19 June 2007
BSB Flashback: Frog and Toad Are Friends
03 March 2007
Author/Illustrator: Arnold Lobel
Frog and Toad are friends who (judging by their clothing) both teach in the Philosophy Department at the University of Vermont. Despite the historical animosity between the frog and toad communities (see below), these two are the best of friends. Their relationship is occasionally tested, as in "Frog and Toad Battle for Tenure", but in the end their friendship survives.
A Brief History of the Frog and Toad Divide: Frogs and toads are actually the same species. It wasn't until a presumptuous taxonomer decided to create a distinction between the two that there was even a conception of separate identities. The artificial classification of "frog" vs. "toad" created a cultural schism that gave birth to a climate of social unrest and tore communities apart. Frogs and toads began to self-segregate, tadpoles were no longer allowed to intermingle on the playground, and frog/toad marriages were completely taboo. This social separation led to a reproductive exclusivity that caused frogs and toads to drift apart on a biological level, meaning that, ironically, they did eventually develop into genetically distinct species.
Beyond the biological issues, the sectarian conflict is continually fueled by personal grudges and petty feuds. For example, early on, the toad community was jealous that frogs occupied such a privileged space in fairy tale lore (The Frog Prince legend virtually guarantees that frogs top the annual list of "animals most likely to be kissed by humans", with mountain goats coming in a distant second.) In the early 30s, the toads launched a successful publicity campaign that convinced humans (especially the impressionable French) that frog legs were a culinary delicacy. This was not a good time to be a frog. Toads were immune to this dangerous trend, mostly because of their physical appearance (if you can tell the difference between a toad and a pile of poop, you've got me beat).
While there have been numerous attempts at forging a peace, diplomatic efforts have always fallen short in the face of overwhelming social prejudice and centuries of historical precedent. That is why the friendship as documented in Frog and Toad Are Friends is so noteworthy and groundbreaking (the book was originally banned in many public schools due to its controversial content). Hopefully, their friendship will serve as an example to future generations and pave the way towards a world where frogs and toads can live together in peace.
Historical Note: In "The Letter" from Frog and Toad Are Friends, we find the first documented mention of the term "snail mail". Frog gives a snail a letter to deliver to his friend Toad. However, because it takes so long, the two are forced to sit on the front porch and patiently wait for the letter to arrive. Lucky for us, in the age of the internet, this would not be a problem. Today, Frog and Toad would be able to sit in the same room with their laptops and email eachother instantaneously while also watching clips of funny cats on the internet.