Two Frogs of Olde Japan
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This is a good retelling of the old Japanese story of two frogs that meet on a mountain midway between their cities, get turned around, see their own cities, and proclaim that the (mistaken) destination city is not worth the trip. The rhyming couplets are only adequate to the story, I would say. The chief virtue of this little book is the six colored illustrations, including the title-page and the finis page. Also helpful is the moral: And like their frog, Kyotans say/Theirs is the city of today;/Osakans, equally, will claim/Their city has as great a name:/But all are right, you see, for pride/Maintains their beauties, side by side./There's little harm in being proud,/Provided that it dos not cloud/Your better judgment of the worth/Of other merits on this earth. I take this moral to be a reinforcement of the good thinking that the proud person's challenge is whether he or she can receive the next good offered. The author offered the first version of this versification in a teen-age poetry competition in a South African newspaper sixty years earlier. He resurrected and polished it in 1985 at the urging of his family and friends, to rescue it perhaps from pending oblivion. The psychology involved in the putting down of the (mistaken) other city raises fascinating questions. Consider Osaka frog's put-down, supposedly of Kyoto: I do not like this town;/Its temples are too drab and brown;/Its tea-resorts are not so fine/As town Osaka's are divine! Here the dynamic seems to be the need to put down the (supposed) other and to exalt the (remembered) familiar. Are we meant to think of those whose conversation says something like I know what you are saying. Here is what I experienced…. Kyoto frog says much the same: This town is nothing more than dust,/And if my town is not the best,/I never shall again digest/An insect….