Tag Archives: frogs

Mother and son frogs


N is a college student at the University of Southern California, she told me about a bedtime story her mother used to tell her when she was little. N and her mother are Korean but moved to America when N was a baby.


“She [her mother] told me multiple stories but there is one I remember the most because I would cry every time I heard it. So, there was a son and a mom, and they were both frogs. The frog son would never listen to his mom and always did the opposite of what she asked him to do. She would tell him to do his homework, but he would play instead; she would ask him to gather wood from the forest, but he would get sand from the beach. Everything she said, he would do the exact opposite. One day, she was very sick and knew she was going to die, so she told her son ‘When I die, bury me in the shallow banks of the swamp’, thinking her son wouldn’t listen to her. She actually wanted to be buried high up the mountains but expected him to do the opposite of what she asked. When she died her son was very regretful for what he did to his mom, so he decides to listen to her last wish. He buries her in the shallow banks of the swamp as she asked him to; the problem was that every time it rained, all the mud and sand were washed away, and the grave was unearthed. Every time it rained, he would sit and cry in fear of his mother’s body floating away because of the rain.”


Apparently, frog stories are a common reoccurring theme in Korean folklore, as well as mother-son stories. This story seems both like a tale and a fable, as it is used as an aesthetic narration, but at the same time, it is meant to teach the children listening to the story the importance of obeying their parents. This story is in some way very sad and graphic, as it depicts a child watching their mother’s corpse constantly resurface, traumatizing and punishing him for his actions in the past. It clearly is also a story about the importance of maintaining one’s reputation in a good way. When searching online, I found a similar tale by the name of “The Green Frogs”.

Why do frogs croak when it rains?

Text Transcript:

“and it was that like, ummm, that so the son was very arrogant sort of thing, and he did the opposite of whatever his mom told him, and then, when the mom was going to die, how did it go again, like each time he disobeyed her she would get weaker and sicker, and then when she was about to die, she went ok well he always does the opposite of what I say, so let me say I want to get buried by the river, so um where she actually wanted to be buried was by the hills, so he’ll do the opposite and bury me where I want to be. But the sun was really sad and wanted to do the thing his mom said for once, so he buried her by the river. But then the rain came in and essentially swept her away, so the frogs croaking is like he’s crying because… frogs croak, it’s normally when it rains, but like, so it’s like they’re crying”

[for clarification, the mother and son were both frogs]


Collected from an in-person conversation, the informant said that she was told this legend by a Korean girl in one of her classes. The myth is of Korean origin.

Personal Thoughts:

I know that the scientific reason why frogs croak after it rains is because male frogs are looking for a mate, but explaining that to a child can definitely be very daunting. In addition, this short myth hides many moral stories as well. For example, the son didn’t obey the mother, but when he did, his mother had assumed he wouldn’t obey and her body was washed away. In this series of events, we can see society’s desire for a son to obey his mother. In addition, we can see how a mother could lose trust in their child, as seen with the mom frog assuming that her son wouldn’t listen and saying she wanted to be buried where she didn’t want to be.

Kyoto and Osaka Frogs – Japan

These 2 frogs lived in Japan but did not know about each other: one lived in Kyoto, and one lived in Osaka, and they were both happy frogs.  But they would both wonder what the other town looked like.  The Kyoto frog thought, “I wonder what Osaka looks like,” just as the Osaka frog thought, “I wonder what Kyoto looks like.” And so coincidentally, on the same day, both of these frogs decided to leave their happy homes and travel down a road to the other city to see what it looks like.  They set out on their journeys on opposite ends of the country on the same road, and little did they know that a long and hard journey laid ahead of them.  They both reached this mountain and thought, “Oh man, I will never be able to climb up this mountain!”  But they did it anyways, and right when they reached the very top of the mountain, they saw each other and couldn’t believe what they saw.  They started talking about where they were from, and what they were doing, and decided to take a rest on the mountaintop.  And then they got this great idea: if they were a little bit taller, then they could look over the mountains and see what the other city looked like, and wouldn’t have to venture all the way to the opposite city.  One of the frogs said, “what if we stand and lean against each others’ shoulders, then maybe we can see the cities?”  So frogs stood up, shoulders leaning against each other and noses pointed towards the city they wanted to see.  But little did the frogs know that their eyes are on the back of their head, so they were actually looking at the city they came from.  So the Osaka frog thought, “Kyoto looks just like Osaka!” and the Kyoto frog thought, “Osaka looks just like Kyoto!”  Both of them decided there was no point in traveling any further, so they said their goodbyes and headed back to their respective cities, and lived out their entire lives thinking Kyoto looked just like Osaka, and Osaka looked just like Kyoto.

Lisa says that this story did not have any particular meaning to her, but she enjoyed hearing it as a child.  Her grandmother, or obaachan, wanted to instill some Japanese heritage in Lisa, since she is only half Japanese and lives in America.  She says that it has helped her feel more connected to her Japanese side, because she feels like her family has been very Americanized.  And since her children have even less Japanese blood – they are only a quarter – she plans on passing on these stories so they have some appreciation for their Japanese heritage.  She has also been to both of these cities, and she finds this story amusing because the cities are both extremely different.

I can appreciate the fact that her grandma is trying to connect Lisa to her Japanese heritage, because my mom tried doing the same with my brother and I when we were younger.  Except we didn’t really understand what she was trying to do at that point, so we weren’t very receptive and my mom stopped trying.  But even now, through this project, I feel a little more connected to my Filipino heritage, and, like Lisa, want to pass it on to my children so they don’t lose appreciation for their ethnic culture.  I have also found learning about other heritages very very interesting, as these stories play huge roles in cultural identity.

I mean I’ve never been to Japan, so the story probably isn’t as amusing to me because I have no idea what either city looks like.  But it has been on my brother and my bucket list for a while, so when we finally go I want to make it a point to go to both Kyoto and Osaka so I can compare them.  Also, I never knew that if a frog were to stand up on their two feet, their eyes would be looking behind them.  So I guess I learned something from this story!

Folktale— Korean

The tale as told by Soojin:  “Alright so once upon a time, there was a little frog who never listened to anything his mother asked him to do.  So if his mom asked him not to jump, he would jump.  If she asked him not to eat candy before dinner, he would eat a bunch. If she told him to wash his face before going to bed, he would roll around in the mud and stuff.  Basically, he was a pretty bad son.

So the frog’s mom had always wanted to be buried in the mountains when she died because if she was buried by the beach, her body would be washed away.  But knowing that her son would never listen to her, she purposely told him that when she died, she wanted to be buried by the sea.

Okay so, one day, his mother got really sick and was on her death bed and told him again that she wanted to be buried by the sea.  The son frog, who was, um, feeling really guilty after his mom’s death, decided that he would honor her last wish and bury her by the sea, which was the opposite of what she truly wanted.

So he buried her by the sea and it started to rain. He ran to where he buried her and started to cry, which for frogs is croaking, and he realized what he had done and felt awful about disobeying his mom and the fact that her body might be washed away.

This is why frogs croak when it rains.”

Soojin told me that his mother told this story to him and his brother when they were both younger.  He said he doesn’t know if it’s a popular story in Korea, but he assumes that it is because other Koreans he has met are familiar with a version of the story.  Soojin also said that he never knew why they were frogs aside from the ending, because the explanation of why they croak when it rains doesn’t really seem to be the true point of the story.

Instead, Soojin told me that the true point of the story is to convince children to obey their parents.  He also said the story is also about building trust.

Because Soojin’s mother told him this story, it makes sense that the story would be about obeying your parents and building trust.  For the most part, Soojin’s analysis seems correct.

I also think the story is simply a way to explain an otherwise inexplicable phenomenon to children.  Even though Soojin said he didn’t know why the characters were frogs, the final line of the tale is definitely in there for a reason.  It probably seems strange to hear the sounds of frogs croaking when it starts raining, so this story provides an entertaining explanation for the phenomenon.  When children hear frogs croaking, they might be reminded of the story… and subsequently reminded of its moral— to obey one’s parents.