Fearsome Fairy Tales

9. Princess and the Frog

The version you know

In 1920s New Orleans waitress Tiana works all hours to save up in the hopes of fulfilling her late father’s dream of buying one of the city’s old mills and turning it into a water front restaurant. At the same time her best friend Charlotte, daughter of one of New Orleans’ richest sugar barons dreams of marrying a prince and living happily ever after.

One day Prince Naveen from the kingdom of Maldonia visits New Orleans and is to attend Charlotte’s father Eli “Big Daddy” La Bouff’s masquerade ball, where Charlotte hopes he will fall in love with her and propose. En route to the ball however Naveen and his valet Laurence are intercepted by voodoo practitioner Dr Facilier who convinces the two men that he can make their dreams come true, though neither of them get what they expect. Naveen is transformed into a frog whilst Laurence is given a charm which turns him into Naveen, with Facilier planning to kill Big Daddy La Bouff and steal his fortune once Naveen/Laurence has married Charlotte. Tiana has been hired by the La Bouffs to do the catering, which means she now has enough saved up to buy the old mill.

Whilst travelling through the bayou they are joined by trumpet playing alligator Louis who dreams of playing jazz on the river boats and Cajun firefly Ray who is hopelessly in love with Evangeline, who he believes is another firefly but is in fact the Evening Star. Ray and Louis help the two frogs find Mama Odie, a 197 year old voodoo priestess in the hopes that she can tell them how to become human again. Mama Odie tells them Naveen must kiss a princess for them to become human again, so the group sets off to return to New Orleans as Charlotte is the Mardi Gras Princess.

Facilier has in the mean time been making deals with the voodoo spirits offering the souls of people in New Orleans if they find Naveen. On the way back to New Orleans Naveen confesses to Ray that he is in love with Tiana, but before he can tell her he is captured by the spirits and returned to Facilier and Laurence/Naveen is set to marry Charlotte on the Mardi Gras float. Ray and Louis rescue the real Naveen and steal the voodoo charm, they find Tiana in the graveyard and give her the charm. Ray attempts to hold off the demons but Facilier mortally wounds him before confronting Tiana and trying to steal back to charm, offering Tiana her dream in exchange for the charm. Realising she would rather be a frog with Naveen than alone with her restaurant Tiana smashes the charm and Facilier is dragged by the spirits to hell.

In a race against time the group find Charlotte and ask her to kiss Naveen so he and Tiana can be human again, realising she is in the presence of true love Charlotte agrees, but as the clock strikes midnight they realise they are too late and the kiss does not work. Resigning to spend their lives as frog Naveen and Tiana return to the bayou and after attending the funeral for Ray, who is finally united with his beloved Evangeline, the two are married by Mama Odie. As the marriage now makes Tiana a princess her when Naveen kisses her the two become human again.

The film ends with the two buying and fixing up the old mill into “Tiana’s Palace” with Louis performing with the jazz band in stage and Charlotte dancing with Naveen’s younger brother.

The original story

The original version of The Princess and TheFrog upon which the film is loosely based is The Frog King also known as The Frog Prince (which Tiana’s mother reads to Tiana and Charlotte in the prologue of The Princess and the Frog) or Iron Henry by the Grimm Brothers wherein a beautiful but spoilt princess wanders into the forest near her father’s castle, playing with a gold ball. Whilst playing by a well she loses the gold ball, heartbroken she cries and becomes inconsolable, hearing her cries a frog offers to retrieve the gold ball from the bottom of the well but only if she allows him to become her companion and live with her in the castle, to which she agrees. Once the frog has recovered the gold ball the princess runs off leaving the frog alone in the forest.

The next day the frog appears at the castle and demands the princess keep her promises, upon hearing his daughter’s cries the King asks what a frog would want with her, after explaining what she promised the frog to her father he tells her she must keep her promise and allows the frog to dine with them. The frog then asks to sleep in the princess’s room, which she begrudgingly allows him to, he then asks to sleep in her bed, the princess is so repulsed by the thought of having to share her bed with a frog that she picks him up and throws him against the wall. This act turns the frog into a prince and he explains that he was put under a spell by a witch and the princess was the only one with the power to break the spell.

The prince spends the night in the princess’ room and the next day they set off to his father’s kingdom to be married and live happily ever after.

The story of the princess and frog has become a common theme in many folk stories and fairy tales, although there have been many variations the most common of which tells of how a prince is turned into a frog by a sorceress of some description and as with all good fairy tales the only way to break the spell is true love’s kiss. Other early versions involve the frog sleeping on the princess’ pillow and awaking in human form. The story also gave birth to the well known phrase “you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince.”

Kat Lawson
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