The Flexibility of Fairy Tales

The Frog King, or Iron Heinrich

. . . and the very little, very violent princess.

I have finally found the time to start adding blog posts to the “My Bookshelf” section of my menu. I thought, what could be better than to start with Fairy Tales? Here we go!

Summary:

The Frog King, or Iron Heinrich, also known to some as The Frog Prince, was written by the Grimm brothers and is traditionally the first story published in their collection. When I think of fairy tales, I don’t automatically jump to this story. In fact, it often slips from my mind when thinking of Grimm’s collection of tales. However, if the brothers saw fit to begin their collection with it, I suppose I should also begin my analysis of their fairy tales with this story.

Here is a brief summary for those of you who have not read it:

Once upon a time, a young princess of ridiculous beauty played with her golden ball next to a pond. She accidentally lost her ball in the pond and apparently could not swim. Her tears were noticed by a frog who rescued her ball from the pond and agreed to return it to the young princess if she agreed to let him live with her in the palace, to eat from her plate, to sip from her cup, and to sleep in her bed. Of course, the young girl simply wanted her ball back and agreed, but as soon as she got her ball she left without the frog.

Image result for the frog king or iron heinrich

That night while the young princess and her father, the king, sat at dinner, the frog knocked (not sure how) on the castle’s doors and called out to the princess reminding her of her promise. Although she did not want to, the king ordered her to fulfill her promise and to not “scorn someone who helped you when you were in trouble.” Unhappily, the princess lets him in, lets him eat from her plate and drink from her cup.

Image result for the frog king or iron heinrich

After dinner, she carries the frog to her room but sets him on the floor instead of her bed. When the frog reminds her of her promise and threatens to call the king, the princess picks up the frog and violently hurls him across the room where he thuds against the wall and then transforms into a handsome prince.

Needless to say after this act of violence, the prince and the princess marry and live happily ever after.

Now, who is Heinrich you might ask? The name from the title?

Not the Frog Prince. He is never named. Instead, Heinrich is the prince’s faithful coachman who arrives the following morning to celebrate his prince’s freedom. Heinrich also wears three wooden hoops around his chest to keep his heart from exploding with sorrow. As Heinrich drives the prince and the princess to their happily ever after, the story ends with:

“The sound of the hoops breaking from around Faithful Heinrich’s chest, for his master had been set free and was happy at last.”

 

Review

As I mentioned before, this story, although beloved and remade dozens of time, has never really struck my fancy. However, there are some interesting things happening here, especially if we believe that morals and life lessons can be discovered through fairy tales.

The obvious moral of the story: Honor your promises and you will be rewarded.

  • The frog honored his promise to retrieve the ball and the princess (unwillingly) honored her promise to the frog. His curse was broken and she got a fancy new husband.

The not-so-obvious moral: Action is necessary to accomplish anything worthwhile.

  • This might seem a little strange, but consider the scene in which the young princess hurls the frog against the wall. This violent act is hardly commendable and, if I were the prince, I would be a bit agitated with the princess. Some scholars have insisted that the violence of the action is unimportant (although I think the prince would argue), it is the action itself that is important. Neither the frog, nor the princess, could break the curse without being actively involved. I’m not sure if this satisfies being thrown across the room, but I can acquiesce the importance of having your protagonist being active rather than passive.

The interesting character of Heinrich

  • The fact that he is not the main character and yet, his name is in the title, begs further analysis of his character. He simply oozes off morals such as faithfulness and loyalty. However, we are only given this flat illustration of a servant happy to see his master freed. I don’t know about you, but I want to know Heinrich’s story.

What do you think of the story? Does it resonate with you or is it forgettable? Do you approve the princess’s violent actions? Do you want to know more about the servant Heinrich? Let me know your thoughts below!

 

Well, there we have it: my very first blog post for “My Bookshelf.” I simply adore fairy tales (thanks Jay Pines for reminding me of them) and I think I’ll do some more blog posts of this nature as long as you all seem interested. If you have a particular fairy tale that you would like my review of be sure to leave the title in the comment’s below!