The Frog Princess


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            Hello everyone! Kumusta ka! Welcome to today’s episode, and we’re going back to folktales this week. Well, it’s something fun for us to do. Also, I paid for bought Maximo D. Ramos’s book, and I’m not bitter, I promise. I just think you should do. I think you should buy a copy. It’s been a fun read, it’s great to have a physical item to connect myself back to my roots, and the publishing house of my edition is in the Philippines. Always great to give a business like that support.

            Ultimately, though, there’s one thing I don’t really like about it. And that’s how Ramos only included the stories. There’s no background information or context. There’s no in-text sourcing. There’s numerous explanations for this. The least not being that Maximo D. Ramos was such a prolific scholar that there’s probably an incredible detailed conceptual map of his work out there that includes more of information about this than I could ever want.

            Or maybe it was cut for the unfortunate fact that it didn’t seem likely people would care. That this history had already been weakened, printing costs needed to be kept down, and it was more important to keep these stories alive, even in this somewhat less than ideal state.

            I really don’t know. This book predates me. All of that history predates me. And I’m trying to make sense of it, I guess.

            But when reading this particularly story, I was left with more questions. Questions about origins that may never get answered. The publishing house provided a preface to this book that explained that every attempt was made for authenticity or to exclude imported stories from the collection. And there is such a thing as parallel creation. Or stories that could have been brought into the islands with those first Filipinos or with the earliest of early traders.

            There are good explanation for similarities or things that feel a bit too familiar. But I’ll never know which one is right. However, I do trust the publishers and Ramos. But regardless, I’m still going to be genuinely curious about where the story I’m about to retell came from. Not because it’s bad, but because… well, it’s like an old friend with a familiar face that I’m struggling to place.

            But enough of that. Now, we need to gather around for “The Frog Princess.”

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            Once upon a time, there was a kingdom that lived in prosperity under a great king. He had presided over the people for many years and had done many things for them. For all of it, they had come to love and adore him. But the end of his reign was on the horizon. It was not discussed, however, as one should never discuss the death of a king. But, it was a reality that was hard to ignore. And the king did not want to do so, fearing what would happen to his people in his absence if he did not have a plan.

            He did have three sons, however. Three potential rulers to take up his mantel. While he was confident that he had raised all three to be good and noble men, selecting one of them to rule was only delaying the problem. For son too would someday die. And would the heir he bore be like. The king needed to ensure that the son who took the throne would have a lineage of his own good and noble men to guard it. And a queen would help guarantee that.

            But alas none of his sons were yet married. And so he called Diego, Pedro, and Juan to his bedside and told them, “You three are not children anymore. And I am not a young man. You have become strong and good men, and one of you will watch over this kingdom as I have done. But before then. Before anything. Before I die. I should like to see you three married. And once you are—once I have met your brides—I shall pick one of you shall be my heir.”

            The young men agreed to their father’s wishes and began to leave, only to be stopped by one final command. “I want you three to go your separate ways on your search. Ride off and knock at the door of the first house you come to, and whomever opens the door, shall be the one you ask to marry.”

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            They agreed to that, though the specificity of it was harder to agree to. But out of loyalty to their father and trust in his wisdom, they swore to do just that. With that, they saddled up their horses and rode out of the castle towards the road and its diverging paths. They stopped briefly to wish each other well and come up with a plan for their return. To ensure that no brother was given an unfair advantage in winning over his father’s approval, they decided to meet at that spot at an appointed day and ride back together in one grand caravan.

            With that settled, the three brothers parted ways and rode off into the distance.

            Diego, the eldest son, travelled for many days before he found himself at the door of a large palace. He knocked at the door and was greeted by a beautiful princess with the smallest waist he had ever seen. Her beauty drew him in, and he found himself in love with her. Per his father’s orders, he asked her to marry him with a warm smile and a twinkle in his eye. She agreed and rode back to his father’s kingdom with him.

            Pedro, the second son, road just as far as his elder brother before he too found a large palace. He knocked on the door and was greeted by a beautiful princess with the most fair and clear skin he had ever seen. Her beauty drew him in, and he found himself in love with her. Per his father’s orders, he asked her to marry him with a warm smile and a twinkle in his eyes. She agreed and rode back to his father’s kingdom with him.

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            Juan, the youngest of the three, rode along more empty roads. He was not sure what was out here in this direction, he realized. He did not know if there was any towns to be found. After all, he had never been this way before. And while that had always been part of the appeal—Juan had always loved to explore new places and see new faces—there weren’t many faces for him to see. They weren’t any faces for him to see. Never mind marry.

            But he rode on. Hopeful and somewhat confidence: the advantage of youthful arrogance, you know.

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Juan rode until he saw a small shack over the horizon. At the sight, his heart soared. Eagerly, he sped towards the shack and threw himself off of his horse when he got close.

            Now, this shack was small, but it looked smaller from the cracks that ran down the length of the walls and from the door hanging off the hinges.


            You know, it only handle one strike of his knuckles, Juan reminded himself as he ignored the holes in the roof. It was not just that he had to follow his father’s orders, but that there was something charming about this place. It was warm. It was lively. But that didn’t make sense because there was no one else around. The little shack was also deserted, it looked like. But Juan still wanted to try. He knocked on the door, but there was no answer. Not at first anyway. But before Juan could knock again, a frog hopped out from behind the door. It wasn’t a pretty frog. Its skin was coarse, its eyes were bulging, and its croak was hoarse and loud.

            “Hello,” Juan greeted it with a bow. “My name is Prince Juan.”

            The frog cocked its head and croaked. Of course, it did not answer him fully. Juan bent down before the frog and in those bulging eyes, he saw a twinkle that wasn’t like anything he had ever seen before. Certainly not in a frog. Her eyes were warm and lively, and they seemed fixed on him. Like she could see into him, for all that he was and could be.

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            “Dear Frog,” Juan said. “I’ve come a long way to find my bride. And I should hope to make you my bride. If you would have me.”

            The frog croaked in reply. Juan thought that was a “yes,” but when she jumped into his arms that was all the confirmation he needed.

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            The brothers met up at the fork on their appointed day. And while Diego and Pedro tried to bite their tongues, restraining themselves from boasting too much or being too critical of their brother’s choices, Juan let his run wild. Juan cheered eagerly about his bride, and his cheers were hard to take for those who believed they knew better.

            But the brothers were trying to be polite. They did love Juan dearly, after all. He was a sweet and innocent soul if not a bit naïve. But the king was more open with his disdain. “What madness is this?,” he roared. “I can’t have a frog for a daughter-in-law! Throw it out the window at once!”

            But Juan pleaded with his father. “Father, most loving and gracious Father, I did what you commanded. And this is the bride that I was gifted. And I love her. I truly love her. I know you do not see it, but there is a beauty in her that is beyond compare. And I love that beauty. I love her. And I beg for your mercy in this.”

            He had always been earnest, you know? It softened the king’s heart. And he could not find it in him to say anymore on the matter. The king accepted the match, albeit, and the wedding planning commenced.

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            Criers went through the kingdom and announced the good news. The palace jewelers took to work. And the palace seamstresses started on the dresses. As for the veils, however, the king decided that each of the brides should set out to make her own. Diego’s bride worked diligently, but the threads of her veil were not straight and the whole thing turned out misshapened. Pedro’s bride worked just as hard, but the veil became coarse and stained with drops of her blood from the many times she pricked her fingers.

            But Juan’s bride leaped over the skein, and in her dancing, she made an exquisite veil with flowers so delicate and real that you believed that you could smell them. This did not go unnoticed by the king, but he was not sure what to make of it.

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            At long last, the wedding day came.  The kingdom was abuzz with excitement and confusion.  Diego and Pedro marched into the church with her beautiful brides on their arms, and Juan came in—face glowing—with his bride perched in his hand.

            At the sight, the crowd whispered amongst each other. The rumors were true. The youngest son intended to marry a frog. How absurd, they said. They looked to the king, but the king said nothing. He thought about saying something. He thought about protesting, but then he remembered the veils and the confusion surrounding it. Juan’s bride was not an ordinary frog, but what that made her was still a mystery.

            The three couples approached the altar, but before the ceremony started, the frog leaned towards Juan’s ear and whispered, “Juan, my love, please set me on the ground and crush me underneath your foot.”

            While Juan was pleased to hear the frog speak human words, he grew very concerned about the content of her speech. “Why would I do that? I love you, my dear. I wish to marry you. I could never bare to harm you.”

            “Please Juan,” the frog begged. “If I am to be your bride, then certainly you most trust me. So please. Do as I ask. Set me on the ground and crush me with your foot.”

            So earnest were her words that Juan felt compelled to comply, though he did not understand. Juan bent down and set his bride on the floor, and—as quickly as he could—he slammed the heel of his foot on her before he or anyone else could realize what he was doing.

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            But then, a truly wonderful thing happened. Where the frog stood had emerged the most beautiful princess there had ever been. So beautiful as to make the other princess look ordinary in her presence.

            She smiled at Juan and reached forward to take his hands in hers. “My love, I was a princess loved by her parents and people, but then a witch cast a spell over me, trapping me in the body of a frog. She said that only the true love of a noble prince could turn me back, but before my parents could find a match for me, our kingdom fell, and I fled to the tiny hut where you found me.

            “My love, my darling. You have given me your love, and with it, I have become myself again.”

            Of the three couples, the king grew closest to Juan and his bride. And when the end of his reign came, it was Juan who was chosen to maintain the kingdom’s prosperity.

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            There’s probably a lot that has been said about the frog prince story. But this one seems to another dimension. Because it wasn’t an act of affection that restored the royal to nobility but the act of giving one’s love. As if to say, that the love we receive is the foundation for true self-actualization. And that makes a lot of sense to me.

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