The tale of the frog prince is one of the most enduring fairy tales of them all. It’s been re-imagined and re-told a thousand times, from the stage to the big screen. It’s had the Disney treatment, and been a staple of children’s storybooks almost since time immemorial. But where did it truly originate, and where did the authors imagine their tale to be set? Where would a traveler in search of the ‘real’ frog prince be best served to start looking?
Where Will You Find the Frog Prince?
A Google search won’t be much assistance to you. You’ll mostly find links to places you can buy either books or films, or renditions of the tale itself. You might even find it turned into a game; the Disney movie was adapted into a video game as a tie-in to the release of the film and released in 2009. There’s also a slot game version of the story called the Enchanted Prince slot, in which the characters from the tale appear on the reels and lining them up the right way wins you money. That’s more likely to bring you good fortune than trying to kiss frogs in real life! Playing the online slot could potentially be lucrative if your luck is in, but it won’t bring you any closer to finding the story’s location. As it’s been adapted into many different languages, and also adapted to fit specific cultures or scenarios, the location has been changed many times to suit the needs of the person telling the story.
If you took your information from the Disney movie, you’d believe that the tale was set in New Orleans during the 1920s, but any fairy tale enthusiast knows its much better than that. Consulting the original text is likely to give us our best clues, and so we turn to the most widely-accepted version of the story, penned by the Brothers Grimm during the 1800s. The Brothers Grimm were German, and so their inspiration for the castle setting of the story probably came from somewhere within their home country.
When it comes to the Brothers Grimm, we’re in luck. Not only is Germany very much aware and proud of its fairy tale writers, it even offers a Brothers Grimm-themed tour which takes in the most likely places they may have based their work upon. You’ll want to book an extended German tour if you truly wish to enjoy it, though; the tour runs right across the country and covers a distance of nearly four hundred miles. If you’re prepared to put in the travel, you’ll be rewarded handsomely; not only will you see quaint German villages that are far removed from the most famous German tourist destinations, but you’ll also be guided to magical forests, and picturesque towers and castles. It’s in the latter that you’ll likely feel closest to finding a magic frog of your own.
If you’re going on the tour, it’s important to keep an open mind. As much as we’d really like them to be real, we all know fairy tales are exactly that – tales. That means that the line between reality and fiction on the tour is blurred, and there’s no evidence that the brothers ever even set foot in some of the places it stops off. On the other hand, though, there are locations which bear such a striking resemblance that it’s impossible not to believe that the writers took at least some of their ideas from them.
Take the alleged home of Snow White, for example. Situated in a village named Bergfreiheit, the house you’ll be shown doesn’t at first appear to have much to do with the story until you find out who used to live there, what happened to her, and the friends she played host to. This was where Margaretha von Waldeck used to live; a German aristocrat famed for her beauty, who died at only 21. Plenty of beautiful young women from history could be the inspiration for a fairy tale, but with von Waldeck the story runs deeper; there is a copper works nearby. Due to the restrictive height of the copper mine, only strong short men could work in there. Some of them – possibly as many as sixteen – lived in von Waldeck’s house at the same time she was there. That’s not definitive proof she was Snow White, nor that the men were dwarfs, but the similarity is undeniable.
As for the home of the frog prince – that could be any one of the stunning castles you’ll visit on your journey. Trendelburg Hotel was once a castle and fits the bill, although your tour guide will tell you that it was Rapunzel who once lived there. Sababurg Castle is another fine contender, but that’s also suggested as a potential location for Sleeping Beauty. How satisfied you are with any of the explanations will depend on what you’re really looking for from your trip, and most importantly of all, your imagination. It was your imagination that interested you in fairy tales to begin with, and that’s also what will bring the locations to life for you. Gazing up at the scenery in the Brothers Grimm’s own home country, and seeing exactly what they may have seen centuries ago, you can easily picture the princess at her window, gazing down wistfully into a lake and wondering when her prince will come.
In the end, even if you’re not able to say with certainty that you found the home of the frog prince, you’ll certainly feel that you’ve experienced something magical. The forests will make you feel like a child playing out in nature again. The villages seem to belong to another time and place; a calmer and more tranquil world. Hamlin, in particular, is a town wholly given over to the tale of the Pied Piper, and goes out of its way to bring the tale to life for you.
Real life fairy tales are hard to find, but a tour through the wondrous landscape of Germany may be the next best thing.