"The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County"
is an 1865 short story
A short story is a work of fiction that is usually written in prose, often in narrative format. This format tends to be more pointed than longer works of fiction, such as novellas and novels. Short story definitions based on length differ somewhat, even among professional writers, in part because...
by Mark Twain
Samuel Langhorne Clemens , better known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist...
, his first great success as a writer, bringing 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
A bartender is a person who serves beverages behind a counter in a bar, pub, tavern, or similar establishment. A bartender, in short, "tends the bar". The term barkeeper may carry a connotation of being the bar's owner...
, Simon Wheeler, at the Angels Hotel
The Angels Hotel in Angels Camp, California was the hotel where the author Mark Twain heard a story that he would later turn into his short story, "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County."...
in Angels Camp, California
Angels Camp, also known as City of Angels and formerly Angel's Camp, Angels, Angels City, Carson's Creek, and Clearlake, is the only incorporated city in Calaveras County, California, United States. The population was 3,835 at the 2010 census, up from 3,004 at the 2000 census...
, about the gambler Jim Smiley. Twain describes him: "If he even seen a straddle bug start to go anywheres, he is bet you how long it would take him to get to—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 Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" is also the title story of an 1867 collection of short stories by Mark Twain. Twain's first book, it collected 27 stories that were previously published in magazines and newspapers.
Twain first wrote the title short story at the request of his friend Artemus Ward, for inclusion in an upcoming book. Twain worked on two versions but neither was satisfactory to him—neither got around to describing the jumping frog contest. Ward pressed him again, but by the time Twain devised a version he was willing to submit, that book was already nearing publication, so Ward sent it instead to The Saturday Press
The Saturday Press was the name of a literary weekly newspaper, published in New York from 1858 to 1860 and again from 1865 to 1866, edited by Henry Clapp, Jr....
, where it appeared in the November 18, 1865 edition as "Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog". Twain's colorful story was immensely popular, and was soon printed in many different magazines and newspapers. Twain developed the idea further, and Bret Harte
Francis Bret Harte was an American author and poet, best remembered for his accounts of pioneering life in California.- Life and career :...
published this version in The Californian
The Californian was a San Francisco literary newspaper published weekly from May 28, 1864 until February 1, 1868.-History:The Californian was started in May 1864 by publishers P.J. Thomas, A.A. Stickney and John Collner. Charles Henry "Inigo" Webb was the first editor, and Fitz Hugh Ludlow was one...
on December 16; this time entitled "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County", and the man named Smiley was changed to Greeley.
Further popularity of the tale led Twain to use the story to anchor his own first book which appeared in 1867, with a first issue run of only 1,000 copies. In the book version, Twain changed Greeley back to Smiley. Later, after 1872, a version appeared which changed the title word "celebrated" to "notorious".
The narrator is sent by a friend on an errand to visit an old man, Simon Wheeler, to find an old acquaintance of his friend, Leonidas W. Smiley. The narrator finds Simon at the "decayed mining camp of Angel's" The narrator asks the fat, bald-headed man about Leonidas. Simon responds that he doesn't know a Leonidas Smiley, but he knows of a Jim Smiley. From there Simon tells the story of Jim.
Jim Smiley loves to bet. He bets on anything from the death of Parson Walker's wife to fights between his bulldog pup (named Andrew Jackson
Andrew Jackson was the seventh President of the United States . Based in frontier Tennessee, Jackson was a politician and army general who defeated the Creek Indians at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend , and the British at the Battle of New Orleans...
) and other dogs.
Once, Jim caught a frog and named it Dan'l Webster
Daniel Webster was a leading American statesman and senator from Massachusetts during the period leading up to the Civil War. He first rose to regional prominence through his defense of New England shipping interests...
. For three months, he trained the frog to jump high. At the end of those three months, the frog had in fact jumped higher than any other. Jim carried the frog around in a box. One day, a stranger to the town asks Jim what is in the box of his. Jim tells that in the box is a frog that can jump higher than any other frog in Calaveras county.
The stranger looks at the frog and responds that the frog doesn't look any different than the other frogs of Calaveras county, so he mustn't be the best. He tells Jim if he had a frog, he'd bet him $40 that the frog he had could beat Jim's.
Jim agrees to bet, and he gives the box to the stranger to hold while Jim was to catch another frog for the stranger. While Jim is catching the stranger's frog, the stranger pours lead shot into the frog's mouth.
When Jim comes back, they set the frogs up ready to begin. They aligned the frogs up evenly, and on the count of three let them loose. The freshly caught frog (the stranger's) jumped off, while Dan'l Webster didn't budge a bit.
Jim was surprised and disgusted. He gave the money to the stranger and the stranger giddily left. Jim wonders why Dan'l looks all of the sudden so plumpy. He takes the frog and tips him upside down. The frog coughed out handfuls of shot. Jim set the frog down, and chased after the stranger. But the stranger was long gone, and Jim never caught up to him.
At this point in the story, Wheeler is called away by someone on the front porch, and tells the narrator to keep seated. The narrator realizes that Jim Smiley isn't the least bit related to Leonidas W. Smiley, and starts walking away. Simon catches the narrator at the door just before he leaves, and starts telling him another story, about Jim's one-eyed cow. The narrator excuses himself and leaves.
Upon discovering a French
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...
translation of this story, Twain back-translated the story into English, word for word, retaining the French grammatical structure and syntax. He then published all three versions under the title "The Jumping Frog: in English, then in French, and then Clawed Back into a Civilized Language Once More by Patient, Unremunerated Toil".
In "Private History of the ‘Jumping Frog’ Story," he recounted some background to the tale—in particular, his surprise to find that the story bore a striking resemblance to an ancient Greek
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...
tale. He wrote:
Later, however, in November 1903, Twain noted:
But in his Note To The Thirteenth Edition (1907), among "hearty .. thanks for the help received", Prof. Sidgwick still failed to acknowledge his use of the Twain tale.
Lukas Foss was a German-born American composer, conductor, and pianist.-Music career:He was born Lukas Fuchs in Berlin, Germany in 1922. His father was the philosopher and scholar Martin Fuchs...
composed The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County
, an opera in two scenes with libretto by Jean Karsavina, based on Twain's story. The opera premiered on May 18, 1950, at Indiana University.
The story was also adapted as a scene in The Adventures of Mark Twain
The Adventures of Mark Twain, released in the UK as Comet Quest, is a 1986 American stop-motion animation film directed by Will Vinton . It received a wider theatrical release, still limited to seven major cities, in January 1986. It was released on DVD in January 2006...
, in which Mark Twain retells the story in short to Tom Sawyer
Thomas "Tom" Sawyer is the title character of the Mark Twain novel The Adventures of Tom Sawyer . He appears in three other novels by Twain: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn , Tom Sawyer Abroad , and Tom Sawyer, Detective .Sawyer also appears in at least three unfinished Twain works, Huck and Tom...
, Huck Finn
Huckleberry "Huck" Finn is a fictional character created by Mark Twain, who first appeared in the book The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and is the protagonist and narrator of its sequel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. He is 12 or 13 years old during the former and a year older at the time of the latter...
and Becky Thatcher.
The short-story collection
The short-story collection The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, and Other Sketches
, Twain's first book, contains twenty-seven short stories and sketches.
- "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County"
- "Aurelia's Unfortunate Young Man"
- "A Complaint about Correspondents, Dated in San Francisco"
- "Answers to Correspondents"
- "Among the Fenians"
- "The Story of the Bad Little Boy Who Didn't Come to Grief"
- "Curing a Cold"
- "An Inquiry about Insurances"
- "Literature in the Dry Diggings"
- "'After' Jenkins"
- "Lucretia Smith's Soldier"
- "The Killing of Julius Caesar 'Localized'"
- "An Item which the Editor Himself could not Understand"
- "Among the Spirits"
- "Brief Biographical Sketch of George Washington"
- "A Touching Story of George Washington's Boyhood"
- "A Page from a Californian Almanac"
- "Information for the Million"
- "The Launch of the Steamer Capital"
- "Origin of Illustrious Men"
- "Advice for Good Little Girls"
- "Concerning Chambermaids"
- "Remarkable Instances of Presence of Mind"
- "Honored as a Curiosity in Honolulu"
- "The Steed 'Oahu'"
- "A Strange Dream"
- "Short and Singular Rations"