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The Frog Prince (The Frog King)

The Wolf and Seven Kids can be used an example of a relationship between legends and first fairy tales.

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The fairy tale also known as The Frog Prince and Iron Henry is a classic written by brothers Grimm.

In last decades it is mostly know by the name: Princess and the Frog, but if we want to understand the meanings behind all these titles, we should probably take some time to refresh our memories with a short summary of Frog Prince and then educate ourselves about amazing history of this famous story and its possible hidden meanings.

It is a well studied fairy tale, particularly popular at psychoanalysts, loaded with subconscious messages and none of its earliest version was never meant for children...

(All used images are Public Domain and Royalty Free)

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The Frog Prince summary

The story starts with a king's daughter playing with a golden ball near a fountain in the forest. The ball drops in the water and she starts crying.

Suddenly a frog comes out of the fountain and asks her why is she crying. She tells him about the ball and frog promises to find a golden ball for her. But he want something in exchange. The princess is willing to promise him everything: her jewels, her clothes, even her crown, but frog wants something different: frog wants to become her companion and friend, to share her food and drink and even her bed.

She promises all he wants but thinks the frog can't be serious. After all she is a princess and a frog is just a frog. When frog bring her a ball, she takes it and runs to the castle already forgetting about her obligation.

Later, at the time for dinner, frog knocks on the door demanding what she promised. She still doesn't want to keep her word but the king, her father, supports the frog.

So the princess with an open aversion shares her food and drink with a frog and finally carries him to her bedroom.

But...

The princess never took frog seriously!

Let's test your existing knowledge about The Frog King

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. What is the message of this fairy tale?
    • Don't judge by one's apperance.
    • Listen to your father.
    • Kepp your promise!
    • Be persistant and you'll be rewarded.
    • All above.

Answer Key

  1. All above.

Interpreting Your Score

If you got 0 correct answers: Please try again!

If you got 1 correct answer: Very good, please read on!

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In princess' room the final clash occurs. She puts frog in the corner and goes to bed. He insists to put him up or he will tell her father.

Than she becomes very angry and trashes him against the wall. In next moment instead of frog handsome prince appears in front of her.

They soon became man and wife. After that prince's servant comes with a carriage.

His name is Henry and we find out he was so sad when witch put a spell on his master to transform him in a frog, he bound three iron bands around his heart to protect it against breaking.

On the way all bands break one after another...

Read it on your Kindle!

This is digital edition of famous fairy tale illustrated by Walter Crane. He was He made a terrific job with this book.maybe the most influential illustrator of picture books in history.

Frog symbolism

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The most obvious and most important symbol in this fairy is certainly a frog.

In general frogs brings good, although it can be connected to witchcraft. On symbolic level it is widely used and is in most cases connected with fertility, new life and optimism. This probably comes from ancient times and observations of first scientists who noticed frogs appearing 'out of nothing' on first warm days. They didn't know about hibernation and transformation, so these animals made pretty magic impression.

In ancient Egypt frogs were extremely popular because they were seen in huge masses after the floods of the Nile. Because Nile was source of life for the whole nation frogs were associated with life and fertility.

Seeing a frog can be interpreted as prediction of new opportunities, it brings good luck and it is linked with all sorts of transformation. In many cultures this amphibian is an intermediary between worlds of living and dead. In Japan they use the same word for 'frog' and 'return'.

When we talk about frog symbolism in fairy tales we should note fairy tales come from oral tradition of folk who was strongly connected with nature. With observing the astonishing amount of eggs the frog lays the link between frogs and fertility was also a logic consequence.

Frog meaning in fairy tales is in many cases very simple: frog predicts pregnancy. Remember The Sleeping Beauty? It was the frog who brought the good news about newborn finally on her way!

In The Frog Prince (The Frog King) the role of the frog is slightly different. It is not only a messenger, it also wants to be a partner. Sharing food and drink and bed... Well, it can be easily interpreted as a tale about growing up, maturity and possibility of pregnancy. In older versions of this fairy tale this is even more obvious than in Grimm's.

Grimms changed the story into a moral about importance of a given word and keeping one's promises, but it is still mainly a story about responsibility which is - let-s face it - actually the favorite subject of brothers Grimm.

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More symbols' meanings...

The frog is not the only symbol in this fairy tale. I'll try to mention only the most obvious ones. Here we go:

- Golden ball: symbol of the vanishing childhood of the princess; when she loose it, she is so desperate she would give everything, even her crown to get it back.

Mythologists clearly see the sun in the ball and psychoanalysts explain it as pleasure, pure pleasure without responsibility, something only without a partner can be achieved.

- King: this one is easy. King in fairy tales in most times represents father (I will not go into depths of Freudian or Jungian approach) and always represents authority. His word is a law and he is the one who tells the princess she should keep her promise.

- Iron Henry: there are many interesting explanations of his role (I will present my original below), but some psychoanalysts think he represents mother. Proud mother who is happy and sad at the same time because she is losing a child. Prince and princess are getting married!

- We have more symbols: a forest (princess has to cross the forest to play with the ball and meet finally meet the frog), a castle (although the transformation of the frog could happen in any bedroom), a feast (not necessary representing appetite for food), a fairy tale number three (frog has three demands, Iron Henry three iron bands, in some versions there are three princesses, in others frog sleeps in her bed for three nights...), carriage by which they drive away in the ending scene (carriage can represent uterus) and many others.

But this should be enough for our little trip into depths of the story!

- Fountain: it is a symbol of purification and rebirth. In this case this is more related to the frog than the princess. There are also versions of the Frog King where water is unclear until the princess makes her promise.

Fountain can represent life force (this is true for a well too), inspiration and delight. Fountain of life is a known element in many fairy tales and it is also incorporated in Christianity through baptism. Water symbolism is always closely related to life.

Princess and frog

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- there are many possible explanations of the basic elements

- to sum it up story talks about importance of given word and responsibility in human relations, especially among members of different genders

- the target audience are adolescents

The changes brothers Grimm made

It was the first story in first edition of Grimm's Household and Children Fairy Tales in 1812. Before we got the 'final' version in 1857 The Frog King came through many changes, mostly to improve the narration style, but there was also a lot of censorship. These can be read here:

http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/frogking.html

Do you believe promises should be taken seriously?

Source: Clker.com, PD licence

Source: Clker.com, PD licence

Source: Wikipedia.org, PD licence

Source: Wikipedia.org, PD licence

Different versions

Grimms' is not the most violent version!

There are many known versions of the Frog Prince. And there are Frog Princesses too.

There are versions with three princesses and without ball, there are version with deadly sick king who needs water to survive and only a frog with magic powers can provide it and there is also a variant from Scotland where the girls has to behead the frog before he transform into a prince.

We can also find a tale where the role of the frog is played by a snake and where the transformation of the beast into human being can happen only after burning the skin (groom has human form by night but he dresses into a skin in the morning), what reminds us of the myth about Cupid and Psyche.

None of known versions explains why the prince was enchanted. None of them involved the kiss.

Iron Henry is not present here, everybody's just fine without him

For more info about Anne Anderson, just click!

For more info about Anne Anderson, just click!

Source: Artpassions.net, PD licence

Source: Artpassions.net, PD licence

The Iron Henry

Who needs him?

Iron Henry is from dramatic point of view totally unnecessary. All characters in the fairy tale fulfilled their missions, we have a happy ending and there is really no need for the faithful servant, who is pretty unconvincing (if he was so faithful he probably shouldn't leave his master alone in a fountain, right?).

There is a psychoanalytic explanation about his role: he represents the missing mother,as we already mentioned above. With him the transformation of all members of traditional family should be completed.

Maybe, but from the narration point (and Grimms were not amateurs in this field) the ending with Iron Henry just becomes more boring. And we know from many fairy tales from their collection the didn't really bother if one of parents was absent.

Source: Openclipart.org, PD licence

Source: Openclipart.org, PD licence

So here is my little theory: