The Lithuanian Fairy Tale of a King’s Son and an Enchanted Frog Maiden
There once lived a king, who had three sons. He decided that they should all marry at once so he said to them “Children, you have come of age. You shall all marry at once! As soon as you ride out to your intended ones, I shall shoot off my blunderbuss. Wherever the bullet flies, ride in that direction. The person who catches my bullet shall be your bride. That is the maiden you shall bring home.”
The oldest son decided to ride out to his maiden. His father went out and shot his blunderbuss. The bullet sailed slowly through the air and the son rode after it. He arrived at a kingdom. There at the king’s court a princess stood on a flight of stairs. She caught the bullet in mid-air. This daughter was not particularly beautiful because she had pock marks. The son led her home. He now had a wife. And so the second son wanted to ride out. The father went outside again and shot his blunderbuss. The son rode out and arrived in a kingdom. Here the king’s daughter held the bullet in her hand. She was slightly more beautiful and the king’s son led her home. Now the second son also had a wife.
The third son also wanted to ride out. The father went outside and shot his blunderbuss. The son rode after the bullet and arrived in another kingdom and king’s court. There stood a green frog on the stairs and held the bullet in its mouth. The king’s son was frightened. But what could he do? His father had commanded that he bring back the one who caught the bullet. He took home the frog and placed it under his bed. There it hopped around and croaked. Shortly before the wedding the brides opened their windows. All manner of royal presents flew inside. When the frog opened its window, gifts of even rarer beauty arrived.
During the day, the frog was a frog. But at night, it slipped out of its skin and became a beautiful woman. There was no one more beautiful in all the world. And every night the little frog lay down in the bed and how happy the son was when it became a beautiful woman! But when daylight came, the son was sad, because he knew what he had to do. Finally he thought of a way out of his dilemma. He must burn the frog skin so he fetched coal to do it. In the evening when his wife had removed the frog skin, the king’s son threw it onto the fire and it burned. The wife noticed the smell and jumped up immediately. “Now you have destroyed me.” She sat down and wrote a letter to her oldest sister and then said to him: “Go to the smithy and have him forge iron shoes and a sack. He shall give you a piece of iron that is as large as a slice of bread! Place this in the sack and take this letter to my sister! You will find a bed made there for you. As soon as you are there, lay down immediately and place the letter on your neck! If you do exactly as I say, you and I can be together again. Otherwise I will not be yours and you shall not be mine. You have caused the greatest torment for me.” And she flew out of the window.
The king’s son immediately went to the smithy. He made him iron shoes, a sack and a piece of iron as large as a slice of bread. Then he took the letter and went out. He wandered and wandered and finally reached a court. There was nothing there, not even a dog. He went into the house and found a bed made. He lay down immediately and placed the letter on his neck. It wasn’t long before the sister flew inside with the sound of thunder crashing all around. She was spitting and sputtering and screamed: “Who smells like man flesh here? O, brother-in-law, it is you! You are a good bird for me to rip to shreds!” But she took the letter from his neck and read it. “So,” she said. “Get up! Come over here. I will give you something to eat! You have come a long distance and are tired.”
He stood up immediately and said: “Here is your iron bread.”
She cut it into little pieces and he ate it. Then she said: “Go into the garden back and forth!” He did this and soon saw that his shoes had become tattered to bits. He went back inside the room. Immediately the thunder roared again as someone approached. She said “Where shall I hide you?” She hid him behind the oven. Then someone entered the room and said mournfully “What did the evil one do? What torment I have suffered!” The sister replied: “If you saw your husband, what would you do with him?” “I would cut him into little pieces.” Then she flew away.
He crept out from behind the oven and the sister said: “Now go to the smithy and have another pair of iron shoes and sack forged. I will give you another letter for my other sister. When you arrive there, you shall find another bed made. Lay down, cover yourself to your chin, and place the letter under your chin." He did everything as commanded, took the letter and departed. He wandered and wandered. Finally he reached a court. Again he found nothing. Then he went into the house, saw a bed made, lay down inside and placed the letter under his chin. It wasn’t long before someone approached amidst great roaring of thunder, entered the house, spit and sputtered and screamed “Who smells here like man flesh? Oh brother-in-law, I would like to tear you to bits!" But then she took the letter, read it and said: “Get up, come here and eat! Do you have your bread?" He gave her the sack. As soon as she touched it with her knife, the iron turned into bread. She cut it and ate it. Then she said: “Go out into the garden and walk back and forth!” He did this too. Then he saw how his shoes had become tattered to bits. He went back into the house and listened as someone approached. “Where shall I hide you?” the sister asked. “Creep behind the bed!” He crept behind it. Someone entered the room and said: “If you only knew how I suffer!” But the sister said: “If you saw your husband, what would you do to him?” She answered “I would tear him into four pieces.” After uttering these words, she flew away and he crept from behind the bed.
Then the sister said to him: “Go to the smithy and have iron shoes and a sack made. I will give you a letter for my youngest sister. When you arrive at court, you shall find a bed made. Lay down to sleep and cover yourself. Place the letter on your breast!” He went to the smithy, who made him the iron shoes and sack and he departed. He wandered and wandered until he came to a court and found nothing there, not a single living being. He went inside the house. There he found a bed made. He lay down, covered himself and placed the letter on his breast. It wasn’t long until someone rushed inside the house, removed the letter from his breast, read it and said: “Get up and eat!” Once again she took his sack. As soon as she placed her knife on the iron, it became bread. She cut it into pieces and he ate. “Now go into the garden and walk back and forth!” He went into the garden and wandered back and forth. There he saw that his shoes had become tattered to bits. He went back inside the house and while they spoke, someone again approached in a roaring, buzzing sound. She said “Where shall I hide you? Creep behind my skirt!”
Immediately he crept behind it. His wife came happily into the room and the sister said: “If you saw your husband now, what would you do to him? “I would do nothing to him, nothing at all.” She immediately lifted her skirts and said “See, here is your husband.”
She welcomed and thanked him for redeeming her. They both returned to their homeland. When they reached the kingdom, they prepared the wedding feast. All three sons married at once and the father gave the youngest son the kingdom. His bride, the princess, had been enchanted before she was born. It was her fate to remain in frog form until her wedding day. If he had not burned her frog skin, she would have become a woman when she married.
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