Some time ago, there was a beautiful forest full of life, and at the centre of it there was a little pond. This pond was inhabited by Count Frog. He was a very good looking Frog with a wonderful singing voice but he was also a very stubborn young Count who knew exactly what he wanted. There was no Countess in the Count’s life. Although, many female frogs had tried. He considered none of them good enough for him. He was a bachelor.
At the bottom of the pond there lived someone else: Master Newt. He was the Count’s oldest friend and gave him advice and counsel when needed. They had known each other ever since they were tadpoles and Master Newt still helped him with his singing and performing whenever he could. Count Frog knew that without his best friend his music would be only half as good.
Close by the pond many other animals lived as well. There were all sorts of flying, climbing and running creatures within the thickness of the forest. All these animals were under the protection of the ruler of the forest, the Emperor Stork. He was not very much liked by the Count, as frogs and storks were natural enemies. But the Emperor adored the Count’s singing and no stork in his Empire was allowed to harm the Frog.
When Count Frog commenced his concert in the evenings it was the hedgehog families who came first to listen. All hedgehogs, young and old, came to hear and see the unique music of the Frog. The music’s rhythm was animated by the wind blowing through the leaves, by the branches that moved and added a deeper tone to the Frog’s high singing. The splashing of the frog’s legs and arms onto and into the water added another beat whenever it was needed for his songs. His voice was as clear as the light green water of the pond reflecting all the trees‘ leaves and branches inside of it. It was the music of nature. Later, all other animals would join the hedgehogs for a couple of hours to listen. Badgers, wolves, wild cats, mice, bats, stags, foxes and birds, they all came together and were at peace with each other. After the sun had set the fireflies would illuminate the pond and turn it into a dreamlike stage where the listeners were carried away by the music and the stories that were sung by the Count. His tunes would take them far away to other forests, to mountains high above or to fish kingdoms deep below. When he was singing and dancing among the fireflies it seemed his performance would elevate him up into the night sky, the moon his spotlight and the fireflies his guiding stars.
After every concert when the fireflies would disperse and all the other animals would go to sleep or commence their night time activities Count Frog and Master Newt would sit down on a stone together and talk about history and the past. Because Frogs and Newts were able to do something what not a lot of other animals were gifted with. They could communicate with the stars above them. The stars would whisper to them through their starlight telling them stories about their ancestors, about all the frogs and newts that lived before them, for they captured memory within their starlight. But they would also speak to them about woods, mountains, lakes and ponds far away and eagerly Count Frog and Master Newt would create new stories for the coming concerts. Sometimes they would sit there by the pond until dawn, not realising that they were holding each other’s hands. Then they wondered if they were maybe more than best friends. And when the sun was rising and the stars faded away and the magic of the night was broken they would let go of each other, and the Newt would return to the bottom of the lake.
Once a week the Queen of Hares would come to attend the Count’s concert. She and her entire court would sit down by the pond. On these special occasions the Count would perform his most beautiful songs and tell the most exciting tales about dragons and heroes or heartbreaking love stories. Because this is what he was, a singing storyteller. And the Queen of Hares, the Emperor Stork and all the other animals would be enchanted by the Frog’s singing that was one with nature and all its voices.
Every evening the forest awaited his concert and one night, after the Frog’s concert, when everyone was about to leave and Count Frog and Master Newt would sit down by the pond to chat, there appeared a female frog. She was beautiful, her skin was light green and speckled with yellow dots. Master Newt looked at both of them and disappeared in the waters of the pond. She bowed and told him how wonderful his music was. He thanked her politely but didn’t say anything else. The female frog waited for a moment.
“ You are very beautiful but I am afraid my only love is my music and my concerts. “ The Count said.
She nodded politely and hopped away quickly to her pond that was over the hills beyond the forest, as long as it was still dark, as the cool night time would protect her skin. Because a frog’s skin must always be wet. Master Newt’s eyes emerged from the pond and then the rest of his brown- orange body rose up.
“ Why did you send her away? “ He asked.
“ I would rather spend my time with you. “ The Count said.
Master Newt smiled and together they sat down underneath the starlight and listened to the stars‘ memories.
One summer morning something happened on the edge of the forest. Silver, steaming monsters had arrived, no creatures of the forest or of nature, and started to cut down trees in the Stork’s realm. Over the following days more trees fell victim to the monsters that were not alive but driven by smoke and steal. Wolves and stags tried to fight them but they were unable to do anything against them. Full of fear they left the forest to look for a safer place to live. Next evening the Count noticed the absence of the wolves and stags at his concert and Count Frog started to worry what might happen to the forest and his pond.
The day after that the foxes, badgers and wild cats missed the concert as well and the Count and Master Newt found out that they had left the forest too. For the monsters were approaching and cut down more trees by the day. The animals slowly realised that they were helpless. This was proven when, on the following morning, Emperor Stork and all his banner men came to the pond.
“ I am afraid last night was the last time me and all my subjects came to see your performance. We are leaving to find a new Empire. The silver monsters will arrive at the pond very soon. Will you come with us? “
The Count looked at him determined and said: “ The pond is my only stage and the forest is my theatre. Besides, I am not like you. I don’t have feathers that protect me from the cold and dry winds. My skin must always be wet. I cannot adapt so easily like birds can. I fear I would not survive a journey like that. I cannot leave. This is my home. “
“ Then I wish you good luck for your final songs. “ The Emperor said sadly.
The Stork unfolded his black and white wings and took off into the blue sky. A moment later all the birds of the forest followed his lead, never to return. For a couple of seconds the heavens darkened the dying forest with all the birds ascending. And then they were all gone.
Day turned to night and the Count performed another concert with most of his audience gone. At the end of the concert the hedgehogs applauded and cheered like they had never done before and one of the older hedgehogs asked the Frog: “ We will use the cover of night to go look for another forest. We don’t know how long it will take but we hope to find one. Will you join us? “
“ Although frogs can travel at night they cannot travel very far and fast. Our skin must always be wet and I don’t have spines that protect me from the dangers of the night like you do. I am afraid I cannot join you. This is my home. “
So the hedgehogs gathered by the pond and waved Count Frog good bye, knowing that they would miss his music forever.
Night turned to dawn and the monsters approached the pond. Count Frog and Master Newt could see them clearly now, cutting down one tree after the other. The Count could smell the awful smoke the monsters puffed out of their black holes. Greedily, their silver shining teeth ripped apart every green plant and tore down every last tree there was. The pond’s water started to turn grey and Master Newt could feel the unhealthy fumes entering his body through water and air. He joined Count Frog on a leaf of the last remaining water lily. Then the Queen of Hares arrived with her entire court and begged Count Frog and Master Newt to join them: “ Come with us please! Your music must live on! Your concerts can be performed by a different pond in a new forest! “
“ That won’t happen. “ the Count said. “ I swam in this pond ever since I was a tadpole. This is my home. And I don’t have a fur like you that can protect my skin from the dry winds or the burning sun. I can’t adapt so easily as you do. “
The Queen of Hares looked desperate and turned to Master Newt: “ What about you“
“ I have to agree with my best friend. We are not like you. Our skin would dry up on our journey. We would suffocate and die. We would rather remain here at home for our final days. “
“ I see… “
The Queen of Hares looked at her court. She seemed to want to say something but held back. As a Queen she had so much power over her subjects but there was nothing she could do here. Her title meant nothing in the face of destruction and death. So she did something she had never done before. She bowed before Frog and Newt and so did her entire court. In this very moment the Count knew that the memory of his music, his stories would live on with the Queen’s memory and her kingdom. The Count and the Master bowed in return to express their final good byes. The Queen and her court left the pond.
That night, as all the fireflies were gone, the Count would make his final performance in the moonlight. His only audience was his best friend and life companion Master Newt. He was singing like he had never sung before. His dancing, jumping, almost gliding over and into the pond elevated his body onto a higher plane. And as all the trees were gone, no leaves, no branches joined in with his singing he performed alone. His high clear voice was the only music alive. The songs he sung were not about fair kingdoms or dragons but about all the things that could have been, all the things that were gone now. About the forest’s history of over a thousand years and all the generations of frogs, newts, hares, hedgehogs and storks. He sung about how beautiful and green everything used to be and now had turned to dust and memory. He sung about everything that was lost and would never return. Because a thousand years could not bring back what a single day had stolen. The stars above Count Frog and Master Newt were weeping but soon faded away as the sun was rising. And finally, the Count confessed his deep love to his best friend in his last song. Together Frog and Newt sat alone on the last remaining water lily and the Newt kissed the Frog.
“ I wish we had more time. “ The Count said.
“ We spent all our lives together. And here at the end of days I am happy that we did “
Master Newt embraced his Count. They held on to each other. The silver steaming monsters approached the pond and both of them closed their eyes.