As I headed into my room, my step jarred the music box in my bedroom on top of my dresser shelf. That single note in the middle of it’s round paused my step as I headed over to my dresser, curious and delighted. It had been so very long since my trinket had made a sound, I’d have thought that it was no longer capable of doing so.
It’s hardly larger than a pill box, gold colored, though hardly made of the precious metal, and enameled in lovely shades of green. I still remember the day that I purchased it. I walked into a gift store attracted by the windchimes and the way the light caught the pretty glass baubles. And as I walked around, I knew that I wanted this box to hold my wedding bands when I needed to take them off. You see, on the lid is a charming little frog with green cubic zirconi eyes. And I had married my prince charming (:
As I wound it up and listened to the pleasing tinkling sounds, I dressed for bed and thought of the Frog Prince Tale. As my eyes grew heavy, a smile curved my lips and my musings followed me into slumber.
Oh we all know the classic tale of spoiled princess, golden ball, frog that turns out to be an enchanted prince, a promise and a kiss. But dreams aren’t bound to the tales we’ve grown up hearing…
Once upon a time, oh so very long ago, in an enchanted forest, there was the most beautiful sparkling waterfall. The sound of the water running over the rocks tinkled like music and any that heard it would find themselves standing still to hear it better, head cocked to the side, listening intensely with a small smile in the corner of their mouth.
For you see, the waterfall contained all our happy thoughts and snippets of memories that are lost with the passage of time. We don’t miss them, but to hear the chime of them stirs within us echoes of those happy times, and so we have the chance, ever so briefly, to enjoy them again.
Not many have ever searched for the wellspring of the waterfall, but if they had, they would know it is a long journey through deeply dappled forests. And as you approach the base of a mountain, it is as though the water forms freely in the air, right there beside a small but comfortable cottage at what must surely be the starting point of the river.
If you were curious enough to look, you would soon realize that this is exactly what happens, for inside the cottage lives a very old woman, blind to the world around her with the passage of years. But when she smiles, you can see glimpses of the beauty she held in her youth and you know that her eyes are turned to other worlds than this.
It is this woman that is the guardian of all lost happiness, and she that distills it from the air and gives it form. And from this water that dances through the woods and over rock are dreams and hopes born.
One day, as she was enjoying a newborn’s first laugh (for you see, she could read each drop of water for the moments that they were), she did not know that a thief was fast approaching her door. He was stealthy, he was surefooted, and he was greedy.
He had heard the tales of joy that flowed into the world from here, and he wanted it all for himself. And so he searched for many days, following the river in reverse until he chanced upon the Dream Distiller’s cottage.
So great was the greed in his heart, it blinded him to compassion, or even to morality and he dashed through the door, intent to murder the woman.
Fortunately for her, her cottage, like the forest that surrounded it, was enchanted. And her home was meant to protect the woman and the work inside. As soon as he entered with foul murder in his heart, he was turned away, lost in the woods, a curse lingering over him, and no recollection of who he was, nor why he was there.
He traveled many days, lost in those woods. And I promise, as idealic as they would seem should you choose to enter them—should you find yourself thrust into them without your will, it is nightmarish in it’s unending size. The same lovely dappled greens that shine like gems along the water are ominous and blot out the light within the heart of the forest…especially if you’ve been sent there as punishment.
He was on the verge of death by starvation and lack of water, his clothing tattered, his hair long and unkempt, when he tripped over a large tree stump and moved no more.
It so happened that at this time, a carriage was passing, containing a lovely and kind-hearted princess and her traveling maid. The princess wish the stop in the shade and enjoy a repast before continuing the journey. Her ladie’s maid was sent to gather blackberries, for they had traveled this way before, and both knew they would be ripe and juicy and ready for the plucking.
The maid had not walked far when she came across the unconscious man. She dashed back to the carriage, and the driver retrieved the man. He was loaded into the carriage at the Princess’s direction, and they rushed to her home, calling immediately for a doctor.
Every day, the Princess came to his room to check on his progress, and as he regained his strength and his vitality, they talked. He thanked her for saving his life, and told the tale of not knowing how he had come to be there, only how terrifying the experience had been. And as they spoke, a love began to flourish between them.
Her father did not object when they announced their wish to wed, for though the boy came with no memories, he brought with him the manners and speaking of one grown up surrounded by culture. So even though he bore no wealth, the King was sure that lad came from it, and somewhere, someday, there would be someone searching for him, and thankful that he was so well cared for.
A year and a day passed from the time of their union, and the princess discovered that she was with child. There was much rejoicing in the kingdom! Then the time came for the birth of her child, but her husband was no where to be found! Where could he be? Why would he leave his wife’s side in this time of need?
For all this time, he’d carried with him the curse for his evil actions. And now payment was due. It was as though his mind and body were not his own, for the man who had entered that forest, and the man he had become were as different as night and day, and he could not stop himself from mounting his horse and riding off into the forest he had so long avoided. He did not know where he was heading, but he rode unerringly to the cottage in the forest.
The Dream Distiller stepped onto her porch, turning her blind eyes on him and said, “I see all the happy moments that are forgotten, and I know that you have found true love and are expecting your first child any moment now. But you do not deserve the happiness you have found!”
At this moment, the weight of his previous life fell upon him and he knew the evil deeds he had originally come to commit. He could not imagine trying to steal other’s happiness, and he dropped to his knees, tears rolling down his face as he apologized.
“I can see that you are no longer the man you had been, but you must still be punished for your intentions. Instead of taking the life of your child, instead, your curse shall pass to him, and it will be true task to break it.”
“You came to me with hate in your heart for the joy of others. That hate will show on him from the outside. And only the love of a princess who can look beyond that will restore him.”
And with that the man found himself in his wife’s delivery room as she screamed and gave her last push. Instead of the beautiful child she was sure she had cradle in her room, a terrible, ugly frog passed from her body. She screamed and fainted on the spot. The doctor would have killed it immediately, for fear of a changeling, but the father stopped him, knowing that it was his fault his son had been born thus.
When his wife was revived, she refused to look at the creature of have anything to do with it. She would not even hear the tale of how it had come to pass. She ordered it killed on the spot, but again, her husband stayed the hands of the those that would slay it, and begged her to allow him to build their son a garden in the forest, where he could grow and she would be able to forget about him.
“You have three days, and no more. After that, the abomination needs to be gone. One way… or the other.”
And so the man leapt upon the horse, his infant son, a hideous toad, wrapped in swaddling and this time headed for the cottage in the woods with purpose. The Dream Distiller stood waiting on her porch for she knew that he was coming.
“You may build him a garden at the pond where the river ends. He will live in the water of joy until the day comes that he must seek to free himself from your curse. You must visit him every year on the day of his birth, that he never forget that his is a man. And may time be merciful to him.”
And so the Frog Prince was set up in the pond of joy, living his life day by day in the ways of lily pad hoppers, but every year, on the day of his birth, reminded that he was indeed a man. And on the day after he turned 18 and his father left after his briefly yearly visit, the young man in a frogs body saw the most beautiful maiden he could ever have imagined, coming towards his pond, playing with her golden ball.”