A Folk Tale from Germany
The Frog Prince
In olden times, there lived a king whose daughters were all beautiful, but the youngest was so beautiful that the sun itself, which has seen so much, was astonished whenever it shone in her face.
Close by the king’s castle lay a great dark forest, and under an old lime-tree in the forest was a well. One very warm day, this child went out into the forest and sat down by the side of the cool fountain, and when she was bored she took a golden ball, and threw it up on high and caught it, for this ball was her favorite plaything.
Now it so happened that on one occasion the princess’s golden ball did not fall into her little hand, but on to the ground beyond, and rolled straight into the water. The king’s daughter followed it with her eyes, but it vanished, and the well was deep, so deep that the bottom could not be seen. At this she began to cry, and cried louder and louder, and could not be comforted.
And as she cried, someone said to her, “What ails you, king’s daughter? You weep so that even a stone would show pity.”
She looked round to the side from whence the voice came, and saw a frog stretching forth its big, ugly head from the water.
“Ah, old water-splasher, is it you?” she asked, “I am weeping for my golden ball, which has fallen into the well.”
“Be quiet, and do not weep,” answered the frog, “I can help you, but what will you give me if I bring your plaything up again?”
“Whatever you will have, dear frog,” said she, “My clothes, my pearls and jewels, and even the golden crown which I am wearing.”
The frog answered, “I do not care for your clothes, your pearls and jewels, nor for your golden crown, but if you will love me and let me be your companion and play-fellow, and sit by you at your little table, and eat off your little golden plate, and drink out of your little cup, and sleep in your little bed – if you will promise me this I will go down below, and bring you your golden ball out of the water again.”
“Oh yes,” said she, “I promise you all you wish, if you will but bring me my ball back again.” But she thought, “How the silly frog does talk. All he does is to sit in the water with the other frogs, and croak. He can be no companion to any human being.” But the frog when he had received this promise, put his head into the water and sank down; and in a short while came swimming up again with the ball in his mouth, and threw it on the grass.
The king’s daughter was delighted to see her pretty plaything once more, and she picked it up, and ran away with it. “Wait, wait,” said the frog. “Take me with you. I can’t run as you can.” But it did not help him to scream his croak, croak, after her. She did not listen to it, but ran home and soon forgot the poor frog who was forced to go back into his well again.
The next day when she had seated herself at table with the king and all the courtiers, and was eating from her little golden plate, something came creeping splish, splash, splish, splash, up the marble staircase, and when it had splashed to the top step, it knocked at the door and cried, “Princess, youngest princess, open the door for me.”
She ran to see who was outside, but when she opened the door, there sat the frog in front of it. Then she slammed the door and, in great haste, sat down to dinner again, and was quite frightened. The king saw plainly that her heart was beating violently, and said, “My child, what are you so afraid of? Is there perchance a giant outside who wants to carry you away?”
“Ah, no,” replied she. “It is no giant but a disgusting frog. Yesterday as I was in the forest playing by the well, my golden ball fell into the water. And because I cried so, the frog brought it out again for me, and because he so insisted, I promised him he should be my companion, but I never thought he would be able to come out of his well. And now he is outside there, and wants to come in to our castle.”
In the meantime, the frog knocked a second time, and cried, “Princess, youngest princess, open the door for me. Do you not know what you said to me yesterday by the cool waters of the well? Princess, youngest princess, open the door for me.”
Then said the King, “That which you have promised must you perform. Go and let him in.”
She went and opened the door, and the frog hopped in and followed her, step by step, to her chair. There he sat and cried, “Lift me up beside you.”
She delayed until at last the king commanded her to do it. Once the frog was on the chair he wanted to be on the table, and when he was on the table he said, “Now, push your little golden plate nearer to me so that we may eat together.”
She slowly did this, but it was easy to see that she did not do it willingly. The frog enjoyed what he ate, but almost every mouthful she took choked her as she watched him in disgust. At length he said, “I have eaten and am satisfied, now I am tired, carry me into your little room and make your little silken bed ready, and we will both lie down and go to sleep.”
The king’s daughter began to cry, for she was afraid of the cold frog which she did not like to touch, and which was now to sleep in her pretty, clean little bed. But the king grew angry and said; “He who helped you when you were in trouble ought not afterwards to be despised by you.”
So she took hold of the frog with two fingers, carried him upstairs, and put him in a corner, but when she was in bed he crept to her bedside and said, “I am tired, I want to sleep as well as you, lift me up or I will tell your father.”
At this she was terribly angry, and took him up and threw him with all her might against the wall. “Now, will you be quiet, odious frog,” said she. But when he fell down he was no frog but a king’s son with kind and beautiful eyes. He, by her father’s insistence, was now her dear companion and husband. Then he told her how he had been bewitched by a wicked witch, and how no one could have delivered him from the well but herself, and that tomorrow they would go together to claim his father’s kingdom.
Then they went to sleep, and early the next morning when the sun awoke them, a carriage arrived, led by eight white horses, which had white ostrich feathers on their heads, and were harnessed with golden chains. The Frog Prince and his new Princess waved goodbye to her family and drove off to their new life together.
Submitted by the following German au pairs living in Massachusetts in 2004