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Long ago, during Dreamtime, the spirits were singing songs, creating all the creatures of the Earth. The world was different from the world today, and when the frogs were created, they lived in the wide-open outback. There they slept and ate and cared for their families, and all the while the spirits sang, creating more and more creatures.
The frogs were happy with their world in the fields until one cool afternoon while they were preparing their evening meal. Suddenly the tall, thick grass surrounding them began to rustle this way and that, and the whole world began to feel different.
“What’s that?” one of the frogs asked as she felt the brush of grass against her cheek.
The others felt it too. It tickled their legs and backs, for the grass was shifting and swaying as it never had before. They all turned this way and that, searching to see what was causing this commotion in their field, and suddenly a soft, whispery voice asked, “May I stay here and share your meal with you? And may I sleep beside your fire tonight?”
The frogs looked through the long blades of grass to see who was speaking. No matter which way they looked, they saw no one.
“Did you hear me?” the voice called to them. “I asked if I might join you tonight.”
The frogs searched again, for now the grass was shaking. “Who’s there?” the frogs called.
“It is I,” called the invisible voice.
The frogs looked everywhere. They searched the ground. They searched the sky. Their eyes bulged with the effort. Still, no matter how they searched their field, they saw nothing and no one. The only change was the shifting of the grass around them and the feel of cool air overhead.
“We’d better say yes,” one of the frogs said, “for if we refuse, this creature may harm us.”
The others quickly agreed. “Yes,” they croaked into the silence. “Yes, you may share our evening meal and sleep beside our fire. You are welcome to join us.”
While the frogs ate, the grass shook and shimmied, but the voice said nothing more. At last, their fire burning brightly, the frogs settled down to sleep, and before long the grass settled down, too. Still, the frogs were uneasy and slept fitfully.
The night was still, as it had always been, but with daybreak the grass began to move again. As the sun climbed into the sky, the frogs heard the voice once again. “Thank you for your hospitality,” it called. “I’ll see you again very soon.” When the voice was silent, the grass stood stiff and tall in the morning sun.
All morning the frogs spoke in whispers about their mysterious guest. “The spirits have sent someone,” they said, but they could not decide who it was. They climbed onto the branches of the trees at the edge of their river and searched the distant plain. They looked far and wide but saw no one. Still they sat, waiting to see if the stranger might approach.
“Do you see it?” they whispered to one another, but no one saw a thing until midday. Then the youngest frog cried, “Look!” and all the frogs looked out past the river where the young frog was pointing. They began to quake when they saw a giant whirlwind approaching across the plain. The trees where they sat twisted and swayed and the rushes bent low as the wild whirlwind came closer and closer.
“Look out!” the frogs cried, and they clambered down the trees to seek safety in their little shelters.
As the whirlwind crossed the river, whitecaps formed, and where once the frogs had lived beside a quiet flowing current, waves now crashed on the bank. The whirlwind crashed into the frogs’ camp and smashed their shelters, tossing the frogs here and there, raising great eddies of dust in its wake. And then the whirlwind reached the fire. Coals flickered and flamed and danced.
“Who are you?” the frogs called, and they heard a voice from somewhere deep within the whirling, swirling dust and fire. “The wind,” voice called. “I want to stay with you.” But now the wild red sparks flew through the air, setting the brush afire. The frogs dared not wait to hear more.
They plunged into the water, seeking safety. They dived deep, holding their breath, feeling the embrace of the cool river, terrified by the sight they had beheld.
And ever since that day, even the smallest movement of the wind in the reeds near the frog river causes such fear in the poor frogs’ hearts that they leap into the safety of the water. There the frogs wait until the world above the waves is once again peaceful and calm.
by Amy Friedman and Meredith Johnson