The F–k Princess: A Fractured Fairytale (The Frog Princess)

Princess Brunhild sprinted across the palace gardens, hitched her skirts and leapt up the marble steps, three at a time. She ignored the guards and skidded across the parquet floor, careening to the right. She blundered elbow first into the front parlour.

“Lower your cups!” she yelled.

Both older sisters did as directed. By the look on Brunhild’s face, their lemon water had been poisoned. 

“I thought it tasted weird,” said Princess Rosie, the eldest and—against archetype—also the most conventionally attractive.

“How long have we got?” asked Princess Ortrun, second born, always practical. “Was it arsenic? It was arsenic, wasn’t it.”

Brunhild had been working out with golden kettle balls for years now, so it didn’t take long to stop puffing. “Worse,” she said. “There’s a frog. A fucking ugly, mouthy fucking frog, in the well. And he’s been using it as a latrine, by the looks.”

Rosie and Ortrun sprayed their own barrage of expletives. Rosie poked out her tongue and wiped at it with a mostly unfinished tapestry. Ortrun rushed to the window, opened it a crack and spat into the flowerbed. Then she threw up. 

“We need to switch to ale,” Rosie said between tongue wipes. “Ale is sanitary. I’ve had the shits for a week. Now I know it’s because of that frog in the drinking water.”

“I’ve had the shits for a fortnight,” said Ortrun.

“Listen bitches,” said Brunhild. “It’s not a competition. But I’ve had the shits for a month.” 

Unfortunately Brunhild had left the parlour door agape, and their conversation was overheard by the Queen. 

“Heart!” exclaimed their mother from the corridor. It was basically a reflex. “You swear like comfit-makers’ wives!”

Rosie put down the slobbery tapestry. “We don’t drink, we don’t smoke, we don’t hunt. What’s fucking left, Ma?”

They had a point. The Queen continued towards the garden for some quiet convalescence. She knew better than to get into a moral maelstrom with her daughters, especially when she wasn’t feeling in tip-top shape. One on one the girls were manageable, but together in one room? They’d eat you alive. This is why marriage interviews were conducted with one princess per room. One would meet the trembling suitor in East Wing. Another waited in the parlour, hands occupied. The third princess was required to sit by the pond, chaperoned. That way, no one could send secret messages or pop up from behind bushes or produce fart noises behind gloves. Despite these precautions, not one of the royal daughters had received a lasting offer. 

No, thought the Queen. I will say something. I don’t have the stomach for it, but I’m going to say something. So she turned on her heels and said something, just one thing, through the parlour door.

“I’m starting to wonder if you girls even want to be married.”

Then she slammed the door tight and continued to the garden, completely depleted of energy. 

Arms linked, Princesses Rosie, Ortrun and Brunhild strode down the wide palace halls, barged through the flush door and filed into the kitchen. They weren’t supposed to be in here. But the kitchen staff enjoyed their visits. Unlike more typical aristocrats, the princesses never complained about trivial matters. They never sent back their meals. Nay, they scarfed food down as if en route to the gallows. Sometimes they went on excursions abroad and returned with souvenirs. Last time, they gave colour postcards to each of the servants. Mrs Knowles now owned the naked bust of a man. It sat propped upon her chest of drawers. She gazed upon it often.

 The princesses plopped themselves down on the kitchen benches. 

“We’ve come with bad news,” Brunhild announced. “The water’s off.”

Mrs Knowles considered this for a moment then nodded. “I thought so.”

“There’s a frog in it,” Brunhild continued. “A talking frog.”

“You know what that means,” said Mrs Knowles. “I’ll bet he’s a handsome prince. Ten ingots says he’s been a proper bastard and, as a result of his own actions, he’s had a curse put on him by a so-called witch. Now he’s lurking about the palace wanting one of you girls to be smooching him on the smacker. Not to mention all the rest.”

“Frogs don’t have lips,” said Ortrun. “Lips meld into the rest of the froggy little face, as part of the froggy spell.”

“How do you know what frogs have and don’t have?” Brunhild looked suspiciously at Ortrun. 

“Oh, I’ve seen him. You’re not the only one he’s been bothering, oh pretty one. He found me in the rose garden last week.”

“Why the hell didn’t you warn us?”

Better late than never, Ortrun recounted her story. The frog had asked what she was reading, even though he could see the title from his rock and knew perfectly well what she was reading without having to bother her about it. Then he wanted to give his own opinions on Speechmaking To The Masses, so Ortrun had to find another part of the garden. 

“He located me in my new hiding spot. But I ignored him so he hopped onto the book and sat on the pages.”

“Literally? On the pages?”

“He left slime. If Wilhelm queries it, tell him it looks like his own sneeze.”

The housekeeper, the princesses and all the kitchen staff screwed up their faces. 

“Ugh. Frog slime. And to think we’ve been using that water at table!” Mrs Knowles shuddered. “Right, then.” She could never sit idle and chat. She picked up the boning knife.

“Main point being,” said Brunhild, passing the sharpening stone, “all water must be strained and boiled from now on. No more lemon water, no more gargling in the bath.”

“We need to get rid of that frog, more like.” Mrs Knowles put a palm to her abdomen. Her belly emitted an ominous rumble. “Wonderful acoustics in here.” 

“What we need is a plan,” said young Gunda, who really should have suspected something froggy when she wound up the first bucket of sludge. She thought she’d better contribute. 

Brunhild agreed. “But it has to be a hecka good plan. He’s a dodgy little froggyfucker.” 

First, it was important to get the full measure of their opponent.

“What exactly are we dealing with here?” asked Mrs Knowles.

Brunhild had the most up-to-date intelligence. Plus, she needed to get this morning’s encounter off her chest. 

She was first to admit, it was a dumbass idea, juggling heavy balls so close to the well. 

“Fuck shit hell,” she’d cried, though mainly out of habit. She wasn’t much bothered by the loss. It’s not like the ball was made of proper gold. ’Twas more a cheap alloy, which seemed golden from a distance, especially on royal sunny days. Brunhild liked to use the garden ornaments as training equipment, throwing them up, catching them, mostly. Her upper-body strength must have progressed beyond her annoying winter plateau. As a consequence, the metal ball felt light as a feather this lovely spring morn. Off it flew, into the fucking well, never to be seen again.

That’s when the frog dragged himself out, panting with the exertion. He clung to the circular stone wall with bulbous fingertips. His neck ballooned, in and out. With his other froggy forelimb he clutched the ball to his belly. 

Brunhild eyed him suspiciously, hoping he wouldn’t talk.

“Typical,” said the frog. “Throwing like a girl.”

Brunhild recognised the negging.

“What’s negging?” asked the new kitchen girl, who was only twelve. Gunda had not yet met the princesses. So she introduced herself. “Gunda means war,” she added.

Princess Brunhild made approving noises about the girl’s name. Then she explained, as to a little sister. “Negging is when some fool thinks it’s cute to open with insults. I guess you haven’t spent much time in bars, young Gunda.”

“Have you, but?”

“Royal ladies have to suffer through dinner parties, which is experience enough.”

Princesses Rosie and Ortrun groaned and agreed. 

Even the housekeeper knew what Brunhild was talking about, and Mrs Knowles was a ‘Mrs’ in station only. She’d always been single. “Some men think if they’re rude about the vegetables you’ll engage in further witty conversation,” she explained. “Best thing for that sort is a long, cold stare.”

“That’s what I did,” continued Brunhild, “to the frog. But he didn’t shut up. I think he thrived on that kind of attention. He said, ‘What’ll you give me if I return this golden ball?’ So I told him. I said ‘I don’t care one way or the other what you do with that great hunk of metal. It’s yours now,’ I said. ‘Off you fuck.’”

But the frog wouldn’t take the hint. “Tell you what,” he’d said to Brunhild, thinking himself generous. “I’ll give you this ball back and you’ll agree to marry me. You and me together, as long as we both shall live. Day in, day out. I’ll sit next to you at your table and eat from your golden plate and drink from your cup and sleep in your bed and—’”

The women in the kitchen laughed and slapped the wet table. 

“What did you say to that, Brunhild?”

“I said, ‘I haven’t heard of that one. What exactly do you mean?’ The frog looked creepy and very knowing. So I said, ‘Sex? You mean fucking, right?’”

The kitchen erupted in more laughter.

“It’s not bloody funny,” said Brunhild, chuckling all the same. “He was serious! As if a lifetime of sexual servitude is compensation for the return of a garden decoration!”

“Euphemism,” said Ortrun, quietly. “‘Golden plate’ indeed. What did you tell him, Brunhild?”

“‘Oh sure,’ I said. ‘Sounds like a fair deal to me!’ Ha ha ha!”

“You could do worse,” mused young Gunda. “Won’t he transmogrify back into a proper prince? Do you get to judge how handsome he is before you consider marriage, or is it a complete gamble?”

“He went into that, as it happens. He said it wouldn’t count as bestiality at all. He whipped a self-portrait out of his back pocket.”

“The frog has pockets?” Gunda put her hand to her chest. She imagined little dolly clothes.

“Oh, he comes fully dressed,” said Brunhild. “Though sopping wet, dripping slime all over the show. I guess his duds got shrunk along with his body.”

The women shuddered and agreed—the witch had done them a favour there. No one wants to see that kind of nakedness.

“So, what did he look like as a prince?” asked Gunda. 

“Not bad, compared to his current warty self. Though he could’ve cut the portrait out of a chapbook.” Brunhild was full of theories, none charitable. She shared her theory about the well water. “I bet he can’t stand looking at his froggy reflection, which is why he murked it up.”

“He’s probably been talking shit into it,” observed Ortrun.

“A frog with confidence issues.” Gunda looked dreamy. “If I were a princess, I might’ve said yes. Did he promise you a castle?”

“Oh, sure.”

Rosie took over. The frog prince had been bothering her each night at bath time. “Let me guess. He told you all about his massive castle, his eight white horses, his lake of white swans.”

“So you’ve seen him too.” Brunhild narrowed her eyes. “Did neither of yous think he might be living — and shitting — in the drinking well?”

“Rule of three,” said Ortrun, immersed in thought. “Set up your argument, establish a pattern, conclude your case. A classic”

Brunhild sighed. “He boasted to me too, Rosie. Then he announced we’d live ‘happily ever after’.”

Ortrun stood up and waved her index finger. “Hyperbole followed by confident conjecture. He’s read my book. Well, he’s read Wilhelm’s book that I borrowed and never gave back, on speech making for kings in training. He’s saying ‘we’ to suggest you already agree with him.”

“Then the frog starts bawling his eyes out,” Brunhild continued, expecting agreement. “’I’m an especially ugly reptile,’ he says, blubbering like a bad actor. ’Nobody wants me! I haven’t been kissed in years!’ Like his involuntary celibacy is somehow my problem.”

Everyone nodded sagely. They’d seen the type.

“False humility,” said Ortrun, who was counting rhetorical devices on her fingers. “There’s an entire chapter on that. Also, frogs aren’t reptiles. They’re amphibians. He should know that, of all… people?”

 “Where is this book?” Brunhild asked. 

“On pond life?”

“Nah, the one on manipulative rhetoric. Did you return it to Wilhelm’s library?”

“It went missing. Unfortunately, some of the pages have been permanently stuck together. That’s two books covered in slime. Brother Wilhelm shall not be pleased when he returns from his journey.”

Brunhild stood up and reached for a dishcloth in order to throw it dramatically onto the table. “Ladies. We face a more pressing issue.”

The kitchen staff agreed, they’d better get back to work. They had just this minute been charged with a grand task: the preparation of a seven course dinner. 

But the princesses had an open afternoon, so they split up and searched the palace grounds. 

Ortrun had been mightily impressed by the presence of three actual, real live princesses in the kitchen. They were just like regular people. And now a fairytale frog! She intended to impress them all. So she took a wet pudding bowl down to the well, frog-sized, she hoped.

She re-encountered Princess Ortrun. 

Gunta thought of asking if she might touch the luxurious fabric on the princess’s beautiful dress. 

Instead, Princess Ortrun took the opportunity to scare the poor kitchen girl with tales of trots and spew, volume two. “Don’t get a single drop of frog water on that kitchen bowl,” she instructed, peering into the well, grabby-hands at the ready.

But the enemy himself was nowhere to be seen. 

Gunta was required back in the kitchen.

The princesses reconvened under the pavilion at twilight, dispirited and annoyed. 

“It’s probably just as well,” sighed Rosie. “Pun intended. We should always intend our puns. By the way, what does the law say, Ortrun?”

“Lawd. I haven’t snuck into the legal library yet.”

“Surely it’s not murder, so long as he looks more frog than man.”

Ortrun wasn’t so sure. “Where does one draw the line? And how would a judge feel about talking frogs, wearing little clothes? Is that murder, or is it frog-slaughter?”

Brunhild shuddered. She could make it look like an accident, either way. She’d borrowed Wilhelm’s heaviest hunting boots and spent the entire afternoon psyching herself up for some serious stomping. Or perhaps she’d pick up the hideous creature and, with all her might, throw him against a wall. 

Something may have switched over in her. 

Rosie was about to ask if that strange look on Brunhild’s face was gas related, but at that very moment they were interrupted.

“Girls! Girls!” Their mother’s lady-in-waiting came loping across the lawn, as fast as her gown would allow. “Where have you all been? An important guest has arrived! Dinner is nigh on served!”

The princesses glanced at each other in horror. “Oh fuck,” they said, in perfect unison.

The King and his guest sat drinking at one end of the dinner table, making political smalltalk. 

The princesses filed in and were confused at first, especially Brunhild. Just this morning, she’d been shown a picture of a prince before he turned to frog. This guy looked kind of like that. He seemed part man, part frog. If she had to assign taxonomy she wouldn’t know where to start. Bulbous black eyes sat high upon his head. His mouth was wide and split his face in two. She didn’t notice his short stature. He’d been furnished with a discreet pile of cushions and so looked taller than he was.

“I’ve come on behalf of my older brother.” The prince addressed the king, but eyed all three princesses as they bent to sit. “He’s in a bit of a situation, you see. Men in his condition, er, aren’t generally welcome at royal table.”  

“Let me spoil the climax,” said Ortrun. “Your brother’s gone full frog and you’re here to persuade one of us to kiss him better.”

The King laughed nervously. “Excuse my daughters,” he said to the guest. “Princess Ortrun, in particular, is rudely direct.”

“I like a strong, sassy woman,” said the wingman younger brother, whose name no one cared about. “My brother hopped to me earlier and had a word in my ear. He tells me one of your daughters offered him marriage this morning, down by the well.”

“Well, that serves me right for cracking a joke,” said Brunhild. “Did he take it in earnest?”

 “That which thou hast promised must thou perform,” said the King, though he might have arranged his words in the wrong order. He tried again, to no avail. He’d been on the ale all afternoon. “At any rate.” He plonked down his goblet. “If you offered to marry the frog, Brunhild, I consider you officially engaged. Dear son, you have my word.”

“I believe Brunhild was employing the rhetorical device of ‘irony’, father,” Ortrun explained. “Specifically, its subcategory of sarcasm.”

“This is why I told you girls to quit the snark. This is what happens, you see! You get yourselves in deep.”

“Never mind all that,” said the guest, with unexpected grace. “Now we have all three daughters at table, let’s start from scratch. Females are always changing their minds.” 

The King grinned widely and raised his drink for a clink. 

“What’s your name, beauty?” asked the frog’s younger brother, leering at Rosie. “You are so beautiful that the sun itself, which has seen much, is astonished whenever it shines upon your face.”

Rosie failed to stifle a snort. Neither Ortrun nor Brunhild did any better.

The King was used to this, and adept at changing the subject. “Are you a something of a foodie, dear prince? Our cook is renowned for her foreign dishes. She says to expect a French feast.”

The prince nodded politely and cleared his froggy throat. “My brother is more foodie than I. He’s also a very nice guy. A great catch, with beautiful, kind eyes.”

“How on earth can he be single,” mused Rosie.

“Princesses these days don’t want a nice guy. They want alpha males. Tall, handsome, human. They can’t see past appearances.”

“Blanket statement,” coughed Ortrun. “Generalisation. It’s not even true.”

The princesses had not pinned hopes on emotionally mature life partners. They knew they were limited to a small puddle of aristocratic assholes. They only hoped to choose their own aristocratic assholes, without the bald duress.

“I blame witches for this culture shift,” the guest continued. “They fly out of the forest and spread radical ideas like wildfire.”

Ortrun coughed, but the cough sounded a lot like “Scapegoating!”

“We should round them all up and burn them at the stake. These bewitching witches, they come onto our land and practise their own nasty religion.” He took a gulp from his goblet. “I have some empathy for their methods. I mean, look where they come from. But they mete out vigilante justice. They must learn to live as we do.”

“It’s not illegal to emerge from the Deep, Dark Woods and present yourself at the border,” said Rosie, glancing at Ortrun for confirmation. “Nor is it illegal to practise your own religion.”

“I’m not saying it’s illegal,” corrected the prince. “I’m saying it’s wrong. You misunderstand the entire issue.”

“Condescension,” coughed Ortrun.


“You say I misunderstand on the assumption that, if I properly understood, then I would surely agree with you. But I do understand. I simply do not agree.”

“Ortrun,” scalded the King. “I observe you are feeling delicate, same as your mother. You ought to retire early and avoid spreading vapours.”

“Oh this ain’t vapours.” Ortrun raised her goblet. A butler poured ale, though into her water vessel. Ortrun sighed. She needed it neat.

The prince took another pissed-off sip of his own. 

“What do you think of my brew?” The King always liked to impress guests with a lecture on grain mash and yeasts.

“I believe it’s a tad watery.” The prince dabbed at his mouth and suppressed an odorous belch. “It might be actual water. I wouldn’t normally speak up, but I do require an alcoholic beverage to aid digestion.”

The King snapped at the nearest butler, who apologised profusely and dashed off for a proper drink. “I’m so sorry, dear prince. We have a new kitchen girl. She’s learning the ropes.”

Then the first course arrived. 

They all bent for prayer.

“Help yourself to the meats,” said the King to the Prince. “We offer a rare selection, as you can see.”

The prince accepted a hunk of flesh. 

The princesses waited for their turn at the plate. There wasn’t much really, just an appetiser amount to share. 

“I believe you’re right, Father.” Ortrun declined a serving.

“Damn right, I’m right.” (He wasn’t sure what about.)

“I couldn’t possibly digest meat with this delicate constitution. Goodnight, dear Prince. Father. Sisters.”

The King looked meaningfully at his remaining two daughters. “Anyone else feel the need to retire? Lest they cough up something doltish?”

“Nup, I’m staying for this.” Rosie cocked her head, leaned forward and displayed her ample bosom to the guest. “I volunteer my lips in service to your wonderful brother, the frog. I shall fix his problem forthwith, or whenever he so chooses to grace us with his presence.”

The younger prince seemed taken aback at the change in emotional valence. Indeed, this feast was far more enjoyable with that stroppy influence taken to her bed. 

“Grand!” he turned to the King. “That’s settled, then! My brother will marry Princess Rosie. That’s perfect, since he’s heir and she’s the pretty one. And I’ll take… er…”

“Sitting to your right is Brunhild,” said the King. “Brunhild hefts metal balls for the sake of exercise. She’s plenty strong and sassy, as you like them.”

“Indeed. And pretty enough, I suppose. There’s not much between them, from this angle.”

The King could not believe his luck. Two daughters sorted, one to go! Perhaps he could palm his feeble, bookish daughter onto the church.

“Well, then. What kind of rarity do we have here?” asked the prince. “It tastes like chicken but the proportions don’t square up.”

“Cook said to expect some sort of amphibian,” Rosie explained, peering quizzically as best she could.

The prince swallowed his mouthful. His neck bulged. “Some sort of what, dear sister?” 

“Amphibian. It’s a type of animal.”

“Oh, a French animal. Grand. Grand.” The prince bared his small, cone-shaped teeth to rip buttery flesh from the delicate bone. “Locally grown garlic, I suppose?”

Blushing bride Rosie wrapped her lips around her own tasty portion. She was determined to enjoy it.

Across the table, Brunhild stared her down. “May I be excused, father?”

“What? You too, Brunhild? Are you indisposed as your sister?”

“You could say that.” Brunhild opened her mouth wide, to pluck flesh from her back teeth. “Or you could say I’m suffering from contaminated water. I need to squirt in a pot.”

The frog’s brother goggled his eyes and gulped. “Er—”

“Please sir, dear son-in-law, you must excuse your bride. She’s not usually this crass. It’s the well, you see—”

“I— I’m having second thoughts about this union,” spluttered the frog brother, who had glanced away from Brunhild’s brown stain of shit-fart, seeping across his bride’s pale skirts as she ran from the dining room. “May I be excused from my contract? I never make deals without an evening’s worth of ale. My sober self is the more addled.”

“I suppose so.” The king slumped deep in his big seat. He might have trotted out his usual chestnut, “That which thou hast promised must thou perform” to use against his guest, but he knew he couldn’t manage the awkward sentence twice. So he didn’t bother.

All the while, Rosie’s grin hadn’t faded.

The king dismissed her with a tired little finger waggle.

She said nothing as she left, though she did bid a warm goodnight. She closed the door so the pungent aroma would not follow behind. She giggled all the way to the chamber pot. 

As for her sisters, they could not breathe for laughing. 

Here’s what got me thinking about this plot: If there’s a frog in your well, and if the frog is really a human, then wouldn’t the drinking water of the household (or castle) be contaminated? Aside from that, I was read a Ladybird edition of “The Frog Princess” growing up, and absolutely hated the message. This story exists to give the girls back some of their humanity.

Honestly, this fairytale lends itself to a k*nky reading. Robert Coover clearly thought so when he wrote a NSFW re-visioning called “The Frog Prince”.


On paper, things look fine. Sam Dennon recently inherited significant wealth from his uncle. As a respected architect, Sam spends his days thinking about the family needs and rich lives of his clients. But privately? Even his enduring love of amateur astronomy is on the wane. Sam has built a sustainable-architecture display home for himself but hasn’t yet moved into it, preferring to sleep in his cocoon of a campervan. Although they never announced it publicly, Sam’s wife and business partner ended their marriage years ago due to lack of intimacy, leaving Sam with the sense he is irreparably broken.

Now his beloved uncle has died. An intensifying fear manifests as health anxiety, with night terrors from a half-remembered early childhood event. To assuage the loneliness, Sam embarks on a Personal Happiness Project:

1. Get a pet dog

2. Find a friend. Just one. Not too intense.




error: Content is protected