The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County
Written in 1865, this short story by Mark Twain was an overnight success and reprinted all over the country. In fact, this is the piece of writing that launched Mark Twain into fame ( read more). "The Celebrated Jumping Frog" focuses on a narrator from the East suffering through a Western man's tall tale about a jumping frog. The story was made into an opera and performed at Indiana University in 1950. Today, the city of Angel's Camp, California, the setting for this short story, calls itself the "Home of the Jumping Frog."
Why Should I Care?
First things first, read this story out loud – we bet you won't be able to keep a straight face. Here's a good line. Try this one out:
He ketched a frog one day, and took him home, and said he cal'klated to edercate him; and so he never done nothing for three months but set in his back yard and learn that frog to jump. And you bet you he did learn him, too.
How can we not care about a frog that jumps really high except when he is force-fed lead shot? But really, this tale proves to us the power of storytelling, and that just about anything can be fascinating, if it is told well (and with an accent).
When Mark Twain headed out to Nevada in 1861, hoping to strike it rich in the silver boom, he began writing for a newspaper called the Territorial Enterprise. There, he and his buddies would invent news sometimes (for kicks) and would try to make the most ridiculous situations seem like the real deal to readers. They would have contests to see who could create the most absurd yet believable stories (source). Basically, they were like the writers of The Onion, inventing facts and threading them with currents of truth. Sounds like fun, huh?
Well, Mr. Twain was really good at it, as you can see from "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County." He has an ability to make the laugh-o-meter explode.