The author of Frog and Toad and his most famous creations were gay, and we’re pretty sure you’re rethinking your entire childhood.
The New Yorker profiled author Arnold Lobel’s young days in New York, first working in the advertising industry before crossing over into illustrating and writing children’s books, then creating the Frog and Toad series around the time he met his wife Anita Kempler.
New Yorker writer Colin Stokes had a conversation with Lobel’s adult daughter Adrianne, and she thinks there was more to Frog and Toad than meets the eye:
Adrianne suspects that there’s another dimension to the series’s sustained popularity. Frog and Toad are “of the same sex, and they love each other,” she told me. “It was quite ahead of its time in that respect.” In 1974, four years after the first book in the series was published, Lobel came out to his family as gay. “I think ‘Frog and Toad’ really was the beginning of him coming out.”
Further examination of some of the Frog and Toad stories proves her theory may not be so farfetched:
Take, for instance, the story “Alone,” from “Days with Frog and Toad,” in which Toad goes to Frog’s house to visit him but finds a note on the door that reads, “Dear Toad, I am not at home. I went out. I want to be alone.” Toad begins to experience a little crisis: “Frog has me for a friend. Why does he want to be alone?” Toad discovers that Frog is sitting and thinking on an island far from the shore, and he worries that Frog isn’t happy and doesn’t want to see him anymore.
But, when they meet (after Toad falls headfirst into the water and soaks the sandwiches he’s made for lunch), Frog says, “I am happy. I am very happy. This morning when I woke up I felt good because the sun was shining. I felt good because I was a frog. And I felt good because I have you for a friend. I wanted to be alone. I wanted to think about how fine everything is.” In the end, the trials of their relationship are worth bearing, because Frog and Toad are most content when they’re together.
Lobel died from AIDS-related complications in 1987, and Adrianne laments not only his death, but what it took from literature:
“He was only fifty-four, think of all the stories we missed.”
The piece is a great read, and we highly recommend you check it out.
Your move, Peppermint Patty.