The dictionary tells us that a Blue Moon is the second full moon to occur in one month, a rather rare thing. But in the land of stories, a Blue Moon can mean something much more rare. Something very exciting indeed.
* * *
Four hundred twenty nine years ago, in a snug little village not too far from here, there lived two women—Sigrun and Hulda. They had not one friend between them, yet their names were known throughout the land. No one had escaped the acid of their tongues, and every villager knew of their bitter arguments and dislike for one another. They would stop any traveler, interrupt any chatting pair of friends, run up to any neighbor working in her fields or sweeping his cottage, each to complain about the other. The village folk dreaded the sight of them.
“Hulda thinks she is better than you, good sir,” Sigrun would say. “With her little bit of money—ptoo!—she fancies herself better than all of us. It is awful to be her next-door neighbor, simply awful. She never stops talking and must always have the last word.”
“Do you know, gentle lady, how much that Sigrun brags?” Hulda would say. “With her two goats—feh!—and that loathsome cheese she makes, she fancies herself better than all of us. She is a terrible neighbor, simply terrible. She never stops talking and must always have the last word.”
The good village folk, tired of Sigrun and Hulda’s nastiness, put their heads together and hatched an idea. They chose Hinrik, a kind man who liked to see people smile, to explain their plan to the two women. He stood in the path between their cottages. Sigrun and Hulda each stood behind her own gate.
Hinrik had to shout. “You are not happy as next-door neighbors. It will be better if you see and think about each other less. The village folk want to help, so we are ready to purchase a small parcel of land on the other side of the village. A lovely parcel. We will all work together to build a fine new cottage there, but you must decide which of you will live in it.”
Alas, the two women could only argue and bicker, bicker and argue, each more concerned with the other’s unhappiness than with her own contentment. They took turns making the same arguments against each other.
“You move to the new house,” said one.
“And leave this lovely bit of woods to you? I will not!” said the other.
“I’ll go to the new cottage,” said one.
“And take a cottage that might be better than mine? Oh no you won’t!” said the other.
And so it went. After a while, the village folk gave up in despair.
* * *
She took tiny tiptoe steps toward the frog, looking this way and that, until she stood beside him, hands over her mouth, eyes all but popping from her head.
One day, when Sigrun was near a pond deep in the woods, gathering fiddleheads for her supper, she saw an amazing sight. At the edge of a lush glade filled with ferns of every shade of green in the world—plus two more—was a large blue frog like no other. He was clothed in purple velvet breeches and a golden brocade vest nearly iridescent in its splendor. On his tiny feet were boots of vermilion tooled leather and over his shoulders flowed a translucent patchwork cape of shimmering jewel-toned silks. He lay back on the pond’s mossy bank, his froggy hands behind his head, basking in the warmth of the lemony sunshine. For once, Sigrun was speechless. She took tiny tiptoe steps toward the frog, looking this way and that, until she stood beside him, hands over her mouth, eyes all but popping from her head.
“Good morning, gentle lady,” said the frog. “Please do not be afraid. I won’t hurt you.”
“My eyes,” said Sigrun, “do they deceive me?”
“No, dear lady, they do not. I am the Blue Frog of the Blue Moon. Perhaps you have heard of me?” And he smiled, looking almost humble.
“Never in my life!” said Sigrun.
“No?” He pursed his froggy lips. “Well, that is as it may be. I do, after all, emerge from this pond only once in a Blue Moon. This night there will be a Blue Moon, so here I am.”
“Do you come to do dark magic?” asked Sigrun in a whisper, knitting her scraggly brows and hunching her shoulders. “To curse our village or our crops?”
“No, no, dear lady, no! On the contrary. I sit and wait for the first human who sees me.”
Sigrun gasped and backed away.
He gave a froggy chuckle. “So that I may grant that lucky soul three wishes. And do come back. It strains my voice to shout so. Surely if I had wanted to harm you I would have done it by now.”
Sigrun edged closer to the frog. “Three wishes, you say?”
“Yes indeed. Whatever you might desire, I shall give you.”
Sigrun thought for a moment, and then said, “I am ready.”
The frog’s eyes grew as large as lily pads. “Wouldn’t you care to take some time? To think it over? I will be here until midnight. You have my solemn word.”
Sigrun folded her arms and scowled. “No.”
“Very well. I’ll try not to be grumpy,” he grumped, “even if your haste does spoil my fun.”
“For my first wish, I want to have the most beautiful house in the world right in the middle of the village square, a house of magnificent finery.” Greed narrowed her eyes to small piggy slits.
“Done,” said the frog.
“You mean—it is there? Right now?”
Sigrun rubbed her hands together. “So you say, but I shall believe it when I see it. Now, for my second wish, there is a woman in my village—I want you to grant her whatever she asks.”
“You are giving a wish away?” said the frog. “Why, no one has ever done that! This must be a very special friend.”
“Bah!” said Sigrun. “Hulda is no friend. She is a terrible woman who will wish for the most lavish of riches.”
“Then, my dear woman, why?”
“Because here is my third wish,” said Sigrun. “Whatever Hulda wishes, I want the same, but three times more. You will grant this wish to me one minute—no longer!—after you grant hers.”
“But,” said the frog, “are you sure? You could have enormous riches, or the power to fly or to swim like a magnificent frog. You could even wish for good manners. Anything you dream of could be yours.”
Sigrun was twitchy with delight. “Her rage will be sweet enough to make up for one hundred lost wishes.” She smiled a most unsmiling smile.
“Well,” said the frog, “I suppose I must do as you ask.”
“So you have told me,” said Sigrun. “Now to think of a way to get her here…”
“Oh, I will bring her here,” said the frog. “I rather enjoy that sort of thing.”
And without so much as a thank you, Sigrun turned and ran, eager to see her new house. The frog sighed, blinked his lavender froggy eyes, and—poof!—a confused and frightened Hulda was standing next to him.
“Don’t be afraid, gentle lady,” said the frog. “I have brought you here to grant you a wish. Anything you wish for shall be yours.”
“Me? Bah! Why?” asked Hulda, her face as hard and cold as a diamond. “What sorcery is this? What do you want in return?”
“Nothing, dear lady. It is a gift,” and he bowed, “from the Blue Frog of the Blue Moon.” The frog was tiring of explaining this. Ordinarily, he had to explain only once in a Blue Moon.
Hulda paced, deep in thought. It was not long before she said in a voice as sour as a barrel of pickled lemons, “I am ready.”
“So quickly?” sighed the frog. But this time he did not argue.
“You are to turn my worst enemy into an ugly boulder four feet high. She is to live forever within that stone, right in the middle of the village square.”
The frog looked amused, in a froggy sort of way. “Are you quite sure this is what you want? Not huge riches? Or—why, I don’t know, dear lady—magical powers, or a pleasant personality?”
“This is better than riches or powers. Her rage will be sweet enough to make up for a hundred wishes. But…”
“But how will you know my worst enemy?”
“My good woman—my dear Hulda,” the frog said, his pale blue pouchy chin jiggling with laughter. “I am a magic blue frog. I plucked you from your silly little cottage and brought you here. I can grant any wish. Don’t you think I know such a simple thing as that?”
“I suppose so.” Hulda was quiet for a moment. “I want you to wait twenty minutes before granting this wish. So I can be there when it happens.”
“As you like,” said the frog, pulling a rainbow-colored pocket watch from his brocade vest. “Twenty minutes it shall be.” And he shook his head, chortling so, that a single froggy tear shimmied its way from his iridescent eye to his wobbly jowls.
Without so much as a thank you, Hulda turned and ran, eager to get back to the village to witness Sigrun’s bad fortune.
* * *
“This is my new home. Is it not the most beautiful home you have ever seen? Is it not far larger and more beautiful than yours?”
As Hulda neared the village square, the hubbub and clamor of an excited crowd reached her puzzled ears. One by one, the village folk had been coming to the square as word of the magnificent new house had spread from mouth to ear, from mouth to ear, all across the land. The whole village was there, oohing and aahing, and Sigrun was in her glory.
Her tone as sharp as the sharpest spindle, her back as straight as the straightest tree, Sigrun said, to anyone who would listen, “This is my new home. Is it not the most beautiful home you have ever seen? Is it not far larger and more beautiful than yours?”
Perched on top of a nearby fountain, the blue frog sat, his pocket watch in his longer-than-long froggy fingers.
Hulda pushed her way through the crowd. “What is this?” she asked, thinking perhaps the frog had played a cruel trick.
A small boy had just begun, “It is Sigrun’s new house,” when—poof!—Sigrun flew high into the sky where she vanished with a pop! Not half a second later, a large boulder appeared in the center of the square, crushing the house. The screams and shouts from the crowd died down as a cackling Hulda shouldered her way through the throng, walked to the boulder, and patted its side.
“How are you, dear Sigrun?” Hulda could not hide her glee. “Enjoying your new house?”
The village folk were amazed and frightened to hear a tiny, angry voice come from within the boulder. Hulda, her ear pressed against the rock, smiled a poisonous smile. At the fountain, the frog whispered, “And now, Sigrun, your third wish. I shall turn your worst enemy into an ugly boulder not four, but twelve feet high, right in the middle of the square.”
And before the people’s very eyes—poof!— Hulda flew up high into the sky where she vanished with a pop! Another boulder appeared, three times uglier and three times bigger than the first, and balanced right on top of it. With that, the people fled, each fearful of being next to poof! and pop!
* * *
The braver folk returned that night and under the light of the Blue Moon they built a brick wall, far taller than the tallest villager, around the entire square. They left one small opening in the wall and into this they set stout iron bars, leaving spaces far smaller than the head of the smallest child in the village. And while many people over the years have peered in and listened, no one has ever set foot in the square again.
It is said that to this day, if you put your ear to the opening and you are very, very quiet, you will hear two small, bitter voices bickering and arguing, arguing and bickering. And if you are very, very lucky, they say you can sometimes see a dashing blue frog, dressed in the finest of finery, with a saffron silk top hat and shimmering topaz cane, dancing on top of the boulders in the moonlight. But only sometimes. Only once in a Blue Moon.