In olden times when wishing still worked, there lived a king whose daughters were all beautiful. But the youngest was so beautiful the sun itself was astonished whenever it shone on her face.
Close by the king’s castle lay a great dark forest. Under an old lime tree in the forest was a well. When the day was very warm, the king’s youngest child went and sat down by the side of the cool fountain. And when she was bored, she took a golden ball and threw it up high and caught it. This ball was her favorite plaything.
On one occasion, the princess’s golden ball did not fall into the little hand she was holding up for it. It landed on the ground beyond and rolled straight into the water.
The king’s daughter followed it with her eyes, but the ball vanished. The well was deep, so deep that the bottom could not be seen. She began to cry, and then she cried louder and louder.
“What ails you, king’s daughter?” someone said to her. “You weep so that even a stone would show pity.” The princess looked round to the side from where the voice came and saw a frog. He stretched forth his big, ugly head from the water.
“Ah! Old water splasher, is it you?” the princess said. “I am weeping for my golden ball, which has fallen into the well.”
“Be quiet and do not weep. I can help you. But what will you give me, if I bring your plaything up again?”
“Whatever you will have, dear frog,” the princess said. “My clothes, my pearls and jewels, or even the golden crown I am wearing.”
“I do not care for your clothes, your pearls and jewels, nor for your golden crown. If you will love me and let me be your companion, and sit by you at your table, and eat off your little golden plate, and drink from your little cup, and sleep in your little bed, I will go down below and bring your golden ball up again.”
“Oh, yes,” the princess said. “I promise you all you wish.” But she thought, How the silly frog does talk! All he does is sit in the water with the other frogs and croak. He can be no companion to any human being!
When the frog had received the promise, he put his head in the water and sank down. In a short while he came swimming up again with the ball in his mouth. He threw it on the ground. The king’s daughter was delighted to see her plaything once more. She picked it up and ran away with it.
“Wait, wait!” said the frog. “Take me with you. I can’t run.” She did not listen, but ran home. She soon forgot the poor frog, who was forced to go back into his well.
The next day, the princess was seated at the table with the king and the nobles. She was eating from her little golden plate. Something came creeping splish splash, splish splash, up the marble staircase. When it got up to the top, it knocked at the door. It cried, “Princess, youngest Princess, open the door for me.”
The princess ran to see who was outside. When she opened the door, there sat the frog. She slammed the door closed and sat down to dinner again, but she was quite frightened.
“My child, what are you so afraid of?” the king said. “Is there a giant outside who wants to carry you away?”
“It is no giant, but a disgusting frog,” the princess replied.
“What does the frog want with you?”
“Dear Father, yesterday I was in the forest sitting by the well and playing. My golden ball fell into the water. The frog brought it out again for me. Because he insisted, I promised him he would be my companion. I never thought he would be able to come out of his water!”
The frog knocked a second time and cried:
“Princess! Youngest princess!
Open the door for me!
Do you not know what you said to me
Yesterday by the cool waters of the well?
Princess, youngest princess!
Open the door for me!”
Then said the king, “That which you have promised, you must perform. Go let him in.”
The princess opened the door. The frog hopped in and followed her to her chair. There he sat and cried, “Lift me up beside you!” The princess delayed until the king commanded her to do it. Once the frog was on the chair, he wanted to be on the table.
When he was on the table, he said, “Push your little golden plate nearer to me that we may eat together.” She did, but it was easy to see she did not do it willingly. The frog enjoyed what he ate. But almost every mouthful she took choked her.
At length the frog said, “I have eaten and am satisfi ed. Now I am tired. Carry me into your little room and make your little silken bed ready. We will lie down and go to sleep.”
The king’s daughter began to cry. She was afraid of the cold frog that was now to sleep in her pretty, clean bed. But the king grew angry.
“He who helped you in your trouble should not afterward be despised by you,” he said.
So, she took hold of the frog with two fi ngers, carried him upstairs, and put him in a corner. But when she was in bed, he crept up to her.
He said, “I am tired and want to sleep as well as you. Lift me up or I will tell your father.”
The princess was terribly angry. She threw him with all her might against the wall. “Now will you be quiet, horrid frog,” she said.
But when he fell down, he was no frog but a king’s son with kind and beautiful eyes. He told her he had been cursed by a wicked witch. No one could have delivered him but herself. By her father’s will, he was now her dear companion and husband. Tomorrow they would go together into his kingdom. Then they went to sleep.
The next morning a carriage came driving up with eight white horses. They had ostrich feathers on their heads and were harnessed with golden chains. Behind stood the young prince’s servant, Faithful Henry.
Faithful Henry had been so unhappy when his master was turned into a frog. He had three iron bands laid around his heart. The bands were to keep his heart from bursting with grief and sadness.
The carriage was to conduct the king’s son into his kingdom. Faithful Henry helped them both in and placed himself behind. He was of joy because of this deliverance. When they had driven a part of the way, the king heard a cracking behind him. He turned round and cried, “Henry, the carriage is breaking.”
“No, master, it is not the carriage. It is the band from my heart. It was put there in my great pain when you were a frog and imprisoned in the well.”
Again and once again something cracked. Each time the prince thought the carriage was breaking.
But it was only the bands springing from the heart of the Faithful Henry because his master was set free and happy.