The Frog Prince

"You have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your handsome prince." Most people are familiar with this phrase, and connect it to the Brothers Grimm fairy tale of the Frog Prince.  But the versions which end with the Princess kissing the frog, who transforms into a handsome prince, are unfaithful in both content and spirit of the original.  in the original, it is the complete rejection of the frog which transforms him. The kissing version makes the story into a lesson about doing what you are told and accepting your fate; the original is about the assertion of free will.

I see the story as an allegory of the transition into adulthood - a silly child has lost her toy, and makes rash promises in order to regain her golden ball lost down the well. The princess forgets her promises, but is soon forced to make good what is obviously a bad bargain by her father:

The king said, "What you have promised, you must keep. Go and let the frog in." She obeyed, and the frog hopped in, then followed her up to her chair.

After she had sat down again, he called out, "Lift me up onto your chair and let me sit next to you." The princess did not want to, but the king commanded her to do it. When the frog was seated next to her he said, "Now push your golden plate closer. I want to eat from it." She had to do this as well. When he had eaten all he wanted, he said, "Now I am tired and want to sleep. Take me to your room, make your bed, so that we can lie in it together."

For a story such as this to end with the princess giving in to her disgust and to the pressure of her father would make the princess a weak character indeed. But her salvation comes when (in the original version) the princess has had enough, and picks up the frog and hurls him against a wall - in defiance of the bad bargain, defiance of her father's will and symbolically, in defiance of the traditional status and role of women generally. Only then, when everything that the frog represents is violently rejected, does the transformation take place, and he becomes a prize the princess has won on her own terms.

It's one of my favorite fairy tales. The struggle against unpalatable options and outside pressure as one tries to find their way in the world is something, I think, to which many artists can relate. When I made the fountain of the Frog Prince, I continued to play around with the theme a bit, and came up with an alternate version, in which the alternate 'kissing' version is turned on it's head; here, the princess gropes in the mud, terrorizing a colony of frogs as she kisses then discards her suitors, enraged at their inability to transform themselves, or her own fate.