The Frog King, or Iron Henry (Grimm’s Fairy)


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In olden times when wishing still helped one, there lived a king

whose daughters were all beautiful, but the youngest was so beautiful

that the sun itself, which has seen so much, was astonished whenever

it shone in her face.  Close by the king’s castle lay a great dark

forest, and under an old lime-tree in the forest was a well, and when

the day was very warm, the king’s child went out into the forest and

sat down by the side of the cool fountain, and when she was bored she

took a golden ball, and threw it up on high and caught it, and this

ball was her favorite plaything.

 

Now it so happened that on one occasion the princess’s golden ball

did not fall into the little hand which she was holding up for it,

but on to the ground beyond, and rolled straight into the water.  The

king’s daughter followed it with her eyes, but it vanished, and the

well was deep, so deep that the bottom could not be seen.  At this

she began to cry, and cried louder and louder, and could not be

comforted.  And as she thus lamented someone said to her, “What ails

you, king’s daughter?  You weep so that even a stone would show pity.”

 

She looked round to the side from whence the voice came, and saw a

frog stretching forth its big, ugly head from the water.  “Ah, old

water-splasher, is it you,” she said, “I am weeping for my golden ball,

which has fallen into the well.”  “Be quiet, and do not weep,” answered

the frog, “I can help you, but what will you give me if I bring your

plaything up again?”  “Whatever you will have, dear frog,” said she, “My

clothes, my pearls and jewels, and even the golden crown which I am

wearing.”  The frog answered, “I do not care for your clothes, your

pearls and jewels, nor for your golden crown, but if you will love me

and let me be your companion and play-fellow, and sit by you at your

little table, and eat off your little golden plate, and drink out of

your little cup, and sleep in your little bed – if you will promise

me this I will go down below, and bring you your golden ball up

again.”

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“Oh yes,” said she, “I promise you all you wish, if you will but bring

me my ball back again.”  But she thought, “How the silly frog does

talk.  All he does is to sit in the water with the other frogs, and

croak.  He can be no companion to any human being.”

 

But the frog when he had received this promise, put his head into the

water and sank down; and in a short while came swimmming up again

with the ball in his mouth, and threw it on the grass.  The king’s

daughter was delighted to see her pretty plaything once more, and

picked it up, and ran away with it.  “Wait, wait,” said the frog.  “Take

me with you.  I can’t run as you can.”  But what did it avail him to

scream his croak, croak, after her, as loudly as he could.  She did

not listen to it, but ran home and soon forgot the poor frog, who was

forced to go back into his well again.

 

The next day when she had seated herself at table with the king and

all the courtiers, and was eating from her little golden plate,

something came creeping splish splash, splish splash, up the marble

staircase, and when it had got to the top, it knocked at the door and

cried, “Princess, youngest princess, open the door for me.”  She ran to

see who was outside, but when she opened the door, there sat the frog

in front of it.  Then she slammed the door to, in great haste, sat

down to dinner again, and was quite frightened.  The king saw plainly

that her heart was beating violently, and said, “My child, what are

you so afraid of?  Is there perchance a giant outside who wants to

carry you away?”  “Ah, no,” replied she.  “It is no giant but a disgusting

frog.”

 

“What does a frog want with you?”  “Ah, dear father, yesterday as I was

in the forest sitting by the well, playing, my golden ball fell into

the water.  And because I cried so, the frog brought it out again for

me, and because he so insisted, I promised him he should be my

companion, but I never thought he would be able to come out of his

water.  And now he is outside there, and wants to come in to me.”

 

In the meantime it knocked a second time, and cried,  “Princess,

youngest princess,  open the door for me,  do you not know what you

said to me yesterday by the cool waters of the well.  Princess,

youngest princess,  open the door for me.”

 

Then said the king, “That which you have promised must you perform.

Go and let him in.”  She went and opened the door, and the frog hopped

in and followed her, step by step, to her chair. There he sat and

cried, “Lift me up beside you.”  She delayed, until at last the king

commanded her to do it.  Once the frog was on the chair he wanted to

be on the table, and when he was on the table he said, “Now, push your

little golden plate nearer to me that we may eat together.”  She did

this, but it was easy to see that she did not do it willingly.  The

frog enjoyed what he ate, but almost every mouthful she took choked

her.  At length he said, “I have eaten and am satisfied, now I am

tired, carry me into your little room and make your little silken bed

ready, and we will both lie down and go to sleep.”

 

The king’s daughter began to cry, for she was afraid of the cold frog

which she did not like to touch, and which was now to sleep in her

pretty, clean little bed.  But the king grew angry and said, “He who

helped you when you were in trouble ought not afterwards to be

despised by you.”  So she took hold of the frog with two fingers,

carried him upstairs, and put him in a corner, but when she was in

bed he crept to her and said, “I am tired, I want to sleep as well as

you, lift me up or I will tell your father.”  At this she was terribly

angry, and took him up and threw him with all her might against the

wall.  “Now, will you be quiet, odious frog,” said she.  But when he

fell down he was no frog but a king’s son with kind and beautiful

eyes.  He by her father’s will was now her dear companion and

husband.  Then he told her how he had been bewitched by a wicked

witch, and how no one could have delivered him from the well but

herself, and that to-morrow they would go together into his kingdom.

 

Then they went to sleep, and next morning when the sun awoke them, a

carriage came driving up with eight white horses, which had white

ostrich feathers on their heads, and were harnessed with golden

chains, and behind stood the young king’s servant Faithful Henry.

Faithful Henry had been so unhappy when his master was changed into a

frog, that he had caused three iron bands to be laid round his heart,

lest it should burst with grief and sadness.  The carriage was to

conduct the young king into his kingdom.  Faithful Henry helped them

both in, and placed himself behind again, and was full of joy because

of this deliverance.  And when they had driven a part of the way the

king’s son heard a cracking behind him as if something had broken.

So he turned round and cried, “Henry, the carriage is breaking.”

“No, master, it is not the carriage.  It is a band from my heart,

which was put there in my great pain when you were a frog and

imprisoned in the well.”  Again and once again while they were on

their way something cracked, and each time the king’s son thought the

carriage was breaking, but it was only the bands which were springing

from the heart of Faithful Henry because his master was set free and

was happy.

 

 

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559 comments on “The Frog King, or Iron Henry (Grimm’s Fairy)

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