Once upon a time there was a princess who went out into a forest and sat next to a cool well. She took great pleasure in throwing a golden ball into the air and catching it, but once it went too high. She held out her hand with her fingers curved to catch it, but it fell to the ground and rolled and rolled right into the water.
Horrified, the princess followed it with her eyes, but the well was so deep that she could not see its bottom. Then she began to cry bitterly, "I'd give anything, if only I could get my ball back: my clothes, my precious stones, my pearls, anything in the world." At this a frog stuck his head out of the water and said, "Princess, why are you crying so bitterly?"
"Oh," she said, "you ugly frog, how can you help me? My golden ball has fallen into the well."
The frog said, "I do not want your pearls, your precious stones, and your clothes, but if you'll accept me as a companion and let me sit next to you and eat from your plate and sleep in your bed, and if you'll love and cherish me, then I'll bring your ball back to you."
The princess thought, "What is this stupid frog trying to say? After all, he does have to stay here in the water. But still, maybe he can get my ball. I'll go ahead and say yes," and she said aloud, "Yes, for all I care. Just bring me back my golden ball, and I'll promise everything."
The frog stuck his head under the water and dove to the bottom. He returned a short time later with the golden ball in his mouth and threw it onto the land. When the princess saw her ball once again, she rushed toward it, picked it up, and was so happy to have it in her hand again, that she could think of nothing else than to run home with it. The frog called after her, "Wait, princess, take me with you like you promised," but she paid no attention to him.
The next day the princess was sitting at her table when she heard something coming up the marble steps: plop, plop. Then there came a knock at the door, and a voice called out, "Princess, princess, open the door for me!" She ran and opened the door. It was the frog, whom she had put completely out of her mind. Frightened, she slammed the door shut and returned to the table.
The king saw that her heart was pounding and asked, "Why are you afraid?"
"There is a disgusting frog out there," she said, "who got my golden ball out of the water. I promised him that he could be my companion, but I didn't think that he could leave his water, but now he is just outside the door and wants to come in." Just then there came a second knock at the door, and a voice called out:
Youngest daughter of the king,
The king said, "What you have promised, you must keep. Go and let the frog in." She obeyed, and the frog hopped in, then followed her up to her chair.
After she had sat down again, he called out, "Lift me up onto your chair and let me sit next to you." The princess did not want to, but the king commanded her to do it. When the frog was seated next to her he said, "Now push your golden plate closer. I want to eat from it." She had to do this as well. When he had eaten all he wanted, he said, "Now I am tired and want to sleep. Take me to your room, make your bed, so that we can lie in it together."
The princess was horrified when she heard that. She was afraid of the cold frog and did not dare to even touch him, and yet he was supposed to lie next to her in her bed; she began to cry and didn't want to at all. Then the king became angry and commanded her to do what she had promised. There was no helping it; she had to do what her father wanted, but in her heart she was bitterly angry. She picked up the frog with two fingers, carried him to her room, and climbed into bed, but instead of laying him next to herself, she threw him bang! against the wall. "Now you will leave me in peace, you ugly frog!" But when the frog came down onto the bed, he was a handsome young prince, and he was her dear companion, and she held him in esteem as she had promised, and they fell asleep together with pleasure.
The next morning the prince's faithful Heinrich arrived in a splendid carriage drawn by eight horses and decorated with feathers and glistening with gold. He had been so saddened by the prince's enchantment that he had had to place three iron bands around his heart to keep it from bursting in sorrow. The prince climbed into the carriage with the princess. His faithful servant stood at the rear to drive them to his kingdom. After they had gone a short distance, the prince heard a loud crack. He turned around and said:
"Heinrich, the carriage is breaking apart."
Once again, and
then once again the prince heard a cracking sound and thought that the
carriage was breaking apart, but it was the bands springing from faithful
Heinrich's heart because his master was now redeemed and happy.
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