Friday’s Tale: The Frog Prince (Sri Lanka)

Rice harvested as egret supervises

Image: The Permaculter Research Institute of Australia

In Sri Lanka, the tale of “The Frog Prince” bears little resemblance to the version I know. About the only thing they have in common is a character who is at one time a frog and at another time a prince.

The Sri Lankan story begins with a widow who lives on the rice powder left over after she pounds rice at the king’s palace. This woman bore a frog. I’m not sure why her child was frog, it just was. When the frog grew up, the king issued a proclamation. “I will give half my kingdom, and goods amounting to an elephant’s load to the person who brings the Jeweled Golden Cock that is at the house of the Rakshasi.” The Rakshasi is an ogress. The frog, hearing this, takes some rice and strings it on a wild date tree. Then he turns into a handsome prince and clothes and a horse appear.

The prince travels through three cities and in each the king of gives him something that may be of use when he reaches the ogress’s house, charcoal, a thorn and a stone. (There’s that number 3 again) When he finally reaches the home of the Rakshasi, only her daughter is there. The daughter asks what he wants, then hides him for the night in the bottom of a trunk so that her mother doesn’t eat him.

The next morning, after the Rakshasi leaves, the daughter gives the Jeweled Cock to the prince and suggests that he tie her up. Then, she can call to her mother and more or less gets off the hook for the missing Cock.

The Rakshasi, hearing her daughter call, comes back, but the prince has not made his escape quickly enough. The Rakshasi and her daughter chase him, planning on eating him. First the thorn creates a fence behind the prince, but they jump over it. The stone forms a mountain, but they leap over it too. Finally the prince uses the charcoal to create a fire and both the Rakshasi and her daughter burn to death.

Okay, so are you ready for the happy ending? Or have you read too many fairy tales to not be at least a little worried for The Frog Prince?

From that place, the prince came along. While coming, he arrived at the Indi tree on which he had threaded the rice, and having taken off it all that dried-up rice, he began to eat it. On coming to the end of it, the person who was like that prince again became a Frog.

After he became a frog, the clothes that he was wearing, and the horse, and the Jeweled Golden Cock vanished. Out of grief on that account, that frog died at that very place.

Kind of depressing, huh? I guess the moral is that you can’t pretend to be something you’re not and get rewarded for it.

The version of the story I read is from H. Parker, told in Village Folk Tales of Ceylon, Volume 1 published in 1910. You can read it on-line here, along with several other similar tales.

Friday’s Tales is a weekly event here at Carol’s Notebook. I would love it if you joined me. Fairy tales, folktales, tall tales, even re-tellings, share with us. If you have a link, please include it in your comment.

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