Saturday, January 9, 2016

Marty Crump's "Eye of Newt and Toe of Frog, Adder's Fork and Lizard's Leg"

Marty (Martha L.) Crump is Adjunct Professor in Biology at Utah State University and at Northern Arizona University. She has been a herpetologist for more than 45 years, and for at least that long has been intrigued with the folklore of amphibians and reptiles. She is the author of In Search of the Golden Frog, Headless Males Make Great Lovers, Sexy Orchids Make Lousy Lovers, and Eye of Newt and Toe of Frog, Adder’s Fork and Lizard’s Leg. She is one of six co-authors on the textbook Herpetology, and a coauthor with James P. Collins on Extinction in Our Times: Global Amphibian Decline. For children, she has written Amphibians and Reptiles: An Introduction to Their Natural History and Conservation, Mysteries of the Komodo Dragon, and the award-winning The Mystery of Darwin’s Frog. She lives in Logan, Utah, with her husband Alan H. Savitzky and their long-haired dachshund, Conan.

Crump applied the “Page 99 Test” to Eye of Newt and Toe of Frog, Adder’s Fork and Lizard’s Leg and reported the following:
Eye of Newt and Toe of Frog, Adder’s Fork and Lizard’s Leg is the synthesis of my nearly 50 years’ worth of collecting folklore featuring amphibians and reptiles. I invite readers to embrace the spirits, dragons, demons, deities, heroes, and tricksters and to view the world of amphibians and reptiles through a different lens. My premise, distilled and formulated from folklore and from my career as a herpetologist and conservation biologist, is that our perceptions and attitudes about amphibians and reptiles matter a great deal for their conservation. We protect animals we admire, and we ignore those we dislike. Folklore provides a framework for understanding why we both respect and detest these animals, and why we almost always view them as powerful.

By page 99 of Eye of Newt, we have explored the role of amphibians and reptiles in creation myths, examined the contrasting views of snakes as good and evil, and read tales and folk beliefs associating frogs and snakes with rain and rebirth. Page 99 begins a new chapter with a quote from Sherman and Madge Minton’s book Venomous Reptiles, setting the stage for tales of love (and lust) that feature snakes in key roles:
“Men noticed very early that women regularly and mysteriously bled from their genitals in a manner that suggested they were snakebitten. However, women seemed to suffer few ill effects at such times, though they might reject males and wander off by themselves. Men suspected that their women might actually be consorting with snakes—perhaps sharing their magic secrets and practicing mystic rites of their own. They began to feel afraid of women and to develop a deep dread of menstrual blood.”
We learn that cultures from the Caribs, Cubeo, and Quechua of South America, to the Greeks and Italians, to the ancient Japanese have stories of snakes seducing and violating women. In contrast, some snake-human folktales are sentimental love stories. These tales reinforce the dual nature of human perceptions of snakes—fear versus respect.

Later chapters offer trickster tales, how and why stories, and folk beliefs about amphibians and reptiles. Several chapters discuss the various ways we use amphibians and reptiles, from harnessing their presumed sexual power to incorporating them in folk medicines and witchcraft. The final chapter addresses the importance of knowing why conservation is needed, who gets saved and who gets ignored, and how our perceptions of amphibians and reptiles influence the conservation of these animals.
Learn more about Eye of Newt and Toe of Frog, Adder's Fork and Lizard's Leg at the University of Chicago Press website.

Writers Read: Marty Crump.

--Marshal Zeringue