20 August 2010


Not Quite Cabbages and Kings . . .

. . . but another sort of vegetable and definitely some royalty.

Link up your own post!
Let's celebrate fairy tales and share our love for them!

It's all about pent-up aggression for me these days, so I'm having another face-off between two fairy tales. I hope you all don't mind . . .

The Frog Prince vs. The Princess and the Pea


They're really not such an odd pairing: one of them has a little green amphibian and the other has a little green edible seed. Something I can't stand versus something my brothers can't stand. This works!!!

First let's look at the characters . . .

PRINCESSES: Both stories have a princess who isn't quite the thing. Frog has a spoiled brat who needs to grow up; Pea features one so bedraggled in appearance that nobody will believe she is a princess. This means that one story ends with character growth and the other with revelation.

Winner: The Frog Prince, simply because its princess has more personality.

PRINCES: We can't really have a princess without a prince: that seems to be a fairy kingdom law. Frog has a prince who was turned into an amphibian; Pea has a prince we hardly even see until after his mother has picked his bride for him.

Winner: The Frog Prince--and I hope I don't have to explain this.

PARENTS: Even in stories without princes or princesses, there are always parents! Frog features a just king who insists the princess keep her word, even if it was made to something with tiny webbed feet; and Pea has a wise queen who knows all about separating real royalty from mere pretenders.

Winner: The Princess and the Pea, because the king is simply doing his duty (as father, ruler, and responsible steward of God's creation), but the queen is the main source of her own story's earthy magic.

Speaking of magic, what is a fairy tale without these extra elements?

SPHERES: You know: balls. =P In Frog, the princess plays with a golden ball; and in Pea, well, we have a hard, round seed hidden in the other princess' bed. The former gives us the "meet-cute" and the latter gives us the "happily ever after."

Winner: The Princess and the Pea, because something that is both a test of someone's worth and the driver of a happy ending is always the better thing.

BEDS: What do you think of when you imagine a princess' bed? Thanks to the popularity of these fairy tales, these unusual sleeping arrangements are instantly recognisable around the world. Frog puts a slimy companion on the princess' pillow and Pea piles up twelve mattresses and twelve thick quilts.

Winner: The Princess and the Pea: I don't care how popular the frog imagery has become; it still doesn't beat that crazy bed!

Then there are the traditional elements of storytelling . . .

PLOT: Frog is an interesting case because of the two different versions of the climax: does she kiss him or does she throw him against the wall? Either one works pretty well. Pea is more straightforward, but it's so so simple that it's nearly a fable. Yes, sometimes less is more . . . but there are also times when more is more. (Is there any reason for that last sentence to be in this post at all?)

Winner: The Frog Prince, which also comes with a flashback to the story of an evil enchantress.

MORAL: Yes, I consider the moral to be a traditional element in storytelling. Both stories warn us not to judge people by appearances, even if they are not just muddy and wet with rain but actually animals. If a handsome, princely fellow had made the same requests of the princess in Frog, she might have happily obliged him (and probably never learned how oozy he actually was until after the marriage). On the other hand, even a princess with an entourage to rival that of the Queen of Sheba might have been asked to sleep on the same bed, because the queen in Pea seems wise like that. (And you know, that story would have been cooler with two princesses--a real one and a fake one.)

Winner: The Frog Prince, because both the princess and the frog become better for their efforts in the end.

* * * * * *

The Frog Prince vs. The Princess and the Pea

The Frog Prince

I accept differing opinions in the combox. Just note that if I didn't change your mind, you probably won't change mine! =)

Image Source: a) The Frog King illustrated by Paul Friedrich Meyerheim, b) The Princess and the Pea illustrated by Edmund DuLac


CMinor said...

Good analysis, but I'd differ on the princess's lack of personality in P&P. Ever see/read Once Upon A Mattress? I think Princess Fred had it in spades!

Enbrethiliel said...


I don't remember Once upon a Mattress . . . but why does "Princess Fred" sound so familiar?

*thinks for ten minutes*

Oh, it's not Princess Fred I remember, but Prince Fred. As a child, I read a fairy tale parody with a Princess Vicky whose father, King Sparetherod, wanted her to marry Prince Toogoodtobetrue. She ended up falling in love with his younger brother Prince Fred.

Enbrethiliel said...


After giving your real point some more thought . . .

Yes, I do agree that a princess who can trudge through a storm to make it to a distant castle has lots of personality.

Unfortunately, I can't rewrite that portion without making this face-off end in a draw. And anyway, I feel like I should stand behind what I truly, deeply believed less than an hour ago. So the post itself stays the way it is. =)

(Well, there goes that "You won't change my mind" disclaimer . . .)

Irena @ This Miss Loves to Read said...

What a great comparison! I really love these comparisons of yours. They're very straightforward, to the point and make me think about these fairy-tales differently. I agree with you, in this case "Frog" is the winner, for the exact same reasons you pointed out. The story really has a clear purpose. Aside from providing entertainment for the reader, it also offers a good moral. "Pea" is and sweet story, and that bed is a winner in the world of beds, but "Frog" is a better story as a whole, in my opinion.
Great job on the comparison/analysis!

Enbrethiliel said...


Thanks, Irena! =) Face-offs help me "cheat" by writing about two things instead of just one. But I might do something different next time I link up on a Friday. (Just don't ask what!)

Sullivan McPig said...

The frog prince is my favourite even though I always disliked the princess for throwing the frog against the wall (yup, that's the version I read)
Did you see Disney's the Princess and the Frog? I loved it.

Enbrethiliel said...


Yes, I've seen The Princess and the Frog. I thought it was a clever retelling and loved the New Orleans setting. =)

While doing my research on the two versions of The Frog Prince, I read an interpretation of the frog getting thrown against the wall that I thought was pretty good. I mean, I can understand why it's meaningful for the princess to kiss him: it's a sign that she is performing her side of the bargain with some grace and finally starting to grow up. But I didn't get why the frog should be hurled against the wall. The explanation I found says that it is signals that the frog has started to grow up. It's very childish to want to eat from someone else's plate, to drink from his cup, and to sleep on his bed instead of being independent (and it's kind of the way little boys relate to their mothers). When the princess gives a very decisive "No!" to the frog and he manages to survive it, he finally earns the right to be called a prince! =)

Well, okay it's very psychological--and not as straightforward as the climax with the kiss, which is probably why it's not as popular. =P But I do like the way each version can stand very well on its own.

Sullivan McPig said...

Sounds like a reasonable explanation, but i still don't like the frog-throwing.

I gave you an award btw:
Strange Men in Pinstripe Suits award. I made a post about it on my review blog

Enbrethiliel said...


You're so kind to me, Sully! How did you know that calling me "weird" is the best compliment in the world? ;-)

This is already the second award you've passed on to me. I'll have to make a big awards post soon, to thanks you and everyone else who has remembered me, and to start tagging other people!

Sullivan McPig said...

Probably because I think being called weird is a compliment too :-p
Normal is over-rated