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Home » Tale

A Balinese Folktale: I Gobrag  

by on Sunday, 5 August 2007One Comment | 1,221 views

In a dank corner of a green and fragrant garden, contained by red brick walls there lived a large toad. Gobrag was his name and very grand indeed was his opinion of himself. But, of all the creatures that crept and crawled within the garden walls, none was more creepy and crawly nor any more hugely ugly, than Gobrag the toad.

Most of the time he just sat, blinking his disdainful eyes at all the world beneath him – for he seldom looked up – occasionally venting a raucous croak which clove the very heavens and interrupted all civil discourse for miles and miles around. Sometimes, with a show of self importance, he would glower at some lowlier beast that happened to pass by, and noisily gulp great gulps of air until his body grew so broad and round it seemed fair fit to burst.

None of the other creatures in the garden cared much for Gobrag’s company. Even the frogs, who were at first inclined to be friendly, now felt uncomfortable in his presence, and there were dark rumors abroad concerning the nature of his diet. And as for the slugs and snails and ants and grasshoppers and spiders and spotted caterpillars not to mention the bees and beetles and butterflies that chanced by his domain, Gobrag would no sooner give them a wicked wink than swallow them!

And so he sat there in his corner, day after day, with hardly a motion, humming to him self (though it was more like a rumble really):

From the north to the south
And from east to west
I am the biggest
And I am the best.
I am the biggest
And I am the beast;
To some I’ll give tongue
And gobble the rest.

At length the frogs grew so heartily disgusted by Gobrag’s boasting and bad behaviour they could bear it no longer. ‘Either that braggart beats it or I’m off!’ said one. ‘I t’s no use,’ bemoaned another, ‘it looks as though Gobrag is rooted to that spot for all eternity.’
And indeed Gobrag had no intention whatever of going anywhere. He was quite content to stay where he has was, lurking in his lair and preying on unsuspecting passers-by.

So the frogs resolved to seek pastures anew and several of their numbers were dispatched to reconnoiter the surrounding land. They bounded through the gate and beyond the garden walls, across the yard and over a ditch and into the paddock on the father side.
Presently they came to the bank of a muddy stream. And as this seemed the perfect spot, they all jumped in with one accord to cool their panting frames. After frolicking in the water for what seemed like hours, the frogs clambered on to a small island in mid stream, where they sat in the sun expressing their pleasure in a chorus of croaks until they were hoarse.

Suddenly, at the height of the croaking crescendo, the ground beneath them heaved and swayed, and they were all unceremoniously flung into the water which had now become a raging maelstrom. Diving deep, they swam as best they could, buffeted by the surging waves, until they reached a patch of reeds in shallow water near the bank. Clinging to each other and peeping through the stalks, their eyes bulged in terror at the spectacle they no beheld. The island upon which, an instant past, they had sat and sung in the sun was now transformed into a great grey lumbering monster, the likes of which they knew not existed. The monster reared, its huge horns arced high against the sky. Now it was approaching them. A massive cloven hoof crashed down in their very midst; and then another; and a big wave washed over them and swept them up the bank. And then the terror receded, and the vast beast stamped off across the field, the ground trembling with its every step.

It was some time before the frogs remained recovered from the fright. They lost no time in leaping now far from that dreadful place – back trough the tall grass, over the ditch, across the yard, and finally through the gate to relative serenity of their garden home. The other frogs were shocked to see their number so depleted and anxiously clamored for an account of their comrades, misadventure, but a long time elapsed before any among them had enough voice to speak.

‘We met a monster,’ stammered one of the survivors at last. ‘What do you mean – a monster?’ scoffed one of the elders of the community who already been bitten by a dog and mauled by a cat. ‘Truly a terrible monster,’ rejoined the first. ‘You can ask one of us. We all saw it, and it was miracle that not all of us were squashed.’ And then he and his companions related the story of all befallen to them that day.

They had just got to the part where the monster was advancing towards them when, all of sudden, a gruff voice boomed out: ‘Stuff and nonsense! I can swallow most of the things, including you little lot, but not that poppycock!

The frog had been so absorbed in the narrative of the day’s events that they had failed to observe the hideous hulk of Gobrag now skulking in the grass behind them. ‘Get on with you,’ he growled, ‘don’t you know that no beast is bigger than I!’ And, as if to prove his contention, he gave giant pulp which instantly inflated his warty hide twofold. ‘There – see what I mean!’ he sidled into their midst, now loom menacingly over them.

But, emboldened perhaps by the fact that Gobrag was but a midget in stature compared with the monster, and feeling somewhat encouraged by the sheer of their weight of their number, the raconteur of the moment retorted: ‘and shame on you– you great oaf. Why, that monster out there makes you merest mite imaginable!’

Damn your impudence! I’ll have you for afternoon tea!’ roared Gobrag, and incontinently blew himself up twice as big again.

‘Pooh! Pathetic!’ shrilled another frog. ‘Is that the best you can do – you noisome know-all natterjack?’ this was too much for Gobrag. ‘I’ll show you master around here, you molted morons!’ he screamed at them, ‘I’ll mincemeat out of the lot of you!’ And, so saying, with a thunderous sound, like sound of sixty suction pumps unblocking the drains of sixty kitchen sinks, he ballooned as big as a barrel.

‘Bah!’ barked the frog in unison, ‘a billion times bigger than that!’ ‘Absolutely bloody rubbish!’ bellowed Gobrag, who was now thoroughly hopping mad. He took another stupendous gulp and burst.

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