Don’t kiss that frog

Many years ago, my daughter sent me a blog which made me wonder whether I was an unwitting accessory to deceitful propaganda. She wrote: “Remember that fairy tale about a princess who dropped her golden ball in a well? And a frog offered to fetch it in exchange for a kiss? Were you also told that the princess very reluctantly fulfilled her promise, unaware she was breaking an evil spell that had earlier turned a prince into a frog? After the kiss, the frog turned into a handsome prince and they lived happily ever after. “

Stories heard and read during one’s formative years are never forgotten. I remember telling my daughter, Fatimah, about the Frog Prince and that every time it rained in San Juan (where I grew up) a toad would appear at our front door and croak all night long. Maybe It was a prince, but I could not get myself to kiss it.

Fatimah said: “When I was a little girl, I was told that same Frog Prince story with that same happy ending. As an adolescent, my friends and I would wonder why boys would turn into frogs the minute they were kissed. Now that I am a year away from 40, guess what I have just found out? There is absolutely no truth to the nasty tale that the princess ever kissed that demanding frog. We could have saved ourselves a lot of frog-kissing years!”

She continued to say that she bought a copy of Grimm’s Complete Fairy Tales edited by the Guild America Books which is a collection of 211 fairy tales compiled by the brothers Grimm. She purchased the book because she wanted to introduce her own children (Tekwani and Aurora then aged 6 and 3) to that wonderful world of European fairy tales, untainted by either Disney nor Dreamworks or any other contemporary cartoon/animation producer. The book confirmed everything she had been told about the frog-bewitched prince, except for the momentous kiss.

Fatimah said that according to the original tale, in exchange for finding the golden ball at the bottom of the well, the frog wanted to eat off the princess’ fine porcelain plate and sleep beside her, nestled in silken blankets. Kissing was never part of the deal. The princess very reluctantly gave in to the frog’s wishes, however, when they entered her bedroom she left the frog on the cold floor. Croaking horridly, the frog demanded that the princess tuck him in the silken sheets as promised, or he would go to the king and tell him she had broken her royal word. That brought to the princess’ mind her father’s sage advice: “That which thou hast promised in the time of necessity, must thou now perform.” In fact, that was the moral of the story.

However, the princess was beside herself with rage and picking up the frog, she hurled him with all her might against the wall. “Now you will be quiet, you horrid frog, “ she screamed. But, as the frog hit the wall, he became a prince “with beautiful kind eyes.” They lived happily ever after.

After reading that, Fatimah was incensed, who changed the fairy tale? Was it Disney? “It was probably a toad-faced individual who had a difficult time getting pretty girls to notice him, let alone kiss him,” concluded my inquisitive daughter, “Anyway, the damage is done as countless of girls have cut their teeth on the adulterated version and have gone through a lot of frog-kissing .”

While raising Fatimah and her brother, Leon, it never occurred to me to look for the sources and true versions of favorite fairy tales. I am glad Fatimah did that when she was raising her own children. With regard to the frog prince, it is best to focus on the moral of the story and think twice before making impossible promises. Perhaps, when the wicked witch cast the spell on the prince, she declared it would end if and when he would meet a maiden with character enough to squash him when he asked for too much.