Dave: So this is another one of those stories about a Princess. As with Goldilocks and the Fairy Tale Marriage, This is another modified Grimm Brothers tale, but it is embellished with something stolen from Czeslaw Milosz’ La Belle Epoque (from New and Collected Poems, 1931-2001, an exquisite collection). Both the fairy tales and the poetry activate my imagination or what we call my ‘primary process’, my imagination. A lot is possible in the zone of primary process, it is not the same as the real world, but it is parallel to this real world.
Like most princesses, the princess in this story was beautiful in that princess way. How do I know? The King said so, and so did the Queen, who, as you might guess, are also her father and mother. When we meet the Princess in this story, she is fifteen and has blossomed in the Puberty Gardens. Some of the young men around the castle had started looking good to her; she found herself attracted to them. She wasn’t sure, but she thought she caught them looking at her, she liked it without exactly understanding why. She lived in a very appealing castle with her father and mother and naturally, many servants.
Being a fifteen year old princess is lonely. A princess has very little social life, but she has a great fantasy life. There was no Internet or Facebook. In the summer she had been at the sea shore in La Belle Epoque with her parents but playing all by herself as usual. The fifteen-year-old princess watched the ocean, then to her attendants horror she ran to meet a swelling, rustling ocean wave. The ocean did not honor her royal presence, it did not part to make way, the ocean treated her boldly, took her off her feet and rolled her up on the beach. The sensation surprised her, she was used to being shielded from unpleasantness, she never had an experience like that one. But for some reason, she liked it and went back for more. After an hour she was exhausted but felt so good. She knew she was beautiful, but she never knew she could feel so strong, so abundant.
Then a few weeks later back in the castle, standing naked before a mirror, admiring her subtle tan, she unbraided her dark hair, she was pretty and now, after that time at the sea shore, aware she was pretty, she touched the brown disks on her breasts and in a flash experienced a revelation which excluded her from everything she had been taught: curtseying, bows, petticoats, table manners, governesses, gentlemen with their polite charm, women in corsets and bustles, the catechism, the list of sins before confession, music lessons, French verbs, pretended naiveté, politeness toward servants, all the things that a princess has to learn.
She had an epiphany, a startling revelation: it is not like everything she had been taught, there is another reality which is completely different. She believed she should not tell this to anybody, only to herself. How good it is to touch yourself and not to believe them even a bit, and everywhere in the sun, in the white clouds above the sea, in the rustling of the waves, in one’s own body to feel this: completely different.
But at fifteen, dressed in her pale blue princess dress, she still loved the innocence of being a girl. And a few days later on a sunny afternoon, she took her exotic precious golden ball out to play, down the gentle slope near the pond. When she had her golden ball, she forgot all about the ocean waves and brown disks. She threw it into the air and caught it. Still, after the ocean and her amazing brown disks, she felt a little reckless. She threw her ball very high but couldn’t catch it. The golden ball hit the ground bounced rolled into the pond then sank out of sight. She cried in distress, tears on her cheeks. She wondered if this could be a punishment for being completely different. Perhaps she shouldn’t be different. Could it be wrong to be different? There was no one to help her. No one was watching, let alone serving her.
And then a voice, “Dear princess, why are you so sad?” She looked and saw a large ugly frog gazing at her, his head on the bank, his body still in the pond. “I have lost my precious golden ball in the pond, it rolled into the pond and it has sunken from sight. Did you see it? The pond is so deep, I can never get it back.” She choked sobbing.
I don’t know. Even though I am a former English major, I don’t like to read too much into things, but is it possible the golden ball is her innocence? Is it possible she has lost her innocence and wants it back? Is it possible to get innocence back?
“And if I were to get it for you what would you give in return?” asked the frog. “I will give you my pearls, my jewels, all my beautiful clothing. I will even give you the golden crown I am wearing. I will be so grateful to get my golden ball back.” “I don’t want your clothes or your jewels, I don’t even want your golden crown,” said the frog. “But if you will promise to love me and have me as your best friend, if you will let me eat from your plate and stay in your room and sleep in your wonderful princess bed, then I will go deep into the pond and bring your ball back to you.”
“Oh yes,” said the Princess, “I promise all you wish if you will only get my ball for me.” But she thought, “He’s insane, all he does is sit in the water and croak with the other frogs. How can any human being love him, love a big ugly slimy frog?”
But frogs can’t read minds, when the frog heard the promise, he slipped back into the pond and sank from sight. He soon reappeared with the golden ball in his large mouth. He dropped it at her feet. She was so happy, she picked up her ball and began running for the castle. “Wait, wait!” croaked the frog, “Take me with you. I can’t run as fast as you. You made a promise. You promised I would be your friend.”
She only laughed and said, “No way, you are only a goddam frog!” and continued running on her way back home. When she got back to the castle she forgot all about the frog. Discouraged the frog sat by the pond.
I am borrowing this story from The Grimm Brothers. They are more elaborate storytellers than I. I will shorten it, work my way to the point.
The frog decided he would go to the castle and made his way up the hill. He found his way into the dining room, explained why he was there and asked to be seated next to her. When he was placed on the table next to her plate, the princess became very angry and upset and in a loud voice told him she would not allow him to stay. The king heard the commotion and intervened. The frog, who in spite of his frogness was very well spoken, explained what had happened and that the princess had made promises to him. She promised if he recovered the golden ball, he could eat from her plate, he could be her friend, go to her room and sleep in her glorious princess bed. Now she was refusing to keep her promise.
When the king heard this he became angry, “When you were in trouble he helped you out. You can’t turn your back on him now that you have what you wanted. You have to keep your promises.” The frog was very happy. The princess was annoyed, furious. She couldn’t eat any more. She wanted to scream at her father, but he was the king, and no one tells a king what to do or how to think. With disgust she picked up the frog with two fingers went off to her room and put the frog in a corner. She put on her princess night gown and got into bed. Then slowly but surely the frog crept into her bed and said, “Oh good! I am so happy.”
The Princess exploded with rage. “Oh no you don’t, you big ugly piece of frog crap!” She picked him up, got out of bed and threw him, with all her might, knees bent, excellent follow-through, against the wall. “Now, will you shut up you slime bag freaky frog!”
He hit the wall, then fell to the floor. But when he hit the floor he was no longer a frog, he was a handsome young man with gentle eyes. He was nothing less than a Prince!
In the more familiar Walt Disney version of this story the princess turns the frog into a prince with sex. She kisses the frog and he turns into a Prince. But this, my version of the actual Grimms tale tells the story differently. This one says, “Ladies, you stand up with your abundant full self. You be all that you can be. You are different and be bold with that knowledge.” And that way, no matter what you start with; frog, creep, doctor, banker, rock star you can end up with a prince. And of course in primary process there is the fantasy of throwing the frog against the wall, but please don’t get me wrong, this is a fantasy, a metaphor for being all that you can be.
The Prince’s father was also a King, of course, and they married, and eventually they became King and Queen. Did they live happily ever after? No they didn’t. No one does. He, even though a king, occasionally relapsed into obnoxious mind from time to time. Her frustration would mount and she would remember how to fix it, she knew how to use the metaphorical force of her personhood to throw him against the wall. Even kings need that kind of loving attention from their spouse from time to time.
Do you remember Richard Nixon? He was president of the U.S. from 1969-1974. He got into trouble was in danger of being impeached and resigned from office. He was the only U.S. president to resign from office. My old friend Carl Whitaker said he didn’t think Richard Nixon would have got into all that trouble resulting in his resignation from the Presidency if his wife would have made him carry out the garbage every night.