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Bruce Holland Rogers


The Bullfrog and His Shadows

 Artwork : Photo taken from  and licensed under the .

“I don’t know,” said the bullfrog, who had been silent all through the deliberations. “I am big, but raccoons are bigger. I am one, but they are many.”

Artwork : Photo taken from WikiMedia Commons and licensed under the Creative Commons ShareAlike 2.5 license.

This story is used by Bruce as an example of a fable in his column about fables as short-short stories.

In the middle of the day, the frogs held a council. “It’s unbearable,” said one. “The herons hunt us by day, and the raccoons prey on us at night.”

“Yes,” said another. “Either one is bad enough, but both herons and raccoons together mean that we never have a moment’s peace.”

“We should demand that the herons leave the pond. Banish them!”

“Yes!” all the frogs agreed. “Banish the herons! Banish the herons!”

All this noise drew the attention of a heron who was fishing nearby. “What was that?” she said, approaching. “Banish who?”

The frogs looked at her beak, which was like a sword for stabbing frogs.

“The raccoons!” chorused the frogs. “Banish the raccoons!”

“That’s what I thought you said,” said the heron. She went back to fishing.

“The raccoons!” the frogs sang. “Banish the raccoons!”

With the policy decided, there arose the matter of who would inform the raccoons of their exile. One frog after another was nominated for the post of sheriff, and one after another declined it. Then the bullfrog was nominated. “Of course! He’s the biggest! He’s the very one for the job!”

“I don’t know,” said the bullfrog, who had been silent all through the deliberations. “I am big, but raccoons are bigger. I am one, but they are many.”

“Well, then,” volunteered another frog. “We’ll come along with you!”

“Yes, we’ll come along!” agreed the frogs. “We’ll all come along!”

“And you’ll stay with me, no matter what?” said the bullfrog.

“We’ll stick to you like your shadow,” said one frog.

The other frogs agreed. “Like your shadow.”

The bullfrog was still reluctant. The others had to pledge their faithfulness all afternoon. Finally, they had repeated so many times that they would stick to him like his shadow that the bullfrog agreed to lead the delegation.

The sun set. The herons flew to their roosts above the pond. In the twilight, the bullfrog said, “The raccoons will be coming soon. But you’re all going to stand by me like my very shadow, right?”

“Like your shadow! Like your shadow!” chorused the frogs.

The sky turned purple. “Even if five or six raccoons appear together?”

“Like your shadow! Like your shadow!”

Stars shone in a moonless sky. It was very dark. There was just enough starlight to see the raccoons when at last they emerged from the undergrowth. There were five of them, a mother and her grown kits.

The bullfrog hopped onto the shore. “Villains!” he cried. “Be gone! Raccoons are outlawed at this pond! Away with you! You are banished!”

“Indeed?” said the mother raccoon. Her kits sniffed the bullfrog, who trembled but held his ground. “On whose authority are we banished?”

“On all of ours!” the bullfrog said. He expected a chorus to back him up. There was only silence. He turned and saw, just before he was eaten, that he was the only frog ashore.

The help of most allies falls short of the mark,
For even your shadow slips off in the dark.

Return to the Bruce Holland Rogers column where this story is discussed.

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About the Author

Bruce Holland Rogers

The eyes of Bruce Holland Rogers

Bruce Holland Rogers has a home base in Eugene, Oregon, the tie-dye capital of the world. He writes all types of fiction: SF, fantasy, literary, mysteries, experimental, and work that’s hard to label.

For six years, Bruce wrote a column about the spiritual and psychological challenges of full-time fiction writing for Speculations magazine. Many of those columns have been collected in a book, Word Work: Surviving and Thriving as a Writer (an alternate selection of the Writers Digest Book Club). He is a motivational speaker and trains workers and managers in creativity and practical problem solving.

He has taught creative writing at the University of Colorado and the University of Illinois. Bruce has also taught non-credit courses for the University of Colorado, Carroll College, the University of Wisconsin, and the private Flatiron Fiction Workshop. He is a member of the permanent faculty at the Whidbey Writers Workshop MFA program, a low-residency program that stands alone and is not affiliated with a college or university. It is the first and so far only program of its kind. Currently he is teaching creative writing and literature at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary, on a Fulbright grant.

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