The frog king or Iron Henry


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In the old times, when it was still of some use to wish for the thing one wanted, there lived a King whose daughters were all handsome, but the youngest was so beautiful that the sun himself, who has seen so much, wondered each time he shone over her because of her beauty. Near the royal castle there was a great dark wood, and in the wood under an old linden-tree was a well; and when the day was hot, the King's daughter used to go forth into the wood and sit by the brink of the cool well, and if the time seemed long, she would take out a golden ball, and throw it up and catch it again, and this was her favourite pastime.

Now it happened one day that the golden ball, instead of falling back into the maiden's little hand which had sent it aloft, dropped to the ground near the edge of the well and rolled in. The king's daughter followed it with her eyes as it sank, but the well was deep, so deep that the bottom could not be seen. Then she began to weep, and she wept and wept as if she could never be comforted. And in the midst of her weeping she heard a voice saying to her: "What ails thee, king's daughter? Thy tears would melt a heart of stone." And when she looked to see where the voice came from, there was nothing but a frog stretching his thick ugly head out of the water. "Oh, is it you, old waddler?" said she, "I weep because my golden ball has fallen into 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?" - "Whatever you like, dear frog," said she, "any of my clothes, my pearls and jewels, or even the golden crown that I wear." - "Thy clothes, thy pearls and jewels, and thy golden crown are not for me," answered the frog, "but if thou wouldst love me, and have me for thy companion and play-fellow, and let me sit by thee at table, and eat from thy plate, and drink from thy cup, and sleep in thy little bed, if thou wouldst promise all this, then would I dive below the water and fetch thee thy golden ball again." - "Oh yes," she answered, "I will promise it all, whatever you want, if you will only get me my ball again." But she thought to herself: What nonsense he talks! As if he could do anything but sit in the water and croak with the other frogs, or could possibly be any one's companion.

But the frog, as soon as he heard her promise, drew his head under the water and sank down out of sight, but after a while he came to the surface again with the ball in his mouth, and he threw it on the grass. The King's daughter was overjoyed to see her pretty plaything again, and she caught it up and ran off with it. "Stop, stop!" cried the frog, "take me up too. I cannot run as fast as you!" But it was of no use, for croak, croak after her as he might, she would not listen to him, but made haste home, and very soon forgot all about the poor frog, who had to betake himself to his well again.

The next day, when the King's daughter was sitting at table with the King and all the court, and eating from her golden plate, there came something pitter patter up the marble stairs, and then there came a knocking at the door, and a voice crying: "Youngest King's daughter, let me in!" And she got up and ran to see who it could be, but when she opened the door, there was the frog sitting outside. Then she shut the door hastily and went back to her seat, feeling very uneasy. The King noticed how quickly her heart was beating, and said: "My child, what are you afraid of? Is there a giant standing at the door ready to carry you away?" - "Oh no," answered she, "no giant, but a horrid frog." - "And what does the frog want?" asked the King. "O dear father," answered she, "when I was sitting by the well yesterday, and playing with my golden ball, it fell into the water, and while I was crying for the loss of it, the frog came and got it again for me on condition I would let him be my companion, but I never thought that he could leave the water and come after me; but now there he is outside the door, and he wants to come in to me." And then they all heard him knocking the second time and crying:

"Youngest King's daughter,
Open to me!
By the well water
What promised
you me?
Youngest King's daughter
Now open to me!"

"That which thou hast promised must thou perform," said the King, "so go now and let him in." So she went and opened the door, and the frog hopped in, following at her heels, till she reached her chair. Then he stopped and cried: "Lift me up to sit by you." But she delayed doing so until the King ordered her. When once the frog was on the chair, he wanted to get on the table, and there he sat and said: "Now push your golden plate a little nearer, so that we may eat together." And so she did, but everybody might see how unwilling she was, and the frog feasted heartily, but every morsel seemed to stick in her throat. "I have had enough now," said the frog at last, "and as I am tired, you must carry me to your room, and make ready your silken bed, and we will lie down and go to sleep." Then the King's daughter began to weep, and was afraid of the cold frog, that nothing would satisfy him but he must sleep in her pretty clean bed. Now the King grew angry with her, saying: "That which thou hast promised in thy time of necessity, must thou now perform." So she picked up the frog with her finger and thumb, carried him upstairs and put him in a corner, and when she had lain down to sleep, he came creeping up, saying: "I am tired and want sleep as much as you; take me up, or I will tell your father." 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. And he told her how a wicked witch had bound him by her spells, and how no one but she alone could have released him, and that they two would go together to his father's kingdom. And there came to the door a carriage drawn by eight white horses, with white plumes on their heads, and with golden harness, and behind the carriage was standing faithful Henry, the servant of the young prince. Now, faithful Henry had suffered such care and pain when his master was turned into a frog, that he had been obliged to wear three iron bands over his heart, to keep it from breaking with trouble and anxiety. When the carriage started to take the prince to his kingdom, and faithful Henry had helped them both in, he got up behind, and was full of joy at his master's deliverance.

And when they had gone a part of the way, the prince heard a sound at the back of the carriage, as if something had broken, and he turned round and cried:

"Henry, the wheel must be breaking!"
"The wheel does not break,
'Tis the band round my heart
That, to lessen its ache,
When I grieved for your sake,
I bound round my heart."

Again, and yet once again there was the same sound, and the prince thought it must be the wheel breaking, but it was the breaking of the other bands from faithful Henry's heart, because it was now so relieved and happy.
A fost odata ca niciodata, a fost un imparat care avea mai multe fete si toate erau frumoase ca niste zane. Dar cea mai mica era atat de frumoasa, ca pana si soarele, care vazuse atatea, se oprea in loc, uitandu-se la dansa si minunandu-se de atata frumusete.

La o mica departare de palatul imparatesc se intindea o padure adanca si intunecoasa, iar in padure, la umbra unui tei batran, se putea vedea o fantana. in zilele cu prea mare zaduf, cea mai mica dintre fetele imparatului se ducea in padure si se aseza pe ghizdurile fantanii racoroase. Statea asa fara sa faca nimic si cand o prindea uratul scotea dintr-un buzunar o minge de aur; o arunca in sus, o prindea din zbor in causul palmelor si-apoi o arunca iar. asta era jocul care-i bucura cel mai mult inima.

S-a intamplat insa odata ca mingea sa-i scape din palme si cazand pe pamant sa se duca de-a rostogolul de-a dreptul in fantana. Fata de imparat o urmari cu privirea, dar mingea pieri de parca n-ar fi fost si fantana era tare adanca, atat de adanca, de nu-i putea zari fundul! Se porni atunci domnita pe plans si planse in hohote, neputand in nici un chip sa-si ostoiasca amaraciunea. si cum se jelea ea, numai ce aude ca-i striga cineva din apropiere:

- Ce ti s-a intamplat, domnita, de ce te bocesti asa? Plangi ca s-ar muia si pietrele de mila ta!

Fata cata in jur, sa afle cine anume ii vorbeste, si vazu un broscoi ce taman atunci scosese din apa capul lataret si buburos si privea la ea cu niste ochi cat cepele!

- Ah, tu erai, mos Balacila! se mira ea. Iaca, plang ca mi-a cazut mingea de aur in fantana.

- sterge-ti lacrimile si nu mai plange, o mangaie broscoiul, ca-mi sta in putinta sa te ajut. Dar vorba e: ce-mi dai tu daca-ti aduc din apa jucaria?

- Orice doresti, dragul meu broscoi; rochiile mele, pietrele nestemate, margaritarele, chiar si coroana de aur, pe care o port pe cap, de-o poftesti cumva!

Broscoiul o asculta pe ganduri, apoi grai:

- Nu-mi trebuie nici rochiile, nici margaritarele, nici pietrele nestemate, nici coroana ta de aur, dar daca ai incepe sa ma iubesti, daca ai ingadui sa-ti fiu prieten si tovaras de joaca, sa stau langa tine, la masuta ta, sa mananc din talerul tau de aur, sa beau din cupa ta si sa dorm in patuceanul tau, daca-mi fagaduiesti toate astea, acu' ma cobor in fantana si-ti aduc mingea.

- iti fagaduiesc, iti fagaduiesc tot ce vrei, numai sa-mi aduci mingea!

Dar in aceeasi vreme, fata isi zicea in sinea ei: "Ce tot indruga nerodul asta de broscoi! Ca doar i-e sortit sa se balaceasca in apa cu cei de-o fiinta cu el si sa oracaie intr-una; cum poate unul ca el sa lege prietenie cu oamenii?!"

Cum o auzi pe domnita fagaduindu-i tot ce dorea, broscoiul se dadu afund in fantana si, cat ai bate din palme, iesi iar deasupra apei, cu mingea de aur in gura, si-o zvarli in iarba. Fata de imparat sa sara in sus de bucurie, nu altceva, cand isi revazu jucaria ei draga. O ridica si, fara sai spuna broscoiului un singur cuvant, o lua la fuga.

- Stai, stai, nu fugi! striga in urma ei broscoiul. Ia-ma si pe mine, ca nu pot s-alerg atat de repede!

Dar in zadar oracaia broscoiul cat il tineau puterile, ca fata de imparat nu se sinchisea de el si, cu cat se apropia mai mult de casa, cu atat fugea mai tare. isi uitase cu desavarsire de bietul mos Balacila, iar acesta, neavand incotro, se inapoie si se lasa din nou sa cada in fundul fantanii.

A doua zi, domnita nici nu apucase bine sa se aseze la masa impreuna cu imparatul si cu toti curtenii si nici nu incepuse sa ia o bucatura din talerul ei de aur, ca si auzi deodata niste pasi, lipaind afara, pe scara de marmura... si pasii faceau: "plici-pleosc, plici-pleosc!" Asculta ea un rastimp si numai ce se pomeni c-o bataie in usa si deslusi un glas strigand:

- Fata de imparat, tu cea mai mica dintre domnite, vino de-mi deschide usa!

Domnita alerga intr-un suflet la usa sa vada cine era si, cand o intredeschise, se si trezi cu broscoiul in fata ei. Tranti repede usa si, luand-o la fuga inapoi, se aseza din nou la masa, tremurand toata de spaima. imparatul baga de seama ca fetei ii batea tare inima, mai-mai sa-i sparga cosul pieptului, si-o intreba:

- De ce te-ai ingrozit asa, copila draga? Au nu cumva ai zarit la usa un zmeu, care a venit sa te rapeasca?

- Da' de unde, tata, n-am vazut nici un zmeu, raspunse fata, cu sila in glas. La usa e un broscoi buburos!

- Un broscoi? si ce vrea broscoiul asta de la tine?

- Nu indraznesc, tata, a-ti spune cum a fost! Ieri, pe cand ma jucam langa fantana din padure, mia cazut mingea de aur in apa. si fiindca plangeam dupa ea de nu mai puteam, a iesit din fantana un broscoi si pocitania asta, cum a facut, cum n-a facut, mi-a scos mingea tocmai de la fund. Iar mai inainte imi ceruse sa-i fagaduiesc ca daca mi-o aduce mingea o sa legam prietenie si o sa fim tovarasi de joaca. Atata m-a batut la cap, ca i-am fagaduit, ce era sa fac! Dar nu mi-a trecut nici o clipa prin minte ca broscoiul si-ar putea face veacul si altundeva decat in apa! si-acum sta protap afara si tine mortis sa vina la mine!

in timpul asta, broscoiul batea cu inversunare la usa si striga:

- Hai, deschide usa,
- Fata de-mparat!
- Ai uitat cuvantul
- Care mi l-ai dat
- Ieri, cand la fantana
- Mi te-am ajutat?
- Hai, deschide usa, fata de-mparat!

Auzind acestea, imparatul grai:

- Acu', dac-ai apucat sa fagaduiesti, tine-ti fagaduiala. Du-te de-i deschide!

Fata se duse sa-i deschida usa si broscoiul sari pe data pragul in sala imparateasca; si se tinu scai dupa domnita pana ce ajunse in dreapta scaunului ei. Acolo se opri si, cand fata dadu sa se-aseze, glasul broscoiului se-auzi poruncitor:

- Da' pe mine cui ma lasi? Ia-ma langa tine!

Se codi ea ce se codi, se facu a nu fi auzit, dar imparatul ii porunci sa indeplineasca voia broscoiului. Cum se vazu broscoiul pe scaun, gata ceru sa-l urce si pe masa... si dintr-o saritura se pofti singur intre blide. si ceru de-acolo:

- Ia trage talerul mai aproape, sa mancam amandoi din el!

Biata copila se vazu silita sa faca asa cum ii poruncea broscoiul, cu toate ca ii era scarba si n-avea nici o tragere de inima. Broscoiul manca cu mare pofta, dar fetei de imparat i se opreau bucaturile in gat si nu se atinse aproape de nimic. La urma, broscoiul zise:

- M-am ospatat cum se cuvine, dar ma simt ostenit, rau. Du-ma in odaita ta si vezi de infasa patuceanul cu asternuturi de matase, ca sa ne culcam.

Domnita incepu sa planga: tare se mai temea de broscoi! De frica si de sila, nu-i venea nici sa-l atinga, c-avea o piele umeda si rece ca gheata...

si gand te gandesti ca de-aici inainte trebuia sa doarma cu el in patuceanul ei curat si frumos... Parca ar fi vrut sa se impotriveasca, dar imparatul se manie si-i spuse:

- Cand te-ai aflat la ananghie, ti-a placut sa te bucuri de ajutorul broscoiului! Iar acum crezi ca se cade sa-l dispretuiesti, nu-i asa?! Nu-ti mai face placere tovarasia lui!

Nemaiavand incotro, domnita apuca broscoiul cu doua degete si, ducandu-l cu ea sus, il zvarli intr-un ungher al iatacului. Dar cand dadu sa se intinda si ea in pat, broscoiul topai pana aproape de marginea patului si-i striga de-acolo:

- N-ai auzit ca-s ostenit rau? Vreau sa dorm si eu la fel de bine ca si tine; ia-ma sus in pat ca, de nu, te spun imparatului!

Domnita se facu foc si para cand il auzi cum o ameninta; il ridica de jos, de unde se otara la ea, si, izbindu-l cu toata puterea de perete, striga:

- Na ce ti-a trebuit, broscoi buburos! Acu' ai si tu liniste, am si eu...

si ce sa vezi? De indata ce cazu jos, broscoiul se prefacu intr-un fecior de imparat, ca ti-era mai mare dragul sa te uiti la el: chipes la infatisare, cu privirea ochilor blanda si c-un farmec in ei cum nu se mai poate...

imparatul isi dadu cu mare bucurie incuviintarea ca tanarul crai s-o ia de nevasta pe fiica-sa. Iar acesta ii povesti domnitei cum fusese blestemat de o vrajitoare rea sa se prefaca in broasca si ca nimanui, in afara de dansa, nu i-ar fi stat in putinta sa-l scape de sub povara cea grea a blestemului.

Apoi luara hotararea ca a doua zi sa porneasca impreuna spre imparatia feciorului de imparat. Mai povestira ei ce mai povestira si-apoi se culcara. Cand se trezira din somn, in revarsatul zorilor, bagara de seama ca la poarta ii astepta o caleasca trasa de opt cai albi, impodobiti cu panase albe de struti si avand hamuri cu totul si cu totul de aur. Iar in spatele calestii sedea Heinrich, sluga credincioasa a feciorului de imparat. intr-atat se intristase sluga asta credincioasa ca stapanul sau fusese prefacut in broasca, incat umblase nauc catava vreme si de teama ca nu cumva sa-i plesneasca inima de durere si-o stransese in cercuri de fier.

Caleasca astepta la scara palatului sa-i duca pe tanarul crai si pe aleasa inimii lui in imparatia parinteasca. Heinrich cel credincios, care pregatise totul dupa cum cerea cuviinta, ii ajuta pe amandoi sa urce in caleasca, iar dupa aceea se sui si el in locul din spate. si inima-i tresalta de bucurie ca-i fusese dat sa-si revada stapanul. Mersera ei o bucata buna de drum si numai ce auzi feciorul de imparat o trosnitura inapoia lui de parca s-ar fi rupt ceva. si cum nu-si putu da seama ce poate fi, ii striga slujitorului sau:

- Heinrich, auzi trosnitura?
- Nu cumva s-a rupt trasura?

Iar Heinrich se grabi sa raspunda:

- Fii, stapane, linistit,
- Ia, un cerc, ici, a plesnit,
- Ce-mi tinea inima strans
- Sa nu mor de-atata plans;
- Ca un biet broscoi erai
- si sub vraja grea zaceai...

- si se auzi trosnind inca o data, si apoi iar o data... Iar feciorul de imparat din nou crezu ca trosneste caleasca si ca-i gata sa se rupa. Dar nu caleasca se rupea, ci cele doua cercuri de fier care se desprindeau din jurul inimii lui Heinrich cel credincios, care nu mai putea de bucurie ca stapanul sau scapase de sub urgia blestemului si ca era acum fericit cu aleasa inimii lui.

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