The Frog King

Note: Not suitable for younger children.

The Frog King

So, here’s how it happened.

Some people are really into traditions, okay?

I mean, seriously into traditions. It doesn’t matter what the tradition is or how dumb it might be. If it’s a tradition, it’s gotta happen just the way it always has, and that’s that. No discussion. These people, right. These people freak out if anyone just suggests that maybe, oh, I don’t know, things might change a little. That things might start to make some hopping sense.

Who wants to deal with that kind of raving, dribbling, eye-bulging freak-out? Sometimes, it’s easier to just go with the flow.

At least, that’s what I thought.

Boy, was I wrong.

All I’m saying is that if anyone says tradition to me again, they’re losing their head. I might be a frog, but I’m still the croaking king, okay?

Anyway, I was going to tell you how it happened. This was back when I was the prince, and a pretty good-looking prince, too, I don’t mind telling you. I was fifteen, I was hot, and it wasn’t going to be long before I was going to get married to some equally hot princess and have cute little prince- and princesslets running all over the place. You know how it goes. You’ve read the stories. Shiny wedding. Lots of gold, silk, horses and carriages, presents, and waving at crowds. Then a stupid number of too-soft mattresses, a bit of how’s-yer-father, and, as the French say, there you have it.

Everything was going swimmingly. There were plenty of princesses giving me the eye, and more than that, if you know what I mean. Which I think you do.

Then this old witch turns up at the castle gates and starts going on about tradition. Now, my dad, he’s a real sucker for this mumbo-jumbo. Astrology, witchcraft, dowsing, freaking crystals, the whole lot. And the witch has got this old book, and as far as my dad cared, if it was written down, it was God’s own truth, because why would someone write it down if it wasn’t true, right?

Don’t go there, okay, because I’m all over that one. But my dad was the king and what he said went and that was that.

So, the old witch, she’s saying that in the old days, in tradition, the princess has to kiss a frog, who then turns into a prince and they all live happily ever after, yada, yada, yada and whatever. Personally, I reckoned she’d been at the wacky-baccy. The thing was, she said, first the prince has to be turned into a frog, so the princess can kiss him and turn him into a prince. Which is a pretty roundabout way of going about things, if you ask me.

Nobody did.

So, the next evening, I’m standing in the middle of some dumb circle of candles, as naked as the day I was born, while this pervy, dirty old witch dances around me, waving a dead, dried frog. And, yes, she was naked too. That I do not want to think about, thank you very much.

Five minutes later, I’m on the floorboards, croaking away, and all frogged-up.

My dad was delighted.

Everyone gathers around, the courtiers, my friends, my family, all the rest, as I’m tipped into a marshy pool outside the palace, and they all toddle off back to the comfort of the palace, leaving me with the mosquitoes, the flies, the fish, and a damned heron that spent the next week trying to spear me. Now here’s where it all goes wrong. Because tradition or no tradition, princesses just aren’t going around kissing frogs any more, if they ever did.

And so there I sit, unkissed, totally frog, until my dad finally croaks it (ha!) and they’re left without a king. Then someone remembers me, and they all come poking around my pool.

By this time, needless to say, no one can find hide or hair of the bloody witch, and I’m still a frog.

Yeah.

Oops.

Which brings us up to now, with me still here, still green, and still warty.

Most of the time they leave me alone. Let’s face it. Frog kings are pretty useless at ridin’ and huntin’ and dancin’ and the cuttin’-of-ribbons, and there’s not a whole lot else in the job description. So here I sit, and everyone’s happy. Happier, anyway.

Except on Tuesdays.

Continue reading this story in Bone Roads: Nine Stories of Magic and Wonder.

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