at the feet of
Hanina and his wife who stood in some alarm. Soon a great pile of
precious stones and herbs was heaped before them.

"All these belong to you," said the frog, pointing to the jewels. "Of
equal worth are the herbs and the roots with which ye can cure all
diseases. Because ye obeyed the wishes of the dying and did not
question me, ye are now rewarded."

Hanina and his wife thanked the frog and then the former said: "May we
not know who thou art?"

"Yes," replied the frog. "I am the fairy son of Adam, gifted with the
power of assuming any form. Farewell."

With these words, the frog began to grow smaller and smaller until it
was the size of an ordinary frog. Then it hopped into a stream and
disappeared and all the denizens of the woods returned to their
haunts.

Hanina and his wife made their way home with their treasures. They
became famous for their wealth, their wisdom and their charity, and
lived in happiness with all peoples for many, many years.





Next: The Princess Of The Tower

Previous: The Rabbi's Bogey-man



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