One of the books I gave my twins last week for their 8th birthday was Donna Jo Napoli’s The Prince of the Pond, a middle grade novel. This retelling of “The Frog Prince” fairy tale features a very unfroglike frog.
He knows nothing about how typical green frogs behave because, well, he was originally a human prince. Now, unable to adjust to his long and sticky tongue, he is “the fawg pin,” which is the closest he’s able to come to saying “the frog prince.”
His female companion diligently teaches him how to be a frog, while he teaches her how to be a “fawg.”
Part of being a “fawg” involves raising their offspring, which is “unfroglike.” As his astute other half tells him:
This attitude is not froglike. Frogs lay eggs. Then they leave. Insects come. Snakes and toads and bullfrogs come. Everything eats the eggs. And everything eats the tadpoles. It doesn’t matter what happens to them. They’re on their own.
Pin’s tadpoles, however, are not on their own. Parenting is an unusual trait for green frogs, but as I’ve learned from the Internet, it’s not such an unusual trait for other species of frogs.
According to Smithsonian.com:
- “Unlike most frogs, which lay thousands of eggs at a time only to abandon them, female strawberry dart frogs lay about six eggs at a time, [frog keeper Justin] Graves says. And it’s the father who protects the pea-sized eggs, urinating on them for the next 10 days until they hatch into tadpoles.” (See A Mother’s Journey: How Strawberry Dart Frogs Are Born at the Smithsonian National Zoo); and
- “When Darwin’s frog tadpoles hatch, a male frog swallows the tadpoles. He keeps the tiny amphibians in his vocal sac for about 60 days to allow them to grow. He then proceeds to cough up tiny, fully formed frogs.” (See 14 Fun Facts About Frogs; and One of Nature’s Most Extreme Dads, the Darwin’s Frog, is Going Extinct).
However, in Napoli’s story, the human-born Pin does far more to protect his young from snakes, toads, and bullfrogs than any real-life frog would do. This overprotective parenting style results in a generation of “fawgs” who don’t know how to fend for themselves–which is fine, as long as Pin is around to protect them.
Which leads us to the part of the story that broke my daughter’s heart (spoiler alert):
Pin isn’t around forever. No parent is.
The Prince of the Pond is a poignant retelling of a well-known fairy tale, one that’s worth reading. However, it was not the best birthday gift for my soft-hearted 8-year-old (pictured below). I wish I had known that before giving it to her.
**For more on devoted amphibian dads, see the Exploratorium’s Parenting, Frog Style. However, before we feel all lovey-dovey for daddy frogs, there’s this: Overzealous Male Frogs Practice a Practical Sort of Necrophilia. Nature is fascinating.