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Viktor Vasnetsov. The Frog Tsarevna. 1918

The Frog Princess is a fairy tale that exists in many versions from several countries.

Russian variants include the Frog Princess or Tsarevna Frog (Царевна Лягушка) and also Vasilisa the Wise (Василиса Премудрая);[1] Alexander Afanasyev collected variants in his Narodnye russkie skazki. Andrew Lang included an Italian variant titled The Frog in The Violet Fairy Book.[2] Italo Calvino included another Italian variant, from Piedmont, The Prince Who Married a Frog, in Italian Folktales;[3] he noted that the tale was common throughout Europe.[4] Georgios A. Megas included a Greek variant, The Enchanted Lake, in Folktales of Greece.[5] It is Aarne-Thompson type 402, the Mouse (Cat, Frog, etc) as bride.[6]

Contents

Synopsis

The king (or an old peasant woman, in Lang's version) sets his three sons to marry, and tests their chosen brides. The king tells them to shoot arrows and find their brides where the arrows land, and the youngest prince's arrow is picked up by a frog. The two older sons may already have girls picked out, but the youngest son -- Ivan Tsarevich in the Russian version -- is at a loss until a friendly frog takes pity on him and offers to marry him. In Calvino's version, the princes use slings rather than bows and arrows. In the Greek version, the princes set out to find their brides one by one; the older two are already married by the time the third sets out.

The king then assigns his three prospective daughters-in-law various tasks, such as spinning cloth and baking bread. In every task the frog far outdoes the lazy brides-to-be of the older brothers; in some versions, she uses magic to accomplish the tasks, the other brides attempt to emulate her and cannot do the magic. Still, the young prince is ashamed of his froggy bride, until she is magically transformed into a princess.

In the Russian story, the last test may be dancing, with the frog bride having shed her skin; the prince then burns it, to her dismay. If he had waited, she would have been free, but he has lost her. He then sets out to find her again and meets up with Baba Yaga, whom he impresses with his spirit, demanding to know why she has not offered him hospitality. She may tell him that Koschei has his bride captive, and how to find the magic needle, without which Koschei will be helpless; with that, he rescues his bride. In other versions, his wife flies into Baba Yaga's hut as a bird; he catches her, she turns into a lizard, and he can not hold on. Baba Yaga rebukes him and sends him to her sister; there he fails again, but is sent to the third sister, where he catches her, and no transformations break her free again.

In some versions of the story, the transformation is a reward for her good nature; in others, she is transformed by witches out of amusement; and in others, she is revealed to have been an enchanted princess all along.

Variants

This tale is closely related to Puddocky and its variants, in which a transformed frog helps the youngest prince after the king set three tasks to his sons to determine which one is best to rule.

Adaptations

Taking inspiration from the Russian story, Vasilisa appears to assist Hellboy in the 2007 comic book Hellboy: Darkness Calls against Koschei.

See also

References

  1. ^ Verra Xenophontovna Kalamatiano de Blumenthal, Folk Tales from the Russian, "The Tsarevna Frog"
  2. ^ Andrew Lang, The Violet Fairy Book, "The Frog"
  3. ^ Italo Calvino, Italian Folktales p 438 ISBN 0-15-645489-0
  4. ^ Italo Calvino, Italian Folktales p 718 ISBN 0-15-645489-0
  5. ^ Georgias A. Megas, Folktales of Greece, p 49, University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London, 1970
  6. ^ Georgias A. Megas, Folktales of Greece, p 224, University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London, 1970
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