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How Frog Went to Heaven
A Tale of Angola

Told by Aaron Shepard

Gift of Story #28

Adapted for storytelling by the author, from his story printed in Australia’s School Magazine, July 1996


For more resources, visit Aaron Shepard’s Storytelling Page at
www.aaronshep.com/storytelling

Story copyright © 1996, 1998 Aaron Shepard. Adaptation copyright © 2019 Aaron Shepard. You are welcome to tell this story in live performance or broadcast, but please mention the author and the children’s book, if any.

PREVIEW: Frog helps a young man who wants to marry the Sky Maiden.

GENRE: Folktales, myths
CULTURE: African, Angolan
THEME: Inventiveness, determination
AUDIENCE AGES: 3–9
LENGTH: 8 minutes

NOTES: This tale comes from the Mbaka tribe, part of the Ambundu people of northwest Angola. In most of Africa—and in many other cultures worldwide—it is the custom for a groom to send a wedding gift to the bride’s family. Kimana is pronounced “kee-MAH-nah.” Below is the tune for “Good Day to You,” a traditional song. The syncopated rhythm of eight beats is accented on the one, the four, and the seven.

Good Day to You -- written music

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There was a young man named Kimana. He wanted to marry the Sky Maiden. He wrote a letter to her father, the Sun Chief.

Kimana went to Rabbit. “Will you take this letter?”

Rabbit said, “I cannot go to Heaven.”

Kimana went to Antelope. “Will you take this letter?”

Antelope said, “I cannot go to Heaven.”

Kimana went to Hawk. “Will you take this letter?”

Hawk said, “I can go halfway. But I cannot go to Heaven.”

Then Frog came to Kimana. “Why do you not take the letter yourself?”

Kimana said, “This I cannot do.”

Frog said, “Then I will take it for you.”

Kimana laughed. “Can a frog take a letter to Heaven?”

Frog said, “Whatever it is, I can do it. But only if I try.”

Now, Frog lived by a well. Every day, the girls who served the Sun Chief came to this well. They climbed down from Heaven on a web made by Spider. Then they filled their water jugs and went home.

Frog put the letter in his mouth and hid in the well. The girls from Heaven came for water, singing their song.

Good day to you, my sister.
Good day to you.

They lowered their jugs into the well, and Frog jumped into one. The girls did not see.

Then the girls climbed back up the web of Spider. They went into the house of the Sun Chief and left the jugs in a room.

Frog was alone. He jumped out of the jug and spit the letter out on a bench. Then he hid in a corner.

The Sun Chief came for a drink of water. He saw the letter and opened it. He read, “I, Kimana, a man of earth, wish to marry the Sky Maiden, your daughter.”

The Sun Chief said, “How can this be?”

He went to the girls who fetched water. “Did you bring this letter?”

The girls said, “We did not.”

He went to his wife, the Moon Lady, and read it to her. “What should we do?”

The Moon Lady said, “Don’t ask me! Ask your daughter!”

He went to his daughter. The Sky Maiden said, “Let us see if he can bring a wedding gift.”

So the Sun Chief wrote a letter and set it on the bench. Then he went away.

Frog came out and put the letter in his mouth. Then he climbed into an empty jug.

The next day, the girls took the jugs and climbed down to earth, singing their song.

Good day to you, my sister.
Good day to you.

They lowered their jugs into the well, and Frog jumped out. The girls did not see.

Then the girls went back to Heaven.

Frog took the letter to Kimana, and Kimana read it. “You may marry my daughter if you bring a purse of money.”

Kimana said, “This I cannot do.”

Frog said, “Then I will bring it for you.”

Kimana laughed. “You took a letter to Heaven. But can you bring a purse of money?”

Frog said, “Whatever it is, I can do it. But only if I try.”

Kimana gave Frog a purse of money. Frog took hold of it with his mouth and carried it to the well. He climbed in and waited.

The girls from Heaven came to the well.

Good day to you, my sister.
Good day to you.

Frog got into one of the jugs. The girls returned to Heaven and left him in the room.

Frog set the money on the bench. Then he hid.

The Sun Chief came and found the purse. “How can this be?”

He went to the girls. “Did you bring this money?”

The girls said, “We did not.”

He went to his wife. The Moon Lady said, “Don’t ask me! Ask your daughter!”

He went to his daughter. The Sky Maiden said, “Let us see if he can come fetch me.”

So the Sun Chief wrote a letter and left it on the bench.

Frog put the letter in his mouth and climbed into an empty jug. The next day, the girls carried him to earth.

Good day to you, my sister.
Good day to you.

He jumped back into the well, and the girls went back to Heaven.

Frog brought the letter to Kimana, and Kimana read it. “You may marry my daughter if you come and fetch her.”

Kimana said, “This I cannot do.”

Frog said, “Then I will fetch her for you.”

Kimana laughed. “You took a letter to Heaven. You brought a purse of money. But can you fetch a bride?”

Frog said, “Whatever it is, I can do it. But only if I try.”

Frog climbed back into the well. The girls came with their jugs.

Good day to you, my sister.
Good day to you.

They carried him to Heaven.

Frog jumped out. He spit in all the jugs of water. Ptui. Ptui. Ptui. Then he hid in an empty jug.

The people of the house came and drank the water. They all got sick.

The Sun Chief called for the spirit doctor. The doctor told him, “You promised your daughter to a man of earth, but she has not gone. He has sent an evil spirit with a sickness. The evil spirit is in the shape of a frog.”

The Sun Chief went to his wife. The Moon Lady said, “Don’t ask me! Ask your daughter!”

He went to his daughter. The Sky Maiden said, “I will go.”

The next day, the Sky Maiden went with the girls down to the well.

Good day to you, my sister.
Good day to you.

The girls filled their jugs, and Frog jumped out. Then the girls left the Sky Maiden and went home.

Frog jumped out of the well. “I will lead you to your husband.”

The Sky Maiden laughed. “Can a frog lead a woman?”

Frog said, “I took a letter to Heaven. I brought a purse of money. I fetched a bride. Whatever it was, I could do it. But only since I tried.”

The Sky Maiden said, “Then it is you I will marry.”

She took Frog back to Heaven and married him. They lived on and on.

And Kimana is still waiting for his bride.


Tips for Telling

I’ve always felt this story worked better for storytelling than it had any right to. Not a lot happens, and it takes a long time to do it. But the story still manages to hold the attention of young listeners. The important thing is to have faith in the story and take all the time it needs. In other words, don’t rush!

Because of the musical refrain, this is a great story for audience participation. I teach the song before I start telling the story. The rhythm is tricky, so each time we sing it, I clap out the beats, with heavier claps on the syncopated ones.

Besides the song, the other most involving feature is the repetition. Once your listeners have followed you through the first of Frog’s visits, they start knowing what to expect, and you can watch them anticipating it. Parts of the dialogue are especially formulaic, to the point that, by the third visit, your listeners may start saying it with you—which is of course what you want.

I strengthen this repetition with special voices, speech patterns, and gestures. For instance, when the girls say, “We did not,” I give them a high, singsong voice—“WE did NAH-ot”—while shaking my head slowly from side to side. When the Moon Lady says, "Don't ask me! Ask your daughter!”, the last word of each sentence gets special emphasis while I point first toward myself, then away. And when the Sky Maiden gives her advice, I rest an elbow on one hand and stroke my chin with the other, in a gesture of thoughtfulness.

There’s a good amount of opportunity here for mime—for instance, the reading of the letters, and Frog’s spitting. But I prefer not to overdo movement for this one, because it can detract from the story’s almost hypnotic nature.

For variety from the other voices, I give Frog a rough one.

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