The Ship of Friends July 15Once upon a time there was a rather spoilt princess. Dora was rude to everyone, but only because she didn’t understand how to be friendly. People would do exactly what she wanted just because she was a princess, and she had a very bad temper. She stayed in her palace surrounded by servants doing what she pleased....

‘Hurry up with breakfast, I’m hungry!’ Dora would say, never saying ‘please’ or ‘thank you’ to anyone. ‘Don’t pull my hair with that brush – be more careful!’ she would say to her nursemaid, Nanny Noggs.

When Desmond, her cousin from a nearby kingdom, came to pay a visit he brought her a present for her birthday. It was a model of a golden ship with sails. Desmond was keen to show her how to float it on the lake by pulling it along on a string. But Dora was impatient and awful, just awful. Instead of listening to Desmond she pulled his hair, grabbed the ship, and ran off to the lake without him.

Desmond gave up and let her go off to the big lake by herself, even though he knew she shouldn’t go alone. As Dora set the golden ship onto the water a gust of wind took the little sails out and it glided quickly away without her. Of course, Dora hadn’t listened to Desmond about holding on to the string. She was upset, and then very cross indeed as she could not swim. Shouting for her servants didn’t help as they were all too far away and didn’t know where she was.

Finally, Dora exhausted herself stamping her foot and crying and being thoroughly bad tempered. ‘I WANT MY GOLDEN SHIP!’ she sobbed, and then threw herself down on the grass. After all that shouting and wobbling she fell fast asleep there on the grass beside the lake.

When she awoke she had a moment of complete panic. Her skin had gone bright green. Her toes were webbed like a frog, and so were her hands. Her voice came out in a croak and her tongue shot out and caught a fly. To her surprise the fly was rather tasty. Then she realized that she was actually the size of a large frog – she had become a frog!
An even bigger shock was that there was another large frog sitting next to her, and there sitting beside him at the water’s edge, was her Golden Ship. ‘Hallo!’ croaked the frog. ‘My name is Fred, what’s yours?!’ Dora looked him up and down haughtily. What she wanted to say was ‘My name is Dora, and you had better look out, because I am a princess.’ But it all came out in a froggy croak. Fred’s shoulders shook with croaky laughter. ‘Are you now! My word. Where’s yer crown then Dora?’ ‘You horrid frog!’ shouted Dora croakily – and she jumped into her Golden Ship and pushed off into the lake. She found she could jump rather well!

Fred had of course fetched her golden ship back to the shore for her in the first place, and, with a cheeky grin he just plopped into the water and swam alongside. Well, the wind took the sails again and Dora reached the little island in the middle of the lake. The pretty shrubs looked enormous to Dora as a frog and - oh my, what was that slithering in among the tree roots there – was it a mouse, …or was it a bird or…, oh oh…she couldn’t be sure.

Then the island Ducks all crowded round wondering what was going on. Dora became a bit frightened as the Ducks were now much larger than her as a frog. It sounded as though they were laughing at her too. Suddenly she felt very lonely, and longed to be in the arms of Nanny Noggs, or having tea with Desmond. A big tear formed in her eye and dropped down with a big splash into the ship. She cried and cried until the little ship was full of water and in danger of sinking under her. ‘I want to go home. But I’m a frog! Nanny Noggs won’t know me any more.’

Fred swam alongside and took pity on her. ‘Come on Miss Dora now, don’t take on so. The ducks won’t harm you. Let’s see if we can get you back to the garden.‘Tell you what, let’s swim back to the shore. A good swim always helps a frog to think. And then you can meet my friends. They will help me bring the ship back another time.’

Although Dora the human was a bit afraid, Dora the frog suddenly longed to be in the water. Swimming was so easy, and she had never been able to swim as a human. Fred showed her all the tricks of doing frog stroke, and all his friends came along to play tag in the bulrushes. Dora had a wonderful time, enjoying the freedom of playing as an equal with all the friendly frogs, instead of being surrounded by servants and having to wear frocks and a crown. When they reached the shore they played leap-frog until they flopped exhausted in the cool under a big leafy fern. After catching a few more flies, Dora fell fast asleep for the second time that day.

She awoke to find Desmond shaking her by the shoulder, muttering something about tea-time. First of all Dora realized that she was no longer a frog – she was so pleased to see her pink skin! And then suddenly Desmond gasped and pointed to the lake. She turned to see the Golden Ship sailing towards them, absolutely full of frogs, paddling and pushing the ship along with their large webbed feet.

As soon as the ship touched shore, the frogs vanished overboard into the water. Desmond shook his head in disbelief as he grabbed the line to pull the ship onto the bank. While his back was turned Dora saw Fred’s head pop out of the water and wink at her with one big eye and a very cheeky grin. Desmond always thought he had imagined the frogs afterwards, and Dora kept her frog day a secret.

Back at the palace, boiled eggs and cake for tea as a human being with Nanny Noggs and Desmond seemed just wonderful. That day had definitely changed Dora for the better. She could still be grumpy now and again, but she was happier. Everyone found her more kind, especially after her frequent visits to see Fred at the lake, reminding her of her little golden ship of froggy friends. Who knows, maybe she went swimming with them again.

Marilyn Jones July 2015