The Frog Prince
“Deep in the woods, there is a well. They say that the water from the well is sourced from a prince’s blood, and it will cure any illness.”
Words by Rebecca Brown
Illustrated by Linley Barbour
In times gone by, there was a Queen of the Western Isles. She was proud, and strong, and led her people well. As long as their Queen lived, the people were confident and happy.
However, fate took a dark twist one day when the Queen fell ill with a mysterious illness. Her skin was slick with sweat and her eyes drooped as she nodded in and out of wakefulness. She could hardly lift a hand to her blanched skin, let alone rise and show her subjects a strong leader.
For days, physician after physician came to court to try and remedy the Queen of her illness, but none could find the cause. Her court were at a loss, and soon the Queen would surely die. Not only this, but her subjects were starting to grow anxious, as none had seen nor heard of their beloved Queen in several days, which was most unusual.
One day, her eyes looking frighteningly dull, the Queen gathered her three fine daughters around her.
“My girls,” she said, her voice a weak whisper. “I fear for my life and I fear for our kingdom. If I am to survive this ailment, you must do one thing for me.”
“Anything, mother!” cried her eldest daughter, grasping her mother’s hand which had grown thin and frail.
“What would you have us do?” said the second eldest. The youngest said nothing, simply watching in fear.
The Queen paused and considered each of her daughters, all fine and beautiful with red hair twisted into braids. “There is a story,” she said, and her daughters crowded around her so they could hear. “Deep in the woods, there is a well. They say that the water from the well is sourced from a prince’s blood, and it will cure any illness.” The Queen turned to her eldest daughter. “You are my oldest and bravest daughter, I need you to collect some water from the well.”
At that moment, her daughter obliged, but that night when the Queen was fast asleep, the girls gathered in the eldest’s chambers to discuss.
“She has lost her mind,” the middle daughter said. “If she now believes in fairy stories she must be close to leaving this world!”
“This illness has robbed her of all sense,” the eldest daughter said.
The youngest daughter, at that moment, sat forward, and made her voice heard. “If it will make mother feel better, even in her heart, we should source the water from the well.”
The two eldest daughters were least happy with this, but they agreed with their youngest sister that they loved their mother enough to make the journey, and so the next day the eldest daughter saddled her horse and made off for the dark forest.
As night fell, the other two sisters peered out of the window, and spotted the eldest riding back into the castle. Without a moment’s hesitation, they flew down stairs and met her at the door.
“Did you get it?” The youngest asked, eagerly.
The eldest sibling, holding up a tiny glass vial, said, “There are conditions to taking water from the well that I could not meet. I acquired this water from the river just outside of town. What mother does not know will not hurt her.”
And so, the water was given to the Queen who sipped it tentatively. Her daughters knew their mother would not heal, but if her spirits were heightened they could rest easy.
However, the opposite occurred. The Queen quickly grew even sicker, unable to stomach any food without bringing it back up, and growing weaker by the day. Again, the daughters were summoned to her bedchamber, where she turned to the middle daughter.
“My wisest daughter, will you go to the well in the wood and fetch me the water?”
The middle daughter complied, and set off into the forest. That evening, she returned looking distressed. “This too is water from the river,” she said, holding up the vial. “I simply could not meet the conditions of the well, but I hope this gives our mother rest.”
Again, the Queen was given the water, and this time almost instantly grew paler. That night, lights were dimmed around the castle as the staff feared her time was drawing near. The Queen was all but unconscious, and unable to summon her daughters to her a third time.
The youngest daughter, however, did not need to be summoned to know what to do. She saddled her horse and took off into the night towards the forest. The forest was dark and treacherous. Several times her horse tripped on roots that clawed up out of the ground like talons, and in the dark, with no lantern to guide her way, she lost the path quickly. The youngest daughter despaired. She feared she would never find her way out and her mother would surely perish without the water from the well.
It was just as the tears started to pour down her face that she saw something glimmering up ahead. The moonlight danced through a gap in the trees and bounced off what her heart was relieved to recognize as the well. She hurried towards it, vial at the ready when a frog hopped into her way.
“Halt!” the frog croaked, and the youngest daughter stopped in disbelief at the frog that had just spoken.
“If you wish to take the waters of my well, you must first agree to my conditions.”
“And what might your conditions be?” the youngest asked, all too aware that they had been so terrible that the bravest and smartest people she knew could not meet them, even for their mother’s sake.
“If you wish to take the water from the well, you must take me in marriage,” said the frog.
The youngest daughter didn’t know what to think. She both couldn’t believe what was being asked of her, but also that her sisters had refused something so small. She knew her mother would not last until dawn, and she also knew how badly the kingdom would suffer if she perished.
“Okay, frog. I accept your proposal,” she declared. She, of course, had no intention of marrying the frog, but would do what she had to in the meantime.
The frog, who expected her, like her siblings, to refuse, was shocked, and watched as the girl dashed past and plunged the vial into the well. The water was colder than any water she had felt before, and seemed to crystalise and cast rainbows across her skin. She might have watched it dance forever, but she pulled herself away and returned to her horse.
“Are you forgetting your betrothed?” the frog asked, and the girl laughed, scooped him up and placed him in front of her in the saddle.
Dawn was rising over the kingdom as the youngest daughter clattered back into the castle courtyard. Without a moment’s hesitation, she threw herself from the horse, and with the frog in one hand, and the glass vial in another, she hurried into the castle. Her sisters were waiting for her, faces crossed with worry.
“Where were you?” they cried, and then noticed the frog in her hand, and then their worry turned to shock.
“Let me by,” the girl said, all too aware of the moments creeping towards her mother’s end.
“You cannot marry a frog!” the eldest sister said.
“How ever will you have children?” the middle one exclaimed.
The sisters jostled in to try and see their sibling’s amphibious husband-to-be, and in trying to break free from them, the youngest sister tripped and watched in horror as the tiny glass vial full of the water that would save her mother smashed, sparkling across the stone floor and spilling water everywhere. A sob burst from her chest as she fell to her knees and tried in vain to gather up some trace of the disappearing liquid.
“Don’t cut your own flesh,” said the frog, hopping down and looking up at her. “The well is born of my blood. Take the dagger at your hip and strike off my head to save your mother.”
At first, the girl refused, having become fond of the talking frog, but when she heard the sound of a death knell over town that stopped her very heart, she hurried to her mother’s chamber with the frog. A stony-faced attendant was already pulling a dark shroud over her mother when she arrived in the chamber.
“Stop!” she cried, and, with tears rolling down her face, took her dagger from her belt and cut off the frog’s head. Hurrying, she stood over her mother and allowed the blood to drip into her mouth which was parted in death.
A torturous moment passed, and another. And nothing happened. The youngest sister could hear the mourning wails of their subjects outside, and she couldn’t control her own tears anymore. She squeezed her eyes closed, cursing her sisters and wishing she had been the first to be sent to the well.
She barely felt the hand that rested on her shoulder. “Don’t cry,” said a gentle voice. She couldn’t put her finger on it but she was certain she recognized it. “Open your eyes, see your mother.”
The girl opened her eyes, and much to her disbelief, her mother’s eyes had opened. Colour rushed back into her cheeks like a dam had given way. She pushed herself up, and a smile so radiant crossed her face.
“My child,” she said gently. “You are both brave and wise. You knew what the kingdom needed most. You will make a worthy Queen someday.”
The girl was elated and could not stop the tears that poured from her eyes. The castle staff hurried about, quickly spreading the news that the Queen was cured – alive and well.
“Will you introduce me to your friend?” the Queen asked. The girl remembered the frog’s sacrifice and frowned.
“I can’t, mother, for he gave his life for yours.”
“I too, am healed,” said the voice from behind her that she had all but forgotten. The girl turned, trying to work out how she knew that voice. Before her, was a dashing young man with eyes of the brightest green and hair as black as the midnight sky. She knew, instantly to whom the voice belonged.
“I was trapped long ago by a sorcerer, only to be freed once I had lived a full life in service to my love. I hope, now that I have given you my greatest service, you will take me as your husband.”
The girl was delighted to say yes, and the two became not only the best of lovers, but the best of friends. They married by the well in the wood, and the Queen lived until the ripe old age of 94. Her youngest daughter became Queen, contrary to tradition, and ruled just as righteously and fairly as her mother before her, with her frog-prince by her side.