Reprinted from The Environmentor, vol. 11 no. 4.
Folktale: “Frog and Rain”
In the desert southwest, WATER IS LIFE. Most of the year's rain comes in July and August "monsoon season." The mornings dawn hot and bright, but clouds form over the mountains. Usually by mid-afternoon the clouds come down and drop rain on the desert.
At the foot of a mesa, there was a small pond. Every kind of animal had to visit this pond to drink, because in the desert WATER IS LIFE. The pond was also a home for frogs.
But one summer, no rain clouds came. They formed over the mountains, but they did not come rain on the desert. The pond became smaller and smaller. All the animals worried, because in the desert, WATER IS LIFE.
One small green frog wondered, Why don't the rain clouds come? She could see them sleeping on the mountain tops far away. She thought she should go there and wake them up. But it was too far, too rocky, too hot. She could not travel that far. She asked the other animals, but none were strong enough to travel that far. Nobody could go.
Then she remembered that she knew songs which had come from far away. Songs can travel!
She planned a rain song. When she was ready, she sang. (You can sing frog sounds by yourself.)
But nothing happened.
The other frogs heard her and asked why she sang. She explained. They said, "Maybe one frog is not enough. We will all sing."
The tiny tree frogs sang "Peep peep! Peep peep!" The medium frogs sang "Ribbit ribbit!" The big bullfrogs sang "Garump, garump." (Your listeners can choose which kind of frog song to sing with you.)
But nothing happened.
The birds came to drink at the pond. They asked about the frogs' singing, and said, "We are the best singers! Maybe we birds should sing the rain song." Some of them could whistle or warble. Others were crows and ravens, "Caw, caw!" (Invite listeners to sing with you.)
They sang, but nothing happened.
When the Four-Footed animals came to drink, they heard the birds and asked why they were singing. "Maybe we Four-Footeds should sing!" Lizards, mice, wild cats, foxes, coyotes and wolves sang. (Invite listeners to join in.)
But nothing happened.
The insects heard them and asked why they were singing. The flies, bees, wasps, mosquitoes, and cicadas tried to sing a rain song. (Invite listeners.)
But still, nothing happened.
Then the little green frog suggested, "In the desert, WATER IS LIFE for all of us. Maybe all of us should sing together!" Each animal prepared their version of the song. They sang together. (Invite listeners to sing with their choice of animal voice.)
And the rain clouds woke up! They put on their dancing costumes and came down to dance on the desert!
When the storm was over, the rain had cooled the desert and filled the pond.
The animals thanked each other. “We did this together! But it's good that the little green frog had the ideas.” They all drank and were happy -- because in the desert, WATER IS LIFE.
WATER IS LIFE everywhere. This year, some parts of the country have been plagued by floods and landslides, but other areas are experiencing drought. Gary McManus, Oklahoma's associate state climatologist, said "That is basically the driest such period on record going back 100 years." He pointed out that Oklahoma has never been as dry as we are right now, including the Dust Bowl, the drought in the 1950s, and the dry period between 2011 and 2012.
In my city (Bartlesville OK), reservoirs were at barely 60% capacity in the spring and, with no major rain forecast for SE Kansas (the watershed feeding our river), severe water restrictions will be needed by summer. Meanwhile the city begged people to conserve. Turn off the tap while brushing teeth. Take shorter showers. Don't flush just to get rid of a tissue. Wash only full loads of laundry.
As the desert animals learned, everyone who has a stake in the water supply must cooperate! If we don't, by summer the city splash pads and swimming pools will have to close. We will be required to leave cars unwashed and lawns unwatered. What will become of our vegetable gardens?
Think of the many ways we use water, besides drinking and cooking. How can we conserve what we have, while hoping that the rains will return this summer? We must all do our part.
I learned this story from Arizona storytellers. It began as a short Hopi Indian tale in which one frog and one locust (normally enemies) sing together to bring rain. Anglo storytellers have added additional animals and audience participation, often inviting listeners to join in with animal and rain sound effects.
Variants of the tale have been collected in Liberia, Angola, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam.
See “Frog and Locust” in Earth Care: World folktales to talk about by Margaret Read MacDonald (1999 Linnet Books)