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The story begins when a young princess loses her golden ball down a well and a nearby frog offers to retrieve it for her. In return, however, he demands that she keep him near her as a close companion, and share her food, her drink, and her bed with him. The princess is repulsed by the frog, but, reasoning that he has no way to enforce the promise, agrees. The frog returns her ball, and she runs home without him.
Later that night, the frog appears at the castle, and the king insists on the princess keeping her promise to him. Come night-time, however, the princess refuses to let the frog sleep on her pillow, and angrily throws him against the wall. To her shock, what lands is a handsome (and very forgiving) prince, and the two of them fall in love and marry.
As they ride off into the sunset, they hear three loud cracks from outside the coach - it was the prince's faithful servant, Henry, who had had his heart bound with iron straps to keep it from breaking when the prince was enchanted. The cracking sounds were the bonds breaking as the man's heart swelled with happiness.
The iconic True Love's Kiss that replaces the act of violence in breaking the spell seems to be an artifact of translations into English, and has completely replaced the earlier versions in popular culture, even in Germany. The ending with the faithful servant is also frequently left out.
The princess's violence may be a throwback to other animal-bridegroom type stories in which violent acts (such as beheading the animal or burning its skin) were the only way to break the spell. Removed from this context, though, it gives the story a Broken Aesop; the moral up until that point has been that you must keep your promises. In abusing the frog, the princess is breaking her promise with a vengeance, leading the reader to wonder why she deserves the handsome prince. Versions in which she kisses him avert this problem.
A lesser-known Norwegian variant features trolls and other mythical beasts who punish the girl and send her on a quest for disobeying her enchanted animal companion. Contrast Persephone; and other fantastic-bridegroom myths, wherein the original Aesop was made in part to help women cope with very difficult pre-modern life prospects.
"The Frog Prince" and its variations contain examples of the following tropes:
- Animorphism: Man to Frog to Man.
- Baleful Polymorph
- Beast and Beauty
- Broken Aesop: You should keep your promises to people, unless they're gross.
- Cannot Tell a Joke: The King in The Muppets version of the story.
- Composite Character: In earlier variants, and the Grimms' original draft, there are usually more than one girl who encounter the frog. The first ones do not keep their promises to it, but the last one does and marries him when he becomes a prince again. The Grimm Brothers ultimately combined them into a complete bitch of a princess.
- Curse Escape Clause: Not specified in the Grimm version; in later versions, assumed to be True Love's Kiss.
- Curse Is Foiled Again
- Everything's Better with Princesses
- Fluffy the Terrible: In the Muppet version, the evil witch has a very large ogre henchman named "Sweetums."
- Happily Ever After
- Licensed Game: The Prince is the Anti-Hero of the second game in the Dark Parables series.
- Lost in Imitation: The kiss has supplanted the violence of the older versions.
- Love At First Sight
- Rule of Three: Iron Henry has three bands of iron around his heart.
- Setting Update/Animated Adaptation: Disney's The Princess and the Frog
- Tongue-Tied: In The Muppets' version of The Frog Prince, the princess is cursed to speak in scrambled sentences so that she couldn't unmask the witch. The frog prince is the only one able to understand her, perhaps because he was transformed by the same witch.
- Or because he's halfway competent, given that the princess, whenever asked who cursed her, points at her "Aunt Taminella" while shouting "Tant Aminella! Tant Aminella!" Her father, on the other hand ...
- "Bake the Hall in the Candle of her Brain" is a bit trickier, but manageable ( "Break the ball in the handle of her cane", if you haven't seen it).
- Took a Level In Badass: The witch in The Muppets version, Taminella, originated from a pilot for another Jim Henson-made puppet show that didn't get off the ground, Tales Of The Tinkerdee. In that, she's a witch who tries to steal birthday presents using cheesy disguises. Here, she's become much, much more dangerous and powerful.
- True Love's Kiss: In newer versions, starting with English translations.
- We Named the Monkey "Jack": The epilogue of the Muppets' version. Prince Robin and Princess Melora have a son they named Kermit, after their trusty frog companion.
- Wicked Witch: Mentioned in passing, put the spell on the prince for reasons unknown.