For my 27th birthday my husband Miles bought me “The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm” edited by Noel Daniel and translated by Matthew Price. Published by Taschen.
The collection begins with a wonderful introduction by the editor Noel Daniel about the history of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. I didn’t know that the German fairy tales were not actually written by the Grimm brothers (although there was an extensive amount of rewriting), but they were collected, edited, and translated by the brothers. The Grimm brothers originally targeted the tales for scholars, but noticed over time that they had a split audience and children were enjoying the stories just as much as the adults.The collection was then tailored towards a younger audience. The edition I was gifted was derived from 1857 when they released their “child-friendly” version.
Aside from the 27 charming stories the book contains, the illustrations that accompany each story are enchanting. Through various mediums, the stories are brought to life in a Büffet of illustrations ranging in dates from the mid 1800’s to mid 1900’s.
I am going to pick and choose a few of the tales to review in forthcoming posts. The first story I would like to start with is “The Frog Prince”.
The “Frog Prince” according to Daniels dates back to a medieval Latin manuscript. The colored engraving featured above was done by Walter Crane in 1874. The illustration seen above captures the young princess and the frog as they bargain for a golden ball and friendship. The frog agrees to retrieve the golden ball that was accidentally dropped in a well. As for payment he requests not money, “But if you would be fond of me, and cherish me, and if I were your friend and play mate, sitting next to you at your table, eating from your golden plate, drinking from your cup, and sleeping in your bed-if you will promise me these things then certainly I will slip down below and bring you back your golden ball.” The princess flippantly agrees thinking she would never see the frog again. She gets her ball back and walks home.
When the frog comes knocking on her palace door the princess turns away coldly and demands that he goes on his way, but her father the king forces her to keep her promise, “Whatever promise you have made, you must also keep.” (Go Dad!). Eventually the princess and the frog go to bed and in a fit of frustration the princess hurls the frog against the wall and the frog turns into a prince and explains that the princess broke a spell that was placed on him that only she could undo. He then stays the night with the princess (very racy for medieval literature). The next morning he rides off with his princess and his faithful servant Heinrich who “..had been so downcast ever since his master was transformed into a frog that he had bent three iron bands around his chest, lest his sullen heart burst with grief.”
This story holds the obvious morals of keeping your promises and don’t judge too harshly before you know someone. But there is also a lesson about true love that is explained not between the princess and the frog prince, but from loyal Heinrich whose heart had to be bonded to keep from breaking apart when his prince turned into a frog. There is also a lesson directed to parents, perhaps the most important: Hold your children accountable to their promises and commitments.
Note: If you would like to read the same edition I have, you can purchase it here.