There once was a young tree frog who had come of age—the age in which most young frogs in tradition were there deemed to be well-positioned for self-reliance and beholden to the consequences of their own doing, to leave the tree of their parents in search of a new home tree to call their own. And so it was with this frog. Upon receiving warm blessings and saudade good-byes from his mother and father, this young fellow departed in brisk pace with head held high—daring not to look back upon proud parents—to find his tree and make a livelihood for himself in the wide world.
He carried few provisions for his trek. Besides the thick, knitted sweater that sagged down to his legs, he brought a supply of food for a few days travel and a small collection of money to make his start, both packed carefully in a small satchel. Lastly and most important of these things, he carried a small timepiece. The timepiece represented little mercantile value, but, in sentiment, it was an immeasurable fortune. It had been crafted for the frog at the time of his hatching. Ever since he was a froglet, he kept the timepiece with him to remember the lessons time had taught.
The young frog traveled steadily along a path for several days, when one afternoon, a wind brought with it dark clouds. The wind grew to gale and the clouds to storm. He walked on into the night pressing through the torrent until daybreak when the weather settled and the sun shone again. Cold and exhausted, he rested beside the track on a rock to warm in the daylight, when he was startled by a voice.
“Hello boy! You look as though you have lost something important.”
The young frog looked up to see that the voice came from a mouse with a thick brow, standing tall in the path well-dressed. The frog reached for his waist, “My satchel. It must have been lost in the storm.” Not minding the lost coin, his thoughts then brought him to his most prized possession. “My timepiece!” Frantic, he began looking about the ground.
“Pity. It was lost because you are wicked,” said the mouse plainly, who happened to be a traveling priest. The mouse shook his head in a downward gaze. “There is no use in looking. You will not find it. The only way for your timepiece to be saved is to say a simple prayer to the gods and they will return it.”
As the priest continued on his way, the young man sprang up from the ground to recite the prayer, repeating the words exactly as the priest had taught. There was nothing—no coming of the gods, no sight of his timepiece. Trying again, he prayed fervently, thinking the gods may have not heard. Still nothing. Feeling desperate, he repeated the prayer again and again until the sun was high overhead. Finally he prayed with his fists, falling to his knees and shuttering the ground. In defeat, the young frog slowly rose and began walking back to the tree of his parents.
After some time, now back on the path he had traveled on during the storm, he found along its side, a bengal tiger lazing in the sun.
“Who is this poor frog who saunters along my path?” said the tiger.
With the cat now in view, the frog could see that it was not an ordinary sort of tiger, but one dressed lavishly from tail to nose. “The gods cannot bring back what is lost, my most beloved belonging, a timepiece made for me when I was a pollywog. There is now no promise for me in this world, so I return to the only home I know, that of my parents.” said the frog.
“Pity.” said the tiger. “If you were rich like me, you could afford any sort of timepiece.” Getting more comfortable, the tiger extended his paws and let out a yawn. “But why would you want a worthless thing when there are greater treasures to be had? Work hard like me and riches will quickly follow.” The tiger rolled over for a nap.
At that, the frog went deep into the jungle to find his work in anticipation of the wealth that was soon to come. He looked for the hardest work available. When he found it, seeing plainly how the workers were not lavishly dressed, the frog realized riches don’t come as easily as the cat had told. In fact, he could see that the riches would not arrive at all. Knowing what a fool’s errand this was, the frog went back to the path that led to his parent’s home.
The frog came upon a raven sitting on a stump reading a book. “Excuse me, sir. I lost my timepiece on this path. Have you seen it?”
“A timepiece? That is absurd.” The raven professed to be a scholar and seemed to have a high opinion of himself. “I am quite certain you never had a timepiece. It was merely your imagination. I tell time by observing the sun. I can see the sun, therefore it exists. Do not bother me with such nonsense.”
The frog continued on his way home. When he was just but a few hops from his tree, an old frog stood in his path. This old frog had known the young one since his entry into this world. He would often stick his nose into the young frog’s business, mostly to keep him out of trouble.
“Don’t let others foster doubt.” croaked the old frog. “Lean on the strength found in the truth that resides inside.”
Cryptic words fell on weary ears. The young frog was feeling restless, but gave the old frog a try. “What truth? Inside where?”
“The truth that the timepiece is hanging around your neck. And that it was hidden inside that saggy sweater of yours the whole time.”