A kiss will decide the fate of a prince, a princess, and two kingdoms. This time-honored tale as never before told. If you liked the Brothers Grimm story, you'll love the novella. Rediscover the enchanting tale of "The Frog Prince" today!
Award-winning author Mike Klaassen began writing fiction when his sons were teenagers. His first two books were young-adult action-adventure novels influenced by his experience as a Kansas farm boy and as a Scoutmaster. A visit to the site of the Battle for New Orleans led Mike to write Backlash: A War of 1812 Novel, featuring five young Americans in the fight of their life. Ongoing research encouraged Mike to write books about the craft of writing fiction. The use of folktales as examples in his nonfiction books inspired him to begin Klaassen's Classic Folktales, a collection of ancient stories retold as novellas.
Right from the beginning I decided to tell this story from the frog's perspective. I grew up on a farm with my two brothers, and we loved trying to catch bullfrogs in the creek across the road. Never would I have guessed that someday, in order to tell a story, I'd have to get in touch with my inner frog.
The Frog Prince
On a bright summer day, seventeen-year-old Prince Gerit edged along the steep muddy bank of a bog deep in the forest. Rain had not fallen recently, and the water level was low.
He had slipped out of the castle to avoid weapons practice with his father's squire and a meeting with his father's counsel to discuss the business of running a kingdom. Gerit preferred to spend his days hunting and fishing in the forest east of the castle. He knew that someday he would have to assume the responsibilities of a monarch, but with an army and dozens of advisors at his disposal, how hard could that really be?
He spotted a frog ahead of him and hefted the three-pronged gig he had whittled from a sapling. After aiming carefully, he hurled the spear. The sharpened tips stuck in the mud, a few inches to the side of the frog. With a croak, the frog leaped from the bank and plunged into the water.
Gerit cursed, then sidled along the edge of the bank until he was as near to his spear as he could get. Feeling his knees press into the spongy mud, he stretched for the gig. The shaft was just beyond his reach, so he leaned forward a little more, hoping he could curl his fingers around it. His fingers were just an inch away from it.
He paused to think. If he leaned any farther toward the spear, he risked losing his balance and toppling into the water, ruining his jacket. It had been a gift from his father, and Gerit recalled his disappointment that the garment wasn't made of the most expensive cloth available. Sometimes his father could be so cheap. Still, Gerit hated the thought of soiling the jacket, so he stripped it off and hung it from the limb of a nearby tree.
Gerit knelt again along the edge of the bog and reached for the spear. He stretched as far as he could, but the spear shaft was still a little beyond his grasp.
He considered abandoning the gig but remembered the time he had invested in finding a straight sapling with three branches perfectly positioned to form the pointed prongs…and all the work required to carefully whittle the sapling into the best gig he had ever made. Besides, he still needed to catch three frogs for dinner. His stomach growled as he thought of frog legs fried to perfection by the castle chef. He would be the envy of his father's court, while everyone else dined on ho-hum fare.
Gerit stretched toward the spear again, but this time with his left arm he reached behind himself to counter some of his body weight from tipping him forward. His fingertips touched the spear, but he couldn't quite curl them around the shaft. Clawing at the shaft with his fingers, he eased forward a little more.
His knees slipped on the mud, and he jerked back toward the bank. The world seemed to turn upside down as he toppled into the bog.
Gerit's mouth filled with muddy water as he gasped for air. He inhaled gritty sludge and coughed it back up. Dirty water flooded his eyes. He blinked, trying to clear his vision.
He gasped again, and this started another round of coughing. Flailing his arms in the water, he tried to stand up. The mud underneath him felt spongy, and as he attempted to stand, his feet pressed deeper into the bog. He tried to lunge toward his spear on the bank, but his legs were stuck. Trying to run, he felt each thrust of his legs force him deeper into the muck.
Now up to his waist in mud, he paused to catch his breath. He leaned forward and tried to swim to the bank, but with each stroke of his arms, his body sank even farther.
Panting, he lay still, not daring to move. His mind raced to consider his options. He had always considered himself intelligent—after all, he was the descendent of a long line of kings. Surely, he could devise a clever solution to his dilemma.
After a few minutes, he took a deep breath and screamed, "Help!"
He lay back and listened. Nothing.
Again he yelled for help as loud as he could.
The sun had worked its way across the sky, and evening approached. Gerit feared that he might not get out of the bog before dark, and he might be stuck in the mud all night. Worse, he might fall asleep in the water and drown. He might sink so deep that his body would never be found. With tears streaming from his eyes, he screamed, "Help!"
"Tsk! Tsk! Tsk!" scolded the voice of an old woman. "What's all this howling about?"
"Help!" yelled Gerit. "Over here!"
"Oh, yes," said the voice, "I see you now."
"Please help me," said Gerit.
"My, my, my," said the old woman, "you do seem to be in a bit of trouble. Yes, yes, yes."
Gerit thrashed around in the water, turning himself until he could see the old woman, who was wearing a dirty, tattered dress.
"I fell into the bog, and now I am stuck. I fear I shall drown soon unless I get help."
"I see. I see. I see."
Gerit watched as the old woman hobbled to the tree where he had hung his coat. She touched the jacket gently, as if afraid of ruining the fine cloth.
"Old woman," said Gerit, "I really could use your help right now. Or I fear I shall perish before morning."
"Old woman, you say?" The woman stared at him from the bank of the bog.
Gerit winced. "I meant no offense, kind lady."
"Oh, so now it's kind lady?"
Gerit squirmed as the old woman stared at him.
"You know nothing of me," she said, "yet you call me an old woman and a kind lady."
"Please," said Gerit, "I fear for my life."
"My name is Wibke," said the woman. "To whom do I have the pleasure of speaking this afternoon?"
Gerit stifled an urge to yell at her. Instead, he puffed out his chest and in a nononsense tone said, "My name is Gerit. I am the son of King Egon and heir to the kingdom of Krickenheim. Would you find a stout fallen branch and toss it to me so that I might use it to crawl out of this bog before I drown?"
"Of course. Of course. Of course, you are an important young man," said the woman. "But if I save your life, what will you do for me?"
Gerit was shocked. As a prince, he expected people to do his bidding without argument. But this contemptuous crone intended to bargain for terms. He thought for a moment and said, "Dear lady…I mean Wibke, if you will help me out of this bog, I will gladly provide you with anything that is within my power."
"Now, now, now, we're getting somewhere," said the woman. "I haven't had a decent meal in a long time. Will you feed me?"
"Gladly," said Gerit. "I will give you anything available in my father's kingdom."
"Good, good, good," said the woman. "My only clothing is this tattered flaxen shift. Will you provide me with fine new clothes?"
"Anything within my father's kingdom," said Gerit.
"Good, good, good," said the woman. "I sleep in a cold, wet shack in the woods. Will you provide me with a comfortable place to live in your father's castle?"
Gerit thought about this for a moment. Would his father approve of such an arrangement? To save his only son, of course, he would. "A comfortable bed in your own room within the castle shall be yours."
"Wonderful. Wonderful. Wonderful," said Wibke. "I am so lonely. Will you sit by the fire and read to me? And will you walk with me and visit with me as I stroll through the woods?"
Gerit hesitated. The thought of spending more time with this old woman repulsed him. But he figured he could endure it a time or two, and then he would find an excuse to be elsewhere. "I shall read to you and walk with you in the woods," he said.
"Lovely, lovely, lovely," said Wibke. "And will you provide these things for me all the remaining years of my natural life?"
Gerit froze. Food, clothing, shelter, and companionship for the rest of this woman's life? No way. She asked too much of him. As soon as she helped him out of the bog, he would run as fast as he could, leaving her behind in the forest. "As you request, I shall provide all these things for the rest of your natural life."
"Oh, my prince," said Wibke, "we shall be so happy, happy, happy." She found a stout limb on the forest floor and dragged it to the bog. She propped it on its thickest end and let it fall.
The limb toppled toward Gerit and splashed next to him. Grabbing it with one hand and then the other, he pulled with all his might, but he was stuck tight in the mud.
"Let me help you, my sweet prince," said Wibke. She picked up the end of the limb closest to her and pulled.
Gerit pulled hard on his end of the limb as Wibke pulled on hers. For a moment nothing happened. Then he felt his legs slipping through the mud. With a sucking and gurgling sound, he slid from the mud, and pulling hand over hand along the limb, he dragged himself out of the bog.
Gerit lay on the ground a moment to catch his breath and then said, "Thank you for saving my life. To show my appreciation and my generosity, I shall reward you amply." Gerit grabbed his coat, and from a pocket he pulled a handful of coins. He held them out to Wibke.
"What's this, my prince Gerit?" said the woman. "I asked not for money."
"You asked for too much, old woman," said Gerit. "But you are well rewarded with these coins." Wibke showed no sign that she would accept the money, so he let them drop to the ground. "The evening grows late, so I must hurry to reach the castle before dark." He bowed to her. "Thank you for saving me." He turned and ran.
Gerit figured he had traveled about a mile when he grew short of breath. He slowed his pace to a speed that would still let him reach the castle before dark. The path ahead curved around a pond. There, on a fallen tree sat a woman with her back to him.
As Gerit approached, the woman stood and turned to him. Gerit stopped short when he realized that the woman was Wibke. Somehow, she had managed to get ahead of him. Before he could say anything, she raised a short stick and jabbed it to his chest.
Sparks flew from the end of the stick as its hot tip seared his flesh. He gagged at the putrid smoke that billowed around him. Waves of nausea coursed through him, and his mind seemed to swirl. He screamed as pain radiated from every part of his body. Through it all, he sensed that he was falling, while at the same time the old woman seemed to grow in height. Blackness engulfed him.
Gerit awoke with Wibke towering over him. He cringed as she leaned close to him and peered into his eyes.
Wibke chuckled. "That should teach you to renege on promises, you ungrateful whelp."
"What have you done to me?" asked Gerit. His voice seemed hoarse, so he coughed. Out came a croaking sound.
Wibke laughed again. "I've turned you into a frog, you little toad, toad, toad!"
Gerit thought the old woman must have lost her mind.
Wibke poked him with her stick and laughed. "See for yourself. Look at your hand."
Gerit held his hand in front of himself. He froze, horrified. Instead of a human hand, he saw the hand of a frog, complete with little claws and slimy, bumpy, green skin. Sitting back, he looked at his other hand…and his feet. He shrieked in terror. "Change me back! I'll give you anything. Please!"
Wibke cackled. "Too late for that, sonny boy. You shall remain a frog for all your life." She turned, as if to leave, then stopped and looked back. "No doubt, you have heard that any spell may be undone by the kiss of a princess, and that is true, but this particular spell requires that you be kissed by a princess no less than three times." She snickered. "Even then, part of you shall always be a frog."
Wibke made a show of standing up straight and looking around. "You're deep in the forest, and there's nary a princess in sight. Tsk, tsk, tsk. Best of luck breaking the spell, sweetie."
Scooping her foot under his belly, she said, "Welcome to your new home!" She kicked hard, tossing Gerit into the air.