The Frog Prince

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The Frog Prince
The Frog Prince by Paul Friedrich Meyerheim (1889)
Folk tale
NameThe Frog Prince
Also known asThe Frog Prince; or, Iron Henry
Aarne-Thompson groupingAT 440 ("The Frog King")
The frog asks to be allowed to come into the castle – Illustration for "The Frog Prince" by Walter Crane 1874

"The Frog Prince; or, Iron Henry" (German: Der Froschkönig oder der eiserne Heinrich, literally "The Frog King or the Iron Henry") is a fairy tale, best known through the Brothers Grimm's written version; traditionally it is the first story in their collection.


The story is best known through the Brothers Grimm' rendition. The Grimm Brothers included it in their 1812 edition of Kinder- und Hausmärchen, but there is an older moralistic version in the Grimms’ handwritten Ölenberg Manuscript from 1810. Jack Zipes noted in 2016 that the Grimms greatly treasured this tale, considering it to be one of the "oldest and most beautiful in German-speaking regions."[1] It has been postulated that parts may extend back until at least Roman times; an aspect of the story is referred to in Petronius's Satyricon, in which the character Trimalchio remarks that, "qui fuit rana nunc est rex" ("The man who was once a frog is now a king.").[2] Other scholars, however, argue that this may actually be a jab at the emperor Nero, who was often mockingly compared to a frog.[3]


In the tale, a spoiled princess reluctantly befriends the Frog Prince, whom she met after dropping a gold ball into a pond, and he retrieves it for her in exchange for her friendship. The Frog Prince magically transforms into a handsome prince. In the original Grimm version of the story the frog's spell was broken when the princess threw it against a wall in disgust, while in modern versions the transformation is triggered by the princess kissing the frog.[4]

In other early versions, it was sufficient for the frog to spend the night on the princess' pillow.[citation needed]

The frog prince also has a loyal servant named Henry (or Harry) who had three iron bands affixed around his heart to prevent it from breaking in his sadness over his master's curse. When the frog prince transforms into his human form Henry's overwhelming happiness causes all three bands to break, freeing his heart from its bonds.[5]

Similar folktales[edit]

It is Aarne–Thompson type 440.[6] Other folktales similar to the Frog Prince are:

  1. "The Frog Prince". The first English translation of the above tale. Edgar Taylor, the translator, not only changed the title, but altered the ending in a substantial and interesting manner.[7]
  2. "The Wonderful Frog" (W. Henry Jones and Lewis L. Kropf, Hungary).[8]
  3. "The Tale of the Queen Who Sought a Drink From a Certain Well" (J. F. Campbell, Scotland).
  4. "The Well of the World's End"
  5. "The Paddo" (Robert Chambers, Scotland).
  6. "The Maiden and the Frog" (James Orchard Halliwell-Phillipps, England).
  7. "The Kind Stepdaughter and the Frog" (W. Henry Jones and Lewis L. Kropf, England).
  8. "The Frog Prince" (H. Parker, Sri Lanka).
  9. "A Frog for a Husband" (William Elliot Griffis, Korea).
  10. "The Toad Bridegroom" (Zong In-Sob, Korea).
  11. In Puddocky (old word for toad), another German folk tale, and likewise "Tsarevna Lyagushka" (The Frog Princess), a Russian folk tale the male and female roles of the frog prince are reversed. Prince Ivan Tsarevitch discovers the enchanted female frog, who becomes Vasilisa the Wise, a sorceress.

Modern media[edit]

  • The Frog (1908), directed by Segundo de Chomón, is the first film adaptation of "The Frog Prince".[9]
  • Stevie Smith's poem "The Frog Prince" (1966) suggests the thoughts of the prince as he waits for disenchantment.[10]
  • The Frog Prince was a 1971 film starring Kermit the Frog, Trudy Young and Gordon Thomson.
  • Anne Sexton wrote an adaptation as a poem called "The Frog Prince" in her collection Transformations (1971), a book in which she re-envisions sixteen of the Grimms' fairy tales.[11]
  • Robin McKinley's 1981 collection of short stories The Door in the Hedge contains a version of the tale, entitled "The Princess and the Frog".
  • "The Tale of the Frog Prince" was the first story presented by Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre in 1982, with Robin Williams as the witty Frog Prince and Teri Garr as the vain princess.
  • The Frog Prince is a 1986 film starring John Paragon and Aileen Quinn.
  • "The Frog Prince" was one of the fairy tales featured in Grimm's Fairy Tale Classics in its Grimm Masterpiece Theater season (1987).
  • Linda Medley's graphic novel Castle Waiting from 1996 contains a character named Iron Henry or Iron Heinrich, who has 3 iron bands around his heart to repair the heartbreak he suffered when his son died of a fearful curse.
  • In the second episode of Adventures from the Book of Virtues (1996), Plato the Bison and Annie try to convince their friend Zach to tell his father the truth by telling him three stories, including one about "The Frog Prince." In this version, the title character was transformed into a frog for lying to a witch and breaking his promise. He is voiced by Jeff Bennett while the princess is voiced by Paige O'Hara.
  • Prince Charming is a 2001 film adaptation of the fairytale, starring Martin Short, Christina Applegate and Sean Maguire as the title character.As well as explaining how and why the titular Prince is transformed (as punishment for breaching a marital contract between kingdoms through adultery), unique to this story is the idea that the Conditions of the spell Meant that he would "remain"(i.e. live) as a frog until such time as a maiden broke his spell, which gave him extreme longevity and caused him to live for 500 years longer than he should have, Which accounts for the modern setting of the movie.
  • In Shrek 2, Fiona's father King Harold is secretly the frog prince. However, unlike the fairy tale where the princess meets him as a frog and her actions make him human, he becomes human through a deal with the Fairy Godmother and Fiona's mother has no idea about his true identity till the end of the film.
  • A musical version of The Frog Prince, written by Dieter Stegmann and Alexander S. Bermange, was presented at the Amphitheater Park Schloss Philippsruhe, Hanau, Germany as part of the Brothers Grimm Festival in 2005.[citation needed]
  • A chamber opera for children based upon The Frog Prince, written by Jacob A. Greenberg for Brown Opera Productions and the Providence Athenaeum, was performed in 2008.[12]
  • The Princess and the Frog, a 2009 Disney animated film, is loosely based on the 2002 novel The Frog Princess by E. D. Baker. The film starred Anika Noni Rose and Bruno Campos and was directed by Ron Clements and John Musker. The Frog Prince story itself is mentioned several times in the film, being read to Princess Tiana as a child and inspiring the spoiled Prince Naveen (who has been transformed into a frog) to suggest Tiana kiss him to break his spell. However, the kiss fails, turning her into a frog as well.
  • Robert Coover wrote a "reimagined" version of the tale for The New Yorker in 2014.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Zipes, Jack. (2016). The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm: The complete first edition. Princeton: Princeton University Press. p. 479. ISBN 978-0691173221.
  2. ^ Anderson, Graham (2002). Fairytale in the ancient world. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-23702-4. Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  3. ^ Brenck, Frederick A. (1998). Relighting the Souls: Studies in Plutarch, in Greek Literature, Religion, and Philosophy and in the New Testament Background. Stuttgart, Germany: Franz Steiner Verlag Stuttgart. p. 134. ISBN 3-515-07158-X. Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  4. ^ Heidi Anne Heiner,"The Annotated Frog King"
  5. ^ Lily Owens, ed. (1981). The Complete Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales. p.3. Avenel Books. ISBN 0-517-336316
  6. ^ D. L. Ashliman, "Frog Kings: folktales of Aarne–Thompson–Uther type 440 about slimy suitors"
  7. ^ Works related to The Frog Prince at Wikisource
  8. ^ Works related to The Wonderful Frog at Wikisource
  9. ^ The Frog on IMDb
  10. ^ From her collection The Frog Prince and Other Poems, 1966 – also appears in Stevie Smith: A Selection, 1983.
  11. ^ "Transformations by Anne Sexton"
  12. ^ Events at Brown University (2008), Rhode Island State Council on the Arts. Accessed March 26, 2017.
  13. ^ The Frog Prince by Robert Coover

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]