The Prince Who Thought He Was A Frog
Once upon a time, three women lived in a forest where they caused trouble, helped animals, misdirected lost princes, and generally had fun. Berthilde ("puh-leeze, don't call me Berry. Or Bettie") was the eldest and therefore had the most practice at these things, so when she found the lost prince out by the well, she expected to easily be able to cope.
She knew he was a prince by the small circlet he wore — too ornate for a knight or a duke or anything between and too simple for a king. He was leaning against the well, holding his head between his hands, hunched over as if in pain. She cleared her throat, getting ready to go into her "Please, good sir" routine, but he heard her and lifted his head with obvious difficulty.
"Please, good woman," he begged her, "help me! I'm a poor frog from a distant pond, and I need help to find my way home!"
"Um. Are you sure?" She noticed that his left eye was hugely swollen and bruised and that his horse was nowhere in sight. She leaped to the obvious conclusion. Kicked in the head.
"Of course I'm sure, woman!" he replied testily. "Can't you see?"
'It's a prince all right,' she thought to herself. 'It's Megunna's turn to deal with princes. Or should it be Dorta's because it's her turn to help animals? Dang! This was supposed to be my day for having fun!'
"You'd better follow me then," she told him crisply and started back to the cottage.
She could hear him crashing along behind her. From the sound of it he kept running into trees and fell down once or twice. She had the impression that he was trying to hop. He was just fortunate, she reckoned, that it wasn't her day to cause trouble — things could have been a lot worse for him. At the cottage she called for the girls — they called each other "the girls" though it had long been a misnomer. Megunna rose from the veggie garden clutching a stalk of celery and brandishing it like a wand. Dorta cuddled the squirrel she was petting, took one look at the prince, and said, "Not my business!"
Megunna, who liked to keep up with things, said, "Not my circus, not my monkey! He isn't fit to go anywere, so I needn't misdirect him."
"He says he's a frog!"
At this point the prince (they were right about that) wobbled severely and fell to the ground in a faint.
"Get him up! He's squashing the pumpkin vines!" shrieked Megunna.
"Well! Megunna, it's your day for princes and he's a prince who thinks he is a frog. And Dorta, he does think he is a frog and you're on call for distressed animals today," Berthilda shouted.
"But, Berthie," Dorta began and hesitated when Berthilda shut her eyes and began audibly counting. Dorta began again, "But, Berthilda, he is not a frog. Just look at him. He's tall, he isn't green, he has a huge black eye. Have you ever seen a frog with a black eye like that?"
"But, he thinks he is and therefore it would be a courtesy to treat him as one," Berthilda hissed. "So by the Seven Curses of Dreeb the Croaker, treat him!"
When Berthilda got in a snit like that there was no use in arguing with her. Dorta put the squirrel down and went over to stare at the unconscious prince. He was breathing heavily, his good eye rolled upward, his wounded eye a swollen mess. She touched his forehead. He was over-heated but not with a feverish illness. Frogs, she knew, should be cool, so she decided to deal with two problems at once and put a cool compress over his forehead and both eyes. She thought he looked uncomfortable, but didn't know what would be comfortable for a prince who thought he was a frog. A pillow might help. She'd seen a picture of a frog with crown sitting on a pillow in a book once.
As she tried to put his head on the pillow, he rolled over flat onto his back. Without regaining consciousness, he shouted, "Help! A wizard stole my horse! Help! I'm a lost frog!"
The three women looked at each other. "That explains a lot," Megunna muttered. "It was that curst Arch-"just-call-me-Wiz-dear"-idiot."
"So, why don't you put that celery down, Megunna, and pick up something useful, like the wand. It's also your day for the wand since you're to deal with any princes," Dorta said in a snide tone. They all knew that Megunna wasn't exactly the best with a wand — really, it was probably safer to leave her holding her celery stalk. They didn't need any more frogs around.
Truth to tell, none of them were much with a wand. They'd all flunked out of Faery Godmother training. They knew enough to be dangerous, especially to themselves, but not enough to do really first-class magic — or even second-class. This was why they were stuck in this dratted cottage in the forest, why they were stuck with each other, why they were stuck with such menial tasks. And why they wouldn't be allowed to leave until they got their Faery Godmother or full Wicked Faery qualifications. The thing was, none of them were kind and generous enough to be a true Faery Godmother, and none of them really bad enough to be truly wicked.
"I suppose," Berthilda muttered reluctantly, "that we'd better call one of those wretched women for help." Equally reluctantly, the others nodded.
A few moments later, a musical chime rang out, a shower of shimmering sparks materialized in the air nearby, and with the loud, sonorous ringing of a gong, the Faery Godmother appeared.
Megunna tried to hide the celery behind her back and the other two made futile attempts at tidying their rather straggly selves. The Faery Godmother was resplendent. There was no other word for it. Sparkling with gems, rainbows in her aura, clad in the finest of silks and velvets, she stood with her hands on her hips, glaring at the three women. "So what have you lot gotten yourselves into now?"
The three women simultaneously pointed at the prince, and chorused, "He is not our problem!"
The Faery Godmother (who hadn't bothered to introduce herself but was named Morana, after one of the great faery queens) gave them a look of disgust. "If not yours, whose?"
"Yours!" they said, turning their backs and refusing to look at Morana.
Morana looked the prince over, sighed at the pillow and compress, and with a casual wave of her gleaming wand, sent him back to her palace, leaving nothing remaining but a curious green puddle where he'd been lying.
"You could have done better, you know. And I'd be careful not to step in that if I were you," she stated matter-of-factly, and disappeared with a tinkling of faery bells.
This is a fable, and fables generally have morals, but let's not get into blaming here. Doubtless they had their reasons for being as they were. This story is not simply to point out a moral or consequences. Instead, let us consider something much more to the point. The question is, what path are you taking to become the most you can be? And what might you best focus on at this time that would help you along that path? Hmmm?
Copyright © 1994 by Jessica Macbeth. All rights reserved.