by Richard L. Dieterle

Originally frogs had a mouth full of very sharp teeth. This made them feel proud and powerful. One night a frog sat outside Hare's lodge and threatened him, forcing Hare and his grandmother into hiding. No matter where they tried to conceal themselves, the frog said that his dogs would find them out. Finally Hare went outside and when he saw that it was only a frog, he knocked its teeth out. Thus today frogs have no teeth and lack the aggressiveness that goes with them.1

Frogs are the amphibian counterparts of dogs. To Turtle a toad is a dog, a bull frog is a bull dog, and a prairie frog is a bear scenting dog.2 On another occasion his deer scenting dog was in fact a very large frog, an elk scenting dog was a long legged frog, and his bear scenting dog was a toad.3

Frogs, like dogs, also have lunar associations. One Legged One took a pale, well tattooed woman as a wife. However, as might be expected from a lunar figure, she had to make frequent stops to urinate, so One Legged One struck her with his (lunar shaped) bow, and transformed her into a prairie frog.4 In a similar incident, a man was murdered by his own daughter-in-law whom he happened to have married. In revenge, his younger brother struck her in the cheek with his bow, and she turned into a long legged frog.5

A story was told of something being turned into a toad in very recent times. It was said of Young Rogue, a brother of Robert Lincoln, that he could take a piece of clay, roll it into a marble-sized ball, roll it off a table, and it would magically transform into a toad, who would then hop away.6

Frogs are also similar to thunderclouds: they are aquatic, metamorphic, have a loud voice, eat things of the air, have a long, darting tongue, and may even fall as rain. Once a Thunderbird struck a large rock with a bolt of lightning. The rock rolled down from the hill on which it was perched, and as it went, it transformed itself into a frog, showing that frogs can come from the action of clouds.7 In a round valley, reminiscent of an inverted celestial vault, the Twins encounter a giant toad about the size of a small hill. Like a cloud, or perhaps like a comet, this toad breathes fire. He nearly eats them with this fire, but the Twins are so powerful they are able to kill him anyway. They mistake it for a raccoon, an animal identified with the Meteor Spirit.8

Links: Hare, Turtle, One Legged One, Thunderbirds, Raccoons, The Meteor Spirit.

Stories: mentioning frogs: The Stone that Became a Frog, Hare and the Dangerous Frog, The Two Boys, The Woman Who Became an Ant, Snowshoe Strings, Turtle's Warparty, Porcupine and His Brothers.


1 Paul Radin, Winnebago Hero Cycles: A Study in Aboriginal Literature (Baltimore: Waverly Press, 1948) 106-107.

2 Paul Radin, "Porcupine," Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) #11: 1-43.

3 Paul Radin, "Turtle's Warparty," Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) Notebook #28: 1-74.

4 Paul Radin, "The Woman Who Became an Ant," Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) Notebook #532.

5 RS [Rueben StCyr ?], "Snowshoe Strings," in Paul Radin, Winnebago Notebooks (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) Notebook #60, p. 9.

6 Robert Lincoln, a story about Young Rogue, in Paul Radin, Winnebago Notebooks, Freeman #3862 (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society) Winnebago I, #3: 16.

7 George Ricehill, Tale of a Stone that Turned into a Frog, transcribed by Oliver LaMere, in Paul Radin, Winnebago Notebooks, Winnebago III, #19, Freeman #3899 [1254] (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1909) 16-17; George Ricehill, No Title, in Paul Radin, Winnebago Notebooks, Winnebago III, #11a, Freeman ##3892 (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1909 [revised, 1945]) Story XVI, p. 72.

8 Paul Radin, The Evolution of an American Indian Prose Epic. A Study in Comparative Literature, Part I (Basil: Ethnographical Museum, Basil Switzerland, 1954) 58-74.