Toad was the wisest of all the wise animals on the riverbank. Neville, the little green frog, knew that without one single doubt. He was the wisest, and the bravest, and the best.
Some people thought he was the most frightening too. In fact, some people were so frightened that they never visited him at all, not even on his birthday to give him a card and eat a piece of his cake. They tried to say that Toad didn’t even live on the riverbank any more. They said he had moved away years ago.
Some people even said that Toad… was dead!
But Toad did live on the riverbank. Neville knew it because he did visit him. Often. Usually when Neville was in deep, deep trouble. Or couldn’t work our what to do. The tricky times. But he visited at other times too, such as on his birthday, or on Toad’s birthday, and whenever Neville wanted a good, long talk. Just how long Toad had lived on the riverbank Neville wasn’t sure. He somehow couldn’t quite work out difficult problems like that. He didn’t know where Toad had come from, how old he was, or if he had any family. Toad said everyone was his family.
But not everyone wanted to be in Toad’s family. There were many difficult questions debated about Toad. How had he become so clever? Where had he come from? How heavy was he? What did he eat? Had he really eaten a whole dragonfly in one swallow – or was that just a rumour?
There was even a special society who met once a week to debate new questions about Toad. It was rather strange – because Toad hadn’t met any of these people for quite a long time. Apparently they were busy writing books and singing songs – and of course debating about Toad.
One of their favourite questions about Toad was whether there were actually three Toads or just one. They talked about this because some people said Toad was very quiet, and some people said Toad could shout really loud, and some people said that Toad didn’t talk at all. Of course the answer was simple to Neville – Toad was all three. But then Neville had never been very clever at working out problems so perhaps his answer was too simple for the special society.
Toad seemed sad when he talked about this society despite the fact that it was held in his honour.
“I think I’d rather have friends than a society,” he said one day, “at least you get to meet your friends, and I have a mountain of tea bags and jaffa cakes in my larder so that I can have tea with them all – but they never come for a drink. I hope they will one day.”
“Perhaps they’re not very thirsty?” suggested Neville.
“Perhaps,” said Toad. “Perhaps…”