sandfrogs

Molly’s sandfrog shower in Gibraltar

 

Preparing to moderate with Michael Groden a reading session on a passage from “Penelope” at the 2013 Charleston Joyce Conference, I paused at Molly’s Gibraltar memory of “the sandfrog shower from Africa” (U 18.871). Gifford and Seidman offered “Meaning unknown”, but I immediately thought of the books on paraphenomena, the paranormal, and “anomalistics” by Charles Fort that I had devoured in my early teens. The Book of the Damned (1919) and Lo! (1931) were filled with reports of frogs raining down on a wide range of locations. To explain downpours of frogs, toads, and fish, Fort proposed their origin in interplanetary “super-geographical lakes and oceans”.1

    In May 1921, as Joyce was finishing Molly’s monologue, Reuters News Agency circulated the following story, picked up by the Observer and many other papers:

 A Shower of Frogs.
                                                                     Gibraltar, May 15.

During a thunderstorm yesterday a shower of frogs fell on the North front. Thousands of these small hopping creatures, unusual at the Rock, may be seen in the hedges, and have aroused much curiosity. Some seven years ago a similar phenomenon occurred and later a shower of sand covered everything with a pink deposit. – Reuter.

Observer (1921) 22 May, p. 13

Reports of raining frogs were, as Fort says, common; Holinshed reports a first-century Scottish sighting in the time of Agricola.2  The Gibraltar report is unusual, however, in including not only frogs but sand, like Molly’s “sandfrog shower” there. The year 1914 is far too late for Molly’s youth on Gibraltar, but it is likely that Joyce read of the strange occurrence and decided to forget about when it took place.

                                                                                                                                       Austin Briggs
Hamilton College


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1 Charles Fort, Book of the Damned (New York: Boni and Liveright, 1919), ch. 23, p. 269.
2 Raphael Holinshed, Historie of Scotland p. 56, in Chronicles Laste volume (1577).