Once upon a time, a king lived in a large palace with his wife and three daughters. His daughters were all beautiful, but the youngest was so beautiful that even the sun itself, which has seen so much, was astonished whenever it shone in her face. Near to the king’s castle there was a great, dark forest, and under an old lime-tree in the forest was a well. One day, when it was very warm, the youngest daughter went out into the forest and sat down by the side of the cool well, and when she was bored she took a golden ball, and threw it up in the air and caught it, for this ball was her favorite toy.
On this occasion the princess’s golden ball did not fall into her little hand, but on to the ground beyond, and rolled straight into the water. She followed it with her eyes, but it vanished, and the well was deep, so deep that the bottom could not be seen. At this she began to cry, and cried louder and louder, and could not be comforted. As she was crying, someone said to her, “What’s the matter, young princess? Why are you crying so much?”
The princess looked around her, and saw a frog stretching its big, ugly head from the water. “Ah, old frog, it is you!” she said. “I am weeping for my golden ball, which has fallen into the well.” “Be quiet, and do not weep,” answered the frog, “I can help you, but what will you give me if I bring your toy up again?” “Whatever you want, dear frog,” she said. “My clothes, my pearls and jewels, and even the golden crown which I am wearing.” The frog answered, “I am not interested in your clothes, your pearls and jewels, or your golden crown, but if you love me and let me be your companion, and sit next to you at your little table, and eat off your little golden plate, and drink out of your little cup, and sleep in your little bed – if you will promise me this I will go down into the water, and bring you your golden ball up again.”
“Oh, yes,” she said, “I promise you all you wish, if you bring me my ball back again.” But she thought, “What silly things the frog is saying! All he does is to sit in the water with the other frogs, and croak. He can be no companion to any human being.”
But the frog, put his head into the water and sank down; and in a short while came swimming up again with the ball in his mouth, and threw it on the grass. The princess was delighted to see her pretty toy once more, and picked it up, and ran away with it. “Wait, wait,” said the frog. “Take me with you! I can’t run as fast as you.” And he croaked and croaked as loudly as he could. She did not listen, however, and ran home and soon forgot about the poor frog, who was forced to go back into his well again.
The next day when she was sat at the table with the king and all the courtiers and was eating from her little golden plate, she heard a noise coming up the marble staircase. It went splish splash, splish splash. Something was creeping up the staircase, and when it got to the top, it knocked at the door and cried, “Princess, youngest princess, open the door for me.” She ran to see who was outside, but when she opened the door, there sat the frog in front of it. She quickly slammed the door shut, and sat down to dinner again, and was quite frightened. The king saw that her heart was beating fast, and said, “My child, what are you so afraid of? Is there a giant outside who wants to carry you away?” “Ah, no,” she. “It is no giant but a disgusting frog.”
“What does a frog want with you?” he asked. “Ah, dear father, yesterday as I was in the forest sitting by the well, playing, my golden ball fell into the water. And because I was crying so much, the frog brought it back to me, and because he insisted, I promised him that he would be my companion, but I never thought he would be able to come out of the water. And now he is outside the door, and wants to come in to see me.”
In the meantime the frog knocked a second time, and cried, “Princess, youngest princess, open the door for me! Do you not know what you said to me yesterday by the cool waters of the well? Princess, youngest princess, open the door for me!”
Then said the king, “You must do what you promised to do. Go and let him in.” She went and opened the door, and the frog hopped in and followed her, step by step, to her chair. There he sat and cried, “Lift me up beside you.” She delayed, until at last the king commanded her to do it. Once the frog was on the chair he wanted to be on the table, and when he was on the table he said, “Now, push your little golden plate nearer to me so that we may eat together.” She did this, but it was easy to see that she did not do it willingly. The frog enjoyed what he ate, but almost every mouthful she ate choked her. After that the frog said, “I have eaten and am satisfied, now I am tired. Carry me into your little room and make your little bed ready, and we will both lie down and go to sleep.”
The princess began to cry, because she was afraid of the cold frog which she did not like to touch, and which was now going to sleep in her pretty, clean little bed. But the king grew angry and said, “You must not hate people who helped you.” So she took hold of the frog with two fingers, carried him upstairs, and put him in a corner, but when she was in bed he crept to her and said, “I am tired, I want to sleep. Lift me up or I will tell your father.” At this she became terribly angry, and took him up and threw him with all her might against the wall. “Now, will you be quiet, horrible frog,” she said. But when he fell down from the wall he was no frog. He had turned into a handsome prince with kind and beautiful eyes. He told her how he had been bewitched by a wicked witch, and that only she could release him from the well, and that tomorrow they would go together into his kingdom and be married.
Then they went to sleep, and next morning when the sun awoke them, a carriage came driving up with eight white horses, which had white ostrich feathers on their heads, and were harnessed with golden chains. Thy drove to the prince’s kingdom, where they got married and lived happily ever after.