Louis Wain postcard, 1908
Frog Jumping Day
Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day
Today's Musings, History & Folklore
"Hey! hey! hi! Frog in the middle and there shall lie; He can’t get out and he shan’t get out — hey! hey! hi!" ~ Traditional
Frog in the Middle is a children's game dating back to the 13th century! To play, one child sits on the ground with his legs under him; the other players form a ring round. They then pull or buffet the " frog" who tries to catch one of them without rising from the floor. The child who is caught takes the former frog's place. In another non-sitting variation, the child in the center must attempt to break out of the ring formed by the rest of children clasping hands. While the children in the ring dance round and chant, the "frog in the middle" looks for an opportunity to rush and break through the ring.
Frog in the Middle
In 1865, Mark Twain’s first short story, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” tells of a casual competition between two men betting on whose frog jumps higher, and marks the origin of Frog Jumping Day!
The ability of frogs to jump have always fascinated and surely inspired the game of "Frog in the Middle," a children's game dating back to at least to the 13th century.
From The Traditional Games of England, Scotland, and Ireland, by Alice Bertha Gomme, the rules are:
One child is seated on the ground with his legs under him; the other players form a ring round. They then pull or buffet the centre child or Frog, who tries to catch one of them without rising from the floor. The child who is caught takes the place of the centre child. Another method of playing the game is similar to “Bull in the Park.” The child in the centre tries to break out of the ring, those forming it keeping the Frog in the ring by any means in their power, while still keeping their hands clasped. They sometimes sing or say—
Hey! hey! hi! Frog in the middle and there shall lie;
He can’t get out and he shan’t get out—hey! hey! hi!
They dance round when saying this, all keeping a watch on the Frog, who suddenly makes a rush, and tries to break through the ring.
The namesake dance below has several froggy elements.
For an audio recording of Mark Twain's famous short story, click the book cover!