Frog and Toad, the beloved characters at the center of four 1970s children’s books by author and illustrator Arnold Lobel, may have been more than just very good friends.
Lobel’s daughter Adrianne – who illustrated two of the late author’s books after his death – suggested to The New Yorker that the pair may have been gay.
“[They are] of the same sex, and they love each other,” Adrianne said in the interview. “It was quite ahead of its time in that respect.”
Arnold came out to Adrianne and the rest of his family in 1974 – four years after the first book, Frog and Toad are Friends, was published. “I think ‘Frog and Toad’ really was the beginning of him coming out,” she explained.
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While Lobel – who suffered from AIDS – died of a heart attack in 1987 before ever confirming Adrianne’s claims, Arnold previously said he incorporated his personal life into his stories.
“You know, if an adult has an unhappy love affair, he writes about it,” he explained in a 1977 interview with the children s-book journal The Lion and the Unicorn. “Well, if I have an unhappy love affair, I have to somehow use all that pain and suffering but turn it into a work for children.”
The Frog and Toad books – published between 1970 and 1979 – are known for their depiction of the loving friendship between a frog and a toad. “In the end, the trials of their relationship are worth bearing,” New Yorker author Colin Stokes writes of one story, “because Frog and Toad are most content when they re together.”
In addition to Arnold’s books, Frog and Toad’s stories appeared in a 1980 claymation TV series and a 2003 Broadway musical A Year with Frog and Toad
The Jim Henson Company announced in 2012 that they’re working on an animated film adaptation of their tales.
While his life was cut short, Adrianne says she thought her father had many more stories to tell. “He was only fifty-four,” she said. “Think of all the stories we missed.”