The Frog Princess is one of many versions of The Frog Prince, best known from the collection of Brothers Grimm (they wrote several variation for different editions of their fairy tales too). The Frog Princess is a Russian fairy tale with the same theme (animal bride/groom in need for transformation to be suitable for marriage) but with numerous specific elements, which are typical for Russian folklore. All in all, we can easily relate it with at least two other popular fairy tales - The Beauty and the Beast and Cinderella, but we'll not go too much into details.
Instead of that let's focus on the story, supported with exceptional illustrations by Ivan Bilibin in his best edition.
Once upon a time, there was a king who had three sons. He ordered them to find brides, one for each. They will find the right one with a help of an arrow - each of them should shoot one in a random direction and get a wife where it falls down.
First two sons find their arrows at homes of noble and wealthy families. The youngest, Ivan, finds his arrow in a meadow near a frog. He is disappointed, but soon realizes it's not an ordinary frog because it can talk.
Then the king gives new tasks to his sons. Their brides should bake him bread and make shirts. The frog did best on both occasions.
Now the king wants to meet the brides in person. He throws a party. Frog enters the castle as a beautiful princess and impresses the audience with magic charms. Both other brides are envious yet it's Ivan who makes a cardinal mistake - he destroys the frog skin of his princess.
When she, Vasilisa, finds out what he did, she tells him about Koschei who put a spell on her. She should live as a frog only for a while more but now she has to leave the prince and move to Koschei's kingdom. Ivan tries to find her and spends three years in search. He meets an old man who helps him with a golden ball which shows Ivan the way.
Then he meets several animals and all promised him their help if he doesn't kill them.
At last, he meets Baba Yaga who sees his courage and tells him how he can destroy Koschei. Koschei is immortal thanks to his shapeshifting ability.
Armed with Baba Yaga's instructions and supported with his new animal helpers Ivan destroys Koschei and wins the princess back.
This time in a human form and they stay together for good.
This is how the story of The Frog Princess (sometimes Frog Tsarevna) ends.
To explore more about The Frog Prince, go to:
Hansel and Gretel - a Picture Book with Richard Scholz's illustrations
Hansel and Gretel is a well-known fairy tale about a brother and a sister who are lost in wood. They found an isolated house made of sweets only to be captured by a man eating witch is much stronger than the kids, they eventually manage to trick her to get in her oven. After that Hansel and Gretel safely return home but not before they search the witch's home and find loads of gold. In this version we see a whole family (including their mother) happy in the end.
The book is first in the series of four, all of the same format, published by van Holkema & Warendorf in Amsterdam, Netherlands in 1905. As we will see, they used a two color printing in combination with full color printing. The illustrator was Richard Scholz (1860-1939), German painter who studied in Karlsruhe and worked mostly in Dresden and Munich.
After the inside paper the title page with all the necessary credits follows.
It's pretty amazing what they achieved with only two colors, right?
We are introduced to the family. They are hungry and pessimistic. It looks they all gonna die from starvation. In such hopeless situations kids were seen as a unnecessary burden.
They were living in the wood. Full of live, full of dangers.
Children heard the horrifying plan - they will be taken to the woods and left there!
Hansel tried to mark the path, leaving a trail for the kids to be able finding the way home.
The plan didn't work. They are lost. They are alone. And they are very hungry.
Well, it looks their luck changed. They found a house made of ginger bread and an old lady who invited them inside.
But the old lady was actually a cannibalistic witch who wants to eat them both. She'll try to fatten Hansel and Gretel a bit first.
Hansel is locked in a cage and Gretel must help the witch.
Gretel outsmarted the witch and pushed her in the oven. She rescued herself and her brother!
It looks we have a happy ending after all.
Kids brought home a treasure from the witch's hut, parents were happy seeing them and they lived happily ever after.
Here are listed all the titles from the series: Hansel and Gretel, Red Riding Hood, Cinderella and The Sleeping Beauty, all illustrated by the best German artists from the beginning of the 20th century. Precious gifts for kids in those times and very desirable items among collectors of vintage children literature.
Do you know Hansel and Gretel is one of very rare classic fairy tales with more than one main character? Even more - we have an interesting dynamics between the siblings. At first Hansel is full of ideas, solutions, active, protective and brave. When he is imprisoned, for some time it looks everything is lost for the kids. But Gretel surprises everybody with her suggestion to the witch. She pushes the wicked witch in the oven and saves the brother. If we remember the version from Grimms' collection, she had an idea to delay her brother's death with a chicken bone, serving as an indicator of slow fattening process and she is the one who finds the way for safe return of both children across the river.
More about this special fairy tale can be found in next article:
For us there is only the back cover to check:
That's it. Hansel and Gretel or Hans en Grietje by Richard Scholz.
This book of fairy tales and ballads was written by Mrs Wilde when she was freshly married with her already famous husband Oscar Wilde. We know she helped his at least a bit at writing his fairy tales but we don't know if he was involved in her book too.
Here is an index of her stories and ballads:
Little Red Riding Hood
Puss in Boots
Old Mother Hubbard
The Three Bears
Babes in the Wood
Jack the Giant Killer
Three Little Kittens
The book was printed by Ernest Nister in Nirumberg in 1888, simultaneously published in London and New York
Little Red Riding Hood
We all know how this story goes and Mrs Wilde's version is not too different from today most known ones. It includes the scene with a Red Head going into bed to her Granny (who was actually wolf) and the wolf is in the end killed by an axe.
Puss in Boots
This is another famous story about a relationship between human and animal but this time a cat acts as a helper to they youngest son who inherited least of all brothers after their father died.
A lovely poem popular among kids in 19th and early 20th century.
This popular fairy tale, probably the most famous in the world is retold by Mrs Wilde according to the Perrault's version. with glass, not golden slippers and a happy ending for everybody, including the envious sisters.
Old Mother Hubbard
A playful song for kids about an old woman who is trying to please her dog in countless ways yet the dog always finds a way to surprise her.
The Three Bears
It's a classic story about the Goldilocks who gets lost in the wood and finds an empty cottage. she tried to find just the right chair, just the right soup and just the right bed. The bears, as you can imagine, are not very happy with the intruder.
Babes in the Wood
A ballad with a tragic end which is almost forgotten today, but was among the most popular stories or songs for kids in the 19th and first half of 20th century. Mrs Wilde decided to present it in verse.
Jack the Giant Killer
There are several fairy tales with Jack in the leading role, but two of them stand out - Jack and the Beanstalk and this one, where Jack defeats Cormoran, Galligantua and other giants, even a giant with two and a giant with three heads.
Three Little Kittens
Another poem for kids - for the end of the book of Mrs Oscar as Constance Wilde (nee Lloyd) was called in those times.
A few words about John Lawson, an illustrator of the book:
John Lawson was born in Dunfermline, Scotland in 1839. We don't know much about his early career except him being a freelancer from 1865 to his death in 1909. He was married to Martha and having four kids together before the family moved to London, England around 1880, where he made a career as an illustrator of books for kids. His speciality were images from Bible stories. Apart from that he illustrated poems, fairy tales and nursery rhymes, sometimes as the only illustrator and sometimes as one of several artists working on the same book.
John Lawson worked for some of the most established publishers in the field of children's literature, like Frederick Warne & Co., Macmillan & Co., George Routledge & Sons, and Ernest Nister.
Ernest Nister was a successful publisher who was born in Germany but moved to London where he found better business environment, yet still printing in Nuremberg (including the book presented in this article) an unofficial world capital of toys at the time of his prime. He was one of the pioneers in the fast growing and extremely competitive market of children's literature, working with some of the finest artists of his time, including Louis Wain and Beatrix Potter, always trying to offer something new to the reader. Nister is credited as an inventor of pop-up books. First editions of his books are praised among collectors of vintage books.
Beauty and the beast (Gordon Browne's series of old fairy tales)
Gordon Browne (1858-1932) was a prolific illustrator who created several picture books in full color, published around 1880. Beauty and the Beast is a retelling of an old story first written by Madame Villeneuve aiming at adult audience in the fashion of fairy tales presented by so called-precieuses. It's actually a retelling of a classical myth about Cupid and Psyche. This mesmerising story was interpreted in countless ways and is by no means meant for children only, as on might expect knowing only the popular Disney version.
Well, this is a version for children with a lot of colored illustrations by Gordon Browne and presented as a novelette, not as a typical picture book. This means the story has a well developed plot with relatively complex characters, yet it's still written for young audience.
We'll summarize this immortal fairy tale using pictures as the base, only adding a sentence or two to make the story flow clear.
The book was published by Blackie & Son in London and Glasgow.
It's a co called frontpiece with Belle and The Beast sitting on the bench in one of the scenes from the middle part.
Here we see an inside title page with a group of kids sitting around the tree, waiting to hear the story. The book is organized as a frame story of the talking tree telling different fairy tales just like the famous Scheherazade told her stories (which were often even more complexly built) to her bloodthirsty husband.
There was a rich merchant with three daughters. They were all beautiful, yet the youngest the most beautiful of all. Their names were Superba, Gracilia and Beauty.
All three had loads of suitors, but none of them wanted to marry. Superba and Gracilia thought too highly of themselves, but Beauty believed her father needs her more than her future husband.
It so happens all of father's ships were lost at the same time due stormy weather and a family got into financial trouble. Older daughter din't help a bit but thanks to Beauty's hard work and her friends who appreciated her sacrifice they still got enough food to eat.
Then father go some good news. Part of his merchandise survived and he had to leave to take it and sell it. He asked his daughters what they want for presents at his return. Superba and Gracilia asked for jewelry and Beauty wanted only a white rose.
There was a big feast helping the merchant selling his goods with huge profit.
The merchant was rich again.
On the way home the merchant got lost in the forest.
Finally he found oneself in front of castle.
He entered and invisible hands served him with best foods and drinks.
Next day, on the way out he finally found a white rose for his youngest daughter. When he picked it ...
A horrifying beast blocked his path. The merchant prayed for his life and the beast pared him on one condition. If one of his daughter comes to his enchanted castle to replace him.
It was a painful return home.
The Belle (Beauty) got her rose not knowingly how high price there must be paid for it.
When the merchant finally told the said news, all of his daughter were crying.
The Beauty offered to replace her father in the castle and he accepted he sacrifice.
She showed more courage than her father.
She stayed alone in the castle. It was a lonely place.
Invisible hands served her too.
Then she met the master of the castle - The Beast.
They started talking and became quite friendly after a while. Yet Beauty missed her family and asked for the permission of visiting so long The Beast allowed her. In return she had to promise she'll think about marry him after return.
He felt down and said he will die if she won't return in a week.
Beauty's father was lying sick, worrying to death for his daughter. She explained how friendly is The Beast. She made a decision she'll marry him.
A carriage with four black horses drove her back worrying if The Beast is all right.
The Beast transformed into a handsome prince. His name was Bellino. He explained her he was cursed to look as he did until somebody started loving him. That was her.
Kids were happy with the ending of the story of the Beauty and the Beast.
They lived happily ever after of course.
If you want to find more interesting facts about this classic story with a lot of intriguing facts behind the book and its creators, don't hesitate visiting:
This book contains four stories, but we should probably start with the story about the author / translator / illustrator.
Boris Zvorykin (1872-1942) was born in Moscow and is today considered as one of the best representatives of old-fashioned Russian ornamental painting, inspired by traditional icons. Born in an affluent family (father was a merchant) he attended the best schools in Moscow and got a job in St. Petersburg as an illustrator of magazines and designer of calendars, postcards and even menus for the Tsar's court. He also designed murals and patriarch's robe.
Fairy tales made him famous across all the Russia. He understood them as a folk treasure and as a patriot, he illustrated many of them. When a revolution came, he moved to Paris where he died. But before that, he executed many interesting projects, including designing ceramic tiles for today's Villeroy & Boch. He stayed closely connected to his homeland and fairy tales from Russia in many ways.
The most famous is definitely a translation of four fairy tales in French accompanied with their illustration. They were published only posthumously when Jacqueline Onassis discovered originals, edited the stories and published them in the book presented in this post.
The story is similar to Grimms' Gold Bird. It starts with Tsar who has three sons and a beautiful orchard, from which every night golden apples were stolen. All sons tried to guard the orchard, yet only the youngest, Prince Ivan, managed to discover a thief. It was a beautiful bird. When the bird escapes, leaving only a feather as a proof of its existence, Tsar wants to have it.
Sons departed each in other direction and after a while, Ivan got a magical helper, a wolf. The wolf helped to get himself a firebird, a horse with a golden mane and a beautiful princess. He also helped when his older brothers betrayed Ivan before the prince returned home with a bride and precious bird and horse.
In this fairy tale, we have a prince with three sisters and dead parent who asked him to marry the girls to the suitors when they ask for their hands. So he married them to a falcon, an eagle, and a raven. After that, he meets Maria Morevna, a mighty queen with magical powers. They marry but he makes one of the most typical mistakes - opens the forbidden doors what activates Koschei the Deathless who kidnaps the queen.
Ivan went after his wife and with a lot of love and magical help from his three brothers-in-law got his wife back. He also had to trick Baba Yaga, to get a splendid horse able to escape Koschei, who is finally defeated and destroyed.
Once upon a time, there was a woodcutter who loved his wife very much but they didn't have any children. They finally made a doll of snow and a miracle happened - it became alive. This snow maiden became the most beautiful girl in the country and brought a lot of happiness to her parents until the winter came near its end. Snegurochka, as they named her, joined a festival where the arrival of spring was celebrated and met a boy Lel, whom she liked a lot.
She also met a girl Kupava, who became her friend. Kupava was engaged to merchant Mizgir who immediately when met Snegurochka felt in love with her. While Snegurochka didn't like him, Kupava was still mad at her friend. She went to Tsar and asked for punishment. Tsar arranged a meeting with the snow maiden and decided not to punish her, what made Kupava even angrier. She jumped in the well and dies.
Snegurochka didn't find happiness either. When the weather became warmer, Lel convinced her to join him outside of the house and she eventually melted into the water until she completely vanished.
Vassilissa the Beautiful
This is one of many versions of Cinderella. The tale starts with a mother who gives her daughter a doll just before she dies. When father remarries and a stepmother with two wicked daughters on her own starts gnawing Vassilissa, a doll helps her. Things became even more dangerous when Vassilissa is sent to Yaga Baba to get some light. The girl became a prisoner, is forced to work very hard for only a crust of bread, has to sort bad seed from good one under the threat of death, but her doll helps her to get through all the perils.
Despite following all the orders given by the witch it became apparent Yaga Baba will eat her, so the doll helped Vassilissa to escape together with a skull with glowing eye holes. When she returned home, the light coming from the skull burnt the step-mother and her daughters. After that Vassilissa decided to move out of the house, started living with an old woman, where she made some linen so fine only a prince could wear it. When prince finds out about the skillful girl, marries her and they lived happily ever after.
Please note - Boris Zvorykin is often compared to Ivan Bilibin, also presented in this blog. You can read more about him at:
Have a great time!