Monday, June 20, 2016

Grimms' Frog King vs. Frog Prince

In the Grimms' first edition of Household Tales, from 1812, there were two versions of "Frog Prince", one in each volume. The first, "Frog King, or Iron Henry" is actually the version that we know today as "Frog Prince," and the original "Frog Prince" is now virtually unknown.

In "Frog King," there is one daughter who meets the frog after she loses her golden ball in a well, and promises him to eat off her plate and sleep in her bed in order to get it back (although she doesn't actually think she will have to follow through with that promise). Her father forces her to fulfill that promise, and after she gets frustrated, she lthrows the frog against a wall, and he transforms into a prince (ironically, not a King). The prince's friend Henry is then introduced (kind of randomly, IMO) as being so joyful his master is released from his enchantment, that he had ordered iron bands to be wrapped around his heart "to keep it from bursting with grief." As the prince and princess drive away, the breaking bands cause loud cracking noises.

In "Frog Prince," there are three daughters. The eldest discovers that a frog is making the water in their well murky. He offers to make it clear again if she will be his sweetheart, and she refuses. The same thing happens to the middle daughter, but the youngest decides making an empty promise is worth getting clear water. That night the frog comes to her, and of her own accord she reluctantly opens the door to him, and he sleeps at the foot of her bed. He does this for three nights; on the last she tells him she won't let him sleep there any more, but she wakes up to find he's transformed into a Prince, just because she allowed herself to be his sweetheart. They married and her sisters were jealous. This version was later excluded from subsequent editions of Grimms fairy tales.

Which version do you like better?

Also, for an interesting comparison of "Frog King" from the first to last edition, this page allows you to literally see each phrase/section side by side (way easier than trying to follow along in two separate books!)

(Also, thanks for those of you who have offered suggestions on our fairy tale summer reading post! Be sure to get in your suggestions if you haven't already!)

Images-Unknown artist (Please share in the comments if you know!), William R Symonds

Texts can be read in either of these books:
The Complete First Edition: The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm, translated and edited by Jack Zipes

Surlalune's Frog Prince and other Frog Tales from Around the World


  1. Very interesting & informative! This difference in the 2 heroines' attitude reminds me of Spanish folklorist Antonio R. Almodóvar's theory of the counter-tale: for each folktale, there was a tale which showed the opposite values or put the characters in the opposite situations (The Sleeping Beauty type tales vs. others where the Prince is the one who sleeps, for example). Frog King Could be Frog Prince's counter-Tale, for the girl's attitude is more friendly in one tale than in The other. Reminds me too of Spanish folktale "La Rana Encantada" (The Enchanted Frog), where a Prince is married to a frog, and that frog achieves a series of tasks aided by her friend, a mermaid (!) and, at the end this frog turns into a Princess! Like Grimm's spoiled princess, this Prince changes in his attitude towards his wive now that she's no more a frog, And they live happily for ever after.
    And all this Frog-Prince And Frog-Princess tales coud be seen as a counter-tale to Beauty and the Beast ás they present opposite values... BATB is about loving before it's loveable and #NoToSuperficiality but FrogKing seems to be about a relationship wage more superfitial...

    1. Yes, isn't it fascinating?? The more versions of fairy tales I read the more I realize there's no tried and true formula, and there are exceptions to pretty much every rule. And yes, Frog Tales are very interesting to compare and contrast with Beauty and the Beast

    2. That's it! Fairy tales are about diversity, and in my opinion lots of people get it wrong when they say "it's all about Good vs. evil", "it's all about heteropatriarchy and female submission" "it's all about violence and anarchy" "it's all about conservative values"... There are "common places" of course, but there is no Fairy Tale formula, each story has its won History, that's why Pied Piper Of Hammelin is diferent from Cinderella or the Baba Yaga tales, and that's why Fairy Tales are so enchanting, because their diversity of stories, of archetypes, of values.

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