Once upon a dragon, soaring three hundred feet in the air, there was a frog. The situation was not coincidental and not the result of the frog falling out of mid air onto the dragon’s back. On the contrary, the frog was hitchhiking.
“So maybe it’s time you explain just how a frog got stuck in the desert,” suggested the dragon.
The frog, who was holding onto the dragon’s right wing with three of his feet, raised the fourth and waved it around in circles. “Highly unusual circumstances, Sir Dragon, highly unusual circumstances.”
The dragon snorted. “Try me”
“Well,” said the frog, rubbing his chin with his fourth foot and yelling a little loud to be heard above the breeze, “I was stuck in Rapunzel’s tower.”
The dragon plunged down and landed on a tree. Snatching the frog off his right wing with his left hand, he dangled him right before his terrified eyes. “You were what!”
The frog looked a little shaken himself. “Put me down! Put me down! I was in Rapunzel’s tower, but I’m out now.”
The dragon dropped him on a branch and looked him over in the front, then in the back, then on both sides, and then repeated the process. “My … well you seem to be in one piece. How’d you do it?”
The frog licked his lips and rubbed two feet together. “Bubble gum,” he said deviously.
“Bubble gum?” asked the dragon, tilting his scaly head at an odd angle that only heightened his expression of surprise.
“Bubble gum!” exclaimed the frog gleefully, doing a little dance. “I stuck it in her hair, but she couldn’t find it because her tower is always dark, so she had to lower her hair out the window where it was sunny. There was my chance, so I slid down her hair and hopped away like all the crocodiles in the tropics were after me. Of course, I didn’t have a map. Hence, the desert.”
The dragon shook his head. “Amazing! Unthinkable!” He jammed a finger up his nose as if that were the only expression worthy of the situation. “So where are you going?”
Again, the frog waved his foot in circles in the air and his face took on a martial appearance, his voice becoming eloquent. “I will strike back. I will end this terror. I will rescue Rapunzel’s next victim!”
“Here! Here!” the dragon cheered, his nostrils beginning to smoke with the spirit of it all. “But who’s victim?”
The frog squinted at him. “Why, only Prince Ruppledeck, that’s who. It’s a conspiracy I tell you. The king of Dorn’s been sending all the princes from everywhere to rescue Rapunzel as part of a competition, but when they climb up her hair, she kisses them and turns them all into frogs. Prince Ruppledeck is the last prince in the contest and when she has caught him, she’ll take all the frogs and cook them up in a stew.” The frog bowed his head and placed a foot on his belly in reverence. “I alone have escaped.”
“Oh my!” gasped the dragon, horrified, “Do you mean to say that you’re a prince?”
“Why … yes, I am.”
The dragon waved his hand emphatically in the air. “Nope nope nope, can’t do, won’t help you. I’m a dragon you see, and dragons are staunch believers in limited government. We believe in rule by law, not rule by princes.”
The long face of the frog bent down in a low arc. “Well … this is quite serious.”
“Quite serious, quite serious,” the dragon commented. “I wouldn’t say it if it weren’t so serious.”
The frog rubbed a spot on his face that could have been either chin or neck. “Does your social theory allow for palaces?”
“Well … I suppose so,” said the dragon, seeming like he were considering it for the first time.
The frog slammed his foot on the tree branch. “Splendid! I think we can get along just fine. Here, all I ask is that you help me stop Rapunzel and take me back to my palace. I can live in the palace, and you dragons can do the governing work. I never liked that part anyway.”
The dragon’s nostrils began to billow and he laughed a slimy joyful laugh. “Bless me. If that isn’t the best deal I’ve had all my life. Get on my back.” Not waiting for the frog to obey, the dragon plucked him up and plopped him on his wing.
The frog had scarcely got two foot holds when the dragon launched into the air and he had to cling on for dear life. “Wait a moment. We need a plan.”
“Harrumph! That’s true,” said the dragon, beginning to circle and bob his head in a philosophical sort of way.
The reduced turbulence allowed the frog to get a firm footing.
The dragon began to nod his head very quickly. “Dragons are wise creatures. Very wise. You just wait and I will do a very smart thing.” Before the frog could answer he had stopped circling and was winging his top most speed across the countryside.
The land was thickly wooded with only small scattered one-home clearings far apart from each other. There were no farmlands and only small garden plots around the cottages, giving the impression that the inhabitants were either very few in number or had the marvelous ability to obtain their sustenance from leaves.
Without warning, the dragon swooped down on one of these dwellings and landed not too gracefully at its front door, sending the frog tumbling off his back onto the soft grass. Without noticing the frog, the dragon did a quick grooming of his scales and knocked twice.
A voice like creaking timbers and sloshy porridge came from inside. The dragon slid his finger across all his teeth to make sure they were clean then opened the door. “I’ll only be a minute,” he told the frog. “This is a hag friend of mine. I saved her life once when her canoe went over a waterfall. She’ll do anything for me.” With that the dragon walked into the cottage.
Crossing his arms in a very martyr like fashion, the frog laid back, muttering something to himself about delays, and pointy things, and bubblegum. He looked with a puzzled air at the sky, or at least what should have been the sky but was instead a thin little hand coming down toward him.
“There you are!” said a sweet little voice. It was a young woman with hair so long she had to pull it along in a four-wheeled cart. She might have looked stunning if her expression were not sinister and her hands did not tingle with an entirely black sense of deviousness. The frog uttered a horrified croak, but it was muffled by Rapunzel’s hand. “I was looking for you,” she said, plopping him into a velvet drawstring bag. “I thought you might want to come back to my tower, the dark dark tower.” Her hand slowly wrapped around the frog in her bag and gave him one quick squeeze. “It’s almost time for supper.”
* * *
Rapunzel’s tower was as gloomy as the shades of night, only without the shades. It was all one color of black except near the one small window which all the princes had to climb through to get to her. Rapunzel dangled the frog she had just recaptured in front of her by the window where he could see her. “Don’t you like my company?”
The frog shot out his long tongue and nearly hit her in the face.
She looked very sad. “To bad. I guess I’ll have to eat you right now.”
“Rapunzel!” came a hearty voice from below. “Let down thine hair for me. I have come to rescue you!”
Rapunzel dropped her frog. “Oh bother, I guess you’ll have to wait a moment; I’ve got to go deal with this fellow.” She flipped a switch and her mountain of hair was lifted mechanically and placed on the window sill. At the top of the window was a special contraption she used to lock her hair so that it wouldn’t pull on her scalp. She picked up the hair at her toes and lifted it to put it in the clamp but dropped it with a gasp. Kicking her feet of the ground, she leaned farther out the window. “What the …”
Far below, the frog heard another voice than that of the prince. “I’m an evil, scaly, terrible dragon,” it said, “and I declare that you shall not rescue Rapunzel.”
“And I’m an old hag,” said a smaller more rackety voice. “And if you aren’t careful, I’ll turn you into a mouse, or what’s worse, I’ll throw my spoon at you!“
“Back!” Commanded the prince. I will not be held back from a work of chivalry.”
“Oh bother,” grumbled the hag, “I thought you might say that.”
The prince’s voice was majestic and austere. “And you Mr. Dragon. You’re bigger than I am, but I’m not afraid to fight you.”
“Oh dear!” the dragon rasped. “I didn’t think it would actually come to that. Of course if it does, I’ll have to give way. Dragons are principled creatures. We never fight an opponent when they are at a disadvantage. I guess I’ll just stay off here to the side.”
The frog threw his front legs into the air, tumbled backwards, groaned, and smothered his face in his feet.
“No, fly away,” said the prince. “I don’t feel comfortable with you here.” There was the sound of flapping wings. “All right Rapunzel, I’m ready.”
The frog rose to his feet, puffed out his chest, and scowled. There was only one thing left to do. With a spring, he landed right on top of Rapunzel’s pile of hair and shot out his tongue right at her face. Rapunzel recoiled and her face became livid. “Why you … !” Her muscles flexed beyond what seemed possible and her fist slammed right where the frog had just leaped from. Instead of him, she hit her hair and knocked a good twenty five pounds out the window. In a second, it had pulled the rest of her hair after it with her following. There was a stunned silence from the prince, but the frog did a little dance and ribbited triumphantly.
At last, prince Ruppledeck looked up at the frog. “Dear me. How shall I rescue Rapunzel now?”
“Don’t worry about Rapunzel,” croaked the frog. “You can rescue me.”
“But good frog,” said prince Ruppledeck, “I haven’t got a ladder.”
The frog was silent for a while, then he let out a pitiful groan. Covering his eyes with his front two feet, he tumbled out the window. He might have died from the fall, except that he landed on top of Rapunzel’s hair. As it was, he was severely injured and it was a long time before he recovered.
And so it is to this day that all knights and gentlemen far and near (or at least all such as are true of heart) take it upon themselves to cary ladders with them wherever they go. For who knows but that another frog may someday be stuck in a tower with the damsel at the bottom?