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The Frog King Commentary

Another shape-shifter tale in which a frog becomes a king. The princess who has a part in this transformation is surprisingly cruel to the insistent little frog with which she'd made a pact. I have chosen not to make her any less so in my version, for I think if I was a young lady and a frog was insisting I keep my promise to let it sup and sleep with me, I might also try to find a way to get out of the agreement.

Not only that but I have wondered, with the character of "Iron Henry" appearing at the end, if there may not have been built in an allusion to tyranny, in the figure of the frog, the servant Iron Henry becoming free with the death of the frog. Though that servant is given as being only heartbroken over the curse placed on his master, the Scottish version of the tale especially points out how demanding the frog is. Yes, the careless princess makes a deal with the frog that she will make him her partner if he restores the golden ball to her, and the path that many tales take via this framework leads one to automatically sympathize with the frog, to accept through implicit moralizing that the princess is a bad one for not keeping her part of the deal, but the frog's nature is one of incessant, unrelenting, croaking oppressiveness, isn't it? And rather than this being a Beauty and the Beast tale where the heroine realizes the inner goodness of the frog and the frog becomes a handsome prince, no, this heroine instead gets fed up and kills the frog. And only then is all well.

Tales are always open to multi-interpretations and one could instead see in this a sexual initiation story down the line of demanding frog becomes wonderful prince on the wedding night, but my preference is to lend an ear to Iron Henry. He is used as a kind of coda in which the story is replayed. The golden sphere becomes the golden carriage, and the sound of the breaking of the bands of iron in which Henry was bound I think is suggestive that the golden sphere of the princess (again, a careless sort of rule, the sphere in royal terms symbolizing rule) is to be identified with the tyranny of the frog, and just as the frog is busted on the wall, and the golden sphere becomes inconsequential and evaporates so that it disappears from the story at that point, so do the iron bands go crack, crack, crack, liberating poor Henry.

On another level, the frog, in Egypt, was a symbol of generation, creation and resurrection, and this same symbolism passed over into early Christianity. This symbolism could be (maybe) imagined as glimpsed in the frog's ability to dive deep into the dark abyssmal waters of the pond and retrieve, for the princess, the golden sphere which she has lost.

Here is an offsite link to the tale as related by the Brothers Grimm


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