Frog King: Interpreting the story
On the surface, this story seems to be about keeping promises. But the most important thing about the tale may be the way the princess treats the frog. When she runs away from the well without him, she is really saying that the frog “doesn’t count.” “It’s just an ugly old frog,” she tells her father. So when she is forced to keep her promise, she is really being forced to recognize the frog—to acknowledge that he really is there and does count. Although the princess is the main focus, the frog also needs to grow up. The banquet scene is a reminder of how gawky and awkward adolescents can be when they are learning to act like adults—and how embarrassing to others, like the princess. The frog even seems to want to grow up. He eggs the princess on— almost as if he knows this will eventually force her to take action. (In some folktales, a person transformed into an animal actually begs to be killed so that he or she can return to human form.) Another reason for the tension between them comes directly from the experience of adolescents. If a boy in eighth or ninth grade likes a girl, he does not give her flowers. Instead, he does something to irritate her—knowing that if he irritates her enough, she will pay attention to him. The confrontation scene, when the princess throws the frog against the wall, suggests that anger is not always a bad thing. Sometimes it helps important changes take place.