Frog Princess - Part I

Everybody knows the story of the Prince that was a frog who needed a true kiss from a beautiful Princess to break the spell.

Well, not in Eastern Europe. Here we have some slightly different versions of it where actually the frog is the Princess, not the Prince.

The story goes like this. There was once an emperor who had three sons, the youngest one, his name was Ivan. One day the father told them it is time they should get married and to go into the woods to throw an arrow in the wind where they feel their loved one is. Where the arrow arrives, that is the place where the one they should marry lives. All three boys shot the sky with an arrow, searching for their beloved. The first son reached a castle, where the king had a daughter to marry. The second one reached a nobles house who also had a daughter to marry. And then Ivan. Ivan followed his arrow just to see it arrived on a lake and a little frog was holding it. He opposed and refused this. He wanted a beautiful lady as his brothers found, not a little frog! He was outraged and furious. He tried to persuade his father and even cried, but all was in vain. A promise is a promise.

So, all three young boys married their wives with big ceremonies and celebration. But after the wedding the emperor wanted to find which of the brides was the most skilled in making things. He summoned his sons and asked ”each of your brides has to make me a white shirt in one night.” The first two sons agreed, only Ivan started to weep thinking ”what could my little frog do! Everybody will just laugh at me and my frog-wife!” The frog heard this and when Ivan was asleep she went outside, threw her frog skin and called her servants to help her make the most beautiful white shirt. She took it, folded it and laid it beside Ivan, then put her frog skin back. Ivan woke up and was overjoyed. He took quickly the shirt and run to the emperor. The emperor looked at it and said that this was the most beautiful shirt he ever saw and that he will wear it on feast day, something that he did not said about the shirts of the other brides. And everybody realised they were wrong to laugh about Ivan and his bride.

After a while the emperor had another demand, he asked for the brides to bake a loaf of bread so he could judge which one is the best. Everybody laughed thinking about the frog. As the night came the frog left her skin again and asked her helpers to come and bake with her the most beautiful and tasty bread. In the morning, she left the bread next to Ivan and took back her frog skin. The emperor tasted the first two breads and sent them back to the kitchen. When Ivans turn came, his father took it, tasted it and said ”This is a loaf to have on a fest day!” Ivan and his bride were again the ones who left everybody amazed of such wonder and his brothers full with envy.

After the emperor arranged to have a ball, he expressed that he would check which bride dances the best. Everybody was enchanted of such game, only Ivan did not want to participate. ”What use? I cannot come and dance with a frog!”. But the frog told him not to bother, to go to the ball and that she will follow an hour later. He agreed and then she quickly went to leave her frog skin and arrayed herself splendidly. At the palace all brothers came with their brides in beautiful clothes and did not missed the opportunity to make fun of Ivan and his situation. But amidst all laugher a thunder was heard and a beautiful golden carriage appeared, carried by six steeds. Out of it stepped the most beautiful creature that ever walked on earth. She came to Ivan, took his hand and led him to eating table. During dinner, the Princess pursed some drops of whine in her left sleeve and some swan bones in the right one. But the other two brides saw this and did likewise. Then the time to dance came where she enchanted everybody with her beauty. But then she moved her left hand and a beautiful blue lake appeared and she moved her right hand and three swans came out of thin air. Seeing such wonders everybody was marveled. Then the other brides tries to copy the moves, so they moved their left hands and sprayed with wine the guests and then they moved their right hands and bones flew out and hit the emperor in the eye. Angry, the emperor stoped the dance.

In their palace, Ivan saw the frog skin that the princess left behind in the room. He took it and throw it into the fire. The princess came to bed and slept with him the whole night, but in the morning she said ”My dear husband, what have you done! If only you were a little patience, we could have been forever together. But now I need to leave and the sky knows when we will meet again!” Then she turned into a beautiful white swan and flew.

To Be Continued...

This story speaks to me and is very dear to my heart. I heard it as a little child and this beautiful, magical creature stayed in my mind for years. Growing, her gestures and her choices became more profound and this search, these trials, this trust and betrayal between her and Ivan are a powerful archetypes. So I wanted to give her a face, actually, her two faces: the one with a frog skin and the one with a human skin. I placed them on paper together as they are one.

I hope you will enjoy this illustration as much as I do!