Roald Dahl

The Toad and the Snail

I really am most awfully fond
Of playing in the lili-pond.
I take off shoes and socks and coat
And paddle with my little boat.
Now yesterday, quite suddenly,
A giant toad came up to me.
This toad was easily as big
As any fair-sized flattish pig.
He smiled and said “How do you do?
“Hello! Good morning! How are you?”

(His face somehow reminded me
Of mummy’s sister Emily.)
The toad said, “Don’t you think I’m fine?
“Admire these lovely legs of mine,
“And I’m sure you’ve never seen
“A toad so gloriously green!”
I said, “So far as I can see,
“You look just like Aunt Emily.”
He said, “I’ll bet Aunt Emily
“Can’t jump one half as high as me.
“Hop on my back, young friend,” he cried.
“I’ll take you for a marvelous ride.”
As I got on, I thought, oh blimey,
Oh, deary me. How wet and slimy!
“Sit further back,” he said. “That’s right.
“I’m going to jump, so hold on tight!”
He jumped! Oh, how he jumped! By gum,
I thought my final hour had come!
My wretched eardrums popped and fizzed.
My eyeballs watered. Up we whizzed.
I clung on tight. I shouted, “How
“Much further are we going now?”
Toad said, his face all wreathed in smiles,
“With every jump, it’s fifty miles!”
Quite literally, we jumped all over,
From Scotland to the Cliffs of Dover!
Above the Cliffs, we stopped for tea,
And Toad said, gazing at the sea,
“What do you say we take a chance,
“And jump from England into France?”
I said, “Oh dear, d’you think we oughta?
“I’d hate to finish in the water.”
But toads, you’ll find, don't give a wink
For what we little children think.
He didn’t bother to reply.
He jumped! You should have seen us fly!
We simply soared across the sea,
The marvelous Mister Toad and me.

Then down we came, and down and down,
And landed ina funny town.
We landed hard, in fact we bounced.
“We’re there! It’s France!” the Toad announced.
He said, “You must admit it’s grand
“To jump into a foreign land.
“No boats, no bicycles, no trains,
No cars, no noisy airplanes!”
Just then, we heard a fearful shout,
“O, heavens above!” the Toad cried out.
I turned and saw a frightening sight —
On every side, to left, to right,
People were running down the road,
Running at me and Mister Toad,
And every person, man and wife
Was brandishing a carving-knife.
It didn’t take me very long
To figure there was something wrong.
And yet, how could a small boy know,
For nobody had told me so,
That Frenchmen aren’t like you or me,
They do things very differently.
They won’t say “yards”, they call them “metres”,

And they’re the most peculiar eaters:
A Frenchman frequently regales
Himself with half-a-dozen SNAILS!
The greedy ones will gulp a score
Of these foul brutes and ask for more.
(In many of the best hotels
The people also eat the shells.)
Imagine that! My stomach turns!
One might as well eat slugs or worms!
But wait. Read on a little bit.
You haven’t heard the half of it.
These French go even more agog
If someone offers them a FROG!
(You’d better fetch a basin quick
In case you’re going to be sick.)
The bits of frog they like to eat
Are thighs and calves and toes and feet.
The French will gobble loads and loads
Of legs they chop off frogs and toads.
They think it’s absolutely ripping
To guzzle frog-legs fried in dripping.
That’s why the whole town and their wives
Were rushing us with carving-knives.
They screamed in French, “Well I’ll be blowed!
“What legs there are upon that toad!”
Chop them! Skin them! Cook them! Fry them!
“All of us are going to try them!”
“Toad!” I cried. "I’m not a funk,
“But ought we not to do a bunk?
“These rascals haven’t come to greet you,
“All they want to do is eat you!”

Toad turned his head and looked at me,
And said, as cool as cool could be,
”Calm down and listen carefully please.
“I often come to France to tease
“These crazy French who long to eat
“My lovely tender froggy meat.
“I am a MAGIC TOAD!” he cried,
“And I don’t ever have to hide!
“Stay where you are! Don’t move!” he said,
And pressed a button on his head.
At once, there came a blinding flash,
And then the most almighty crash,
And sparks were bursting all around,
And smoke was rising from the ground…
When all the smoke had cleared away
The Frenchmen with their knives cried, “Hey!
“Where is the toad? Where has he gone?”
You see, I now was sitting on
A wonderfully ENORMOUS SNAIL!
His shell was smooth and brown and pale,
And I was so high off the ground
That I could see for miles around.
The Snail said, “Hello! Greetings! Hail!”
“I was a Toad. Now I’m a Snail.
“I had to change the way I looked
“To save myself from being cooked.”
“Oh Snail,” I said, “I’m not so sure.
“I think they’re starting up once more.”
The French were shouting, “What a snail!
“Oh, what a monster! What a whale!
“He makes the toad look titchy small!
“There’s lovey snail-meat for us all!
“Well bake the creature in the shell
“And ring aloud the dinner-bell!
Get garlic, parsley, butter, spices!
“We’ll cut him into fifty slices!
“Come sharpen up your carving-knives!
“This is the banquet of our lives!”
I murmured through my quivering lips,
“Oh Snail, I think we’ve had our chips.”
The Snail replied, “I disagree.
“Those greedy French, they’ll not eat me.”
But on they came. They screamed, “Yahoo!
“Surround the brute and run him through!”
Good gracious, I could almost feel
The pointed blades, the shining steel!
But Snail was cool as cool could be,
He turned his head and winked at me,
And murmured, “Au revoir, farewell,”
And pulled a lever on his shell.
I looked around. The Snail had gone!
And now who was I sitting on?…
Oh what relief! What joy! Because
At last I’d found a friend. It was
The gorgeous, glamorous, absurd,
Enchanting ROLY-POLY BIRD!
He turned and whispered in my ear,
“Well, fancy seeing you, my dear!”
Then up he went in glorious flight.
I clutched his neck and hung on tight.

We fairly raced across the sky,
The Roly-Poly Bird and I,
And landed safely just beyond
The fringes of the lily-pond.
When I got home I never told
A solitary single soul
What I had done or where I’d been
Or any of the things I’d seen.
I did not even say I rode
Upon a giant jumping toad,
‘Cause if I had, I knew that they
Would not believe me anyway.
But you and I know well it’s true.
We know I jumped, we know I flew.
We’re sure it all took place, although
Not one of us will ever know,
We’ll never, never understand
Why children go to Wonderland.