The Gist: A princess drops her favourite golden ball down a well and a frog promises to retrieve it if the princess promises to take him home with her and let him in her bed. It turns out that the frog is actually a prince and he and the princess live happily ever after together.
I grew up with the kiss version of this story, so even though I have read the Grimm version several times, I still find it quite puzzling. What does it mean that the princess gets a happily ever after by throwing the frog violently against a wall? Is it simply that any passionate act, good or bad, against the frog will break his curse? Or perhaps the act of throwing the frog is symbolic of the princess asserting her independence. I like to believe that the curse is broken because in throwing the frog, the princess is finally being honest and honesty is a sign of maturity, which in turn shows her readiness for marriage. Either way, I think I will stick with the kiss version as it fits into the tale more logically; as Pullman says, the kiss is “now another piece of folklore itself” (8).
I’ve also found Faithful Heinrich to be an intriguing inclusion in the tale. His part in the story is minimal and yet he is worthy of being included in the title. It speaks volumes for how highly society valued faithfulness.
What I enjoyed most about this tale though was the opening line: “In olden times, when wishing still helped…” (Zipes 2). This simple opening holds a weighty, albeit depressing, message about the difference between the age of the tale and the age in which we live (or at least the age in which it was written). It tells the reader that this tale takes place when there was magic, something that no longer exists in our world. It is a beautiful line…
Which version of “The Frog King” tale do you prefer?
For more information about this feature, check out the “A Grimm Year” main page.
Looking for a modern take on “The Frog King”? Check out Kiss Me! (I’m a Prince!)
- The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm, 3rd Edition translated by Jack Zipes (Bantam, 2003)
- Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm by Philip Pullman (Viking)