Frogs in culture
Frogs play a variety of roles in culture, appearing in folklore and fairy tales such as the Brothers Grimm story of The Frog Prince. In ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, frogs symbolized fertility, while in classical antiquity, the Greeks and Romans associated frogs with fertility, harmony, and licentiousness.
Frogs are the subjects of fables attributed to Aesop, of proverbs in various cultures, and of art. Frog characters such as Kermit the frog feature in popular culture. They are eaten in some parts of the world including France. In Australia, a fondant dessert is known as frog cake.
In the Sumerian epic poem of Inanna and Enki, the goddess Inanna tricks Enki, the god of water, into giving her all of the sacred mes, prompting Enki to send various watery creatures to retrieve them. The first of these is a frog, whom Enki grasps "by its right hand". Frogs also appear as filling motifs on cylinder seals of the Kassite Period.
To the Egyptians, the frog was a symbol of life and fertility, since millions of them were born after the annual flooding of the Nile, which brought fertility to the otherwise barren lands. Consequently, in Egyptian mythology, there began to be a frog-goddess, who represented fertility, named Heqet. Heqet was usually depicted as a frog, or a woman with a frog's head, or more rarely as a frog on the end of a phallus to explicitly indicate her association with fertility. A lesser known Egyptian god, Kek, was also sometimes shown in the form of a frog.
Texts of the Late Period describe the Ogdoad of Hermepolis, a group of eight "primeval" gods, as having the heads of frogs (male) and serpents (female), and they are often depicted in this way in reliefs of the Greco-Roman period. The god Nu in particular is sometimes depicted either with the head of a frog surmounted by a beetle.
Hapi was a deification of the annual flood of the Nile River, in Egyptian mythology, which deposited rich silt on the banks, allowing the Egyptians to grow crops. In Lower Egypt, he was adorned with papyrus plants, and attended by frogs, present in the region, and symbols of it.
The Greeks and Romans associated frogs with fertility and harmony, and with licentiousness in association with Aphrodite. The combat between the Frogs and the Mice (Batrachomyomachia) was a mock epic, commonly attributed to Homer, though in fact a parody of his Iliad. The Frogs Who Desired a King is a fable, attributed to Aesop. The Frogs prayed to Zeus asking for a King. Zeus set up a log to be their monarch. The Frogs protested they wanted a fierce and terrible king, not a mere figurehead. So Zeus sent them a Stork to be their king. The new king hunted and devoured his subjects. Aesop wrote a fable about a frog trying to inflate itself to the size of an ox. Phaedrus (and later Jean de La Fontaine) wrote versions of this fable. The Frogs is a comic play by Aristophanes, in which the choir of frogs sings the famous onomatopoeic line: "Brekekekex koax koax."
Medieval and Early Modern
Medieval Christian tradition based on the Physiologus distinguished land frogs from water frogs representing righteous and sinful congregationists, respectively. In folk religion and occultism, the frog also became associated with witchcraft or as an ingredient for love potions.
In modern culture
Proverbs and popular traditions
The "frog in a well" saying about having a narrow vision of life is found in Sanskrit ("Kupa Manduka", कुपमन्डुक), in Bengali, কুপমন্ডুক), in Vietnamese "Ếch ngồi đáy giếng coi trời bằng vung" ("Sitting at the bottom of wells, frogs think that the sky is as wide as a lid"), and in Malay "Bagai katak dibawah tempurung" ("Like a frog under a coconut shell").. The Chinese versions are "坐井觀天" ("sitting in the well, looking to the sky") and "井底之蛙" ("a frog in a well") from the Taoist classic Zhuangzi that has a frog living in an abandoned well, who talks about things big and small with the turtle of the Eastern Sea.
Other frog proverbs include the American "You can't tell by looking at a frog how high he will jump." and the Iranian "When the snake gets old, the frog gets him by the balls."
In Chinese traditional culture, frog represents the lunar yin, and the Frog spirit Ch'ing-Wa Sheng is associated with healing and good fortune in business, although a frog in a well is symbolic of a person lacking in understanding and vision.
The supposed behavior of frogs illustrating nonaction is told in the often-repeated story of the boiled frog: put a frog in boiling water and it will jump out, but put it in cold water and slowly heat it, and it will not notice the danger and will be boiled alive. The story was based on nineteenth century experiments in which frogs were shown to stay in heating water as long as it was heated very slowly. The validity of the experiments is however disputed. Professor Douglas Melton, Harvard University Biology Department, says: "If you put a frog in boiling water, it won't jump out. It will die. If you put it in cold water, it will jump before it gets hot—they don't sit still for you."
The Moche people of ancient Peru worshipped animals and often depicted frogs in their art. Painters of the Dutch Golden Age sometimes included frogs in their compositions; for example, Ambrosius Bosschaert II painted a vanitas still life Dead Frog with Flies c. 1630; in 2012, the artists Rob and Nick Carter created a silent digital version, lasting three hours, in which the "still" image "slowly, imperceptibly" changes with the movement of the sun, and occasionally an insect such as a dragonfly enters the scene.
Moche frog, 200 AD
Wrestling frogs from Chōjū-jinbutsu-giga, cartoon, Japan, 12th century
Crapaud et Grenouille ("Frog and Toad") by Jean Carriès, between 1889 and 1894
Entre ciel et terre, by Gustave Doré, 1862
Hermenegildo Bustos, Still life with fruit, 1874
Old Dutch tile from Friesland
Contemporary pop culture
The theme of transformation features prominently in popular culture, from The Frog Prince to fantasy settings such as the Final Fantasy and Chrono Trigger video games with magic spells that turn people into frogs.
Cuisine and confectionery
Frogs are eaten, notably in France. One dish is known as cuisses de grenouille, frogs' legs, and although it is not especially common, it is taken as indicative of French cuisine. From this, "frog" has also developed into a common derogatory term for French people in English.
Freddo Frog is a popular Australian chocolate, while frog cake is a Heritage Listed South Australian fondant dessert. Crunchy Frog is a fictitious confectionery from a Monty Python skit of the same name. Chocolate Frogs are a popular sweet in the Harry Potter universe.
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