Once upon a time there was a little toad with enormous wings.

He was the envy of everyone, and never agreed with anyone about that. Frogs would say to him, "Gee, I wish I could fly like you." And the toad would say "Fly like me? With these stupid things? I have to climb a tree just so I can launch into the air!"

Once there was a swan that said, "Oh, your wings are so beautiful, you must be so proud." And the toad said, "Beautiful? With these wings? I flop all around the sky! I look like a fool!"

And another time there was a turtle that said, "Gee, I wonder what it would be like to fly." And the toad said, "Yeah? I wonder what it would be like to swim gracefully. These awful wings make it impossible for me to submerge, and they take forever to dry out, so the only time I even want to swim is when I'm being chased by a fox. I am so sad that I cannot do proper amphibian things."

And the turtle said, "Oh, well, if you want to lose the wings, maybe you could ask the witch?"

And the toad said, "You want me, a toad, to talk to a witch. Are you trying to get me tossed into a pot?"

And the turtle said, "Oh, well, if you want to lose the wings by having me nibble them off, I could do that."

"Excuse me I must be going." The toad hopped to a tree and onto the trunk, and hopped up as best he could, and found a promising branch. He leapt off and, flopping his great wings, made his way to a hut at the end of a long meadow, where smoke rose from its chimney. "Perhaps the witch is finished boiling her brew," said the toad. "Perhaps I shall be safe."

And so he landed in the dirt in front of the witch's hut, raising a cloud of dust with his enormous wings. The door of the hut banged open. "Who's there?" said the witch. "Who kicked up all this dust? What are two big wings doing in the middle of the yard? Why is there a little toad in between them?" But then she knelt and looked closer. "Hang on now. The wings are attached to a little toad."

"Much to my chagrin," said the toad.

"Then you're lucky," said the witch. "If you hadn't had the wings I would have tossed you in the pot straight away. But now I have to take them off first, so you get to live a bit longer, and maybe you can tell me why you're here." She grabbed the little toad and carried him inside.

"I just wanted to ask for your help," croaked the little toad, as the witch sharpened a knife. "I don't want these enormous wings."

"But they are so beautiful!" said the witch."Magnificent swan wings, why, I've never seen such perfect feathers! You must be the envy of everyone!"

"I don't want to be the envy of everyone," said the toad. "I want to be rid of this awful burden."

"Oh, said the witch. She picked up her knife again. "You want me to cut them off you, then?"

"No!" said the toad.

"Well make up your mind," said the witch.

"Look," said the toad, "I like flying, I really do. I like being in the air and catching bugs like those birds swooping about the barn do. I like swooping around, the few times I can manage it. I like being able to go to another pond if I don't like the one I'm at. I just want smaller wings, you see. Ones I can fold against my side easily, and will dry out more easily than these stupid feathers."

"Ah," said the witch. "You're in luck, then. I happen to have a few bat wings left over from my last brew. But what will you do for me in return, little toad? I never do anything for free, you know. Oh, I know! With your new wings, you will be so impressive to other frogs and toads that you can lead them straight to my door, and then I shall have many toad skins for my potions."

"Excuse me?" said the toad. "Betray my own kind, just like that? Turn traitor toward my fellow amphibians? How could I?"

"I've seen frogs eating smaller frogs," said the witch.

"That is a fair point," said the toad. "And if I were to actually lead any toad to you, it would be my neighbor Jerome. I do not like that fellow. But what do you need so many frogs and toads for anyway, eh? What makes them perfect for potions?"

"Not sure," said the witch. "The recipes just call for frog skins, that's as much as I know."

"What if I were to give you a little of the secretions from my back?" said the toad. "On a regular basis. And then you wouldn't even need to go out and hunt for toads anymore."

The witch thought and thought. "Hm. It could work. But if it doesn't, then in the pot you go!"

"Deal," said the toad.

So the witch cut off the toad's huge swan wings, and sewed on the wings of a bat, just the right size for the little toad. The toad was overjoyed, and he hopped right into the air, flapping all about the interior of the hut.

And then out the open window into the sky. "Ha!" said the toad to himself, "this was easy! How many people in this world have got away with cheating a witch?"

But then a dark shape blotted out the sun, and the toad barely managed to swoop out of the way of a pair of talons. He dove straight back down to the hut and flapped in through the window. "Good heavens", said the toad, "now that my wings are of a proper size, hawks can grab me!"

"The true price of your choice," said the witch. "I suppose you'll be wanting to say safe here with me, then."

The toad nodded, such as a toad can nod. Mostly by doing what resembles push-ups.

These days, if you ever have reason to visit the witch's hut (and I hope you do not), you will see many more toads about the field, and you may just spy a bat flapping around the rooftop by day, which is not really a bat at all. You will see two enormous swan wings hung on the outside of the front door, waiting for someone to come along who wants them.

But be warned that whatever you ask the witch for, she may let you suffer the full consequences of your request.

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