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")
Published inKinder- und Hausmärchen, by the Brothers Grimm (1812)
The frog asks to be allowed to come into the castle – Illustration for "The Frog Prince" by Walter Crane 1874
The Frog Prince by Anne Anderson

"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] Folkorist Stith Thompson suggests that the story of the Frog King in the German tradition began with a 13th century literary tale written in Latin.[4]


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 the wall, while in modern versions the transformation is triggered by the princess kissing the frog.[5]

In other early versions, it was sufficient for the frog to spend the night on the princess' pillow.[6]

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.[7]


It is Aarne–Thompson type 440.[8] Other folktales similar to the Frog Prince are:[9]

  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.[10]
  2. "The Wonderful Frog" (W. Henry Jones and Lewis L. Kropf, Hungary).[11]
  3. "The Tale of the Queen Who Sought a Drink From a Certain Well" (J. F. Campbell, Scotland).
  4. The Hare's Bride.
  5. "The Well of the World's End"
  6. "The Paddo" (Robert Chambers, Scotland).
  7. "The Maiden and the Frog" (James Orchard Halliwell-Phillipps, England).
  8. "The Kind Stepdaughter and the Frog" (W. Henry Jones and Lewis L. Kropf, England).
  9. "The Frog Prince" (H. Parker, Sri Lanka).
  10. "A Frog for a Husband" (William Elliot Griffis, Korea).
  11. "The Toad Bridegroom" (Zong In-Sob, Korea).
  12. 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.

A possible parallel in Antiquity may be found in the story of Danaid Amymone, who went to fetch water in a jug, because of a drought season created by the gods. A satyr tried to force himself on her, but maritime deity Poseidon rescued her. It has been suggested that the amphibian suitor and the handsome prince may have been separate characters at first.[12]

In a Latvian tale, Little White Dog, a girl is tasked with getting water from a well without wetting the bucket. A little white dog appears and promises to help her if she accepts him as her bridegroom.[13]

Cultural legacy[edit]

  • The Frog (1908), directed by Segundo de Chomón, is the first film adaptation of "The Frog Prince".[14]
  • Stevie Smith's poem "The Frog Prince" (1966) suggests the thoughts of the prince as he waits for disenchantment.[15]
  • 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.[16]
  • 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 fairy tale, starring Martin Short, Christina Applegate and Sean Maguire as the title character. The prince is cursed to remain a frog until a maiden breaks his spell, giving him extreme longevity and allowing for the modern setting of the film.
  • 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.
  • A musical version of The Frog Prince, written by Dieter Stegmann and Alexander S. Bermange, was presented at the Amphitheater Park Schloss Philippsruhe in 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.[17]
  • The tale was adapted for German television as one of the episodes of fairy tale series Sechs auf einen Streichen ("Six at one Blow"), in the 2008 season.
  • 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.
  • Hidden object game series Dark Parables used the tale as basis for its second installment (The Exiled Prince).
  • Robert Coover wrote a "reimagined" version of the tale for The New Yorker in 2014.[18]
  • The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati’s Script Development Division adapted the one-act musical “Princess & Frog” in 2020. The stage musical is adapted from the full-length musical “Croaker” written by Jason Marks and Debra Clinton.

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. ^ Thompson, Stith. The Folktale. University of California Press. 1977. pp. 101-102, 179. ISBN 0-520-03537-2
  5. ^ Heidi Anne Heiner,"The Annotated Frog King"
  6. ^ Thompson, Stith. The Folktale. University of California Press. 1977. p. 102. ISBN 0-520-03537-2
  7. ^ Lily Owens, ed. (1981). The Complete Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales. p.3. Avenel Books. ISBN 0-517-336316
  8. ^ D. L. Ashliman, "Frog Kings: folktales of Aarne–Thompson–Uther type 440 about slimy suitors"
  9. ^ Clouston, W. A. "The Story of "The Frog Prince": Breton Variant, and Some Analogues." Folklore 1, no. 4 (1890): 493-506.
  10. ^ Works related to The Frog Prince at Wikisource
  11. ^ Works related to The Wonderful Frog at Wikisource
  12. ^ Anderson, Graham. Fairytale in the Ancient World. Routledge. 2000. pp. 176-178. ISBN 0-203-18007-0
  13. ^ Olcott, Frances Jenkins. Wonder tales from Baltic wizards: from the German and English. London, New York: Longman, Green and Co. 1928. pp. 154-158.
  14. ^ The Frog on IMDb
  15. ^ From her collection The Frog Prince and Other Poems, 1966 – also appears in Stevie Smith: A Selection, 1983.
  16. ^ "Transformations by Anne Sexton"
  17. ^ Events at Brown University (2008), Rhode Island State Council on the Arts. Accessed March 26, 2017.
  18. ^ The Frog Prince by Robert Coover

Further reading[edit]

  • Dench, Geoff (1994). The Frog, the Prince & the Problem of Men. Neanderthal Books. ISBN 978-0-9523529-0-7.
  • Livo, Norma J. "Variations on a Theme: Frogs." Language Arts 53, no. 2 (1976): 193-212.
  • Massey, Irving. "The Effortless in Art and Ethics: Meditations on "The Frog King, or Iron Henry"." The Georgia Review 37, no. 3 (1983): 640-58.
  • Ostmeier, Dorothee (2014). "Frogs and Salamanders as Agents of Romanticisms". MLN. 129 (3): 670–687. doi:10.1353/mln.2014.0049. ISSN 0026-7910. JSTOR 24463546.
  • PETTMAN, DOMINIC. "THE ANIMAL BRIDE AND HORNY TOADS." In Creaturely Love: How Desire Makes Us More and Less Than Human, 66-72. Minneapolis; London: University of Minnesota Press, 2017.
  • Siegel, David M.; McDaniel, Susan H. (1991). "The Frog Prince: Tale and toxicology". American Journal of Orthopsychiatry. 61 (4): 558–562. doi:10.1037/h0079283. ISSN 1939-0025. PMID 1746631.
  • Wolfgang Mieder (2014). ""You Have to Kiss a Lot of Frogs (Toads) Before You Meet Your Handsome Prince": From Fairy-Tale Motif to Modern Proverb". Marvels & Tales. 28 (1): 104–126. doi:10.13110/marvelstales.28.1.0104. JSTOR 10.13110/marvelstales.28.1.0104.
  • Zipes, Jack (2008). "What Makes a Repulsive Frog so Appealing: Memetics and Fairy Tales". Journal of Folklore Research. 45 (2): 109–143. doi:10.2979/JFR.2008.45.2.109. ISSN 0737-7037. JSTOR 40206971.

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