The Frog Prince story or, Iron Henry is a fairy tale best known through the Brothers Grimm’s written version. Traditionally it is the first story in their collection, Children’s and Household Tales (Kinder und Hausmärchen, 1812). The popularity of the Grimm’s collected folk tales continues unabated. They are now available in more than 160 translations and have been adapted by filmmakers such as Lotte Reiniger and Walt Disney. The 2009 Disney film, The Princess and the Frog is loosely based on this story. It is a tale for old as well as young, important for its historical and literary context as well as a fantastic example of folkloric storytelling.
The Frog Prince Story
By the Brothers Grimm
In olden times, when to wish was to have, there lived a King whose daughters were all beautiful. But the youngest was so fair that the Sun himself, although he saw her often, was enchanted every time she came out into the sunshine.
Near the castle of this King was a large and gloomy forest, and in the midst grew an old linden-tree, beneath whose branches splashed a little fountain. When the days were very warm, the King’s youngest daughter ran off to the wood, and sat down by the side of the fountain. When she felt dull, she would often amuse herself by throwing a golden ball up in the air and catching it. This was her favourite form of play.
Now, one day it happened that this golden ball did not fall down into her hand, but on the grass; and then it rolled past her into the fountain. The child followed the ball with her eyes, but it disappeared beneath the water, which was so deep that no one could see to the bottom. Then she began to lament, and to cry louder and louder; and as she wailed, a voice called out, ‘Why do you weep, O Princess? Your tears would move even a stone to pity.’ She looked around to the spot from which the voice came, and saw a Frog stretching his fat ugly head out of the water.
‘Ah! you old water-paddler,’ said she, ‘was it you that spoke? I am crying for my golden ball, which has slipped into the water.’
‘Well, do not cry,’ answered the Frog; ‘I can tell you what to do. But what will you give me if I fetch your plaything up again?’
‘What will you have, dear Frog?’ said she. ‘My dresses, my pearls and jewels, or the golden crown that I wear?’
The Frog answered,—
‘Dresses, jewels, or golden crowns are not for me; but if you will love me, and let me be your companion and playmate, and sit at your table, and eat from your little gold plate, and drink out of your cup, and sleep in your little bed—if you will promise me all these, then will I dive down and fetch up your golden ball.’
‘Oh, I will promise you all,’ said she, ‘if you will only get me my ball.’
But she thought to herself, ‘What is the silly Frog croaking about? Let him stay in the water with his frogs; he cannot be company for any human being.’
The Frog, as soon as he had received her promise, drew his head under the water, and dived down. Presently he swam up again with the ball in his mouth, and threw it on the grass. The Princess was full of joy when she again saw her beautiful plaything; and, taking it up, she ran off immediately.
‘Stop I stop!’ cried the Frog; ‘take me with you. I cannot run as you can.’
But all his croaking was useless; although it was loud enough, she did not hear it, but, hastening home, soon forgot the poor Frog, who was obliged to leap back into the fountain.
The next day, when the Princess was sitting at table with her father and all his courtiers, and was eating from her little gold plate, something was heard coming up the marble stairs, splish-splash, splish-splash; and, when it arrived at the top, it knocked at the door, and a voice said, ‘Open the door, youngest daughter of the King, and let me in!’
So she rose and went to see who it was that called her; but, when she opened the door and caught sight of the Frog, she shut it again very quickly, and sat down at the table, looking very pale. The King saw that her heart was beating violently, and asked her if it was a giant come to fetch her away who stood at the door.
‘Oh, no!’ answered she; ‘it is no giant, but an ugly Frog.’
‘What does the Frog want with you?’ said the King.
‘Oh, dear father, when I was sitting yesterday playing by the fountain, my golden ball fell into the water, and this Frog fetched it up again because I cried so much: but first, I must tell you, he pressed me so much that I promised him that he should be my companion. I never thought that he could come out of the water; but somehow he has jumped out, and now he wants to come in here.’
At that moment there was another knock, and a voice said,—
Open the door.
Have you forgotten
Your promises made
At the fountain so clear
’Neath the lime-tree’s shade?
Open the door.’
Then the King said, ‘What you have promised, that you must do; go and let him in.’
So she went and opened the door, and the Frog hopped in after her right up to her chair: and, as soon as she was seated, the Frog said, ‘Take me up.’ She hesitated so long that at last the King ordered her to obey. As soon as the Frog sat on the chair, he jumped on to the table and said, ‘Now push your plate near me, that we may eat together.’ She did so, but, as every one saw, very unwillingly.
The Frog seemed, to relish his dinner, but every bit that the King’s daughter ate nearly choked her. At last the Frog said, ‘I am satisfied, and feel very tired; will you carry me upstairs now to our room, and make our bed ready that we may sleep?’
At this speech the Princess began to cry, for she was afraid of the cold Frog, and dared not touch him; and besides, he actually wanted to sleep in her beautiful, clean bed!
Her tears only made the King very angry, and he said, ‘He who helped you in the time of your trouble, must not now be despised.’ So she took the Frog up with two fingers, and put him in a corner of her room. But, as she lay in her bed, he crept up to it, and said, ‘I am so very tired that I shall sleep well; do take me up, or I will tell your father.’
This speech put her in a passion, and, catching up the Frog, she threw him with all her strength against the wall, saying angrily, ‘Now, will you be quiet, you ugly Frog?’
But, as he fell, he was changed from a frog into a handsome Prince with beautiful eyes, and after a little while he became, with her father’s consent, her dear companion and playmate. Then he told her how he had been changed by a wicked witch, and that no one but herself could have had the power to take him out of the fountain; and that on the morrow they would go together to his own kingdom.
The next morning, as soon as the sun rose, a carriage, drawn by eight beautiful horses, with white ostrich feathers on their heads, and golden bridles, drove up to the door of the palace, and behind the carriage stood the trusty Henry, the servant of the young Prince. When his master was changed into a frog, trusty Henry had grieved so much that he had bound three iron bands round his heart, for fear it should break with sorrow.
Now that the carriage was ready to carry the young Prince to his own country, the faithful Henry helped in the bride and bridegroom, and placed himself in the seat behind, full of joy at his master’s release. They had not gone far when the Prince heard a crack, as if something had broken behind the carriage; so he put his head out of the window and asked Henry what was broken.
‘It was not the carriage, my master,’ Henry answered quietly, ‘but a band which I bound round my heart when it was in grief because you were changed into a frog.’
Twice afterwards on the journey there was the same noise, and each time the Prince thought that it was some part of the carriage that had given way. But it was only the breaking of the bands which bound the heart of the trusty Henry, who was thenceforward free and happy.
Other Pook Press books featuring The Frog Prince story:
- Grimm’s Household Tales – Edited and Partly Translated Anew by Marian Edwardes – Illustrated by R. Anning Bell
- Fairy Tales From Grimm – Illustrated by Gordon Browne
- Little Tales From Grimm – Illustrated by Anne Anderson
- Grimm’s Fairy Tales – With twelve Illustrations by John Hassall
- Grimm’s Fairy Tales – Illustrated by Charles Folkard
- The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm – Illustrated by Arthur Rackham
- Tales From Grimm – Freely Translated and Illustrated by Wanda Gag
- The story of Hansel and Gretel – & Other Tales By The Brothers Grimm – Illustrated by Arthur Rackham
- Grimm’s Fairy Tales – Stories and Tales of Elves, Goblins and Fairies – with Louis Rhead Illustrations
- Grimm’s Fairy Tales – Selected and Illustrated by Elenore Abbott
- The Big Book of Fairy Tales – Illustrated by Charles Robinson
- Old, Old Fairy Tales – Illustrated by Anne Anderson