The Disobedient Frog

Informant: “It’s about, like, this baby frog…hahahaha. Not a baby frog, ok, like..hahahaha”

Me: “A tadpole?”

Informant: “No hahahhahaha…like a kid frog. A kid frog, and he’s with his…he. So there’s a mother frog and a boy frog, and he’s extremely disobedient…and like sassy, right? And this mother frog is always like asking him to do things, but he’s always like messing around, talking back. So, um, yeah. He always just disobeyed her, he never really took her seriously. And like, um, she would tell him ok, this is how you croak like a frog. Like this is…like, what sound do frogs make? Like, ribbit, kind of? But in Korean the ribbit is different, but like she like, ok, so this is how you would ribbit. And she’s trying to teach him how to ribbit like a frog, like a proper frog. And like, you would like expand your stomach and say ribbit, ribbit. And the boy frog would be like ok. So he’s expand like his stomach, but be like…robbit. Or, or like some kind of other word. And she would get like so frustrated with him! And one day, the mother frog got really really sick, and she was kind of dying? And her last kind of dying wish to her son was, um, bury me on the mountain, and not near the river. And she said that precisely because she knew her disobedient frog son would do exactly the opposite as she told him, and she wanted to be buried on the mountain, so she was like, don’t bury me on the mountain. So he was like, ok. So she finally died, and then her son was soooo devastated, and he was like ohh my gosh, I can’t believe I’ve been so rude and so”

Me: “Wait, she wanted to be buried near the river or on the mountain?”

Informant: “She wanted to be buried on the mountain, but she asked him as a dying wish, don’t bury me on the mountain, bury me on the river. Cuz she was assuming he was gonna disobey her and do exactly the opposite. So when she did die, he was like really sad, and he was really regretful of what a horrible son he was. And he was like, I cannot believe, like, I just wasted my life being horrible to my mom and now she’s gone. And I guess…one thing I can at least do for her is to obey, finally, like…completely obey her wish. And…so he was like ok, I’m gonna bury her near the…next to the river. Cuz that’s what she told me to do. So, even though he knew it was like an unwise decision to bury her near the river, he did it anyway cuz that’s what he thought his mom wanted. Hahaha…so, he like…why am I laughing? Ok, he buried her next to the river and um, whenever it would rain, he would go and watch over that grave so that it wouldn’t wash away. And he’d be, um, crying. And like, making frog noises like, ribbiting I guess? What…every time it rains because he would be asking, like, oh please don’t let my mother’s grave wash away. He’d be crying, so there’s this kind of Korean, like, folk…tale? Like, that’s why frogs always make noises when it rains. Yeah, that’s basically it…hahaha.”

My informant recalls this tale her mother told her before bed when she was little. I would describe this as a cross between a märchen and an extended proverb. I would primarily identify it as a märchen because it features elements not meant to be taken as ‘real,’ namely the talking frogs. However, it also has an underlying moral element, as well as a lesson. The frog’s regret at his mother’s passing is a roundabout way of saying ‘listen to your parents.’ Note that my informant laughs when she explains what happens after the mother passes away. There is definite irony in the turn of events, and perhaps something to be said about giving someone instructions assuming they will do the opposite. However, the young frog repents and works doubly hard to make it up to his mother. Because his attitude change comes late, he must show his repentance by guarding over her grave every day for the rest of his life. In the end though, he is a good son. I also found the part at the end very amusing, as this parable turned into a proverb of sorts, explaining why frogs ribbit when it rains.