The following is an annotated version
of the fairy tale. I recommend reading the entire story before
exploring the annotations, especially if you have not read the tale recently.
IN OLD 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 castle1 lay a great darkforest,2 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,3 and when she was dull she took a golden
ball,4 and threw it up on high and caught it, and this ball was her
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. On this she
began to cry, and cried louder and louder, and could not be comforted.
And as she thus lamented some one said to her, "What ails thee, King's
daughter? Thou weepest so that even a stone would show pity." She
looked round to the side from whence the voice came, and saw a frog5 stretching forth its thick, ugly head from the water. "Ah! old water-splasher,
is it thou?" said she; "I am weeping for my golden ball, which
has fallen into the well."
The frog answered, "I do not care for thy clothes,
thy pearls and jewels, or thy golden crown, but if thou wilt love me and
let me be thy companion and play-fellow, and sit by thee at thy little
table, and eat off thy little golden plate, and drink out of thy little
cup, and sleep in thy little bed -- if thou wilt promise me this I will
go down below, and bring thee thy golden ball up again."
"Oh yes," said she, "I promise thee all
thou wishest, if thou wilt but bring me my ball back again." She,
however, thought, "How the silly frog does talk! He lives in the
water with the other frogs, and croaks, and can be no companion to any
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 thee. I can't run as thou canst." 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 art
thou so afraid of? Is there perchance a giant outside who wants to carry
thee away?" "Ah, no," replied she. "It is no giant
but a disgusting frog."
"What does a frog want with thee?" "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!
Dost thou not know what thou saidst to me
Yesterday by the cool waters of the fountain?
Princess, youngest princess!
Open the door for me!"
Then said the King, "That
which thou hast promised must thou perform.7 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
thee." She delayed, until at last the King commanded her to do it.
When the frog was once on the chair he wanted to be on the table, and
when he was on the table he said, "Now, push thy 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 thy
little room and make thy 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 thee when thou wert in trouble ought not afterwards to be despised
by thee." 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 thou, lift
me up or I will tell thy father." Then she was terribly angry, and
took him up and threw
him with all her might against the wall.8 "Now, thou
wilt be quiet, odious frog," said she. But when he fell down he was
no frog but a King's son
with beautiful kind eyes.9 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,10 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.11 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
by the Brothers Grimm
Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm. Household Tales. Margaret Hunt, translator. London: George Bell,