Our ability to tolerate and understand others different from ourselves is learned at an early age. It makes sense to be careful and wary about what we do not know – this is how people have managed to stay alive for centuries. It is unfortunate, however,  that our lack of understanding about the other – people and ideas we know nothing about – can so easily become part of an unquestioned belief system.
Children often ask why things are the way they are. Adults sometimes say “because I said so,” or “that’s the way it is and has always been.” Subject closed. These responses do not keep a child from wondering.
I am always happy when kids question things. Their questions tell me that they want and need answers that make sense to them. The following story is an excellent way to open up a conversation about understanding the real reason why frogs and snake cannot be friends. It is also an occasion to discuss the need to learn as much as possible about someone or something in order to make an informed decision.

I see this story as an opportunity to talk about the food chain, and discuss why it is important to watch for and understand the signs of danger. My ending for this story is designed to encourage an active dialog about attitudes and why some “rules” we learn are based on fact and why others might not be.

A Story to Tell

“Frog and Snake”

(An adaptation of a folktale from Africa by Glenda Bonin © 2012)
Frog was quite young but he certainly enjoyed being in the world. Frog had met many creatures in the neighborhood and had made many friends.
One day Frog was in the woods, and came across a creature he had never seen before. Frog thought this creature was quite beautiful and interesting. The creature came out from under a bush, was long like a stick, had a colorful back, and moved from side to side in the dirt. Frog went right over to talk to this new friend. “Hi! My name is Frog. Who are you?”
The creature looked up at Frog and smiled. “Well, I am known as Snake, and I am trying to learn more about the world. Do you find it a nice place to be?”
“Sure,” said Frog. “Want to play?”
Frog and Snake spent the morning having a great time. Frog taught snake how to play hide and seek. Snake was great about finding good places to hide.
Then Frog said to Snake, “I really like the way you slither along on the ground. Do you think you could teach me how to slither?”
“Okay,” said Snake, and he showed Frog how he used his strong stomach muscles to move from side to side and travel in any direction he wanted.
When Frog got down on the ground and tried to slither, he laughed out loud because the little rocks and sticks tickled his belly. Snake laughed too! It was fun watching Frog trying so hard to do what was so easy for him.
Then Snake asked Frog, “Do you think you can teach me how to hop?”
It wasn’t easy for Snake to hop, but he managed to flex his muscles enough to hop up in the air a bit. He was very proud of himself.
They were having such a good time together, they decided to be friends and meet every morning at the same place. Since it was time for them to go home for lunch, they hugged each other and went on their way.
When Frog got home, his mother asked him what he had been doing, and Frog talked about his colorful new friend and how much fun they had together. As Frog described his new friend, his mother had a puzzled look and said, “Who is your new friend? What is his name?”
“My new friend is called Snake, Mom. He’s really great. I’d like to bring him home to meet you sometime.”
“Snake! Did you say Snake?!” asked his mother with alarm.
“Yes, Mom – he’s really nice and we’re going to play together every day.”
“Oh, no you won’t,” said his mother.
“What do you mean, Mom,” said Frog.
“You may never play with Snake again. Do you understand?”
“No, I don’t, Mom. He’s nice and I like him!”
“Snake comes from a bad family. Frogs never associate with Snakes. That is how it is, and that is how it will always be. Now, do you understand?”
“But, Mom, he’s nice,” said Frog.
“Son, I hate to be the one to tell you this, but Frogs are food for Snake. Snake will eat you.”
“Aw, Mom, Snake is my friend. He would never eat me,” said Frog with a worried look.
“Yes he would! Now you go to your room and think about that,” said his mother.
So, Frog went to his room, and he thought about the friend he could never play with again. He was confused. “Snake did hug me awfully hard, though,” thought Frog.
In the meantime, Snake went directly to the family room to show off for his brothers and sisters. He showed them how he could hop, and his siblings started to yell, “higher, higher!” At last, mother snake came into the room.
“Snake, stop that nonsense immediately! What in the world do you think you are doing? Where did you learn to do such a thing? Get back on the ground and stay there where you belong,” scolded his mother.
“Aw, Mom,” said Snake. “I’ve spent the morning with my new friend Frog. Hopping is fun – you ought to try it. Can we have him over for dinner sometime?
Suddenly, mother Snake was very interested. “Frog? Did you ssssssay Frog? Yesssssssssss. Let’s have him for dinner ssssssssssssome time!”
“I don’t like the way you said that, Mom,” said Snake.
“Son, I don’t want you to play with your food. . .”
“What?!” said Snake.
“You may invite him for dinner – anytime. Frogs are food for Snake.”
Snake couldn’t believe what his mother was saying. “I could never eat my friend, Mom.”
“Yessssssssss, you will. Now, go to your room and think about that.”
Snake slithered to his room. He didn’t want to eat his friend – he just wanted to play.
In the morning Snake went to the same place at the same time he and Frog had agreed to meet. Frog was not there.
Snake went to Frog’s place and knocked on the door. After a while, Frog came to the door, but he did not open it.
“Come on out, Frog. Let’s hop around,” said Snake.
“Sorry,” said Frog. “I can’t play with you today – as a matter of fact, I won’t be playing with you ever again.”
“Oh.” replied Snake. “I guess your mom talked to you, too, huh?”
“Yes,” said Frog sadly. “She did.”
So Snake sadly slithered home.
From that day to this, Frog and Snake are never seen playing together. But, if you go into the woods you might see a snake coiled up on top of a flat rock in the sun, looking like he’s sleeping. You might also find a Frog sitting quite still with his eyes closed as he sits in or near the water. He looks like he could be sleeping, too. I don’t think they are sleeping – I think they are both wondering what the world would be like if they had stayed friends.

How to Tell This Story
This is a fun story to tell, particularly if you are willing to try different voices to give each character a personality. Using different voices as you tell this tale may seem a bit advanced, but with practice I think you will find this story will be one of the best stories you can tell. Kids often ask to hear again and again, because it is so full of images and action.
I suggest you practice first by telling the story as the storyteller. When you feel you know the story well, try giving one character a voice and gradually add the others as you feel more comfortable with the technique. This is also a great tale to tell if you are naturally expressive with your hands. The audience will have fun watching your hand movements as you describe and indicate how each critters slithered and hopped.
Another good way to make each character more distinct is to practice different postures for each one as they speak.

In my role as the storyteller, I look directly at the audience and talk in my normal voice. It helps if you “assign” a direction (to one side or the other) for each character as they speak to one another. This will help the audience quickly understand who is about to speak and to whom. Also when you say a character’s line, position your face either up or down to help establish where this character is in relation to another. When I am speaking for Frog, my posture relaxes and I speak to the imaginary Snake by looking in the same area on the ground each time I talk to him. As Snake, I always look up – even when talking with mother snake. As parents, both mother snake and mother frog look slightly down with their eyes when speaking to their children.

You will note that I have added some extra “s” letters to suggest mother snake’s excitement about her son bringing food home for the family.

As you retell this tale, you will be able to really “get into” each character. If you do this you will be rewarded with attentive listeners.

Suggested Classroom Activities
I have used this story with success  in all elementary grades, but I found grades 2-5 to respond most positively to the ideas and theme. After hearing “Frog and Snake”, kids really enjoy exploring the story in a variety of ways. Following are a few suggestions to get you started.
Divide the class into teams and have them perform their own interpretation of the story for everyone to enjoy. There may be some students who prefer not to be in the spotlight, so make it clear they are free to help with scenery or to do sound effects. The objective here is for the kids to have fun and experience the story. Another way to present the story is for one student to tell while the others silently mime the actions.
This should not be an exercise in class evaluation on how well a group did. Instead, focus the discussion about how each character in the story see things at the start of the story and how they understand things by the end.
Invite teams of 2 or 3 to examine this story for lessons about the food chain, how we identify behavior, how we can learn from warning signs and how we evaluate differences.

Ask the students if this story might apply in real-life situations.
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