Submitted by Edited by Ken Karch
We are in the year 1522. Count Anton zu Ysenburg und Budingen had just married Elisabeth in his bride’s home county and returned to Budingen with his newly-wed wife. The citizens of Budingen gave them an enthusiastic reception: wedding banners, gates of honour, gun salutes and bonfires, maids of honour dressed in white, and uniformed riflemen.
Finally, after the strain of the journey and the strenuous welcome ritual, the ceremonial addresses and the substantial banquet in the castle, the nightly hour came near. Count Anton carried his young wife over the threshold into the room where the bed was prepared for a refreshing sleep. While Count Anton was just beginning to fall asleep and to snore, Countess Elisabeth suddenly started hearing the croaking, splashing and gurgling of hundreds of frogs from a pond near the castle, a wide burrow which surrounds the old moated castle. This concert was very noisy and not necessarily harmonic. Elisabeth: “You didn’t tell me about this. I don’t agree with this. This is a reason for divorce.” Count Anton: “Whaat???” Elisabeth: “This croaking, this noise, I get my migraine. Tomorrow I’m going to be back with my father.” Count Anton: “It couldn’t be that bad. I don’t hear it any longer. I’m used to that since childhood like all citizens of Budingen. They only awake when the noise stops.” Elisabeth: “Never will I get used to that! Do something about it or you will lose me. I’ll annul our marriage. It is not possible for me to consummate our marriage because of that terrible noise.
Now Count Anton got up and rang for the valet, who sent for the Council of the Court awaiting subserviently the Count’s decision. “Starting today the citizens of Budingen, in order to keep the peace”, Count Anton cried, “shall find and drive out the frogs, wherever they may be. That is my will and order. “So the bailiff let ring the alarm bell of the town and the citizens, only half-dressed, joined together, some with crossbows and armour, most of them as “Spider” with pick ax and halberd. Some of the citizens got ladders and fire-buckets thinking that a strayed gun salute caused a fire. But they could see nothing like this, and all was peaceful and calm. They only heard the croaking of the frogs as usual from the castle. Now the mayor appeared and announced the Count’s decision to the jurors, citizens and the community. He said: “It’s important to help keep the highly political union of the Houses of Ysenburg and Wied.” Therefore the frogs and toads had to go. The citizens were obliged to make it happen, the mayor said.
And so it happened. All the youngsters went to the grove equipped with buckets, baskets, catches, fish traps, nets, ropes, hooks and flails because no one knew what might appear. The frogs, on the other hand, were astonished to see the citizens of Budingen acting so strangely. They had never seen this kind of odd behavior before. Being clammy because of the morning cold, they didn’t see any reason for giving up their leisurely wait for flies in the morning sun. But then disaster descended upon them. In a line boys and girls waded through the burrow. Everything which jiggled was grabbed. Baskets and buckets were filled with green creatures. All these were brought to the market place and strictly guarded. There was no escape under the police’s supervision. Slowly the croaking got weaker and weaker and when the midday sun was on top of the castle tower nothing could be heard any longer. Countess Elisabeth stretched and called for her lady-in-waiting to help her pleat her hair before she gave Count Anton an appeasement kiss so that he was beaming with happiness and murmured “This is relying on my citizens of Budingen.”
Meanwhile the sound level on the market place became more and more unbearable. The Marktmeister Mörschel could hardly keep the green swarm under control. Something had to be done and the town council went into the inn “Zum Schwanen” to have discussions. Something had to be done, but what? How could they get the frogs off their backs?
“Leave it to the fire brigade,” someone said. “It is much too damp for a wood fire and grilled frogs legs are out anyway.” “So we need the butchers”, the landlord said. But the butchers referred to the Count’s rules, which said nothing about frogs. Then there are only the riflemen they said all together. But the master of the rifle club refused. He argued that the members are only used to target shooting and the crossbow bolts were limited to the number needed for defense of the town, and, by the way — who should dispose the frog corpses in times when the bio-trash cans were not yet introduced? Now the council again retreated to the adjoining room. You really could feel their heads were spinning until they were ready to announce their decision. The mayors of the “Alt-” and “Neustadt” (old and new town) appeared in the market place: “We found an ecologically perfect solution which will not really be a charge against our town budget. We will drown the frogs in the river “Seemenbach”. The blinders fell from the citizens’ eyes. Why didn’t we come upon that earlier? A wise decision! They sent a messenger with trumpeters to the castle asking the honorable couple most respectfully to come in their sedan chair to the Muhltor Bridge and to take part in the spectacle. Again baskets, buckets, snap bags, and jute bags were filled and shouldered and everyone took the wriggly contents to the Muhltor Bridge. After a short wriggling in the water one couldn’t see anything anymore. “It works! It works!” the citizens of Budingen shouted with joy!
In the evening the croaking started softly again. This can be only an echo from the few frogs which survived. They disappeared in the direction of Dudelsheim, the mayor and the council claimed. They considered the action a great success because it is known that Countess Elisabeth never again felt disturbed by the frogs — or maybe she got more and more used to it and so she became a real citizen of Budingen.
Since those days the citizens of Budingen at fun-fairs and fairs featuring shooting matches boast Budinger to be Germany’s most beautiful town and the cleanest from frogs. The people of the neighbouring villages call the people of Budingen the “Fraaasch”. The citizens of Budingen take it as an honorary title and they are quite proud of their action. And the frogs are in a huff since those days but they seem to be accomodating. Now it’s on the citizens. Be a sport! (=Sei kein Frosch! = Don ‘t be a frog!)
from Dr. Klaus-Peter Decker, Historiker with editing and grammatical corrections by Ken Karch and with appreciation to the Budingen Touristik Center email@example.com
Editor’s Note: Local readers who have served in Germany will know of the small town of Budingen, just outside Frankfurt, and may appreciate this story.