Brothers Grimm Redux: Frog Prince Analysis

Fooled the Young Princess
So I decided that I would read every Brothers Grimm story. Starting at the beginning, I read the Frog Prince or Iron Heinrich from my Bantam Classic purchased years ago at the used bookstore. The story was your typical fairy tale with a young beautiful princess whose the youngest of her family. She likes playing her golden ball which falls into the water. A frog says he'll get it for her but at a price. To say that Brothers Grimm runs like the Twilight Zone is an understatement. If anything, it's the other way around as fairy tales came before the Twilight Zone, quite literally almost 6000 years before. While reading the Frog Prince, I thought it would be interesting to see at which point the story truly got started. Was it when the ball fell into the water? The Frog makes a deal with her? The Frog shows up for dinner? Or when the Princess throws the Frog against the wall?

The Frog Prince Story

After retrieving the ball for the Princess, the Frog makes a deal with her. Let him into her life and show him all the amenities that a regular person would deserve as payback for the favour. She agrees, thinking that he's not really going to go through with it. Lo and behold, the Frog shows up for dinner and the young Princess is crushed when her dad says that she needs to honour her word. It's not a pretty sight. She's got to deal with a Frog who obviously doesn't fit into her lifestyle. Later, when the thing actually asks to be brought into her room, she caves. The Princess throws him against the wall and the Frog turns into a Prince.

So When Does the Story Begin

This story got me thinking about which point fairy tales story pivots into something discernible. In other words, if this story was to be classified or pitched to a room of executives, then what would characterize it? It's easy to talk about it being a romance story especially since the young Princess finds her handsome Prince in the most unexpected places. But I realize that would be a mistake. In order to find the pivot of the story - the part the defines the whole shabang - we need to look at when everything changes for both the Prince and the Princess. It could be a lot of things, but truthfully, the one single scene that turns a series of events into a story occurs when the Princess accepts the Frog's deal.

It's the deal that sets everything into motion. He shows up. She hates it. Gets angry. Throws the Frog against the wall. He turns into her Prince. The deal he made is what got the story forward. Not the ball falling into the water. It's what the Frog did with his circumstances and what the Princess did with hers.

I've noticed that in my Brothers Grimm readings. What truly defines the story isn't so much the genre, but interaction between the character and a person, place or thing, that commits them to a series of actions and final resolution. For the Frog Prince, it's the deal. I would go so far as to call this a deal story rather than a love story.


While doing my first reading, I learned to look more keenly for what defines a story. These items look very much what screenwriters call an "inciting incident", but my definition suits me better. It's not just the protagonist, but the interaction of a protagonist with another than truly gets the tale moving in its storytelling direction. Read another Brothers Grimm fairy tale analysis, the Golden Bird.

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