illustration Walter Crane
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This post is a continuation of and conclusion to my symbolic interpretation of the Grimms’ version of The Frog Prince.

Here is a close version to mine: The Frog King or Iron Heinrich

Last we heard the princess had dropped her golden ball in the well, for which she wept. A frog came up from the depths and asked her why she cries. She responds in an insulting manner, calling the frog Old Waddler; she finds his appearance repulsive. She informs him that she has lost her golden ball in the well. “Never mind, do not weep,” answered the frog; “I can help you; but what will you give me if I fetch up your ball again?”

The frog, as agent of transformation, must ask for something in exchange, as we do not effect any significant developmental change without giving something up. For example, we can’t maintain the personality’s judgmental behaviors and simultaneously experience the peace of true compassion. Judgment and compassion are different realities. ‘Sacrifice’ means “to make sacred, right? We shed the old, insecure and unloved aspects of our personalities in order to let more light stream in.

The princess answers, calling him “Dear frog”, now that he offers help. She is a schmoozer. The conditioned adult personality in my society is, indeed, developed to self protection and self gain, so this manipulative behavior is quite normal. She offers clothes, pearls, jewels, and even her crown, in exchange for the frog’s help.

But the frog, being a soul creature, has no use for things. He wants what matters to the soul; connectedness, intimacy- love, the soul’s currency. He declines the material riches, ...“but if you will love me, and have me for your companion and play-fellow, and let me sit by you at table, and eat from your plate, and drink from your cup, and sleep in your little bed- if you will promise me all this, then would I dive below the water and fetch you your golden ball again.” The princess lies and promises what he asks, because she assumes he asks the impossible. Like the person of higher socioeconomic status looking down their nose at those of another race or class or gender, she believes he can only “sit in the water and croak”. She devalues this masculine soul aspect, and who in my society has not been handed that teaching? Devaluing the soul, I mean.

illustration Arthur Rackham

This passage describes the difference between the soul’s and the conditioned personality’s values. In these archetypal stories that end with the partnering of a man and woman, the soul’s constant intimacy the frog requests is always the goal. The alchemical fairy tale marriage or partnering symbolizes movement towards a more soulful, heart centered life, as opposed to conditioning’s constant outer referencing and goal orientation.

Probably the most common block to soul connected living is an inability to love ourselves. This is what the frog wants; the experience of being loved every second of the day and night. Another way to put it is that this loving connection is what the princess’s soul wants. It’s what all of our souls want; to be a constant loving participant in our lives.

Next phase of the tale, after the princess’s promise, expounds on this subject of blockages to self love. The frog brings up the ball, and the princess runs off, assuming the promise in the form of the frog can be left behind, ignored. But as we all know, her promise comes back to haunt her. The frog comes knocking at the door, while she sits at table with her father-king. She opens the door, sees the frog, and slams the door on him. The king asks her what’s up, and she tells her story to Dad. “That which you promised must thou perform,” said the King: “so go now and let him in.”

Walter Crane again

I know there are psychological interpretations of this story that involve rape, and the King being in collusion with the same. However in the archetypal sense the sun-king is now teaching what he embodies, and knows full well is self-empowering: integrity. To begin with, if we lie to self and other, however unconsciously, we lack integrity, and cannot love ourselves. We are two people, not one; we are adjusting our truth according to circumstances.

We are running from the devil, trading our soulful love of self for gain or some other illusion of control. We don’t hesitate to put down our deepest longings for heart and soul, as they appear not to get us anywhere in the worldly sense. We are then prone to the sort of manipulation the princess used in her schmoozing act. The soul cannot lie, for it dwells in unity consciousness which is not operating according to fear and gain. The princess didn’t necessarily INTEND to lie, mind you; she just logically concluded a few things that were not true, due to her focus on getting what she wants.

LiigaKlavina on Deviant

Masculine integrity, as expressed in the world, requires we DO what we SAY; we walk our talk. The world will then reflect back to us if we are true to our most aligned self, or not. She opens the door, the frog hops in, and starts again with his requests. “Lift me up to sit by you.” But she delayed until the King ordered her. Frog wants to eat from her golden plate (note the similarity to a golden ball, and the sun). The frog eats heartily; but every morsel seemed to stick in her throat. She’s very uncomfortable; which makes sense, of course. The father, as archetypal masculine sun-fire, is putting pressure on her to stop her lying, to herself and therefore others. The frog’s pushiness is assisting the king. Such pressure is masculine fire element; it’s like a tea kettle put on to boil, the water in the kettle being the princess’s emotions, most obviously.

Arthur Rackham

Symbolic story is operating on two or even three levels at once, part of its fun. On one level, the frog really IS potentially a creepy slimy guy, a sexual predator. ‘Creepy’ is underhand, indirect, sneaky. On the mundane level of self protective instinct, the princess has been absolutely correct in keeping away from him, though she herself is sneaky, too, with her drama and false promises. She’s kind of meeting a self aspect here, in this frog. He now insists on being carried up to her bedroom, and on getting into bed with her; “…you must carry me to your room, and make ready your silken bed, and we will lie down and go to sleep.” She tries the feminine water element to get her way; she weeps again. But our masculine archetype is determined to push her past all that feminine wishy-washy stuff.


This pushy masculine energy is helping her uncover her fire power. If a creepy man or woman wants to get in your bed and keeps insisting, should you just start crying? Well, lots of women would, frankly. Because women who are very feminine, are not prone to using fire element. Been there, done that. Fire element is, again, masculine, and it is the boundary-setting element. Fire draws a line and says, “Don’t step over it- or else!” This protection or defense of one’s domain is the nature and purpose of anger.

Women often use water, weeping, to attempt to douse fire element anger, and it’s sometimes effective, of course. But if we are only able to cry about everything we don’t like, or for that matter rage about everything we don’t like, we are one trick ponies. Then we get stuck in a certain mode of operation, and will avoid the other. We lack finesse, for we are sometimes applying the wrong tool or function, and we wonder why we’re stuck in loops. When we believe we are all water, we must lie when we are angry. When we believe we are all fire, all masculine, we strike out at everything we disapprove of and hide our softer impulses. Humans embody all the elements.

We may find the opposite mode of operation ugly, repulsive, of course. Women may go to great lengths to avoid anger, and men will do the same in regards to crying, all water element emotion. Alchemical story outlines the path to unity, to understanding the opposite emotion, at the very least. When we admit that we do indeed possess the repulsive or rejected capability, somewhere in our human makeup, we can then learn its usefulness; and we can stop running from it. We can get creative with the how, where, when and why of experiencing and expressing it. It’s the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

The Big Lebowski... humor break!
4 elements, but 2 of them are masculine, ladies… however, all women will embody the 4, as will all men, so this image is totally valid in that regard.

Princess puts froggie on the floor in the bedroom corner, but he creeps over (notice he is “creepy”), and says he will tattle on her if she doesn’t put him on the bed. This tattling thing is the element that finally adds enough heat for an explosion; Then she felt beside herself with rage; and picking him up, she threw him with all her strength against the wall, crying, “Now will you be quiet, you horrid frog!” But as he fell, he ceased to be a frog, and became all at once a Prince with beautiful kind eyes. And it came to pass that, with her father’s consent, they became bride and bridegroom.

Can’t find artist credit- probably a divination deck

Here we have the fairy tale “happy ending”; the integration of the masculine and the feminine. Alchemical integration is an internal soul-based experience. But it also assists us in the masculine integrity goal of walking our talk. We can be all cosmic and compassionate and connected and soulful IN OUR OWN ROOM, when we’re meditating or high or whatever. But the archetypal masculine says, take it on the road! Does it wash regardless of circumstance, regardless of who you are talking to? That’s the only way to tell if it’s true; archetypal fire element is the acid test. This symbolism is played excellently in Fight Club, for which I did a symbolic film review.

Women who integrate their fire learn what it means to stand up for themselves. Men who integrate their feminine side learn how to be intimate in the sense of loving, trusting connection with self and other. Every such inner event brings us closer to wisdom, to integrity, to love of self and other, to reclaiming our innate sacred power. That is the purpose of these story-teachings.

Alchemical marriage illustration from Circle of the Gold and Rosicrucians (1781)

The prince is described as beautiful, to symbolically amplify the truth that he is an inner figure. To the soul, everyone is beautiful. This story has a few twists left. For educational purposes and symbolic fun, we now shift the story from princess to prince. We find out that the princess’s journey was actually the prince’s; she is his inner feminine. Matreyshka doll time!

He has kind eyes, for the frog prince is actually a type; a nice guy who has suppressed his masculine fire. The rest of the story explains how he got to be a frog in a well. For ..he told her how a wicked witch had bound him by her spells, and how no one but she alone could have released him…

In these symbolic teaching stories a spell refers to a specific form of our conditioning. ‘Spell’ means “speak”, and much of our social conditioning comes from what others say. As a child, or adolescent in my culture, we naturally believe lots of what we hear. In our prince’s case, we can describe this spell as a conditioned masculine suppression implemented by the feminine and/or the female, since he claims it was done by a witch. We could say that he has been overpowered, captive of, the feminine elements, for some reason. Water, in his case. Only intimate inner connection with his feminine side could fix it, because only the feminine element itself holds the knowledge of how it FUNCTIONS- and water element is quite complex. If you don’t know how it functions, if you don’t know the lay of the land, how can you find your way out?

Bereavement happens for lots of reasons. The loss of our self love, is a common one. Learning about water element grief helps us use it efficiently instead of getting stuck in its early stages. Grief is a very useful tool for introspection.

Odds are, that this nice guy prince was a depressed, reclusive sort of fellow. He might have done excessive alcohol consumption, though alcohol can be used for fiery purposes, too. He didn’t use his fire when things were “over the line” in his world. He didn’t stand up for himself. So he got stuck in water element grief, the emotion most commonly experienced in depression. Grief in general is a feeling of loss, of having something taken from you against your will. So the depressed, grieving one focuses on failure, on what didn’t happen, on what they’re seemingly NOT getting, basically, and that’s bound to make us feel sad- or more specifically, POWERLESS. Every element has its power, but power in “the world” is masculine, and water element grief is the opposite thereof. It’s letting go, surrendering. Grief is not meant to be a 24/7 deal; when we get the point to our grief or surrender, then we move out of it- if we know how to use it.

Growing up as a kind, sensitive sort (recall that frogs are very sensitive) this prince probably avoided fire. That’s what nice guys do, or try to do, because fire is potentially a very harmful element. It kills people. That’s why nice guys and nice women in my society don’t use it. That’s why there are versions of the story that have kissing instead of an angry, killing outburst on the princess’s part.

A religious tenet that is unwise, alchemically speaking.

In the general sense, the unwise feminine, or masculine for that matter, doesn’t know how important it is for us to keep our fire power. Fire is responsible for creativity, for passion in general, and so when we drown our fire with a lot of water, always emotionally sensitive about others, for example, then we tend to get depressed and victim-like. Though we may have started out merely a kind and sensitive person with some ability to both fire and water, our conditioning can create of us a monster of the watery sort.

At some point in his early days the prince learned anger would wreak havoc, maybe; maybe one of his parents had anger management problems. Or maybe he was trying to be a “good Christian”, or Buddhist, or whatever. And so he abandoned his masculine fire powers entirely. At any rate, throwing the frog is the same as finally admitting that “Yes, I DO get angry- and that’s OK. Loving myself enough to embrace my wholeness is important. I can learn about anger and use it when appropriate.”

A wiser perspective.

Faithful Henry, named Iron Henry in some versions, is going to tell us more. A beautiful white carriage drives up to fetch the newlyweds,… and behind the carriage was standing Faithful Henry, the servant of the young Prince. Faithful Henry is, of course, another aspect of the prince. As he is a servant, we can imagine this character as the masculine heart and soul of the prince. The fact that he stands behind the carriage tells us that he is not the personality; the personality is that which we present to others, it goes in front of us. That which stands behind is that aspect of ourselves which we cannot see; the ethereal. Henry …had suffered such care and pain when his master was turned into a frog, and his masculine fiery heart suppressed.

Walter Crane

Again, this points to the fact that, though we may avoid the suffering that fire element can inflict, we shall not avoid suffering overall with that strategy, for without any fire our lives will be miserable. Henry wears three iron bands over his heart, representing the restriction that the prince feels when he is depressed, for example, putting himself and his life down. The ability to love oneself is very compromised without fire element, since fire is radiant, warming, the spark of love, the very desire to love. Without it we are easily frogs in a cold, deep well, stuck in our feminine inward-turning feelings, unable to reach out or maybe even show ourselves in “the world”, the provenance of the masculine.

Illustration Gris Grimly

The three iron bands are to keep the heart from breaking: a broken heart is grief. There are three bands; a trinity. We can think of this trinity in several ways, as in mind, body, and ethereal soul or spirit. Point is, the healing of the heart takes place on three levels here. It’s an integrated healing event. When the bands snap, Henry, the prince’s heart and soul, is so relieved and happy. No more depression, no more negative self-judgment and repression- or less, anyway! For most of us, it’s a journey.

This chariot gives us more symbolism, but I am stopping here. A Hollywood ending for sure! Happy New Year to all, thanks for reading!

This is credited to Walter Crane