The Tale Of The Frog And The Prince  

Some stories, when told, last forever. The works of Shakespeare have lasted for centuries, and those of Chaucer have lasted even longer. A woman in Japan named Murasaki Shikibu may hold the right to call herself the world’s first ever novelist; anthologies of her poetry and prose were published in ancient Japan before the year 1,000. And yet if you asked the majority of people to tell any story by any of these great writers in full from start to finish, very few would be able to complete the task.

Despite that, there are stories which everyone, adult and child, knows by heart, and has done for most of their life. We call them fairytales, because they sit somewhere between classic storytelling and folklore. They’ve been handed down from parent to child, for generations, and in many cases we don’t know where they start, but they survive because there’s something wonderful about them; something that teaches us a little about ourselves. One of the very best of them is the tale of the frog and the prince.

What’s The Story?

Everybody has heard at least a version of this tale, although different spins put on it by different storytellers within your family may have changed it a little. In its classical form, it goes a little like this. Somewhere, in a magical land long ago and far away, a young and beautiful princess is playing with a ball in the grounds of her castle. The ball may or may not be golden, depending on who you believe. She’s deeply attached to this ball, and mourns its loss greatly, until a frog comes along and brings it back for her.

What happens next has changed down the years. In the classic and common version of the tale – for example, the one that Disney went with – the princess kisses the frog in gratitude, and the frog magically transforms into a handsome prince. It turns out the prince had been turned into a frog by a curse some time previously, and had been waiting for a kind hearted soul to kiss him and bring him back. In Victorian times, though, the thought of an unmarried princess kissing frogs was both immoral and unpalatable, so she merely brought the frog indoors, and he eventually became human after spending three nights on her pillow. It’s a good job she didn’t roll over in her sleep and squash him.

In any event, the princess and her enchanted prince live happily ever after, and there’s even a special bonus for the prince’s best friend Henry (or Harry; again, stories differ), whose heart was bound when the prince was cursed to prevent it from breaking in sadness. As the curse is broken, his heart swells with love, and the bonds break and give him freedom. To cut a long story short, everybody lives happily ever after.

Where Did It Come From?

Nearly everybody thinks that the tale of the frog and the prince is one of many fairytales from the Brothers Grimm. Nearly everybody is wrong. Although there is a version committed to paper by the Grimms, they didn’t come up with it. All they did was put their own dark twist on it. You’d be surprised how many fairytales have been sanitised by Disney to protect the horrible fates the Grimm Brothers gave to their most beloved characters. In the Grimm Brothers version of this story, the curse isn’t broken by a kiss. Instead, the princess is disgusted by the frog, and throws him at the wall, breaking the curse on impact and bringing the prince back to life quite violently. Now there’s gratitude for you.

Instead of being a Grimm Brothers invention, the story is understood to date all the way back to the times of Roman Empire; there’s a Roman text written by the courtier Petronius named ‘Satyricon’, in which there’s a reference to a frog turning into a prince, which suggests that the reference – and therefore the fairytale – were well known even then. Fairytales have usually existed as spoken stories long before they were ever committed to paper. That’s where they get their mythical status from.

Why Does It Endure?

The lasting and enduring appeal of the story continues to this day, and will likely outlive all of us. It’s been told and re-told a thousand times. We’ve already mentioned the Disney movie ‘The Princess and the Frog’, which was released in 2009 and given the full sweetened Disney animation treatment. The most recent live action version was ‘Prince Charming’, which starred Martin Short and Christina Applegate, and was released eight years earlier. Prior to that, it had been made as a movie in 1986, and even all the way back in 1908 as a very early silent cinema piece. The story has been committed to poetry, sung in opera, and also turned into interactive games. Gamblers can experience the story of the frog and the prince by playing the Enchanted Prince Slot Game. Children can live the Disney version of the tale in the Nintendo Wii game based on the movie. It exists all around us, in every media imaginable.

Why is it still here? Well, why is every fairy tale with us in some form? The very best fairy tales give children lessons that prepare them for adult life, without scaring or worrying them, dressed up in a way which will entertain them. When you strip away all the extra layers, and the talking frog, and the enchanted prince, then the message of the tale is a pretty easy one to understand. Don’t judge a book by its cover. Remember that true beauty comes from the inside. Give someone a chance to demonstrate their beauty and they will often shine. Put simply, it tells children that there is more to life than meets the eye.

We retain that knowledge into adulthood, even if we don’t often think about it. How often have you heard it says that a woman who’s getting married is done with ‘kissing frogs’? How many talk about waiting and wishing for their Prince Charming to appear? That’s the real charm of the stories when we’re told when we’re young; they stay with us, and they last forever.

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