From the French-speaking part of Switzerland: The Little Frog Queen with the Red Necklace
Once upon a time when wishing still helped there lived a poor hunchbacked woman who ever forth ailed. Except for one son she had no one, and he wanted to go to school. The schoolmaster, a good-natured fellow, said to her: “What would you do without your son? He must earn bread for you or you shall perish.”
They lived in a small hut near the forest with a babbling brook alongside. The poor boy went into the forest every day and collected wood to support his mother. Branch wood and kindling he carried home, but he sold the better wood in the village. Afterward he went to a stream and caught pretty little fishes that he sold in town. Every morning when he entered the forest a beautiful little frog sat there with a red necklace. It blinked at him and hopped around until he was finished. And when he went to the stream to fish, the frog was already there, dove into the water and jumped back and forth with joy.
But what did he see one day when he went to the brook to fish? Behind a broom hedge he saw the trembling little frog held firmly in the bill of a giant bird with long spiny legs and horny beak. The boy grabbed the frog and placed it under his shirt and carried it home. When his mother saw him she asked “What were you thinking bringing back this frog? There are so many of them hopping around!”
“Oh mother, believe me! This one is quite different from the rest!” And he told her how the frog followed him every day, first in the forest, and then to the stream. “Alright,” his mother replied. “We shall keep it. Take it to the garden and look after it!”
That afternoon the mother poked around in an old box where she kept scraps of material and found a purse with money. Amazed she showed it to her son and said she couldn’t fathom how these coins had found their way into the box. After much reflection she said to her son: “By God, I believe this money belongs to us. Take half of it and go to school in the city so you can learn something!” So the boy made his way to France. In the meantime his mother took care of the little frog. When she ate something at noon or in the evening, the little frog always sat next to her on her leather stool. When the son had no more money, he sent his mother news that he would come home again. One beautiful morning he was there. When she saw him the little frog began to hop around like a fool for sheer joy.
One day the mother received a letter from the city. It said that she had received an inheritance and should come and pick up the money. She didn’’t know anyone in the world who could have left her an inheritance. The mother said to her son: “This small frog brought us luck, of that I am certain!”
When she had fetched the inheritance the son said to her: “I would like to speak German. If you agree I shall make my way to the city to learn it.” “Good, good, my son. As you wish; I am satisfied.” He set out but he wrote his mother many letters while he was away. One could have sworn that the little frog knew exactly the days the letters would arrive. It hopped so happily and danced so joyfully before each letter came. But one day the son himself came home. Greetings to you dear mother! This time I will never leave home again. With the help of my knowledge I will now earn enough so that you can enjoy your dotage!”
The mother replied happily “I will make a good soup and meal to celebrate your return.” She set the table in the chamber and did not forget to set a place for the little frog.
But when the little frog had finished its soup, it became the most beautiful maiden in the world. There was none more beautiful. She said to the young man: “When I was a frog queen I noticed that you were a good and truthful child. Above all you treated your mother well. That is why I ask you now if you will take me for your wife.”
You can imagine how amazed he was. “I cannot say yes,” he replied, “for all the money we had I spent on my education.” “Oh, if that’s all,” the frog queen replied, “do not worry. I am rich enough!”
It was decided that they should marry. The day of the wedding came and they celebrated their marriage in the village. When they returned home instead of their little hut they found instead a beautiful castle. Many servants came and went from the kitchen to the great hall and from the great hall back to the kitchen to prepare and bring the meal. Now the poor little mother was dressed in fine silk and lace. They ate and drank for three days. I should know, because I was there and stirred the sauce. When my apron caught fire whilst I bent over the stove, the kitchen maids beat me with wooden spoons round my face until I fell unconscious to the floor . To get rid of me, they kicked me in the behind and shoved me here, where I fell onto this chair to tell my story.