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The Little Singing Frog

from The Laughing Prince Jugoslav Folk And Fairy Tales





There was once a poor laborer and his wife who had no children. Every
day the woman would sigh and say:

If only we had a child!

Then the man would sigh, too, and say:

It would be pleasant to have a little daughter, wouldn't it?


At last they went on a pilgrimage to a holy shrine and there they prayed
God to give them a child.

Any kind of a child! the woman prayed. I'd be thankful for a child of
our own even if it were a frog!

God heard their prayer and sent them a little daughter--not a little
girl daughter, however, but a little frog daughter. They loved their
little frog child dearly and played with her and laughed and clapped
their hands as they watched her hopping about the house. But when the
neighbors came in and whispered: Why, that child of theirs is nothing
but a frog! they were ashamed and they decided that when people were
about they had better keep their child hidden in a closet.

So the frog girl grew up without playmates of her own age, seeing only
her father and mother. She used to play about her father as he worked.
He was a vine-dresser in a big vineyard and of course it was great fun
for the little frog girl to hop about among the vines.

Every day at noontime the woman used to come to the vineyard carrying
her husband's dinner in a basket. The years went by and she grew old and
feeble and the daily trip to the vineyard began to tire her and the
basket seemed to her to grow heavier and heavier.

Let me help you, mother, the frog daughter said. Let me carry
father's dinner to him and you sit home and rest.

So from that time on the frog girl instead of the old woman carried the
dinner basket to the vineyard. While the old man ate, the frog girl
would hop up into the branches of a tree and sing. She sang very sweetly
and her old father, when he petted her, used to call her his Little
Singing Frog.

Now one day while she was singing the Tsar's Youngest Son rode by and
heard her. He stopped his horse and looked this way and that but for the
life of him he couldn't see who it was who was singing so sweetly.

Who is singing? he asked the old man.

But the old man who, as I told you before, was ashamed of his frog
daughter before strangers, at first pretended not to hear and then, when
the young Prince repeated his question, answered gruffly:

There's no one singing!

But the next day at the same hour when the Prince was again riding by he
heard the same sweet voice and he stopped again and listened.

Surely, old man, he said, there is some one singing! It is a lovely
girl, I know it is! Why, if I could find her, I'd be willing to marry
her at once and take her home to my father, the Tsar!

Don't be rash, young man, the laborer said.

I mean what I say! the Prince declared. I'd marry her in a minute!

Are you sure you would?

Yes, I'm sure!

Very well, then, we'll see.

The old man looked up into the tree and called:

Come down, Little Singing Frog! A Prince wants to marry you!

So the little frog girl hopped down from among the branches and stood
before the Prince.

She's my own daughter, the laborer said, even if she does look like a
frog.

I don't care what she looks like, the Prince said. I love her
singing and I love her. And I mean what I say: I'll marry her if she'll
marry me. My father, the Tsar, bids me and my brothers present him our
brides to-morrow. He bids all the brides bring him a flower and he says
he'll give the kingdom to the prince whose bride brings the loveliest
flower. Little Singing Frog, will you be my bride and will you come to
Court to-morrow bringing a flower?

Yes, my Prince, the frog girl said, I will. But I must not shame you
by hopping to Court in the dust. I must ride. So, will you send me a
snow-white cock from your father's barnyard?

I will, the Prince promised, and before night the snow-white cock had
arrived at the laborer's cottage.

Early the next morning the frog girl prayed to the Sun.

O golden Sun, she said, I need your help! Give me some lovely clothes
woven of your golden rays for I would not shame my Prince when I go to
Court.

The Sun heard her prayer and gave her a gown of cloth of gold.

Instead of a flower she took a spear of wheat in her hand and then when
the time came she mounted the white cock and rode to the palace.

[Illustration: This, the Bride of the Youngest Prince, Is My Choice]

The guards at the palace gate at first refused to admit her.

This is no place for frogs! they said to her. You're looking for a
pond!

But when she told them she was the Youngest Prince's bride, they were
afraid to drive her away. So they let her ride through the gate.

Strange! they murmured to one another. The Youngest Prince's bride!
She looks like a frog and that was certainly a cock she was riding,
wasn't it?

They stepped inside the gates to look after her and then they saw an
amazing sight. The frog girl, still seated on the white cock, was
shaking out the folds of a golden gown. She dropped the gown over her
head and instantly there was no frog and no white cock but a lovely
maiden mounted on a snow-white horse!

Well, the frog girl entered the palace with two other girls, the
promised brides of the older princes. They were just ordinary girls both
of them. To see them you wouldn't have paid any attention to them one
way or the other. But standing beside the lovely bride of the Youngest
Prince they seemed more ordinary than ever.

The first girl had a rose in her hand. The Tsar looked at it and at her,
sniffed his nose slightly, and turned his head.

The second girl had a carnation. The Tsar looked at her for a moment and
murmured:

Dear me, this will never do!

Then he looked at the Youngest Prince's bride and his eye kindled and he
said:

Ah! This is something like!

She gave him the spear of wheat and he took it and held it aloft. Then
he reached out his other hand to her and had her stand beside him as he
said to his sons and all the Court:

This, the bride of the Youngest Prince, is my choice! See how beautiful
she is! And yet she knows the useful as well as the beautiful for she
has brought me a spear of wheat! The Youngest Prince shall be the Tsar
after me and she shall be Tsarina!

So the little frog girl of whom her parents were ashamed married the
Youngest Prince and when the time came wore a Tsarina's crown.





Next: The Nightingale In The Mosque

Previous: The Dragon's Strength



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