Ahhh, the magnificent Brothers Grimm.
You know the pair… The ones that wrote such twisted fairy tales and folklore that children went to bed in states of terror (all done as cautionary tales, I’m sure) instead of that lullaby-esque sleep that the later Disney versions would induce.
Grimms’ “The Frog King” (also called “Iron Heinrich”) inspired Disney’s The Frog Princess, and, as it turns out from my nerd-level Google search on this topic, a whole slew of romantic shorts, films, sitcom episodes, and, well, lots of folks kissing lots of frogs in lots of genres.
It also inspired that phrase that older folks dish out to younger ones when they’ve encountered one too many failed dates: You’ve gotta kiss a lotta frogs before you find your Prince Charming.
Or some variation of that.
To be fair to the Brothers, before I embarked on this week’s blog journey, I pulled my copy of The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm off the shelf to partake of the original version (translated by Jack Zipes, thank you very much, because I don’t speak or read German). One nice thing about Grimm tales, they’re short and to the point. (Note: I left out “sweet.” More than a few are awash in violence and gore.)
I’ll nutshell the original:
Beautiful Princess loses her ball in a pond. Frog will retrieve the ball if the girl promises these things:
- Love Frog
- Frog will be the girl’s playmate/companion
- Frog sits at the table
- Frog eats from the girl’s plate
- Frog drinks from the girl’s cup
- Frog sleeps in the girl’s bed
Now, right here, personally, I’d say just keep the dang ball—no matter that it’s made of gold. My daddy’s a rich and powerful king and can give me another. And no one, I mean no one, especially a demanding amphibian, will drink out of my cup.
The Princess agrees (head slap here, I mean, really). Frog retrieves her ball, but she promptly forgets everything she agreed to and skips back to the castle.
By dinnertime, the frog has managed to splish-splosh its way from the pond to the castle steps, freaking the girl all the way out. King Daddy makes his daughter keep all her promises, even though the child is terrified of this frog.
The girl manages to check some promises off the list… then comes bedtime.
She can barely stand to carry the creature to her room, using only two fingers the whole way. The frog demands to be placed in the bed and threatens to rat her out to Daddy if she doesn’t comply.
Froggy crossed a line with that threat and ticked off the lovely young lady.
She threw him against a wall. THEN, with a thud, he turned into a prince.
Read that last bit again.
Threw. Him. Against. A. Wall.
A wall, people.
She did NOT kiss him.
All of a sudden, though, she no longer had a problem keeping ALL her promises (I’ll let you make of that what you will).
I’ll stop my nutshelling now, as the rest of the story doesn’t apply to my upcoming analogy and may lead down a dangerous path of seething love advice to folks who never asked my opinion. (I mean, she was just playing ball. She wasn’t even looking for a man, then just like that, she’s all— Oof. I’ll stop now before I seethe. This is why I don’t write romance.)
Hang with me and let’s fast-forward to kinder times.
[Unfortunately?] We don’t tell girls to throw frogs against walls, though the imagery this conjures up is quite amazing. Imagine a young gal so aggravated at the state of life she starts chucking toads against brick or stucco or paneling or cinderblock structures to see if a man pops out of one.
I suppose it could be therapeutic… Especially if the gal wasn’t looking for a man at all, but instead hoping for a scholarship or a franchise opportunity, or, heaven help us all: self-sustaining employment with time and money enough left over to enjoy life. There’s an idea…
(Please don’t send me nasty emails about kindness to all creatures, this is just imagery, folks, not a suggestion. So, for those that don’t absorb subtlety: DO NOT THROW REAL FROGS AGAINST REAL WALLS. Toads, lizards, or snakes, either. That would be unkind. Or emails about throwing ice water on your fairytale dream of finding Prince Charming. If I can kill your dream with a few hastily written paragraphs, you weren’t believin’ it either, friend.)
Anyway, the Grimm version made me smile. For waaaay too long. I bet the little Princess didn’t throw like a girl that night. I bet she full-on chucked that demanding critter with fury and force.
Imagine what little girls all over the world would do if Disney kept true to the original. Imagine what grown women would try… I had to stop myself and get to work at this point. Little Miss Muse, however, ran out to the nearest pond to see how many frogs she can round up before they hibernate.
“Well, you wouldn’t want me to throw frozen-solid frogs against walls, would you? I mean, they’d shatter before anything popped out of them, right?”
I don’t want her to throw any frogs against walls (see my above disclaimer). But I don’t stop her. I’m counting on Mother Nature to win this round and that all of Little Miss’s clomping about in purple stilettos at the water’s edge—not to mention the bottle rockets—will frighten the creatures into hiding. Snow White she ain’t…
“You gotta kiss a lotta toads/frogs” to get the results you’re after certainly applies to publishing. (Likely any industry or creative or business endeavor.)
Let me rephrase the phrase: Sometimes you gotta throw out a lot of stories to a lot of places (markets) before something sticks.
Sometimes you write a lot of stories for yourself before you hit a stride.
Another phrase that comes to mind: The harder I work, the luckier I get. (After another Google rabbit hole, I believe Thomas Jefferson said something similar first, then Samuel Goldwyn.)
Sometimes a story is just a toad. But it’ll hop just fine, and toads can be great fun.
But sometimes, if you chuck one hard enough, something magical happens that you least expect.
What to do between the long lines of toads and that thud of magic? Keep chuckin’—whether you’re a writer or a love-starved human on a mission.