Toads don't seem to be popular pets among students in Hogwarts. We only got to know of Neville Longbottom keeping one as a pet, and if we think about all the troubles this little toad caused to his owner, we may not be surprised of why students prefer other kind of pets! This month you will be learning about these animals, so let's get started!
Toads and Magic
Since ancient times, toads have been related to witches and wizards, and their reputation among muggles was unfavorable. Let’s go back to the 17th century, the years of witch-hunt in Scotland and England. People used to believe that witches had allies: demons disguised as animals, usually adopting the form of a toad, that were sent to commit all kind of evil things for their masters. Also, it was rumored that toads played an important role in the witches’ ceremony of initiation, in which they had to feed or kiss a toad to prove their loyalty to the devil. Some people even said that witches could transfigure into toads.
All these mistaken beliefs about witches led to many witch trials. People declared and assured that they had seen witches baptizing and giving names to their toads, dressing them with little scarlet or black velvet caps, and putting them sleigh-bells in their hind legs. All these cares that witches gave to their toads, made people believe that they were very attached to their pets, and thus, preferred not to hurt a toad, in case it was an ally of a witch. Better safe than sorry right?
But the relation between toads and witches has not always been that good!! Muggles also believed that toads that weren’t lucky enough to be adopted as pets were used as ingredients to prepare harmful potions (probably this belief was originated because toads produce a venom when they get scared) or to do witchcraft. They thought that if a witch wanted to finish an enemy, she could do it easily using a toad. She only had to baptize one of her toads with the name of her enemy and later kill the poor animal in a cruel way! Supposedly the witches’ enemy suffered the same exact death. Other beliefs said that witches made themselves invisible using a lotion made of toad’s saliva and thistle’s sap. Now we know that an Invisibility Cloak or a simple Disillusionment Charm will do the trick!!
As you can see, people were not only scared of witches, but of toads as well! Some muggles thought that by just looking at these small animals, they would faint or have convulsions. Other beliefs like they caused diseases to cattle, produced electric storms, or caused you warts by just touching them, made toads such a threatening and undesirable creature among muggles.
Toad Superstitions and Beliefs
Toad Stones: These stones are said to change their color or temperature when they sensed venom. They were popular during the Middle Ages, and were thought to come from the head of old toads. A way to check if a toad stone was real was to put it in front of a toad. If the toad jumped frontwards then the stone was authentic, on the other hand, if the toad turned around, it was false. Toad stones were also seen as talismans for happiness and victory in the battlefield, as well as amulets to protect houses and boats. They were said to have healing properties against bites and stings too!
If burglars carry a toad in their pockets, they will never get caught.
If you are getting married and a toad crosses your way, you and your partner will enjoy forever happiness.
If you eat a live toad first thing in the morning nothing worse will happen to you all day.
Kids who play with toads get warts.
If a horseman carries a toad bone in his pocket, he will get better control in his mount.
Care of your Toad
In this section we will learn some basic care for your toad.
Keep your toad in a quiet place.
Research what kind of habitat your toad is native to, and try to create an enclosure that resembles the characteristics of its habitat. Glass or plastic enclosures are recommended, it will allow you to look at your pet.
Toads can’t produce their own heat because they are cold blooded. The temperature of your toad will match the one of its environment. Determine the temperature at which your toad will live, and provide heat for it. To keep your pet healthy, daytime temperature must be accompanied by nightly temperature. Use a thermometer to know if your toad is living in a suitable temperature range.
The enclosure should have a pond or bowl where your toad can soak. Keep the water clean and change it every day.
Toads are carnivorous. Adult toads eat about three times per week, while young adults may eat daily.
The diet of a toad consists of insects like crickets, fruit flies or worms. Some toads may also eat mice or goldfish.
You can also feed your pet with vitamin or mineral powder, but it is better if it follows a correct diet. One option is to dust the insects that will be your toad’s food with one of these powders.
Check out these characteristics to know if your toad is healthy: It is not skinny and looks symmetrical on both sides of its body; its eyes are clean and bright; its skin is shiny, and free of excessive slime or cuts; it is active and will try to escape if it senses that you are trying to catch it.
Some toads may produce toxic materials from their skins. Don’t forget to wash your hands after you handle it!
Diseases: The following is a list of some diseases that toads can suffer that will help you to recognize symptons. Please consult your vet if your pet happens to be ill.
Burns: Damage caused in the skin of toads due to excessive heat. Usually found in specific areas of the toad, but in extreme cases it can cover the whole animal. Symptoms: Visible damage in the skin, that can go from red or grey coloration, to blistered areas.
Dehydration: Caused due to exposure to heat, lack of water, or low humidity. Symptoms: Dry and wrinkly skin, the toad looks thin.
Dropsy: Accumulation of serous fluid in the toad’s body, due to a metabolic disorder possibly caused by a bacterial infection. Symptoms: Abnormalities or softening of abdominal skin; bloating.
Fungal Infections: Invasions of fungus over the animal’s body, caused by fungus in water and enclosure, or dirty conditions. Symptoms: Skin color changes, ulceration of the skin, skin feels slimy, skin is coated in creamy or fuzzy material.
Internal Parasites: Parasites living in the toad’s internal organs. Parasites are usually transmitted from one animal to another, by direct or indirect contact, so an infected prey can transfer parasites to the toad. Symptoms: Often there are no symptoms, but some toads may experience decreased appetite, weight loss, or regurgitation.
Metabolic Bone Disease: Toad’s bones soften or break easily due to calcium deficiency, or inability to process calcium because of insufficient sunlight. Symptoms: swelling on the limbs, lethargy; if the jaw feels soft when squeezed, the bones may have become soft.
Minor Cuts: Minor skin damage caused by sharp or rough surfaces in the toad’s enclosure. Symptoms: visible cuts or scrapes.
Red Leg: Potentially deadly bacterial infection transmitted to the toad through spoiled food or other infected animals. Symptoms: reddening of the skin of the toad’s inner belly, lethargy, cloudy eyes, anorexia.
Toad Hall of Fame
Here I will only list some toads that I remember appearing in movies or books. There must be others jumping in the media and stories. Can you think of another one?
Trevor: Neville Longbottom’s pet toad in the Harry Potter series. It was given to him by his uncle Algie, when Neville was accepted in Hogwarts. Trevor has the ability of running away with great facility, causing his poor owner lots of problems and to be worried all the time!
The Toad: A female toad from a fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen. The story of a small toad that lives in a well but desires to adventure in the real world. Stay tuned for the extra credit, because it will be about this story.
The toad from Thumbelina: Another fairy tale written by Hans Christian Andersen. In this story, a toad kidnaps Thumbelina to marry her son, but fortunately she is rescued by some fishes which save her from that terrible fate. An animated movie was made based on this story. Directed by Don Bluth and Gary Goldman, in this adaptation, the son toad, called Grundel, develops his antagonist role more. Thumbelina is kidnapped by Mrs. Toad because she heard her singing and wanted her to join her band, “Singers de Espana”. When they arrive to the stream, Grundel hears Thumbelina singing and wants to marry her. When Thumbelina escapes, the toad becomes angry and goes to look for her.
Mr. Toad: One of the characters in the novel The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. Mr. Toad is rich and owner of Toad Hall. He is conceited, self-centered, and is interested in motor cars. This interest leads him to steal one motor car and crashing it, causing him to go to prison, from which he escaped. Disney made an adaptation of this story in The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, here, Mr. Toad’s complete name is J. Thaddeus Toad, Esq.
End of the lesson! Now you can do your assignment!
The Sorcerer's Companion by Allan Zola Kronzek and Elizabeth Kronzek.