once found a toad in the stairwell leading down to our
cellar door. Surrounded by the corpses of many of his
fellows, he was frantically trying to escape his concrete
prison before he became one more casualty. I caught
him, carried him up the stairs and put him in the garden.
As I left, I wondered how he was going to explain this
experience to his friends that night.
to what happened to me," he might have said, bursting
with awe and excitement. "I fell down a great cliff
into a terrible hard, dry place. Others of our kind
had also fallen into this pit, and their bodies lay
all around me. There was no way to escape, and I was
afraid that I would end up like the others, dry and
the miracle happened. An enormous hand reached down
from heaven toward me. I was terrified because I thought
this was the Being who killed toads. I tried to escape
its grasp, but it kept pursuing me. When it finally
caught me, I was sure I would never see any of you again.
But, before I knew what was happening, I found myself
on the cool earth among the grasses. And then the great
hand simply went away. There must be a god who saves
story might well have been so startling that it became
the main topic of conversation in the toad community.
They had certainly never before heard of a toad god,
and might have wondered what to do about this revelation.
Perhaps, a few days later, the toad took them out to
the edge of the cliff over which he had fallen, and
let them peer down into the frightening depths where
he had been trapped. Then he might have taken them to
the spot in the garden where he had been carried by
a power greater than himself. They probably would have
marveled at this miracle, realizing that it had forever
changed their level of awareness. Imagine the scene:
of the older toads says thoughtfully, "I think we should
come out here every week to recall what happened to
our friend. We should stand at the cliff and remember
how he fell, and then come to this spot in the garden
to remind ourselves how he was raised to new life. And
I think we should be silent for a moment and meditate
on the fact that there is a god who cares about lost
and frightened toads."
to the rescued toad, he continues, "You could tell your
story over again, and then perhaps we could all say
something together in toad chorus, something like: 'The
god reached down from above and took hold of me. He
rescued me. He helped me out of danger.'* And we must
be sure to tell our toadlings that there is a god who
cares for lost toads."
a while, some of the wiser toads begin to wonder why
their friend had been saved when so many of their brothers
had been left to perish. And it occurs to them that
this toad must have done something to please the toad
god, while the others might have offended him. And so
they draw up a long list of rules which they think might
please their new-found deity. They want to be certain
that, if they ever fall into the dark pit, the great
hand in the sky would be inclined to reach down and
save them, too.
later years, while everyone knows the rules, the original
toads have died off and no one is left who remembers
actually talking to the toad to whom the miracle happened.
The story is passed down from mouth to mouth for many
years, and the more superstitious toads in every generation
faithfully follow all the rules. But in time, the details
of the story are lost forever, and it becomes nothing
more than a myth which parent toads tell their toadlets
Posted May 15, 2004
John W. Sloat 2004