Frog Went a-Courtin’

CALDECOTT MEDAL WINNER – 1956

Frog Went a-Courtin’

retold by John Langstaff

illustrated by Feodor Rojankovsky

New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1955

30 pp.

Ages: 3+

Interests: folktales, folk songs, insects, animals

In this famous old folktale of inter-species romance, Froggie sets out to marry Miss Mousie. Uncle Rat agrees and the wedding feast is held in a hollow tree with all manner of animals and bugs in attendance. The party is a real humdinger… until the cat arrives.

A traditional folk tale passed down in story and song form for generations, this story appears in many locations and in many versions. The author’s introduction states the earliest written record appeared in Scotland over 400 years ago, but existed in the oral tradition prior to that. It became a very popular ballad in America and the musical setting that the author uses is the way he heard the children of the southern Appalachian mountains sing it.

The various guests at the wedding are quaintly depicted, especially the bugs, and the personality and detail of the illustrations will delight young children. And, fortunately, nobody gets eaten up in this version. The cat pounces, everyone runs… and on the last page we see the bride and groom on a cruise ship honeymoon. (In most more traditional versions somebody gets eaten up – usually the bride!)

It’s okay read, but better sung! You can find many versions of this, by Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, or Pete Seeger, who recorded 3 different versions. Or you can go to the famous Burl Ives version (in which nobody perishes).

There’s a lovely animated version courtesy of the National Film Board of Canada (4:31, Evelyn Lambart, 1974), but beware, it’s plenty authentic – a big green snake eats everyone up at the end.

(This title available at amazon.com)

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All writings posted here are © Kim Thompson, unless otherwise indicated. For all artwork on this site, copyright is retained by the artist.
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