The Frog Prince

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(by Maxfield Parrish)


"The Frog Prince" (also known as "The Frog King" or "Iron Henry") is an old German Fairy Tale recorded by The Brothers Grimm.

The story begins when a young princess loses her golden ball down a well and a nearby frog offers to retrieve it for her. In return, however, he demands that she keep him near her as a close companion, and share her food, her drink, and her bed with him. The princess is repulsed by the frog, but, reasoning that he has no way to enforce the promise, agrees. The frog returns her ball, and she runs home without him.

Later that night, the frog appears at the castle, and the king insists on the princess keeping her promise to him. Come night-time, however, the princess refuses to let the frog sleep on her pillow, and angrily throws him against the wall. To her shock, what lands is a handsome (and very forgiving) prince, and the two of them fall in love and marry.

As they ride off into the sunset, they hear three loud cracks from outside the coach - it was the prince's faithful servant, Henry, who had had his heart bound with iron straps to keep it from breaking when the prince was enchanted. The cracking sounds were the bonds breaking as the man's heart swelled with happiness.

The iconic True Love's Kiss that replaces the act of violence in breaking the spell seems to be an artifact of translations into English, and has completely replaced the earlier versions in popular culture, even in Germany. The ending with the faithful servant is also frequently left out.

The princess's violence may be a throwback to other animal-bridegroom type stories in which violent acts (such as beheading the animal or burning its skin) were the only way to break the spell. Removed from this context, though, it gives the story a Broken Aesop; the moral up until that point has been that you must keep your promises. In abusing the frog, the princess is breaking her promise with a vengeance, leading the reader to wonder why she deserves the handsome prince. Versions in which she kisses him avert this problem.

The Distaff Counterpart "The Frog Princess" is also a widespread tale.

A lesser-known Norwegian variant features trolls and other mythical beasts who punish the girl and send her on a quest for disobeying her enchanted animal companion. Contrast Persephone; and other fantastic-bridegroom myths, wherein the original Aesop was made in part to help women cope with very difficult pre-modern life prospects.

The Frog Prince and its variations contain examples of the following tropes: