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The Little Green Frog

from The Yellow Fairy Book





Cabinet des Fees.

In a part of the world whose name I forget lived once upon a time
two kings, called Peridor and Diamantino. They were cousins as
well as neighbours, and both were under the protection of the
fairies; though it is only fair to say that the fairies did not
love them half so well as their wives did.

Now it often happens that as princes can generally manage to get
their own way it is harder for them to be good than it is for
common people. So it was with Peridor and Diamantino; but of the
two, the fairies declared that Diamantino was much the worst;
indeed, he behaved so badly to his wife Aglantino, that the
fairies would not allow him to live any longer; and he died,
leaving behind him a little daughter. As she was an only child,
of course this little girl was the heiress of the kingdom, but,
being still only a baby, her mother, the widow of Diamantino, was
proclaimed regent. The Queen-dowager was wise and good, and
tried her best to make her people happy. The only thing she had
to vex her was the absence of her daughter; for the fairies, for
reasons of their own, determined to bring up the little Princess
Serpentine among themselves.

As to the other King, he was really fond of his wife, Queen
Constance, but he often grieved her by his thoughtless ways, and
in order to punish him for his carelessness, the fairies caused
her to die quite suddenly. When she was gone the King felt how
much he had loved her, and his grief was so great (though he
never neglected his duties) that his subjects called him Peridor
the Sorrowful. It seems hardly possible that any man should live
like Peridor for fifteen years plunged in such depth of grief,
and most likely he would have died too if it had not been for the
fairies.

The one comfort the poor King had was his son, Prince Saphir, who
was only three years old at the time of his mother's death, and
great care was given to his education. By the time he was
fifteen Saphir had learnt everything that a prince should know,
and he was, besides, charming and agreeable.

It was about this time that the fairies suddenly took fright lest
his love for his father should interfere with the plans they had
made for the young prince. So, to prevent this, they placed in a
pretty little room of which Saphir was very fond a little mirror
in a black frame, such as were often brought from Venice. The
Prince did not notice for some days that there was anything new
in the room, but at last he perceived it, and went up to look at
it more closely. What was his surprise to see reflected in the
mirror, not his own face, but that of a young girl as lovely as
the morning! And, better still, every movement of the girl, just
growing out of childhood, was also reflected in the wonderful
glass.

As might have been expected, the young Prince lost his heart
completely to the beautiful image, and it was impossible to get
him out of the room, so busy was he in watching the lovely
unknown. Certainly it was very delightful to be able to see her
whom he loved at any moment he chose, but his spirits sometimes
sank when he wondered what was to be the end of this adventure.

The magic mirror had been for about a year in the Prince's
possession, when one day a new subject of disquiet seized upon
him. As usual, he was engaged in looking at the girl, when
suddenly he thought he saw a second mirror reflected in the
first, exactly like his own, and with the same power. And in
this he was perfectly right. The young girl had only possessed
it for a short time, and neglected all her duties for the sake of
the mirror. Now it was not difficult for Saphir to guess the
reason of the change in her, nor why the new mirror was consulted
so often; but try as he would he could never see the face of the
person who was reflected in it, for the young girl's figure
always came between. All he knew was that the face was that of a
man, and this was quite enough to make him madly jealous. This
was the doing of the fairies, and we must suppose that they had
their reasons for acting as they did.

When these things happened Saphir was about eighteen years old,
and fifteen years had passed away since the death of his mother.
King Peridor had grown more and more unhappy as time went on, and
at last he fell so ill that it seemed as if his days were
numbered. He was so much beloved by his subjects that this sad
news was heard with despair by the nation, and more than all by
the Prince.

During his whole illness the King never spoke of anything but the
Queen, his sorrow at having grieved her, and his hope of one day
seeing her again. All the doctors and all the water-cures in the
kingdom had been tried, and nothing would do him any good. At
last he persuaded them to let him lie quietly in his room, where
no one came to trouble him.

Perhaps the worst pain he had to bear was a sort of weight on his
chest, which made it very hard for him to breathe. So he
commanded his servants to leave the windows open in order that he
might get more air. One day, when he had been left alone for a
few minutes, a bird with brilliant plumage came and fluttered
round the window, and finally rested on the sill. His feathers
were sky-blue and gold, his feet and his beak of such glittering
rubies that no one could bear to look at them, his eyes made the
brightest diamonds look dull, and on his head he wore a crown. I
cannot tell you what the crown was made of, but I am quite
certain that it was still more splendid than all the rest. As to
his voice I can say nothing about that, for the bird never sang
at all. In fact, he did nothing but gaze steadily at the King,
and as he gazed, the King felt his strength come back to him. In
a little while the bird flew into the room, still with his eyes
fixed on the King, and at every glance the strength of the sick
man became greater, till he was once more as well as he used to
be before the Queen died. Filled with joy at his cure, he tried
to seize the bird to whom he owed it all, but, swifter than a
swallow, it managed to avoid him. In vain he described the bird
to his attendants, who rushed at his first call; in vain they
sought the wonderful creature both on horse and foot, and
summoned the fowlers to their aid: the bird could nowhere be
found. The love the people bore King Peridor was so strong, and
the reward he promised was so large, that in the twinkling of an
eye every man, woman, and child had fled into the fields, and the
towns were quite empty.

All this bustle, however, ended in nothing but confusion, and,
what was worse, the King soon fell back into the same condition
as he was in before. Prince Saphir, who loved his father very
dearly, was so unhappy at this that he persuaded himself that he
might succeed where the others had failed, and at once prepared
himself for a more distant search. In spite of the opposition he
met with, he rode away, followed by his household, trusting to
chance to help him. He had formed no plan, and there was no
reason that he should choose one path more than another. His
only idea was to make straight for those spots which were the
favourite haunts of birds. But in vain he examined all the
hedges and all the thickets; in vain he questioned everyone he
met along the road. The more he sought the less he found.

At last he came to one of the largest forests in all the world,
composed entirely of cedars. But in spite of the deep shadows
cast by the wide-spreading branches of the trees, the grass
underneath was soft and green, and covered with the rarest
flowers. It seemed to Saphir that this was exactly the place
where the birds would choose to live, and he determined not to
quit the wood until he had examined it from end to end. And he
did more. He ordered some nets to be prepared and painted of the
same colours as the bird's plumage, thinking that we are all
easily caught by what is like ourselves. In this he had to help
him not only the fowlers by profession, but also his attendants,
who excelled in this art. For a man is not a courtier unless he
can do everything.

After searching as usual for nearly a whole day Prince Saphir
began to feel overcome with thirst. He was too tired to go any
farther, when happily he discovered a little way off a bubbling
fountain of the clearest water. Being an experienced traveller,
he drew from his pocket a little cup (without which no one should
ever take a journey), and was just about to dip it in the water,
when a lovely little green frog, much prettier than frogs
generally are, jumped into the cup. Far from admiring its
beauty, Saphir shook it impatiently off; but it was no good, for
quick as lightning the frog jumped back again. Saphir, who was
raging with thirst, was just about to shake it off anew, when the
little creature fixed upon him the most beautiful eyes in the
world, and said, 'I am a friend of the bird you are seeking, and
when you have quenched your thirst listen to me.'

So the Prince drank his fill, and then, by the command of the
Little Green Frog, he lay down on the grass to rest himself.

'Now,' she began, 'be sure you do exactly in every respect what I
tell you. First you must call together your attendants, and
order them to remain in a little hamlet close by until you want
them. Then go, quite alone, down a road that you will find on
your right hand, looking southwards. This road is planted all
the way with cedars of Lebanon; and after going down it a long
way you will come at last to a magnificent castle. And now,' she
went on, 'attend carefully to what I am going to say. Take this
tiny grain of sand, and put it into the ground as close as you
can to the gate of the castle. It has the virtue both of opening
the gate and also of sending to sleep all the inhabitants. Then
go at once to the stable, and pay no heed to anything except what
I tell you. Choose the handsomest of all the horses, leap
quickly on its back, and come to me as fast as you can.
Farewell, Prince; I wish you good luck,' and with these words the
Little Frog plunged into the water and disappeared.

The Prince, who felt more hopeful than he had done since he left
home, did precisely as he had been ordered. He left his
attendants in the hamlet, found the road the frog had described
to him, and followed it all alone, and at last he arrived at the
gate of the castle, which was even more splendid than he had
expected, for it was built of crystal, and all its ornaments were
of massive gold. However, he had no thoughts to spare for its
beauty, and quickly buried his grain of sand in the earth. In
one instant the gates flew open, and all the dwellers inside fell
sound asleep. Saphir flew straight to the stable, and already
had his hand on the finest horse it contained, when his eye was
caught by a suit of magnificent harness hanging up close by. It
occurred to him directly that the harness belonged to the horse,
and without ever thinking of harm (for indeed he who steals a
horse can hardly be blamed for taking his saddle), he hastily
placed it on the animal's back. Suddenly the people in the
castle became broad awake, and rushed to the stable. They flung
themselves on the Prince, seized him, and dragged him before
their lord; but, luckily for the Prince, who could only find very
lame excuses for his conduct, the lord of the castle took a fancy
to his face, and let him depart without further questions.

Very sad, and very much ashamed of himself poor Saphir crept back
to the fountain, where the Frog was awaiting him with a good
scolding.

'Whom do you take me for?' she exclaimed angrily. 'Do you really
believe that it was just for the pleasure of talking that I gave
you the advice you have neglected so abominably?'

But the Prince was so deeply grieved, and apologised so very
humbly, that after some time the heart of the good little Frog
was softened, and she gave him another tiny little grain, but
instead of being sand it was now a grain of gold. She directed
him to do just as he had done before, with only this difference,
that instead of going to the stable which had been the ruin of
his hopes, he was to enter right into the castle itself, and to
glide as fast as he could down the passages till he came to a
room filled with perfume, where he would find a beautiful maiden
asleep on a bed. He was to wake the maiden instantly and carry
her off, and to be sure not to pay any heed to whatever
resistance she might make.

The Prince obeyed the Frog's orders one by one, and all went well
for this second time also. The gate opened, the inhabitants fell
sound asleep, and he walked down the passage till he found the
girl on her bed, exactly as he had been told he would. He woke
her, and begged her firmly, but politely, to follow him quickly.
After a little persuasion the maiden consented, but only on
condition that she was allowed first to put on her dress. This
sounded so reasonable and natural that it did not enter the
Prince's head to refuse her request.

But the maiden's hand had hardly touched the dress when the
palace suddenly awoke from its sleep, and the Prince was seized
and bound. He was so vexed with his own folly, and so taken
aback at the disaster, that he did not attempt to explain his
conduct, and things would have gone badly with him if his friends
the fairies had not softened the hearts of his captors, so that
they once more allowed him to leave quietly. However, what
troubled him most was the idea of having to meet the Frog who had
been his benefactress. How was he ever to appear before her with
this tale? Still, after a long struggle with himself, he made up
his mind that there was nothing else to be done, and that he
deserved whatever she might say to him. And she said a great
deal, for she had worked herself into a terrible passion; but the
Prince humbly implored her pardon, and ventured to point out that
it would have been very hard to refuse the young lady's
reasonable request. 'You must learn to do as you are told,' was
all the Frog would reply.

But poor Saphir was so unhappy, and begged so hard for
forgiveness, that at last the Frog's anger gave way, and she held
up to him a tiny diamond stone. 'Go back,' she said, 'to the
castle, and bury this little diamond close to the door. But be
careful not to return to the stable or to the bedroom; they have
proved too fatal to you. Walk straight to the garden and enter
through a portico, into a small green wood, in the midst of which
is a tree with a trunk of gold and leaves of emeralds. Perched
on this tree you will see the beautiful bird you have been
seeking so long. You must cut the branch on which it is sitting,
and bring it back to me without delay. But I warn you solemnly
that if you disobey my directions, as you have done twice before,
you have nothing more to expect either of me or anyone else.'

With these words she jumped into the water, and the Prince, who
had taken her threats much to heart, took his departure, firmly
resolved not to deserve them. He found it all just as he had
been told: the portico, the wood, the magnificent tree, and the
beautiful bird, which was sleeping soundly on one of the
branches. He speedily lopped off the branch, and though he
noticed a splendid golden cage hanging close by, which would have
been very useful for the bird to travel in, he left it alone, and
came back to the fountain, holding his breath and walking on
tip-toe all the way, for fear lest he should awake his prize.
But what was his surprise, when instead of finding the fountain
in the spot where he had left it, he saw in its place a little
rustic palace built in the best taste, and standing in the
doorway a charming maiden, at whose sight his mind seemed to give
way.

'What! Madam!' he cried, hardly knowing what he said. 'What!
Is it you?'

The maiden blushed and answered: 'Ah, my lord, it is long since I
first beheld your face, but I did not think you had ever seen
mine.'

'Oh, madam,' replied he, 'you can never guess the days and the
hours I have passed lost in admiration of you.' And after these
words they each related all the strange things that had happened,
and the more they talked the more they felt convinced of the
truth of the images they had seen in their mirrors. After some
time spent in the most tender conversation, the Prince could not
restrain himself from asking the lovely unknown by what lucky
chance she was wandering in the forest; where the fountain had
gone; and if she knew anything of the Frog to whom he owed all
his happiness, and to whom he must give up the bird, which,
somehow or other, was still sound asleep.

'Ah, my lord,' she replied, with rather an awkward air, 'as to
the Frog, she stands before you. Let me tell you my story; it is
not a long one. I know neither my country nor my parents, and
the only thing I can say for certain is that I am called
Serpentine. The fairies, who have taken care of me ever since I
was born, wished me to be in ignorance as to my family, but they
have looked after my education, and have bestowed on me endless
kindness. I have always lived in seclusion, and for the last two
years I have wished for nothing better. I had a mirror'--here
shyness and embarrassment choked her words--but regaining her
self-control, she added, 'You know that fairies insist on being
obeyed without questioning. It was they who changed the little
house you saw before you into the fountain for which you are now
asking, and, having turned me into a frog, they ordered me to say
to the first person who came to the fountain exactly what I
repeated to you. But, my lord, when you stood before me, it was
agony to my heart, filled as it was with thoughts of you, to
appear to your eyes under so monstrous a form. However, there
was no help for it, and, painful as it was, I had to submit. I
desired your success with all my soul, not only for your own
sake, but also for my own, because I could not get back my proper
shape till you had become master of the beautiful bird, though I
am quite ignorant as to your reason for seeking it.'

On this Saphir explained about the state of his father's health,
and all that has been told before.

On hearing this story Serpentine grew very sad, and her lovely
eyes filled with tears.

'Ah, my lord,' she said, 'you know nothing of me but what you
have seen in the mirror; and I, who cannot even name my parents,
learn that you are a king's son.'

In vain Saphir declared that love made them equal; Serpentine
would only reply: 'I love you too much to allow you to marry
beneath your rank. I shall be very unhappy, of course, but I
shall never alter my mind. If I do not find from the fairies
that my birth is worthy of you, then, whatever be my feelings, I
will never accept your hand.'

The conversation was at this point, and bid fair to last some
time longer, when one of the fairies appeared in her ivory car,
accompanied by a beautiful woman past her early youth. At this
moment the bird suddenly awakened, and, flying on to Saphir's
shoulder (which it never afterwards left), began fondling him as
well as a bird can do. The fairy told Serpentine that she was
quite satisfied with her conduct, and made herself very agreeable
to Saphir, whom she presented to the lady she had brought with
her, explaining that the lady was no other than his Aunt
Aglantine, widow of Diamantino.

Then they all fell into each other's arms, till the fairy mounted
her chariot, placed Aglantine by her side, and Saphir and
Serpentine on the front seat. She also sent a message to the
Prince's attendants that they might travel slowly back to the
Court of King Peridor, and that the beautiful bird had really
been found. This matter being comfortably arranged, she started
off her chariot. But in spite of the swiftness with which they
flew through the air, the time passed even quicker for Saphir and
Serpentine, who had so much to think about.

They were still quite confused with the pleasure of seeing each
other, when the chariot arrived at King Peridor's palace. He had
had himself carried to a room on the roof, where his nurses
thought that he would die at any moment. Directly the chariot
drew within sight of the castle the beautiful bird took flight,
and, making straight for the dying King, at once cured him of his
sickness. Then she resumed her natural shape, and he found that
the bird was no other than the Queen Constance, whom he had long
believed to be dead. Peridor was rejoiced to embrace his wife
and his son once more, and with the help of the fairies began to
make preparations for the marriage of Saphir and Serpentine, who
turned out to be the daughter of Aglantine and Diamantino, and as
much a princess as he was a prince. The people of the kingdom
were delighted, and everybody lived happy and contented to the
end of their lives.





Next: The Seven-headed Serpent

Previous: The Donkey Cabbage



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