Before watching the Disney movie The princess and the frogkeep this in mind: everything you know about the fairy tale could be wrong.

You may be familiar with the story of the Frog Prince: a handsome young prince was innocently minding his own business when, for no apparent reason, an evil witch cursed him into a particularly ugly little frog. He was doomed to live in this wretched and humble condition until a princess with a pure and loving heart saw past his ugly exterior and kissed him. His purity and sweetness would break the spell and make him once again a handsome prince and the perfect boyfriend for the lucky princess. That’s how the story goes, right?


Get up The tales of the Grimm brothers and you will read a completely different version. The true story of the Frog Prince is even better.

You see, the witch in the story wasn’t really bad at all. Her name was Ellspeth, and as she recounted in his autobiography Ellspeth’s Book of Shadows, Prince Heinrich was not as innocent as he later claimed. He refused to move out of her way as she walked up the mountain pass in search of wild witch hazel. To add insult to injury, he called her all kinds of obscene names. Ellspeth cursed the surly young prince for his own good, to teach him a lesson in manners.

When the princess (whose name was Anika) appeared, tossed her famous golden ball into the air, and dropped her ball into the swamp that Heinrich called home, Heinrich saw that it was his golden opportunity to take advantage of Anika. He offered to retrieve the golden ball from her pool, if he would let her stay in the castle. His plan was to enjoy Anika and her father, the king, while he remained warm, humid, and comfortable in the royal palace. Anika agreed, but she could only put up with Heinrich’s selfish and greedy ways for so long. When he wanted her to allow her slimy corpse to sleep on her pillow, Anika became disgusted and threw Heinrich face-first into a stone wall. That would have killed an ordinary frog. But in Heinrich’s case, she made him wake up and smell the swamp water. He realized that he had been a terrible idiot and turned back into a prince.

Anika, however, does not forgive Heinrich’s thoughtlessness. She and the prince did not marry and certainly never lived happily ever after. In fact, after that incident, every time Anika and Heinrich passed each other, she was polite but distant towards him. He accepted that he was never going to get anywhere with her romantically, although in her later years, he became quite bitter about the lack of a closer relationship. He is said to have circulated rumors that the princess was born with webbed fingers, which were later corrected by surgery. In fact, her webbed toes ran in Heinrich’s family, although he himself did not inherit the gene from her.

A fascinating variation on the fairy tale is “The Frog Princess” by Barbara G. Walker, from her book feminist fairy tales. In it, a female frog aspires to marry a good-hearted and handsome prince. She goes to a good fairy of the woods, who agrees to transform her into a human if she gets the prince to kiss her. The smart frog succeeds, but its success comes at a terrible price. Although the prince and the frog end up living happily, their happily ever after is spent apart. Female frogs, Walker notes in his introduction to the tale, are often larger and stronger than the males of her species. For that reason, the frog is the perfect symbol of the independent woman who can make it in the world, even without her handsome prince.

Works Cited

“The Frog Prince,” The tales of the Grimm brothers by the Grimm brothers. There are many editions; mine is translated by Mrs. EV Lucas, Lucy Crane and Marian Edwardes. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1945.

“The Frog Princess”, feminist fairy tales by Barbara G. Walker. San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1996.

“Relationship Basics: Never Kiss a Frog” The magical girl’s guide to womanhood by Violetta Marmalade-Spirit, as told to Erin E. Schmidt. Unpublished, 2008.