The Frog Princess

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Viktor Vasnetsov. The Frog Tsarevna. 1918

The Frog Princess is a fairy tale that exists in many versions from several countries.

Russian variants include the Frog Princess or Tsarevna Frog (Царевна Лягушка, Tsarevna Lyagushka) and also Vasilisa the Wise (Василиса Премудрая, Vasilisa Premudraya); Alexander Afanasyev collected variants in his Narodnye russkie skazki. Andrew Lang included an Italian variant titled The Frog in The Violet Fairy Book.[1] Italo Calvino included another Italian variant, from Piedmont, The Prince Who Married a Frog, in Italian Folktales;[2] he noted that the tale was common throughout Europe.[3] Georgios A. Megas included a Greek variant, The Enchanted Lake, in Folktales of Greece.[4]

It is classified as type 402, the animal bride, in the Aarne-Thompson index.[5] Another tale of this type is Doll i' the Grass.[6]

Synopsis[edit]

The king (or an old peasant woman, in Lang's version) sets his three sons to marry, and tests their chosen brides. The king tells them to shoot arrows and find their brides where the arrows land, and the youngest prince's arrow is picked up by a frog. The two older sons may already have girls picked out, but the youngest son -- Ivan Tsarevich in the Russian version—is at a loss until a friend offers to marry him. In Calvino's version, the princes use slings rather than bows and arrows. In the Greek version, the princes set out to find their brides one by one; the older two are already married by the time the third sets out. Another variation involves the sons chopping down trees and heading in the direction the fallen tree points in order to find their brides.[7]

The king assigns his three prospective daughters-in-law various tasks, such as spinning cloth and baking bread. In every task, the frog far outdoes the lazy brides-to-be of the older brothers. In some versions, she uses magic to accomplish the tasks, the other brides attempt to emulate her and cannot do the magic. Still, the young prince is ashamed of his froggy bride, until she is magically transformed into a princess.

In the Russian versions of the story, prince Ivan and his two older brothers shot arrows in different directions to find brides for themselves. The other brother's arrows landed in the houses of the daughters of an aristocratic and a wealthy merchant. Ivan's arrow landed in the mouth of a frog in a swamp, who turns into a princess at night. The Frog Princess is usually a beautiful, intelligent, friendly, skilled girl. She was obligated to spend 3 years in a frog's skin for disobeying her father (Koschei). Her final test may be to dance at the king's banquet. The Frog Princess having shed her skin, the prince then burns it, to her dismay. If he had waited, she would have been free, but he has lost her. He then sets out to find her again and meets up with Baba Yaga, whom he impresses with his spirit, demanding to know why she has not offered him hospitality. She may tell him that Koschei has his bride captive, and how to find the magic needle without which Koschei will be helpless, with that he rescues his bride. In other versions, his wife flies into Baba Yaga's hut as a bird. He catches her, she turns into a lizard, and he can not hold on. Baba Yaga rebukes him and sends him to her sister, there he fails again, but is sent to the third sister, where he catches her and no transformations break her free again.

In some versions of the story, the transformation is a reward for her good nature. In one version, she is transformed by witches for their amusement. Yet in another version, she is revealed to have been an enchanted princess all along.

Variants[edit]

  • This tale is closely related to Puddocky and its variants, in which a transformed frog helps the youngest prince after the king set three tasks to his sons to determine which one is best to rule.

Adaptations[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Andrew Lang, The Violet Fairy Book, "The Frog"
  2. ^ Italo Calvino, Italian Folktales p 438 ISBN 0-15-645489-0
  3. ^ Italo Calvino, Italian Folktales p 718 ISBN 0-15-645489-0
  4. ^ Georgias A. Megas, Folktales of Greece, p 49, University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London, 1970
  5. ^ Georgias A. Megas, Folktales of Greece, p 224, University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London, 1970
  6. ^ D. L. Ashliman, "Animal Brides: folktales of Aarne-Thompson type 402 and related stories"
  7. ^ Out of the Everywhere: New Tales for Canada, Jan Andrews