Friday, May 24, 2013

The Frog Prince

The Frog Prince by the Brothers Grimm

Genre: Traditional Literature, Folklore, Fairy Tale (Children's)
I read this classic fairy tale in the Classics of Children’s Literature (6th Edition) by John W. Griffith and Charles H. Frey. Published by Pearson in Upper Saddle River, NJ in 2005.

My initial response to the Grimms’ The Frog Prince is that it clearly follows the mythos, or master plot, that structures many fairy tales. For instance, the Prince was victimized by a “wicked witch” and altered into a frog (p. 45). The Prince’s loyal servant was so distraught by the alteration that his heart had to be protected with iron belts—this information not only promotes a message of loyalty but also offers evidence to reinforce the wickedness of the witch. Her act was so ghastly it had dire repercussions beyond the Prince. The Prince, now a frog, spent his time in the woods, assumingly encountering adventures until the King’s daughter comes along to offer a resolution. The King also contents to the Prince marrying his daughter, which consequently results in the familiar fairy tale ending of a restructured family. In contrast, The Frog Prince is different from other fairy tales because the King had to order his daughter to hold true to her word and free the Prince from his altered state. 

The Grimms’ must have had some purpose or alternative function in mind when writing the story in this way. To better understand this, I asked myself, how would the story have been different if the King did not influence his daughter? What if we deleted the lines: “that which thou hast promised must thou perform,” “so go now and let him in,” and “That which thou hast promised in thy time of necessity, must thou perform.” (p. 45)? I have a sneaky suspicion that the daughter would have left the Prince (the frog) sitting on the doorstep and she would have been punished in some monstrous way for her deception. The King’s influence was critical in the movement of the plot and ultimately led to the resolution being possible.

Knowing the Grimms’ lost their father early in life[1], it could be they sought to make the King (a father) a hero. Especially due to the fact of the daughter being the youngest. In fairy tales, the youngest is typically disadvantaged and despite her grand beauty, she lacked understanding and wisdom and her struggle with this ethical dilemma might not have been overcome without intervention from the father. She needed a hero and the King served that function. It could also be that the King serves as a divine force or hero for the Prince, in addition to his influence over his daughter. The Prince overcomes his frog state because of the daughter learning about integrity and setting aside her own discomfort to repay a good deed. 

The King’s influence corresponds to the influence the Cat held in Perrault’s The Master Cat, or Puss in Boots. The youngest son would not have been able to overcome his misfortune without the cleverness of the Cat to manipulate others and help the youngest son achieve a higher status in society. However, there is an obvious difference here. In The Frog Prince, the King was intervening to prevent deception and in The Master Cat, the Cat was intervening to assert deception. The Brothers Grimm seem to be more meticulous in ensuring that their tales taught values, while Perrault’s emphasis might have been more directed on the art of storytelling. However, I do prefer the Grimms’ stories and the language is very much a cause of that. 

*Picture citation:
*2nd Picture Citation:

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