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The Jumping Frog

By: Mark Twain

"The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" is an 1865 short story by Mark Twain. It was his first great success as a writer and brought him national attention. The story has also been published as "Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog" (its original title) and "The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County". In it, the narrator retells a story he heard from a bartender, Simon Wheeler, at the Angels Hotel in Angels Camp, California, about the gambler Jim Smiley. The narrator describes him: "If he even seen a straddle bug start to go anywheres, he would bet you how long it would take him to get to wherever he going to, and if you took him up, he would foller that straddle bug to Mexico but what he would find out where he was bound for and how long he was on the road."

The narrator is sent by a friend to interview an old man, Simon Wheeler, who might know the location of an old acquaintance named Leonidas W. Smiley. Finding Simon at an old mining camp, the narrator asks him if he knows anything about Leonidas; Simon appears not to, and instead tells a story about Jim Smiley, a man who had visited the camp years earlier.

Jim loves to gamble and will offer to bet on anything and everything, from horse races to dogfights, to the health of the local parson's wife. He catches a frog, whom he names Dan'l Webster, and spends three months training it to jump. When a stranger visits the camp, Jim shows off Dan'l and offers to bet $40 that it can out-jump any other frog in Calaveras County. The stranger, unimpressed, says that he would take the bet if he had a frog, so Jim goes out to catch one, leaving him alone with Dan'l. While Jim is away, the stranger pours lead shot down Dan'l's throat. Once Jim returns, he and the stranger set the frogs down and let them loose. The stranger's frog jumps away while Dan'l does not budge, and the surprised and disgusted Jim pays the $40 wager. After the stranger has departed, Jim notices Dan'l's sluggishness and picks the frog up, finding it to be much heavier than he remembers. When Dan'l belches out a double handful of lead shot, Jim realizes that he has been cheated and chases after the stranger, but never catches him.

At this point in the story, Simon excuses himself to go outside for a moment. The narrator realizes that Jim has no connection to Leonidas and gets up to leave, only to have Simon stop him at the door, offering to tell him about a yellow, one-eyed, stubby-tailed cow that Jim had owned. Rather than stay to hear another pointless story, the narrator excuses himself and leaves. He muses that his friend may have fabricated Leonidas as a pretext to trick him into listening to Simon's anecdotes.

 

Book Details

Language

English

Original Language

English

Published In

1865

Author

Mark Twain

United States

Twain was fascinated with science and scientific inquiry. He developed a close and lasting friendship with Nikola Tesla, and the two spent much time together in Tesla's laboratory. Twain patented thre...

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