Blogging is tough for me.
I spend all my time here trying to think of useful things to say. How can I expect anyone worth anything to read this blog unless I say things that they want to hear? I can’t. Now I know most people would say, “Well, just write for yourself.” “Okay,” I reply. “I’ll write for myself.” And I proceed to spend the next three months indulged in a word document and lined-paper. Because blogging isn’t my preferred way of writing. I’ve spent all of my waking life scribbling fiction, and some of my sleeping life too. It’s what I do. It’s what I love. All I want to do is write. But it’s not good enough just to write it. Someone has to read it too, otherwise I feel that my work is a waste. I blog here in hopes that people will be able to easily find me, people who will enjoy my work for what it is.
But that creates an issue, because, like I said, I’m not cut out of this cloth. I’m not a born blogger. I don’t have a head teeming with useful stuff to talk about. What I want to say is all metaphors and allegorics. I want to paint vivid landscapes, and tell dark stories of demons, Shadows, and heroes that are looking for forgiveness. I don’t want to be my own marketer. It’s not my dream. So then what do I do with this blog that seems to go nowhere? How can I implement my love of fiction into my blog?
Today I decided to try something new. Story reviews. If this goes well, perhaps I will continue.
This article is on The Frog King, or Iron Henry, which is the first fairytale in The Complete Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales.
This is a curious story, because it’s actually two quite distinct stories with quite different purposes. The first, The Frog King, is the classic telling of a prince who was turned into a frog by a wicked witch. In more modern renditions of the tale, the Prince, in order to regain his true form, must receive the kiss of the princess, or in some way gain her love. But in the story of The Frog King there seems at first to be no lesson learned. The princess, having made a promise to a frog who returned her golden ball to her, abandons her vow, and returns instead to her home. The frog follows her, and insists that she keep her promise. Her father, the King, makes her do so against her will, until she is so fed up that she throws the frog against the wall in anger, at which time he retakes his princely form. He then tells her of how he has become a frog, and that he will now marry her, and they will ascend to his proper kingdom together.
My first question is this: did the princess learn her lesson? I actually don’t think so, not the obvious lesson, at least, that one ought to keep one’s promises. Maybe she did learn it in the end, but she certainly wasn’t rewarded for behaving well, as is the more common purpose of fairytales. Why then, when she treated the frog-prince so dreadfully, was she rewarded?
I think the purpose of this part of the story is not that the princess learned her lesson and was rewarded, but rather that the prince showed her mercy. When he regained his true form, he might have rebuked her, sent her away, and gone to his kingdom alone. He certainly owed her nothing, and she didn’t deserve his love. But the point is he didn’t. He had mercy. Perhaps he recognized his own shortcomings. Perhaps he knew that in her position he might have done the same, and it wasn’t his place to judge her. Whatever the reason, I think the point of the story is not what the princess learned, but what the frog-prince did.
The second part of this story is Iron Henry. The story concludes by telling about the prince’s servant, Faithful Henry, who has come to collect his dear master and his master’s new wife in the horse-drawn carriage. When the prince was turned into a frog, Faithful Henry caused three iron bands to be laid around his heart so as to keep it from bursting from grief and sadness for his master. Then, as they drive away into the sunset, the prince is alarmed by the sound of something snapping, and he thinks the carriage is falling apart. But it is only the bands Faithful Henry had laid around his heart. The sight of his master so freed and happy has filled him so full of joy that they can no longer contain it.
This, unlike the first part of the story, I think, has a very clear purpose. Love and joy are more powerful than grief and despair. Faithful Henry’s iron bands are a remedy for his sadness, or at least a cage to keep it from destroying him, but that same cage was destroyed by his joy at seeing his master free. Love>Despair.
How true is that? Doesn’t matter who you are, you can create all manner of preservatives to keep the ship from going under, but nothing serves so well as joy. I would even be willing to suggest that Faithful Henry’s iron bands were holding back his hope as much as containing his despair. It was only at the return of his master that he himself was freed again from his own demons.
Finally, I think it’s also important to note that Faithful Henry’s story serves as a mirror image, an opposite, for the princess’s. Faithful Henry served his master wholeheartedly, and eagerly awaited his return, while the princess thought only of herself. What sets this story aside as unique is that, in the end, everyone is happy. Usually the princess would find herself living alone, and Faithful Henry and the frog-prince—the Young King—would have their happily everafter. But in The Frog King, or Iron Henry, by the Young King’s bountiful mercy, everyone has their Happily Everafter.