In times of old when wishing still helped, there lived a king, whose daughters were all extremely beautiful. But the youngest one was so beautiful that the sun, which had seen so much in its day, was amazed whenever it gazed upon her face. Near the king’s castle lay a dark wood and in the wood underneath an old linden tree there was a water well. If the day was very hot, the king’s child went out to the forest and sat at the edge of the cool spring. And if the child was bored, it took a golden ball, threw it in the air and caught it; and that was the child’s favorite plaything.
Now it happened that the golden ball of the king’s daughter did not fall into her little hands, but rather hit the ground and rolled directly into the water. The king’s daughter followed it with her eyes, but the ball disappeared and the well was so deep that it was impossible to see the bottom. She began to cry and cried louder and louder and was inconsolable. And as she cried, some one called to her “You, daughter of the king, what are you doing? You are crying in a manner that even a stone would take pity.” She looked round to see where the voice was coming from, and there she saw a frog that poked its hideous head out of the water. “Oh it’s you, you old puddle splasher,” she said. “I am crying over my golden ball, which fell into the well.” “Be still and do not cry,” the frog replied. “I can help. But what will you give me if I fetch your plaything?” “Whatever you want, dear frog,” she said. “My clothes, my pearls and jewels, but also the golden crown that I am wearing.” But the frog replied “I don’t want your clothes, your pearls or jewelry. And your golden crown, that I surely don’t want. But if you will love me and I will be your mate and play fellow, I will sit at the little table next to you, eat from your little golden plate, drink from your little cup and sleep in your little bed. If you promise me that, I will dive down and fetch the golden ball.” “Oh yes,” she answered. “I promise you everything you want as long as you bring me the ball.” But she was really thinking “How that simple frog prattles on. He sits in the water with his own kind and croaks and can never be the mate of a human.”
The frog, when he had received her promise, dipped his head below the surface, sank deep into the water and after a while he swam to the top again. He held the ball in his mouth and threw it on the grass. The king’s daughter was filled with joy when she saw her wonderful plaything. She picked it up and jumped away with it immediately. “Wait, wait,” the frog yelled. “Take me with you, I can’t run like you.” But what good did it do that his loud croaking followed her, cry as he may! She didn’t listen, hurried home and soon forgot about the poor frog, who had to climb back to his water well.
The next day, when she sat down with the king and his entire court to dinner and ate from her little golden plate, something crept up the marble steps, plitsch, platsch, plitsch, platsch. When it reached the top it knocked on the door and cried “King’s daughter, youngest one, open the door for me.” She ran and wanted to see who it was. But when she opened the door, there stood the frog. She shut the door hastily and returned to the table and was very frightened. The king saw that her heart was pounding and said “My child, what do you fear, is a giant standing at the door to snatch you away?” “Oh no,” she answered, “It is no giant but a loathsome frog.” “What does the frog want with you?” “Oh dear father, when I went to the wood yesterday and sat by the well and played, my golden ball fell into the water. And because I cried so, the frog fetched it. And because he demanded it, I promised that he would be my mate. I never thought that he would creep out his water. Now he is outside and wants to come in.” And the frog knocked on the door a second time and called
“King’s daughter, youngest one,
Open the door for me,
Don’t you remember yesterday?
What you promised me
By the cool water well?
King’s daughter, youngest one,
Open the door for me.
The king said “What you have promised, you must also keep. Go now and open the door for him.” She went and opened the door and the frog hopped inside, followed right behind her feet and went to her chair. There he sat and called “Lift me up to you.” She shuddered, until finally the king commanded it. When the frog sat on the chair, it wanted to be on the table and when it sat there it said “Now slide your little golden plate over to me, so that we can eat together.” She did it, but one could see she did not do it gladly. The frog ate heartily but almost every bite lodged in the princess’s throat. Finally he said “I’m full now and tired. Carry me into your little chamber and make up your silk bed, where we can lay down.” The king’s daughter began to cry and was scared of the cold frog, which she didn’t even want to touch. And now he wanted to sleep in her beautiful clean bed. But the king became angry and said “Whoever has helped you when you were in need, you should not forget later.” She picked him up with two fingers and carried him up and put him in the corner. But when she lay in bed, he crept over and said “I’m tired, I want to go to bed like you. Lift me up or I will tell your father.” She was seized by such a bitter rage that she snatched him up and threw him against the wall with all her might. “Now you will have the rest you seek, you loathsome frog.”
But when he fell down, he was no frog but rather a prince with beautiful and friendly eyes. It had been her father’s will that he become her dearest mate and husband. He told her he had been hexed by an evil witch and no one but she could save him from the water well. Tomorrow they would go to his kingdom . They fell asleep and the next morning when the sun woke them, a carriage drove up with eight white horses. The horses had white ostrich feathers on their heads and walked in golden chains and behind stood the servant of the young king. It was True Heinrich. True Heinrich was so aggrieved when his master had been turned into a frog, that he had three iron bands placed round his heart so that it would not burst for pain and sadness. The carriage now fetched the young king to take him to his kingdom. True Heinrich lifted up both, stepped behind and was filled with joy over the prince’s redemption. And when they had traveled some distance, the prince heard a loud sound behind him, as if something was breaking. He turned and called
“Heinrich, the carriage is breaking.”
No, dear sir, not the carriage,
But the band round my heart,
In pitiable suffering,
Whilst you sat in the spring
And were a frog.”
Again and again the sound was heard and the prince thought the wagon was breaking. But it was only the bands around the heart of True Heinrich, as they broke, because his master was redeemed and now was exceedingly happy.
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