The Gnarco (NAR-coh), also called the "Jewel Frog", is a highly poisonous, brightly coloured little toad that is found in the Silvermarshes and other swamplands of Sarvonia. Unlike the frogs in this area, the Gnarco lives mostly in the trees and stumps that are scattered through the Wetholm, or Lower Marsh.
|Image description. The brightly coloured Gnarco Toad, also called the "Jewel Frog". Picture by Grunok.
Appearance. This little tree toad is only slightly bigger than the tiny kyck-kyck, with a body length of 1 ½ palmspans from nose to the tips of its back claws, but is much wider, for when squatting on a tree branch it seems to be nearly square in shape. It is not sleek and streamlined like the water frogs, but fat, warty skinned and pudgy-looking, with proportionately shorter hind legs. Gnarcos are very vividly and spectacularly coloured. The males have a bright teki red back which shades up to a very dark purple head and down into dark purple hind legs. The outer sides of the front legs are also red but the underbelly, inner thighs and underarm areas are a lovely fyrite pink with darker pink streaks marbled across it. The females are similarly coloured but they are paler over all and the colour is more subdued. Young Gnarcos are a bright pink all over, which gradually darkens into the adult colouration. In the sunlight, the Gnarco’s colours shimmer with iridescence. The males are bigger than the females and have a single sharp claw on the outer side of each hind foot. Unlike most frogs, Gnarcos have only three toes on each foot. Instead of claws, they have wide sticky pads on each toe, with which they cling to the bark of the trees they climb. They are surprisingly agile and can jump from limb to limb, but no further than about a fore or so.
Special Abilities. The Gnarco is special for its extremely poisonous skin. They are difficult to catch because when they are touched by a would-be predator, they immediately begin oozing a thick greenish liquid from the warty lumps on their skin. This liquid is poisonous and causes the victim to become extremely drowsy and lethargic, gradually losing control over the bodily functions and becoming unconscious. A heavy dose can be fatal; one Gnarco can release enough poison to kill an adult male human. Gnarcos do not begin to produce this poison until they reach maturity and begin to take on the red colouration of the adult frog. For some strange reason, the mullogs do not seem to be strongly affected by Gnarco poison. Some researchers suggest that they have a form of antidote or treatment for Gnarco poisoning, but this has not yet been verified.
Territory. Marshy swamps and boggy areas seem to be the preferred living conditions for these little toads, even though they live in dead trees. Many a Gnarco may be seen perched on a large squilla “shelf fungus” protruding from the trees in a swampy area. They have been observed mainly in the Silvermarshes and other warm, wet areas of Southern Sarvonia, but have been seen elsewhere on Caelereth as well. They are often spotted on the rocks of the Water Gate Falls between the upper and lower marshes, making them look as if they were studded with glowing jewels, hence the (inaccurate) name “Jewel Frog”.
Habitat/Behaviour. Though there may be a number of them in close quarters, Gnarcos are usually solitary animals. They move around a lot and do not stay in one location for any great period of time. During the winter, Gnarcos hibernate in burrows dug in the banks of the swamp ponds. When the last frost has melted, in late spring, they dig their way to the surface.
Like the frogs, Gnarcos have beautiful voices and can often be heard with the hollups and kyck-kycks in late spring and summer. They sound like birds chirping but slightly deeper toned.
Diet. The omnivorous Gnarco eats mostly bugs, tree bark/leaves, squillae, snails…like most frogs, it is not a fussy eater. They prefer the smaller flies to the big water beetles and butterflies, however. A Gnarco catches its prey by sitting on a rock or tree near the water and letting its long pink tongue hang out. The Gnarco’s saliva gives off the odour of rotting meat, which attracts insects. They land on the sticky tongue and are trapped.
Mating. Immediately after awakening from hibernation, the Gnarco seeks out a mate and they stay together for about a week, mating frequently during this time. Gnarcos mate back to back and the male releases his sperm into the female’s cloaca. After about six or seven days, the male and female go their separate ways. The female, instead of laying eggs, gives live birth to about 20-30 tiny bright pink baby toads. They do not go through a tadpole stage, like the frogs do, but are born resembling the adults. Each baby toad is about half a nailsbreadth wide and a nailsbreadth long from nose to toes. The baby toads slowly darken in colour until they attain the adult red and purple, in around 9-10 weeks. Many of them fall to predators at this time, since they are not yet poisonous.
Usages. It has only recently been discovered that the mullogs use the Gnarco’s poisonous skin to tip their hunting arrows and tridents. Some hobbits do too, but this is not a common practice in the Helmondshire. Santharian healers are currently experimenting with diluted Gnarco poison as a sleeping medicine and are quite excited about the potential they observe.
Myth/Lore. The hobbits tell a story about how Dalireen, the halfling "Child-Goddess" or Guardian of all Bards, Singers, Dancers, created the frogs, including the Gnarco, to be singers. But the Gnarcos were jealous of the other frogs’ more beautiful, sleek bodies and ashamed of their own lumpy ones and asked Dalireen for something special. So she painted them in beautiful bright colours. The Gnarcos were very happy, until they discovered that this made them very visible to predators and they were being all eaten up! Back they went to the little goddess, begging her again to make them smooth like the other frogs. But, “No!” said Dalireen, “Those lumps you despise shall be your protection!” And she made a magical move with her hand and all the Gnarcos became poisonous. After that they stopped complaining.
Information provided by Alysse the Likely