Friday, February 17, 2012

The Prince Frog

This is another one from ‘Fractured Fairy Tales.’ They ran it under the title “The Frog Prince,” but I think my title is more fitting. I think the reason this story has stayed with me for so many years is that under the jokes and the funny voices (courtesy of Daws Butler, who also voiced Yogi Bear and Huckleberry Hound) there is a genuine love story here. Falling in love means you’re willing to do anything to be with someone. Being in love means you’re willing to do anything for someone. As you’ll see:

There was once upon a time a country that was entirely overrun with witches. They were everywhere, you couldn’t move for witches back then. It finally got so bad that there were more witches than there were people to bewitch. It was perfectly common to see two witches literally fighting over a peasant saying:

“Let go! I want to put him to sleep for a thousand years!”

“No, you let go! I want to turn him into a chair!”

“Well I want…a chair? That’s a weird thing to turn somebody into.”

“I’m running out of ideas! So sue me!”

One day a little witch was walking through the woods, desperate to cast a spell on someone when she came upon a little pond where she saw a frog sitting on a lily pad.

“Good morning!” said the frog, with the customary friendliness for which frogs are known.

“Not so good for you, dearie,” said the witch. “Because I’m going to cast a spell on you.”

But the frog just laughed. “I’m already a frog! What are you gonna do? Turn me into a handsome prince?”

“Say! That’s an idea!” With that the witch waved her wand and the frog became a handsome young prince…a human prince, in case that wasn’t clear…not that frogs have monarchies so…never mind.

“What?” cried the frog…I mean prince. “No! I don’t want to be a prince! Change me back into a frog!”

“Never! You are doomed to be a handsome prince forever!” And with a wicked cackle, she was gone.

The poor frog…that is the poor prince…well, he was really a frog but…looked, let’s just call him Filbert, okay? So, poor Filbert was very depressed and even though he tried to adjust to being a prince, he found his life just wasn’t the same. He couldn’t croak, he couldn’t catch flies, he couldn’t sit on lily pads (he almost drowned three times before he gave that up). In the end he realized he was just going to have to find a witch to turn him back into a frog and he set forth.

But he didn’t meet any witches on his travels (which was sort of surprising, come to think of it). Instead he met a beautiful princess who, despite his insistence that he was a frog, fell in love with Filbert. Feeling it would be impolite to refuse a princess, Filbert agreed to marry Princess Sylvia and they moved into a beautiful home together. Knowing that her eccentric husband was fond of nature, the princess had a beautiful back garden added to the house and Prince Filbert would walk through it for hours every day, dreaming of the days when he was a frog.

One day while he was out walking, a witch passed by. Imagine her surprise at seeing a genuine, honest-to-goodness prince! And not even under a spell! So, without any further ado, she announced that she was going to turn the prince into…a chair!

“No, a frog!”

“Good idea! A frog’s much better!” And Filbert was a frog once again.

Princess Sylvia tried to understand, but it wasn’t easy being married to a prince in the morning and a frog in the evening. Nevertheless she had come to love her husband very much and so she had a big, beautiful pond added to the garden where she could go visit her frog-prince-husband-guy whenever she wanted.

Well, as fate would have it, that same witch who started this whole silly business came by one day and recognized Filbert from the first spell. That’s funny, she thought. Normally my spells last longer than that. Oh well, we’ll just have to try something else. And with a wave of her wand, Filbert became…a chicken?

“Okay! That does it!” said Filbert and he marched…or whatever chickens do that’s most like marching…straight into the forest where he found the SHCOW meeting place: That’s Secret High Council of Witches. They were the group that sort of oversaw all witchcraft in the area. Sort of a Witches’ Union, you might say. Filbert went straight to the Head Witch, Griselda, and said, “Now look: First I was a frog, and I was happy. Then I was a prince, then I was almost a chair, then I was a frog again, and now I’m a chicken! I’m getting tired of this. Tell your witches to leave me alone!”

“Sorry, sir,” said Griselda. “We normally make it a point not to persecute any one person like this, but times are hard for us witches. Anyway, I’ll put you on the official ‘no-curse’ list, if you like and I’ll even change you back to your preferred form right now. So, what’ll it be?”

Of course, Filbert’s first thought was that he wanted to be a frog again. But then he thought about Sylvia. How she had humored him in his belief that he was a frog, how she had been so patient with his long walks in the garden, how she had let him live in the pond because she thought it would make him happy. She had done so much to make him happy; now, it was his turn. He knew what he had to do:

“I wanna be a prince!”

“Sure thing,” said Griselda and with a wave of her wand, the chicken was gone, and in its place was…a big, shaggy sheepdog? “Here, Prince. Good boy, Prince.”

“Not this kind of prince!”

“Oh, sorry.” So, Griselda waved her magic wand again and this time Filbert was a cat. Then a parakeet. Then a garden snail. Then a buffalo. Then a chair. And, finally, the frog he was at the start of all this nonsense. “Sorry, sir,” said the exhausted witch. “All that bewitching has rewritten your internal biology. It’s hard to explain, but I’ll never be able to make you a prince again.”

Filbert was confused and very unhappy as he thanked Griselda for trying and hopped on home. He didn’t know what he was going to say to his wife. But when he got back home, he found the house was empty. Sylvia was nowhere to be seen. Then he thought perhaps she was looking for him back in the pond so he hopped to the garden and when he reached the pond…there, sitting on his favorite lily pad, was the most beautiful girl-frog Filbert had ever seen. And, somehow, though he didn’t know how, he knew exactly who she was.


Yes, it was! It turns out that while Filbert had been thinking of becoming a prince to make her happy, she had decided that the only way she could be happy was to be with Filbert. And if Filbert needed to be a frog to be happy, then a frog is just what she’d be, too. She marched straight out into the woods and ordered the first witch she met to turn her into a frog. The confused witch obliged and Sylvia hopped back to the pond to wait for Filbert.

No one ever knew what happened to the prince and princess. Their house soon feel into disrepair and another couple moved in and rebuilt it about two years later. By now the witch crisis was over and they felt it was once again safe to bring up children in the neighborhood and, before long, two beautiful little kids joined the family. And every day after their lessons, they would come straight home and run right out to the back where there was a little lilly pond which was very cozy and inviting and, in residence, two friendly frogs and a whole lot of little pollywogs living very happily ever after.


NEXT WEEK: Something short, I promise!

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Story of Chanticleer

Today’s story is indeed old as it appears throughout English folklore in various forms. The original story of Chanticleer and the Fox is comparable to Aesop’s “The Fox and the Crow” and has been retold as a fable for years. Then there was the Nun’s Priest’s Tale from Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” which retold the story in verse. French author Edmond Rostand (best remembered for “Cyrano de Bergerac”) wrote a play telling a new version of the story which was then translated by a Ms. Florence Yates Hann into a novella for children.

Tragically, the closest thing most people have to an understanding of this fable is the Don Bluth film Rock-A-Doodle which is, let’s face it, pretty much unwatchable and has about as much to do with the real Chanticleer story as the poop of a mouse who shook hands with another mouse who ate a nice piece of cheese in the home of a dentist has to do with dentistry…anyway, here’s how I think the story should go:

The rooster flapped his wings as he lit on the top of the fence. He gazed across at the horizon, waiting for just the right moment. Then, as though he could feel it in his bones, he knew his time had come. He filled his lungs with cool, early morning air and with all his strength he crowed. “Cock-a-doodle-doo!” The tiniest glimmer of light danced on the edge of the world. “Cock-a-doodle-doo!” Faint rays of sunlight shone from the east. “Cock-a-doodle-doo!!!” And just as it had a million times before, and would a million times again, the sun came up. And Chanticleer’s duty was fulfilled for another day.

Yes, Chanticleer was the king of the farmyard. He made sure the hens stayed on their nests, he saw to it that the animals had everything they needed, he kept things running smoothly. Everyone treated him with great respect and reverence. The young cockrels wanted to grow up to be just like him, all the hens wanted him for their husband, even the barnyard dog, Patou, counted himself among the rooster’s loyal subjects. And why was Chanticleer so admired and famous? His voice. For, you see, everyone on the farm, from the dog and the cat all the way down to the chicks and the goslings knew that it was Chanticleer’s crow that told the sun when to come up every morning. Without him, everything would be shrouded in darkness all the time. So it’s no wonder that Chanticleer was the most important and beloved figure in the farmyard…

Though not to everyone.

Some of the animals in the forest just beyond the farm resented Chanticleer for singing his song and waking the sun every day. The bats hunted by night. The mole worked at night, but his eyes were too sensitive for the bright sunlight. Even the barnyard cat preferred to sneak about in the dark and tended to sleep most of the day. And the owls, of course, lived in the darkness, worshipped the darkness. The only thing they didn’t like about nighttime was the moon and the stars, but they preferred that to the bright, piercing, inescapable sunlight. For several nights in a row, these animals would hold meetings in an old hollow tree where they conceived a plan to get rid of Chanticleer and his song once and for all.

They were the ones who sent the fox.

One morning, as Chanticleer was preparing himself for his morning duty he heard a voice calling his name from beyond the fence. He looked down and saw a fox looking up at him.

“Excuse me, sir,” said the fox, “but my name is Reynard, and I am a great admirer of your singing.”

“Oh, thank you,” said Chanticleer. He was proud, as who wouldn’t be, but humble.

“But may I make one suggestion? The best singers always close their eyes before they begin.”

Willing to try anything once, Chanticleer shut his eyes. This proved to be a mistake as the fox leapt up the fence, grabbed Chanticleer in his jaws and ran into the woods. Luckily, Patou saw the whole thing and started barking, waking the farmer, who took his shotgun and, with Patou at his side, chased the fox. A gunshot went off a few feet from Reynard’s path.

“They can’t do that to you!” said Chanticleer to the fleeing fox. “Tell them they’ll regret shooting at you!” The proud fox did so, but when he opened his mouth to speak, Chanticleer slipped out and ran madly for home. The fox cursed himself for his stupidity, then ran into the woods never to be seen again, at least not by anybody in this story.

So, Chanticleer escpaed being eaten by the fox. But, as he returned to the farmyard, he realized something was wrong. He sensed light on the horizon, the first dancing rays of the sun. Chanticleer stared with wide, incredulous eyes as the sun rose…without his having sung a single note.

Poor Chanticleer. He had really believed that it was his singing which woke the sun every morning. Now he saw that it wasn’t true. And to make matters worse, all the other animals in the farmyard starting laughing and mocking him for thinking he made the sun rise (though they had all believed it, too) and began asking, rather loudly, what they even needed him for, anyway.

Defeated, dejected and despondent, Chanticleer hung his head in shame and did what he thought was the only thing he could do and left. He went to the forest, vowing never to return to the farmyard as long as he lived.

Without Chanticleer, things on the farm were going quite smoothly…for the first few days. But running a farmyard is not as easy as Chanticleer made it look. Patou tried running things, but being an old hound dog, he didn’t quite have the strength for command. The hens found the pressure overwhelming and none of the other birds felt up to the challenge, either. Things began to fall apart pretty quickly. But the worst part was the mornings. The sun came up without Chanticleer’s crowing, that much was true, but the sun wasn’t the only thing that needed to rise every morning. The farmer, his sons and the animals all needed waking. And without the encouraging, inspiring song of the rooster, they rose, but did so without any great enthusiasm. It’s like their bodies woke up, but their hearts never did. A general malaise settled over the farm as, one by one, every animal came to realize how much they missed—


Yes, the rooster had returned and he was welcomed as a hero. They asked him what had happened to him after he left. “I went into the woods,” he said, “where I stayed with a very nice pheasant. At first I wept when I saw the sun rise without my song, but then I came to accept it. I didn’t sing at all anymore. I thought, what was the point? Until I met a nightingale.

“The nightingale knew me and asked, ‘Aren’t you Chanticleer, the rooster with the famous voice?’

“‘Not anymore,’ I said.

“‘Yes, I heard about the incident with the fox. But you can’t let that stop you from singing. Look at me. I know that my singing doesn’t make the moon rise, nor does it make the stars shine. But without my song, the night would seem empty and incomplete. There is more to daybreak than light, just as there is more to nighttime than darkness.’

“And so, this very morning, I crowed with the sunrise. And even though I know I didn’t cause it to rise, I got the same feeling of joy and fulfilment that I always used to. From now on, I’ll sing for the joy of singing and I’ll praise the dawn with my song every morning.”

From that day on, Chanticleer returned to his job on the farm, and every morning he crowed, just as he always had, which is why he, and all the other animals on the farm, lived happily ever after.


If You Liked My Story, Then, For Pete's Sake, Do NOT Ever See:
  • Rock-A-Doodle (1991) I really can't think of enough bad things to say about this movie. It's interesting to note that the Disney Company had worked on this story for years before it was suddenly shot down and abandoned. Don Bluth, the director of this awful movie, worked at Disney during that time. Sadly, the closest thing Disney ever made to an animated version of this story was the Silly Symphony Farmyard Symphony which Walt introduced on TV with a short history of Chanticleer.
  • If, however, you are interested in the story as written by Rostand and Yates, it can be read for free right here


"Don Demonio"