The Frog Princess
The Frog Princess
In days gone by there was a King who
had three sons. When his sons came of age the King called them to him and said,
"My dear lads, I want you to get married so that I may see your little
ones, my grand-children, before I die."
And his sons replied, "Very
well, Father, give us your blessing. Who do you want us to marry?"
"Each of you must take an
arrow, go out into the green meadow and shoot it. Where the arrows fall, there
shall your destiny be."
So the sons bowed to their father,
and each of them took an arrow and went out into the green meadow, where they
drew their bows and let fly their arrows.
The arrow of the eldest son fell in
the courtyard of a nobleman, and the nobleman's daughter picked it up. The
arrow of the middle son fell in the yard of a merchant, and the merchant's
daughter picked it up. But the arrow of the youngest son, Prince Ivan, flew up
and away he knew not where. He walked on and on in search of it, and at last he
came to a marsh, where what should he see but a frog sitting on a leaf with the
arrow in its mouth. Prince Ivan said to it, "Frog, frog, give me back my
And the frog replied, "Marry
"How can I marry a frog?"
"Marry me, for it is your
Prince Ivan was sadly disappointed,
but what could he do? He picked up the frog and brought it home. The King
celebrated three weddings: his eldest son was married to the nobleman's
daughter, his middle son to the merchant's daughter, and poor Prince Ivan to
One day the King called his sons and
said, "I want to see which of your wives is most skilled with her needle.
Let them each sew me a shirt by tomorrow morning."
The sons bowed to their father and
went out. Prince Ivan went home and sat in a corner, looking very sad. The frog
hopped about on the floor and said to him, "Why are you so sad, Prince
Ivan? Are you in trouble?"
"My father wants you to sew him
a shirt by tomorrow morning."
Said the frog, "Don't be
downhearted, Prince Ivan. Go to bed; night is the mother of counsel." So
Prince Ivan went to bed, and the frog hopped out on to the doorstep, cast off
her frog skin, and turned into Vasilisa the Wise, a maiden fair beyond compare.
She clapped her hands and cried, "Maids and nurses, get ready, work
steady! By tomorrow morning sew me a shirt like the one my own father used to
When Prince Ivan awoke the next
morning, the frog was hopping about on the floor again, and on the table,
wrapped up in a linen towel, the shirt lay. Prince Ivan was delighted. He
picked up the shirt and took it to his father. He found the King receiving
gifts from his other sons. When the eldest laid out his shirt, the King said,
"This shirt will do for one of my servants." When the middle son laid
out his shirt, the King said, "This one is good only for the
bath-house." Prince Ivan laid out his shirt, handsomely embroidered in
gold and silver. The King took one look at it and said, "Now this is a
shirt indeed! I shall wear it on the best occasions."
The two elder brothers went home and
said to each other, "It looks as though we had laughed at Prince Ivan's
wife for nothing -- it seems she is not a frog, but a sorceress."
Again the King called his sons.
"Let your wives bake me bread by tomorrow morning," he said. I want
to know which one cooks the best."
Prince Ivan came home looking very
sad again. The frog said to him, "Why are you so sad, Prince?"
"The King wants you to bake
bread for him by tomorrow morning," replied her husband.
"Don't be downhearted, Prince
Ivan. Go to bed; night is the mother of counsel."
Now those other daughters-in-law had
made fun of the frog at first, but this time they sent an old henwife to see
how the frog baked her bread. But the frog was cunning and guessed what they
were about. She kneaded the dough, broke the top of the stove an d emptied the
dough-trough straight down the hole. The old henwife ran back to the other
wives and told them what she had seen, and they did as the frog had done.
Then the frog hopped out onto the
doorstep, turned into Vasilisa the Wise, and clapped her hands and cried,
"Maids and nurses, get ready, work steady! By tomorrow morning bake me a
soft white loaf like the ones I ate when I lived at home."
Prince Ivan woke up in the morning,
and there on the table he saw a loaf of bread with all kinds of pretty designs on
it. On the sides were quaint figures -- royal cities with walls and gates.
Prince Ivan was ever so pleased. He wrapped the loaf up in a linen towel and
took it to his father. Just then the King was receiving the loaves from his
elder sons. Their wives had dropped the dough into the fire as the old henwife
had told them, and it came out just a lump of charred dough. The King took the
loaf from his eldest son, looked at it and sent it to the servants' hall. He
took the loaf from his middle son and did the same with that. But when Prince
Ivan handed him his loaf the King said, "Now that is what I call bread! It
is fit to be eaten onl y on holidays."
And the King bade his sons come to
his feast the next day and bring their wives with them. Prince Ivan came home
grieving again. The frog hopped up and said, "Why are you so said, Prince
Ivan? Has your father said anything unkind to you?"
"Froggy, my frog, how can I
help being sad? Father wants me to bring you to his feast, but how can you
appear before people as my wife?"
"Don't be downhearted, Prince
Ivan," said the frog. "Go to the feast alone and I will come later.
When you hear a knocking and a banging, do not be afraid. If you are asked, say
it is only your Froggy riding in her box."
So Prince Ivan went by himself. His
elder brothers drove up with their wives, rouged and powdered and dressed in
fine clothes. They stood there and mocked Prince Ivan: "Why did you not
bring your wife? You could have brought her in a handkerchief. Where, indeed,
did you find such a beauty? You must have searched all the marshes for
The King and his sons and
daughters-in-law and all the guests sat down to feast at the oaken tables
covered with handsome cloths. All at once there was a knocking and a banging
that made the whole palace shake. The guests jumped up in fright, but Prince
Ivan said, "Do not be afraid, good people, it is only my Froggy riding in
Just then a gilded carriage drawn by
six white horses dashed up to the palace door and out of it stepped Vasilisa
the Wise in a dress of sky-blue silk strewn with stars and a shining moon upon
her head -- a maiden as fair as the sky at dawn, the fairest maiden ever born.
She took Prince Ivan by the hand and led him to the oaken tables with the
handsome cloths on them.
The guests began to eat, drink and
make merry. Vasilisa the Wise drank from her glass and emptied the dregs into
her left sleeve. Then she ate some swan meat and put the bones in her right
sleeve. The wives of the elder princes saw her do this and they did the same.
When the eating and drinking were
over, the time came for dancing. Vasilisa the Wise took Prince Ivan and tripped
off with him. She whirled and danced, and everybody watched and marveled. She
waved her left sleeve, and lo! a lake appeared! She waved her right sleeve, and
white swans began to swim on the lake. The King and his guests were struck with
Then the other daughters-in-law went
to dance. They waved one sleeve, but only splashed wine over the guests; they
waved the other, but only scattered bones, and one bone hit the King right in
the forehead. The King flew into a rage and drove both daughters-in-law away.
Meanwhile, Prince Ivan slipped out
and ran home. There he found the frog skin and threw it into the fire. When
Vasilisa the Wise came home, she looked for the frog skin but could not find
it. She sat down on a bench, sorely grieved, and said to Prince Iva n,
"Ah, Prince Ivan, what have you done? Had you but waited three more days I
would have been yours forever. But now, farewell. Seek me beyond the
Thrice-Nine Lands, in the Thrice-Ten Kingdom, where Koshchei the Deathless
dwells." So saying, Vasilisa the Wise turned herself into a gray cuckoo
and flew out of the window. Prince Ivan wept long and hard, then bowed in all
four directions and went forth he knew not where to seek his wife, Vasilisa the
Wise. How long he walked is hard to say, but h is boots wore down at the heels,
his tunic wore out at the elbows, and his cap became battered by the rain. By
and by he met a little man, as old as old can be.
"Good day, my lad," said
the little old man. "Where are you going and what is your errand?"
Prince Ivan told him about his
"Ah, why did you burn the frog
skin, Prince Ivan?" said the little old man. "It was not yours to
keep or do away with. Vasilisa the Wise was born wiser than her father, and
that made him so angry that he turned her into a frog for three years. Ah,
well, it cannot be helped now. Take this ball of yarn and follow it without
fear wherever it rolls."
Prince Ivan thanked the little old
man and followed the ball of yarn. It rolled on and he came after. In an open
field he met a bear. Prince Ivan took aim and was about to kill it, but the
bear spoke in a human voice: "Do not kill me, Prince Ivan, for you may
have need of me someday."
Prince Ivan spared the bear's life
and went on farther. Suddenly he saw a drake flying overhead. He took aim with
his bow, but the drake said in a human voice, "Do not kill me, Prince
Ivan, for you may have need of me someday."
He spared the drake and went on. A
hare came running by. Again Prince Ivan snatched his bow to shoot it, but the
hare said in a human voice, "Do not kill me, Prince Ivan, for you may have
need of me someday."
So he spared the hare and went on.
He came to the blue sea and saw a pike lying on the sandy beach gasping for
breath. "Ah, Prince Ivan," said the pike, "take pity on me and
throw me back into the blue sea."
So he threw the pike into the sea
and walked on along the shore. By and by the ball of yarn rolled into a forest,
and there stood a little hut on hen's feet, turning round and round.
"Little hut, little hut, turn your back to the trees and your face to me,
The hut turned its face to him and
its back to the trees. Prince Ivan walked in, and there, sitting in the corner,
was Baba-Yaga, the witch with a broom and a switch, a bony hag with a nose like
a snag. When she saw him she said, "Ugh, ugh, Russian blood, never met by
me before, now I smell it at my door. Who comes here? Where from? Where
"You might give me meat and
drink and a steam bath before asking questions," retorted Prince Ivan. So
Baba-Yaga gave him a steam bath, gave him meat and drink, and put him to bed.
Then Prince Ivan told her he was seeking his wife, Vasilisa the Wise.
"I know, I know," said
Baba Yaga. "Your wife is now in the power of Koshchei the Deathless. It
will be hard for you to get him back. Koshchei is more than a match for you.
His death is at the point of a needle. The needle is in an egg; the egg is in a
duck; the duck is in a hare; the hare is in a stone casket; the casket is at
the top of a tall oak tree that Koshchei the Deathless guards as the apple of
Prince Ivan spent the night at
Baba-Yaga's, and in the morning she showed him the way to the tall oak. How
long he walked it is hard to say, but by and by he came to the tall oak tree
with the stone casket at the top of it. But it was hard to reach.
Suddenly, up came the bear whose
life he had spared, and pulled the tree out, roots and all. Down fell the
casket and broke open. Out of the casket sprang a hare and scampered off as
fast as it could. The other hare, whose life Prince Ivan had spared, gave
chase, caught it and tore it to bits. Out of the dead hare flew a duck, and
shot high into the sky. But in a twinkling, the drake, whose life Prince Ivan
had spared, was at it. The duck dropped the egg, and down it fell into the blue
At this Prince Ivan wept bitter
tears. How could he find the egg in the sea? But all at once the pike, whose
life Prince Ivan had spared, swam up with the egg in its mouth. Prince Ivan
broke the egg, took the needle out, and set about breaking the point off. The
more he bent it, the more Koshchei the Deathless writhed and screamed, but all
in vain. Prince Ivan broke off the point of the needle and Koshchei fell down
Prince Ivan went to Koshchei's white
stone palace. Vasilisa the Wise came running out to meet him and kissed him
deeply. And Prince Ivan and Vasilisa the Wise went back to their own home and
lived in peace and happiness to a ripe old age.
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