Frogs are worshipped for bringing nourishing rains, but blamed for devastating floods. Turtles are admired for their wisdom and longevity, but ridiculed for their sluggish and cowardly behavior. Snakes are respected for their ability to heal and restore life, but despised as symbols of evil. Lizards are revered as beneficent guardian spirits, but feared as the Devil himself.
In this ode to toads and snakes, newts and tuatara, crocodiles and tortoises, herpetologist and science writer Marty Crump explores folklore across the world and throughout time. From creation myths to trickster tales; from associations with fertility and rebirth to fire and rain; and from the use of herps in folk medicines and magic, as food, pets, and gods, to their roles in literature, visual art, music, and dance, Crump reveals both our love and hatred of amphibians and reptiles – and their perceived power. In a world replete with home terrariums at the same time that we're fighting invasive cane toads, and where public attitudes often dictate that the cute and cuddly receive conservation priority over the slimy and venomous, she shows how our complex and conflicting perceptions threaten the conservation of these ecologically vital animals.
Sumptuously illustrated, Eye of Newt and Toe of Frog, Adder's Fork and Lizard's Leg is a beautiful and enthralling brew of natural history and folklore, sobering science and humor, that leaves us with one irrefutable lesson: love herps. Warts, scales, and all.
1 Talk to the Animals
2 In the Beginning: Creation Myths
3 Snakes: “Good” or “Evil”?
4 Songs and Thunderbolts: Frogs, Snakes, and Rain
5 A Second Chance: Frogs, Snakes, and Rebirth
6 Of Love, Morals, and Death: Amphibians and Reptiles in Folktales
7 The Lighter Side: Trickster Tales and “How” and “Why” Stories
8 Tailless Wonders, Naked Serpents, and Fire Lizards: Perception of Amphibians through Folk Beliefs
9 Marshmallow-Eaters, Methuselahs, Spiny-Backs, Were-Lizards, and Protectors: Perception of Reptiles through Folk Beliefs
10 Move Aside, Viagra: Reptile Sexual Power
11 Pick Your Poison—Blood, Venom, Skin, or Bones: Folk Medicines
12 Like a Hell-Broth, Boil and Bubble: Witchcraft and Magic
13 “How ’bout Them Toad Suckers”: Other Ways We Use Amphibians and Reptiles
14 Singing Tuatara from Their Holes
Marty Crump is currently an adjunct professor of biology at Utah State and Northern Arizona Universities; she has been a herpetologist for more than forty-five years. For at least that long, she 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, and Sexy Orchids Make Lousy Lovers, all published by the University of Chicago Press, as well as the recent award-winning children's book, The Mystery of Darwin's Frog. She lives in Logan, UT.
"Crump looks back on the ways in which humans around the world have historically understood reptiles, using as a framework James Serpell's model: that human perceptions of a species are based upon emotional reactions to it combined with a sense of whether it is beneficial or harmful. To address the emotional factors, she moves through ancient, aboriginal, and modern cultures, thematically sorting myths and stories into themes, including water and creation; good and evil; and transformation, resurrection, and renewal. As she examines utility, Crump surveys traditional Chinese medicine (which often uses animal parts), Western pharmaceuticals, folk magic, and culinary uses for amphibians. She concludes with musings on the ethics of whether researchers should try to debunk myths in the hope of saving particular species, making more explicit her message that fear of these species means the world risks losing them."
– Publishers Weekly
"In borrowing a line from the witches' spell for the title of her latest book, herpetologist Crump acknowledges up front that the amphibians she studies don't exactly enjoy the same warm reputation among humans that most furry mammals do. However, as Crump sifts through the various legends and fables about reptiles in this fascinating tour of amphibian folklore, she emphasizes that feelings and judgments about certain animals depend on which cultures are making the evaluations [...] Well-crafted chapters also cover such juicy topics as reptile-based magic, sexual prowess, and folk medicines. The result is a sumptuously illustrated, informative, and entertaining volume."
– Carl Hays, Booklist
"A scholarly, provocative, and compelling account of our relationships with amphibians and reptiles. These interactions are extremely diverse, both highly positive and severely negative, and by helping us understand them, Eye of Newt will play a critical role in resolving contentious but core issues in conservation. Driven by fine, clear, evocative writing – the more so for Crump's personal stories interwoven with those of her granddaughter and her late friend, the great writer-naturalist Archie Carr – and Fenolio's always outstanding images, Eye of Newt is engaging, trustworthy, and will be of widespread interest both to amphibian and reptile enthusiasts and professional herpetologists. Wonderful and unusual, emotionally and intellectually captivating, this is an important, timely book – and the ending is superb."
– Harry W. Greene, Cornell University, author of Snakes: The Evolution of Mystery in Nature and Tracks and Shadows: Field Biology as Art
"When I read Crump's work, I think of an Alison Krauss album, or sometimes Judy Collins or Susan Werner; every note perfect and flowing, professional – talented and trained. Here, Crump thoroughly explores the folklore and mythology surrounding amphibians and reptiles: frogs, salamanders, caecilians, turtles, snakes, and lizards. There is nothing like Eye of Newt out there. A great book."
– Michael J. Lannoo, Indiana University School of Medicine, author of Malformed Frogs and Leopold's Shack and Ricketts's Lab
"Accomplished scientist and author Marty Crump has distilled a lifetime avocation studying amphibian and reptilian folklore into a masterwork. Eye of Newt not only instantly becomes the authoritative source on lore and mythology, but also transforms it into a compelling argument for conservation. Without these species our culture would be forever impoverished. No reader will ever look at one of these animals the same again."
– Thomas E. Lovejoy, George Mason University, 2012 Blue Planet Prize Laureate