Wilbur and the Frogs

Wilbur and The Frogs
By Charles Shelton

Let me tell you a little story. One upon a time (see, when I
begin the story in this way you are supposed to get a hint that this story is pure fiction) there was a young boy named Wilbur. Wilbur lived in the country. Not on a farm, as his folks just didn’t like the city, so they lived in a small house with a large yard, bounded by some woods on two sides, a pond behind the back yard, and, of course, the road in the front.

Wilbur didn’t miss the city at all, as he had never lived there,
and he loved being surrounded by nature. He, like many young children, loved animals. And also, like many young children, he especially loved certain animals. But, whereas probably most young children especially like dogs, cats, or birds, Wilbur’s special love was frogs. He had three large bullfrogs which he kept as pets, and his favorite activity when not in school or helping around the house was to spend hour upon hour at the pond behind his house.

Wilbur would sit and watch the frogs in the pond. Possibly
“watch” is not the correct term here – actually, he would intensely study the frogs. He watched their every movement, listened to their croaking, observed their feeding habits and behavior under every circumstance. Wilbur probably knew more about frogs than many scientists. He knew every frog in the pond by sight and sound, and he gave names to them all. One frog, Albert, had a deep and husky croak,
and was colored a darker green than any of the other frogs. Another, Gertrude, had a lighter, higher-pitched croak, and had two black stripes running along her back. Albert would lay in his bed at night with his window open and listen to all of the frogs croaking, instantly recognizing each frog by the sound of its croak. He also noticed distinct patterns in the croaks, and he suspected that the frogs were somehow communicating with one another. He wished he knew
what they were talking about.

Yes, Wilbur knew more about frogs than most people, but he didn’t know enough to satisfy him. He didn’t simply want to know all ABOUT frogs, he wanted KNOW frogs – to understand them, to comprehend what
it was like to BE a frog. And he also wanted especially “his” frogs, Albert, Gertrude and the others in the pond, to know him. After all, he loved them so much and counted them as friends; wouldn’t it be great if both he and they could understand and relate to one another
on the closest of terms? If he could only become a frog whenever he wanted to, he could visit with his friends, could talk with them in their language, and could tell them all about what the human world was like. He wanted so much to know the frog’s life from the inside, as well as to be able to understand frog-talk and be able to communicate likewise. As I said, Wilbur LOVED frogs! How could someone love such a lowly and slimy animal so much? I don’t know … but Wilbur did.

One day, as Wilbur sat with his father in the living room of
their house, he asked his father, “Dad, you know that I like frogs a lot (he didn’t think it wise to use a stronger word than “like”, as his father might think him crazy), and that I know a whole lot about them. But I want to know so much more. I want to know what it’s like to BE a frog, to understand how frogs think and communicate. Isn’t there some way that I can do that?” His father, a philosophy professor, and one who just loved any chance to philosophically pontificate upon any question, put down the newspaper he had been
reading and answered Wilbur, “Son, through external experience one can be made aware of the activity patterns which make up many levels and styles of being. A biologist, for example, can study the patterns of activity of a frog’s body. But that’s as far as the study can proceed. One cannot taste what it is like to be a frog, one can only taste what it is like to be a man. The best that you can hope for is to pursue biological science, through which you may learn much more
about frogs. But you can never KNOW frogs.” The father then
retrieved his paper, thinking to himself, “Biologist? Well, not as important of a calling as a philosopher, yet still quite respectable.”

Wilbur was somewhat disappointed by his father’s response. He wasn’t quite sure he totally understood it, but he did understand the main point: he could not change from what he was so that he could understand another type of being.

That night as he lay in bed listening to Albert, Gertrude and the others croaking in the pond, he began thinking about his favorite fairy-tale, the one about the prince who became a frog and then returned to manhood again. He wondered, in spite of his father’s authoritative statement, “Might it be possible? Through some kind of magic that Father doesn’t know about (although Father DOES know just about everything)? Might there be SOME way I could become a frog?
Not forever, but for long enough to fully taste froghood, to get to know well my beloved frogs in the pond, and for them to get to know and understand ME and what I’m like? Maybe if I wish for it and believe in it strong enough it will happen.” He spent the remainder of the night until he fell asleep trying to wish and believe with all his might.

What he wished for didn’t come to pass, but as he slept he did
have quite a fascinating dream. He dreamed that he awoke from sleep and found that he was no longer a boy, but a frog. Yes, there it was – he had four webbed feet instead of two hands and two legs. When he started to say, “What’s going on, here?” it came out as a distinct “Caarrooaak.” He really was a frog! “Fantastic! I’ve got to go to the pond right now and start my exploring and tasting!” He jumped down from the bed, hopped across the room, and leaped out his window,
heading for the pond.

When he got to the pond, the first frog he saw, sitting on a
Lily-pad and croaking in his distinctive way, was Albert. Only,
Albert’s croaks were no longer just croaks, but Wilbur understood what
Albert was saying! Albert was calling out to the other frogs, “Has
anyone seen any juicy flies or other creatures flying around? It’s
breakfast time, and I’m hungry!”

Wilbur was amazed and excited, and he immediately hopped over to
the pad next to Albert’s. “Hello there, Albert! I’m Wilbur, and I’ve
come to get to know you better, and to tell you all about myself and
my world!” Albert replied, “Are you addressing me? And, if so, why
do you call me ‘Albert’? And what is this about you and your world?
You look just like another frog to me, living in the same world as I
do. So what can you tell me about this pond that I don’t already

Wilbur saw the logic in his response (after all, he was a
philosopher’s son), and replied, “I’m sorry. I had forgotten that
Albert was just a name that I had given you and that you couldn’t have
known. I used to be a human being, and I loved frogs so much that I
found a way to become one, so that I could get to know you personally
and you could get to know me. I’m the boy that used to sit on the
banks of the pond and watch you and the other frogs for hours.”

Albert responded, “You gave me a name? What arrogance! And
what’s a ‘human bean’? I know of a creature with only two legs,
instead of the four that are necessary for decent life, who often sits
on the banks of the pond for long periods of time. Whether he is
watching me and the other frogs, I don’t know. I only know that he
doesn’t bother us, and he doesn’t compete with us for food. Is this
the creature you are calling a ‘human bean’?”

“Yes, I am he,” Wilbur replied.

“So, you were once a ‘human bean’ and now you are a frog? How
did this happen?”

“Well, I was wishing that I could become a frog, and I fell
asleep in my bed, and when I woke up my wish had come true! I then
left my bedroom and came out to the pond.”

“Bed? Bedroom? What are these strange words?”

“They’re the place where I sleep.”

“Oh, you mean mud! Why don’t you just call it mud? Why must you
make up new words when the old ones will do just fine?”

“No, I don’t sleep in mud, but…”

“Don’t be silly, EVERYONE sleeps in the mud!”

“Look, that’s not really important, there are many other VERY
important things we could talk about. I would like to tell you all
about my world, and learn all about yours.”

“No thanks. You’re just a new frog in the pond with a crazy
mind, spitting out new and useless words and ideas. I’ve got much
more important things to do than sit and listen to your supposedly
important yet useless talk. And I certainly don’t need to tell you
all about ‘my’ world, as it’s the same world as yours and everyone
else’s – this here pond. I don’t believe you are or ever were that
two-legged watcher; you’re just a frog like me, and a new one around
here at that. You have nothing important to tell me that I don’t
already know.”

Wilbur was quite taken aback by Albert’s cynical and unbelieving
response. “But what could be more important than learning all about
another world, and possibly even learning how you could visit it?”

To which Albert replied, “Catching my breakfast. I’m hungry.”
And off he hopped.

Wilbur started to sit down and put his fingers to his chin in
thought, when he remembered that he had no fingers now, only toes.
“Wow!” he thought, “This is much more difficult than I thought it
would be. I sure hope not all of the frogs are like Albert.” After a
bit, he hopped off to find another to talk with.

He soon came upon Clyve, a frog that he had previously observed
as having a moderately-pitched croak, somewhat between Albert’s and
Gertrude’s. He quickly decided to take a more cautious approach with
Clyve, hopefully to avoid a repeat of his experience with Albert.
“Hello,” he said, “Are you hungry or looking for flies right now?”

“No,” Clyve answered, “I have just eaten, and am quite contented
for the moment. You’re new around here, aren’t you? Sit down on this
pad next to me and tell me all about yourself and from where you have

At this, Wilbur was absolutely beside himself with excitement.
Clyve was certainly different from Albert! He began telling Clyve
about his being the two-legged watcher, about his great love for frogs
and his desire to know them and be known by them, and about the world
of mankind. Clyve sat still and listened intently for a long while
without interrupting.

After some time, Wilbur stopped to gather his thoughts and catch
his breath. At this, Clyve said, “Well, that certainly is an
interesting story, and one full of new ideas and marvelous claims.
But, come now, you must admit that it sounds pretty far-fetched.”

Wilbur answered, “Oh, I know it must sound wild to you, having
known only life as a frog in this pond, but I assure you it’s all
true. My greatest desire is for us to know and fully understand each

“That would also be of interest to me,” Clyve responded, “even if
all you have claimed isn’t true, as I have never met another frog with
such an active imagination. I am quite curious as to how you came up
with all these fantastic ideas and obscure concepts of things in the
two-legged watcher’s world.”

“But everything I have said IS true,” Wilbur replied, “I haven’t
always been a frog, I WAS the two-legged watcher, and the things I
have told you about my world really ARE that way. I’m NOT just a frog
with a wild imagination.”

“Oh, don’t misunderstand me,” Clyve said in a conciliatory tone,
“I’m not calling you a liar, or insane, nor am I discounting without
further investigation everything you have claimed. Indeed, if only
ten percent of what you have told me is true, I would be most pleased
to know and understand more, even to experience your world if
possible. But, you see, one can’t simply believe whatever one is
told. One must seek supporting evidence and reason wherever possible.
Much of what you have told me has proven impossible for me to
understand, and you have offered no evidence or compelling reason for
me to believe that such wondrous things are real. If I am not able to
understand a concept or how something could be, and there is no
compelling reason for me to believe in it anyway, then surely the
wisest and most intelligent policy is to admit that such may be
possible, but that faith and judgment on the matter should be withheld
until enough evidence is available.”

To which Wilbur replied, “Although I CAN see how much of what I
have said would be impossible to grasp from a frog’s perspective, I
can only think of one possible way whereby it could be proven to you,
and also by which you could gain greater understanding. I have been
thinking, that if I by wishing and believing with all my might to
become a frog was able to bring it about, then why can’t the reverse
also be true? That you, by likewise wishing and believing as strongly
to become a man, could thus enter my world and experience it. You
could then understand more fully what I have been trying to say and
therefore know and understand me better.”

“Ah, but there’s the catch, young one,” Clyve commented. “I
don’t really understand what you have been trying to say, so I can’t
know if this world is worth wishing for with all my might. And I
certainly can’t believe wholeheartedly in something for which I have
seen no compelling evidence or reason. Your world, if indeed it does
exist as you have portrayed it, sounds absolutely marvelous. But how
do I know that you are not simply a frog with a very active
imagination and much wishful thinking?”

“But, … but …,” Wilbur was searching for some better way of
presenting his case or to help Clyve better understand life as a two-
legged creature.

“No, young one, I’m afraid I’ll just have to abstain from rash
conclusions for now. I’m not saying I don’t believe you, simply that
I can’t under the current state of affairs profess full faith in what
you say. You MAY be more than just another frog – your unique
language and concepts are certainly different from what I have heard
from any other frog – but until more compelling evidence or logic
drives me to another conclusion, I am forced to abide by the statement
of the wisest of frogs I have ever known: one cannot taste what it is
like to be another creature, one can only taste what it is like to be
a frog. As for the present, I’m beginning to be hungry again, so it’s
time to begin searching for lunch. Toodeloo!” And off Clyve hopped
to look for flies.

Well, needless to say, Wilbur was again disappointed. Clyve was
certainly more intelligent and open-minded, and much more polite, than
Albert. Yet, in the end, clear communication with him had proven just
as impossible. Maybe his father and the wisest of frogs were right –
apart from BEING another creature, there is no way to fully understand
other modes of existence. He decided that since he was in such a
unique position, maybe his time could be spent more fruitfully getting
to know what it was like to be a frog. He was getting hungry anyway,
and he was beginning to wonder how flies tasted. After all, other
frogs seemed to like them. Off he hopped in search for a meal.

Wilbur spent the next few days living as a frog. He lived, ate,
and rested at night in the pond. He did everything that his new frog
instinct led him to do. He was really getting a taste of what it was
like to be a frog! At least ONE of his goals was being accomplished,

One day as he was sitting on a Lily pad after a tasty meal,
Gertrude hopped onto the pad next to his. “Hello,” she said, “I’ve
noticed you around here this past few days, but I never saw you before
that. I saw you talking with a couple of the other frogs, and it
didn’t look as if the conversations were going well for you. I’m not
one gifted with great conversational skills, but I DO enjoy having
friends. Do you think you might like to be my friend?”

Wilbur was again hopeful and excited. Gertrude would surely find
it impossible to comprehend things about the human world, just as had
Albert and Clyve. But he COULD get to know her, become her friend,
and be known by her as a frog, anyway. “Yes,” he said, “I would like
a friend very much. We could spend much time and do many things
together, and get to know one another well. First, I call myself
Wilbur. May I call you Gertrude?”

“Splendid!” Gertrude responded, “Let’s begin with a nice swim!”
And off they dived into the water.

They spent the next few days doing everything together –
swimming, hunting for meals, resting on lily pads while warming
themselves in the sun, and talking all about life in the pond. Wilbur
grew very close to Gertrude, and she to him. He began to think that
maybe some day he could tell her about his life before becoming a
frog, and about his world there. She still wouldn’t understand it
all, of course, but maybe she would at least BELIEVE him.

His chance came one day when, as they sat together on the bank of
the pond, she said, “I really enjoy having you as a friend, Wilbur.
And I like the name you have given me. But there seems to be so much
more to you than I have as yet been able to learn. You’re not like
any other frog I have met. In some way, you’re totally unique, but I
can’t quite figure out how.”

Wilbur decided that now was the time. “Gertrude, I haven’t
always been a frog…”

“Oh, I know,” interrupted Gertrude, “We were ALL tadpoles at one

“No, Gertrude, I mean I used to be another, completely different
creature.” Wilbur went on with how he was the two-legged watcher and
the rest of what he had previously told Albert and Clyve, but he tried
even harder to express things about the human world in ways that
Gertrude could understand. He compared much of his world to life in
the pond, and used analogies wherever possible. FInally, he ended
with, “I know all of this seems quite wild and unbelievable, Gertrude,
not to mention impossible to fully understand. But all I can tell you
is that it IS all true, and hope that you’ll remain my friend even if
you can’t believe me.”

Gertrude replied, “You’re right, Wilbur, about these things being
difficult to understand, and about how unbelievable it all seems.
Yet, for some reason, I DO believe you. You’re the best friend I’ve
ever had, and I’ve had no reason to disbelieve anything you have told
me up till now. And I DO understand just a few bits and pieces of
what you have told me. It all sounds quite wonderful and marvelous,
even the things I don’t quite grasp. I find myself wishing I could
become human so that I could know your world more fully. Do you think
that if I, as you did, wish and believe with all my might, I could do

At this point, Wilbur awoke. “Wow! What a dream!” he thought.
For the remainder of the night, he couldn’t return to sleep. He
thought about everything that had happened in his dream, and about his
difficulties in trying to communicate to the frogs what his world was
like, and in trying to get them to believe him. But he also thought
about all the things he had learned about froghood, and they seemed to
still be true and real. He really felt he had tasted froghood, and
that he now KNEW frogs better than he ever did before. Could it all
have been just a dream?

In the morning, he went out to the pond and meditated further
about his dream. While he was crouching on the bank, he saw Gertrude
on a pad a few feet away. She turned and looked directly at him, and
then hopped off her pad and over to the bank. She continued up to him
and, standing just at his feet, she looked up into his eyes and gave
out a bright and friendly-sounding croak.

He was immediately convinced that it had not all been simply a
dream, and that he might even be able to talk with Gertrude again
before long. He looked back into her eyes and said, “Believe,
Gertrude! Believe with all of your might!”

John 1:14 – “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us,
(and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the
Father,) full of grace and truth.”

Computers for Christ – Chicago