The Frog King, or Iron Henry
Once upon a time there was a princess who went out into the forest and sat down at the edge of a cool well. She had a golden ball that was her favorite plaything. She threw it up high and caught it in the air and was delighted by all this. One time the ball flew up very high, and as she stretched out her hand and bent her fingers to catch it again, the ball hit the ground near her and rolled and rolled until it fell right into the water.
The princess was horrified, and when she went to look for the ball, she found the well was so deep that she couldn't see the bottom. So she began to weep miserably and to lament: "Oh, if only I had my ball again! I'd give anything—my clothes, my jewels, my pearls and anything else in the world—to get my ball back!"
As she sat there grieving, a frog stuck its head out of the water and said: "Why are you weeping so miserably?"
"Oh," she said, "you nasty frog, you can't help me! My golden ball has fallen into the water."
"Well, I don't want your pearls, your jewels, and your clothes," the frog responded. "But if you will accept me as your companion and let me sit next to you and let me eat from your little golden plate and sleep in your little bed and promise to love and cherish me, I'll fetch your ball for you."
The princess thought, "what nonsense the simple-minded frog is blabbering! He's got to remain in his water. But perhaps he can get me my ball. So I'll say yes to him." And she said, "Yes, fair enough, but first fetch me the golden ball. I promise you everything."
The frog dipped his head beneath the water and dived down. It didn't take long before he came back to the surface with the ball in his mouth. He threw it onto the ground, and when the princess caught sight of the ball again, she quickly ran over to it, picked it up, and was so delighted to have the ball in her hands again that she thought of nothing else but to rush back home with it. The frog called after her: "Wait, princess, take me with you the way you promised!"
But she didn't pay any attention to him.
The next day the princess sat at the table and heard something coming up the marble steps, splish, splash! splish, splash! Soon thereafter it knocked at the door and cried out: "Princess, youngest daughter, open up!"
She ran to the door and opened it, and there was the frog whom she had forgotten. Horrified, she quickly slammed the door shut and sat down back at the table. But the king saw that her heart was thumping and said, "Why are you afraid?"
"There's a nasty frog outside," she replied. "He retrieved my golden ball from the water, and I promised him that he could be my companion. But I never believed at all he could get out of the water. Now he's standing outside in front of the door and wants to come inside."
As she said this, there was a knock at the door, and the frog cried out:
"Princess, youngest daughter, Open up!
Don't you remember, what you said down by the well's cool water?
Princess, youngest daughter, Open up!"
The king said: "You must keep your promise no matter what you said. Go and open the door for the frog."
She obeyed, and the frog hopped inside and followed her at her heels until they came to her chair, and when she sat down again, he cried out: "Lift me up to the chair beside you."
The princess didn't want to do this, but the king ordered her to do it. When the frog was up at the table, he said: "Now push your little golden plate nearer to me so we can eat together."
The princess had to do this as well, and after he had eaten until he was full, he said: "Now I'm tired and want to sleep. Bring me upstairs to your little room. Get your little bed ready so that we can lie down in it."
The princess became terrified when she heard this, for she was afraid of the cold frog. She didn't dare to touch him, and now he was to lie in her bed next to her. She began to weep and didn't want to comply with his wishes at all. But the king became angry and ordered her to do what she had promised, or she'd be held in disgrace. Nothing helped. She had to do what her father wanted, but she was bitterly angry in her heart. So she picked up the frog with two fingers, carried him upstairs into her room, lay down in her bed, and instead of setting him down next to her, she threw him crash! against the wall. "Now you'll leave me in peace, you nasty frog!"
But the frog didn't fall down dead. Instead, when he fell down on the bed, he became a handsome young prince. Well, now indeed he did become her dear companion, and she cherished him as she had promised, and in their delight they fell asleep together.
The next morning a splendid coach arrived drawn by eight horses with feathers and glistening gold harnesses. The prince's Faithful Henry accompanied them. He had been so distressed when he had learned his master had been turned into a frog that he had ordered three iron bands to be wrapped around his heart to keep it from bursting from grief. When the prince got into the coach with the princess, his faithful servant took his place at the back so they could return to the prince's realm. And after they had traveled some distance, the prince heard a loud cracking noise behind him. So, he turned around and cried out: "Henry, the coach is breaking!"
"No, my lord, it's really nothing but the band around my heart, which nearly came apart when you turned into a frog and your fortune fell and you were made to live in that dreadful well."
Two more times the prince heard the cracking noise and thought the coach was breaking, but the noise was only the sound of the bands springing from Faithful Henry's heart because his master had been released from the spell and was happy.CHAPTER 2
THE COMPANIONSHIP OF THE CAT AND MOUSE
A cat and a mouse wanted to live together, and so they set up a common household. They also prepared for the winter and bought a little jar of fat, but since they didn't know of a better and safer place to put it, they stuck it under the altar in the church, where it was supposed to stay until they needed it.
Now, it was not long before the cat felt a craving for the fat and went to the mouse and said, "Listen, little mouse, my cousin has asked me to be godfather for her child. She gave birth to a baby boy, white with brown spots. I'm to hold him at the christening. Would you mind letting me go out today and taking care of the house by yourself?"
"No, no," answered the mouse. "Go there, and when you get something good to eat, think of me. I sure would like a little drop of that sweet, red christening wine."
But the cat went straight to the church and licked up the skin off the top of the fat. Then he strolled around the city and didn't return home until evening.
"You must have enjoyed yourself very much," the mouse said. "What name did they give the child?"
"Skin-Off," the cat answered.
"Skin-Off? That's a strange name. I've never heard of it before."
Soon thereafter the cat felt another craving and went to the mouse and said: "I've been asked to be godfather once more. The child has a white ring around his body. I can't refuse. You must do me a favor and look after the house."
The mouse consented, and the cat went and ate up half the jar of fat. When he returned home, the mouse asked, "What name was this godchild given?"
"Half-Gone! You don't say! I've never heard of such a name. I'm sure it's not on the list of proper baptismal names."
Now the cat couldn't stop thinking about the jar of fat.
"I've been asked to be godfather again for a third time. This child's all black and has white paws. Aside from that there's not a white hair on his body. That only happens once every few years. You'll let me go, won't you?"
"Skin-Off, Half-Gone," the mouse said. "Those are really curious names. I'm beginning to wonder about them. Even so, go ahead."
The mouse cleaned the house and put it in order. Meanwhile the cat ate up the rest of the fat in the jar and came home stout and stuffed late at night.
"What's the name of the third child?"
"All-Gone! Hey now! That's the most suspicious of all the names," said the mouse. "All-Gone! What's it supposed to mean? I've never seen it in print!"
Upon saying that, the mouse shook her head and went to sleep.
Nobody called upon the cat to become godfather for the fourth time. However, soon winter came, and there was nothing more to be found outside. So the mouse said to the cat, "Come, let's go to our supply that we stuck beneath the altar in the church."
But when they arrived there, the jar was completely empty.
"Oh!" said the mouse. "Now I know what's happened! It's as clear as day. You ate it all up when you went to serve as godfather. First the skin, then half, then ..."
"Shut up!" yelled the cat. "One more word, and I'll eat you up!"
"All gone" was already on the tip of the poor mouse's tongue. No sooner did she say it than the cat jumped on her and swallowed her in one gulp.CHAPTER 3
THE VIRGIN MARY'S CHILD
A poor woodcutter and his wife lived at the edge of a large forest with their only child, a three-year-old little girl. They were so poor that they couldn't afford daily meals anymore and didn't know how they would provide food for their daughter. One morning the woodcutter, who was distressed by all this, went into the forest to work. As he began chopping wood, a tall, beautiful woman suddenly appeared before him. She was wearing a crown of shining stars on her head, and she said to him, "I am the Virgin Mary, mother of the Christ Child. Since you are poor and needy, bring me your child. I'll take her with me and be her mother and look after her."
The woodcutter obeyed her. He fetched his child and gave her to the Virgin Mary, who took her up to heaven. Once there everything went well for the girl: she ate only cake and drank sweet milk. Her clothes were made of gold, and the little angels played with her. One day, about the time the girl had turned fourteen, the Virgin Mary had to go on a long journey. Before she went away, she summoned the girl and said, "Dear child, I am trusting you with the keys to the thirteen doors of the kingdom of heaven. You may open twelve of the doors and look at all the marvelous things inside, but I forbid you to open the thirteenth door that this little key unlocks."
The maiden promised to obey her commands, and after the Virgin Mary had departed, she opened a new room every day and looked into the rooms of the heavenly realm. In each one of them, there was an apostle in dazzling light. Never in her life had she seen such splendor and glory. When she had finished opening the twelve doors, the forbidden door was the only one left. For a long time she resisted her curiosity, but finally she was overcome by it and opened the thirteenth door as well. And as the door sprang open, she saw the Holy Trinity sitting in fire and splendor. Then she touched the flames a little bit with her finger, and the finger turned golden. Quickly she slammed the door shut and ran away. Her heart started pounding and wouldn't stop.
A few days later the Virgin Mary returned from her journey and asked the maiden to return the keys of heaven to her. When the girl handed her the bunch of keys, the Virgin looked into her eyes and said, "Didn't you also open the thirteenth door?"
"No," she answered.
Then the Virgin Mary put her hand on the maiden's heart and could feel it pounding and pounding. Now she knew the girl had disobeyed her command and had opened the door. Once again she asked, "Are you sure you didn't open the door?"
"I'm sure," the maiden denied doing it for a second time.
When the Virgin Mary glanced at the finger that had become golden from touching the heavenly fire, she knew the maiden was guilty and said: "You've disobeyed me and lied. You're no longer worthy to stay in heaven."
All at once the girl sank into a deep sleep, and when she awoke, she was lying on the earth beneath a tall tree surrounded by thick bushes so that she was completely encircled. Her mouth was also locked so that she couldn't utter one word. Since the tree was hollow, she could sit inside during the rain and storms, and it was also where she slept. Roots and wild berries were her only food, and she went out looking for them as far as she could walk. In the autumn she gathered roots and leaves and carried them into the hollow tree. When snow and ice came, she sat inside the tree. Before long her clothes became tattered, and one piece after the other fell off her body. So she sat there completely covered by leaves. As soon as the sun began to shine again, she went out and sat in front of the tree. Her long hair covered her on all sides like a cloak.
One day during springtime she was sitting in front of the tree when someone forced his way through the bushes. It was the king, who had been hunting in the forest and had lost his way, and he was amazed to find such a beautiful maiden sitting alone in this desolate spot. So he asked her whether she would like to come with him to his castle. However, she couldn't answer. Instead, she merely nodded a little with her head. Then the king lifted her up onto his horse and brought her to the castle. Soon he became so fond of her that he made her his wife.
After a year had passed, the queen gave birth to a beautiful son. During the night, however, the Virgin Mary appeared before her and said, "If you'll tell me the truth and say that you unlocked the forbidden door, I'll give you back the power of speech, without which you really can't enjoy life. If you are stubborn and won't confess, I shall take your baby away with me."
But the queen remained stubborn and denied that she had opened the forbidden door. So the Virgin Mary took the little child and disappeared with him. The next morning, when the baby was no longer there, a rumor began circulating among the people that the queen was an ogress and had eaten her own child.
Then another year passed, and the queen gave birth to another son. Once more the Virgin Mary appeared before her and asked her to tell the truth, otherwise she would also lose the second child. But the queen persisted in denying that she had opened the forbidden door. So the Virgin Mary took the child away with her. The next morning, when this baby was also missing, the king's councilors said openly that the queen was an ogress, and they demanded that she be executed for her godless deeds. However, the king ordered them to keep quiet and refused to believe them because he loved his wife so much.
In the third year the queen gave birth to a princess, and the Virgin Mary appeared before her once more and took her to heaven, where she showed her how her two oldest children were playing with a globe of the earth. Thereupon, the Virgin Mary asked the queen once more to confess her mistake and stop lying. However, the queen wouldn't budge and continued to stand by her story. So the Virgin Mary left her and took away her third child, too.
Now the king could no longer restrain his councilors, who continued to claim that the queen was an ogress. They were certain, and since she couldn't speak, she couldn't defend herself. Consequently, she was condemned to die at the stake.
As she stood tied to the stake, and the fire began to burn all around her, her heart was moved, and she thought to herself: "Oh, before I die, I'd like to confess to the Virgin Mary that I opened the forbidden door in heaven. I've been so wicked by denying it all this time!"
And just as she was thinking all this to herself, heaven opened up right then and there, and the Virgin Mary descended with the two little sons at either side and the daughter in her arms. The fire was extinguished by itself, and the Virgin Mary stepped forward to the queen and said: "Since you want to speak the truth, your guilt is forgiven." Then she handed the queen her children, opened her mouth so that she could speak from then on, and bestowed happiness on her for the rest of her life.
Excerpted from The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm by Jacob Grimm, Wilhelm Grimm, Jack Zipes, Andrea Dezö. Copyright © 2014 Princeton University Press. Excerpted by permission of Princeton University Press.