Those who have read this Christmas collection for years know of my fascination with Victorian Christmas cards. These early cards are notable for their distinct lack of traditional Christmas symbols, colors, or messages. Though we often see Victorian England as the source for many of our current traditions, clearly there was also quite a few “traditions” that didn’t make the cut. I present as evidence a wonderful card I found today.
Where to begin? Frogs? Is there a less seasonal amphibian, much less animal? I don’t recall any reference to frogs croaking in the manger of Bethelehem. Likewise , secular “Santa Claus” lore is filled with many animals, but no frogs. There are no Victorian traditions of frogs and the birth of our Lord.
Even if the artist simply liked frogs, this card is not handsome frogs beneath a Christmas tree (or under the mistle-toad), not are these cute cartoon frogs wishing us all a joyous Christmas and a “hoppy” New Year. These are violent frogs, frogs with weapons, frogs that will cut you. This is a murder scene, and the victor flees the scene after leaving his weapon in his victim (probably after wiping the handle for prints). The motive for the act seems clear, as the perp carries a sack of (conveniently labeled) money. Though one could argue that this might not be a robbery, but self defense, the haste in leaving the crime scene seems to tell a different story (as does the clear guilt in his eyes). The card (like the evidence) tells the story of a homicidal frog, apparently getting away with his crime. It’s difficult to connect this act to any of the Christmas stories generally told to children.
And why does the fleeing frog have clothes while his victim has none? Why was a frog, naked of anything but a sword and a sack of money. doing in the field that Christmas morning? While the murderer might have removed the victim’s clothes to hide his identity, there is nothing in the crime scene to indicate this. I fear this, like virgin birth and consubstantiality, this is destined to remain a Christmas mystery. Is this all part of an electorate plot, or a heist gone wrong? Were they partners until one just got greedy? What exactly are we seeing?
May your Christmas season be filled with (sometimes baffling) surprises!