Sunday, April 15, 2012

You Want Me to Kiss What? by Alison Henderson

It’s Frog Month! You didn’t think I could pass that up, did you? If you remember my squirrel post from last fall, you know I enjoy wacky animals. Squirrels, monkeys, chickens – even frogs; they all make me laugh.

So what could be more appropriate than examining the role of frogs in romance fiction? We’re all familiar with The Frog Prince by the Brothers Grimm—the story of the beautiful princess who must kiss the frog to release the enchanted prince. It has become a familiar cultural reference in everything from television advertising to popular movies. But did you know a kiss was never a part of the original story?
Like so many fairy tales, The Frog Prince has been re-translated, re-told, and re-imagined many times over the years. Each author tweaked the details until several versions emerged. In the original Grimm story, the frog offered to retrieve the princess’s golden ball from the pond if she agreed to cherish him, feed him from her plate, and allow him to sleep beside her. Willing to say anything to get her ball back, she agreed but denied him when he showed up at the palace the next day. The king insisted that the princess honor her promise, so she allowed the frog to eat from her golden plate. However, when he followed her to bed, she was so repulsed she threw him against the wall. When the frog bounced off onto the bed, he transformed into a handsome prince and they lived happily ever after.

Doesn’t sound much like the version you know, does it?

Apparently, a stout blow, such as throwing the frog into the wall, was a critical element of shape-shifting in early German folklore, but later authors chose to eliminate it in favor of having the princess allow the frog to sleep in her bed for three nights until she awoke the third morning to find a handsome prince sharing her covers. What a nice surprise!

Fairy tales are particularly popular right now as the inspiration for television programs from Grimm to Once Upon a Time. And what about the multiple versions of Snow White coming out later this year? Fairy tales form the basis of many wonderful romance plots, and as authors, we are free to twist them however we choose. Think about the stories you’ve read based loosely on classics like The Ugly Duckling, Beauty and the Beast, or the ultimate fantasy—Cinderella. Eloisa James’s latest book is take on The Princess and the Pea.

What are some of your favorite romances that owe their souls to fairy tales?

Alison Henderson


Jannine Gallant said...

A lot of those fairy tales were pretty grim in their original version. I can see why they got transformed over the years. The Serious Moonlight by Janet Halpin, one of the Class of '85 series with TWRP, has a Beauty and the Beast theme to it. Great post, Alison!

Colleen Connally said...

I grew up on those Fairy Tales. You could really let your imagination fly. I guess that's why I love those shows you mention.

Alison Henderson said...

Thanks, Jannine. There's a lot more to be said on this topic, but it's too much for a blog post. Maybe I should write an article...hmm.

Brenda Whiteside said...

What a fun blog! And I was reminded of a plaque - you those little painted things you're tempted to buy and then don't know what to do with? "You have to kiss a lot of frogs before you meet Prince Charming."

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Alsion.
Nice blog. I love most fairy tales but some of them were quite sad and cruel. Over the years I think they have been sanitised for modern consumption.