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“Oh! A horrid toad!” “Oh! A nasty princess!” – Our princess and titular amphibian upon first meeting
Ah, our very first episode of Faerie Tale Theatre. Where to begin…the beginning, obviously.
The story of the Frog Prince is one of a long line of folktales sharing the concept of an animal bride or bridegroom. The plot of these stories usually goes likes this:
- The protagonist is given an impossible task, must be married before a certain deadline, or just needs something done that they can’t be bothered to do themselves.
- A talking animal appears to offer aid in exchange for marriage. The protagonist agrees, even if they’re not exactly onboard with the concept of bestiality.
- Surprise! The animal was really a gorgeous human under a spell the whole time! The protagonist is rewarded for not letting appearances deceive them and they all live happily ever after.
You’ll find stories with this motif all over the world with the animal in question ranging from cats, dogs and mice to monkeys, wolves, bears, and of course, frogs. The oldest known recording of The Frog Prince comes from a Latin translation of a German tale dating back to the 13th century, though some sources say a version from Scotland was what made its way to the Brothers Grimm’s ears. Some variations, such as “The Well at the World’s End” have the royal amphibian be part of a larger story. In fact, the Brothers Grimm retelling comes with the alternate title of “Iron Henry”, named after a servant that appears in the last few sentences who previously had his heart bound with iron bands so it wouldn’t break over the Prince’s fate (that in and of itself sounds like a great side story, why is this guy always left out of the adaptations?)
The Frog Prince holds an important place in the fairy tale pantheon, no doubt thanks to the iconic image of a beautiful woman kissing a frog in the hopes of finding a handsome prince – something which was a much later addition to the story. The original ending in the Brothers Grimm version does NOT in fact have the princess break the spell with a kiss, but by hurling the frog against the wall in a fit of anger! Later editions made by the Grimms changed it to what we know today; it’s not clear why, though considering the brothers’ penchant for patriarchal rewrites in their later years, it may be to give the moral that women will be rewarded if they are obedient and docile and do everything that’s demanded of them even if it crosses personal boundaries. If you don’t want to give this story a chance on that basis, I completely understand, but what if I were to tell you that in the right hands, The Tale of the Frog Prince is a will-they-won’t-they battle of the sexes with witty banter bordering on raunchy but still fun for the whole family?