Basic Plot Summary: A spoiled princess drops her beloved golden ball into a well and a frog offers to rescue it for her if she will invite him into her home, share a meal with him and let him sleep on her pillow. She agrees, but as soon as she gets the ball back, she runs home. The frog comes knocking at her door and her father, the king, forces her to keep her promise to the frog. She invites him in, lets him eat from her plate and sit in her chair, but when he asks to sleep in her bed, she angrily throws him against the wall. He turns into a handsome prince and explains that he was under a witch’s spell.
This story has the distinction of being the very first story in the Brothers Grimm’s first published fairy tale collection. The original included the prince’s servant, Hans, who was so sad when his master was put under the spell that he had iron bands placed around his heart to keep it from breaking. Then, as the prince and princess ride away after their wedding, the iron bands break as Hans experiences the joy of seeing his master happy. What it didn’t include was the well-known ‘princess kissing the frog’ moment that seems to have been added much later during one of the English translations.
The Frog Prince – This book is in the Hello Reader! Series of books from Scholastic that are designed to help new readers, so it’s written with short, easy to read words. The story, written by Edith H. Tarcov, is straight forward and somewhat simplified, with the removal of the signature kiss. The illustrations are from the wonderful James Marshall, whose artwork usually accompanies funny stories. It would be great for very young kids learning to read, but there’s nothing special to recommend it. (Scholastic, 1974)
The Frog Prince – This faithful retelling of the original story is (appropriately) very critical of the princess and her selfish refusal to keep her promise to the frog. Author Kathy–Jo Wargin includes the prince’s servant, but only at the very end of the story (which really only comes across as an odd distraction). Anne Yvonne Gilbert’s illustrations reflect the fashions of the Elizabethan era and are sumptuous with color and detail. (Mitten Press, 2007)
Prince of a Frog – In this spin on the original story, an ordinary frog believes he’s actually a prince under a spell and leaves his pond in search of a princess, although he has no idea what a princess is. Author/illustrator Jackie Urbanovic puts a lot of different animal species into his path and he narrowly escapes danger before meeting a dog who helps him see he doesn’t need to be anything other than what he is. This one is cute, with a nice message of self-acceptance. (Orchard Books, 2015)
The Frog Prince Continued – Jon Scieszka picks up this story where the original fairy tale ends, showing us the Prince and Princess in their new married life, where the Prince is very unhappy. He misses being a frog and goes out in search of a witch to change him back. The story is full of references to other fairy tales and lots of funny moments. The illustrations, from Steve Johnson, are mostly in a darker palette, which echoes the Prince’s mood. The different witches he meets are wonderfully repulsive. The ending, in which he kisses the Princess and they both turn into frogs, feels absolutely perfect. (Viking, 1991)
And what did we learn? What I take away from The Frog Prince is that you should carefully consider your promises before you make them.