The Rough Skin Toad

Chiem Meng Saephan

A long  time ago there was a married couple. They gave birth to a child, but the child was not a human. It was a toad. When it was born it dropped down to the floor, rolled under the bed and lay there.

The couple never saw the toad eat because it stayed under the bed. But as the years went by the toad grew bigger. While the mother and father went to work the toad stayed home.

Whenever people came to visit the family, the father always said, “Other people get married and have children. We are unlucky. We gave birth to a rough skin toad. It always stays under the bed. When guests come, our toad son can’t even get them a cup of tea or a bowl of rice to eat.”

After he had said that many times, the toad son became angry. So when guests came he took a kettle, put it on his back, and hopped to the water trough. He put water in the kettle, then hopped back to the kitchen with the kettle on his back. Then he put the kettle on the stove to boil.

He boiled the water on the stove. Then he poured the tea into glasses to give to the guests. After people drank, he hopped back to the bedroom. Other times when people came, he would take the frying pan and cook something for the guests to eat.

Later, the father again complained that they had raised a useless toad. He couldn’t even help with the farm work. The father made more complaints.

Every day he would say, “We’re so unlucky. Other people have grown children to help them clear the field every year for the farm. We gave birth to a toad who is always lying at home under the bed. We’ve been working hard until we are old, but we still have no children to help us.”

After the new year the couple began to clear the field. The father again began to say things to criticize the toad. He said, “This year I feel very tired. I can no longer clear the field. That toad can’t help us.”

Then he blamed his wife, “Other people have children to help them work. I married you, and you gave birth to a toad. He can’t even help us for a day.”

The toad felt sorry for his mother. While the father was away, the toad said, “Father complained that I don’t help with work. Take me to see the place where Father wants to farm.”

The mother didn’t know what good it would do, but she put the toad on her back and carried him to the field. She told him, “This is the place your father wants to farm.”

The toad said to her, “If this is the place, then tell father to come and mark the upper and lower borders. Cut a patch marking the boundaries.” Then the mother took the toad back home on her back.

The mother told the father what had happened. The father went and put border markers around the field. The other people began to work clearing their fields, but the toad stayed home and didn’t clear his parents’ field. When everyone else had completely cleared their fields, he told his mother to take him back to the field. She left him there and returned home alone.

After the mother got home, the sky began to get dark and the thunderstorm began to roar. Her son transformed himself from a toad into a giant snake. The snake wrapped itself around the trees and felled them all. He cleared the whole field. In the evening the mother returned to the farm with her back basket and carried him back home.

Once again, the father began to complain and said to his wife, “Other people have children who can hunt meat for them to eat, but you have a toad who can’t hunt for any meat.” He continued to blame the mother every day.

One day when the father wasn’t home, the toad said to his mother, “Father is blaming you everyday. I don’t know what to do. I need you to carry father’s gun, gunpowder, and pellets, and take me to the jungle near the field. After you hear the gun go off, come carry me home.”

Later the mother heard the gun go off, Bang! It was very loud. The toad had killed a wild boar. The mother gathered people to help bring the wild boar home. That way they got meat to eat.

A while later, the toad wanted a wife. But the parents were too embarrassed to look for a wife for a toad. “How can a toad find a wife?” they asked. He couldn’t find a wife anywhere.

He continued to say he wanted to marry. He told them he wanted to marry the third daughter of the king who lived on the other mountain. The toad asked his father to go talk to the king, but he wouldn’t. He asked his mother, but she didn’t want to go either. They were too embarrassed.

Finally, the mother had no choice. She decided she had to take her son’s request to the king. When she arrived at the king’s house, she told the king, “Such an unfortunate life we have. We gave birth to a toad. He keeps on begging us to help him get a wife. He says he wants to marry your third daughter. We said we’re too embarrassed. But he insisted that we come to talk about your daughter. He refuses to marry anyone else. He wants to marry only the king’s third daughter.”

The king wouldn’t give his daughter the toad. “You have a toad! Don’t come to talk about my daughter,” scolded the king.

The mother returned home, but the toad wasn’t satisfied. He wanted his mother to go ask again. Once again, the mother had no choice, so she went back to the king’s house. This time the king called his dogs to go chase her away. She was so scared thst she ran home.

The next year, the toad wanted her to go again. The mother said, “I’m afraid to go.”

But the toad said, “Don’t be afraid of the dogs. Even when they call the dogs to chase you, don’t be afraid.” And the toad made a stuffed dog for her to take along. She put it in her coat.

When she arrived at the king’s house, the king called his dogs, “Yellow dogs, black dogs come and chase the toad’s mother away. I don’t want to see her.”

The king’s yellow dogs and black dogs came out to chase her. The toad’s mother remembered, “Toad gave me a stuffed dog earlier!” She brought it out of her coat and threw it down. It turned into a giant dog. It caught the king’s dog and bit them.

Toad’s mother said, “See now! I have come here twice, and you’ve sent your dogs to chase me and bite me. This time, the toad gave me a stuffed dog, but it turned into a giant dog. Now it has caught your dogs, and they can’t get loose.”

The king didn’t know what to do. He said to the toad’s mother, “Ho! The toad can make a stuffed dog which can turn into a giant dog. It’s even stronger than my dogs. Well, if you want my daughter then come and talk about the wedding negotiations.”

The king told all this to his older daughters, but they didn’t like the toad. When he talked to his third daughter, she had to accept because she was crying too hard to talk.

The mother returned home to tell her son.

On the third day, they went to make the wedding negotiations. The king said he wanted to have ten elephants, thirty pigs, and three hundred chickens for the wedding. The toad’s mother got frightened because she was too poor to make such wedding negotiations.

The toad’s mother went back home to talk with the toad. He told her, “Don’t worry. Whatever and however much they ask for, just accept it. I’ll be able to find everything for them.”

So she went to make the negotiations.

Then it was time to burn the fields and begin the planting season. Everyone else had burned their fields and had begun to grow rice except the toad’s family. He didn’t allow his parents to plant rice. They only grew cucumbers and striped yellow melons. When they were big, he didn’t let his parents pick any to eat. The weeds weren’t high in his field so the cucumber and melon vines spread all over the field. When they were ripe, he told his parents to pick them and store them in separate storage sheds, melons in one and cucumbers in another.

After three mornings, they opened the storage sheds. The melons had turned into gold, and the cucumbers had turned into silver. Because of their toad son, they had become rich.

Then they went to bring the king’s third daughter home to marry the toad who still couldn’t shed his toad skin. The king’s third daughter cried and cried. She didn’t want to go and complained that she had been forced to marry a toad.

The toad wanted his parents to buy him a rooster even though it kept pecking his body. The toad transformed himself into a man and took his rooster with him to the roadway. When his bride passed by, she wondered, “That’s such a handsome man, but how did the toad’s rooster get here?” She thought, “Maybe my toad has turned into that young man.”

Then she was not so sad, and she went on to her new home. But day after day, the toad didn’t become human. She became sad and cried again. During the day, she would take the rooster and tie it next to the toad and let it peck the toad’s eye.

The mother said, “Daughter-in-law, the rooster keeps pecking the toad’s eye at home. Take the rooster to the field.” So she took the rooster and set off for the field.

When she had left, the toad turned himself into a handsome young man again and intercepted her down the road. He wanted her to sell him the rooster. He said, “Ah, I really would like to buy your rooster.”

The wife had no choice. At home it always pecked the toad so she decided to sell the rooster.

After the toad bought the rooster, he took it back home.

Later when the wife returned home from work in the field, she found the rooster tied to the house again. She wondered, “How did that rooster get back here? I sold that same rooster earlier today.”

She thought about it. “My husband must be that man.” And she decided she was glad to be married to him.

Then the toad asked his parents where they wanted to build their house. The parents told him they wanted a house a little way down the hill. They carried him to the place. That night there was a thunderstorm, and the next day a huge town appeared. The toad turned himself into a human and lived happily with the king’s third daughter.

The king lived for a long time. When he was very old, he died. And the rough skin toad that turned into a man took over his father-in-law’s subjects and ruled the whole land.