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There was once a king who loved his servant and so forswore marriage to any woman. For a time this went well, but he needed an heir, and his wooers were not all easily swayed. Among them was a witch, who wanted no part of queenship, but hoped only to bed him and promised an heir for the night’s pleasure; and when even she was refused (she was a witch, and quite used to having her way) she fell into envy, and cursed the king with the shape of a frog.

“Thus you’ll stay until you’ve shared a woman’s bed,” she said to him: “though what woman would want you now I cannot say.”

The king returned to his palace as quickly as his frog-legs could carry him, and hid himself in the canopy of his bed. His voice was a man’s voice, still, and so he spoke to his servants from behind the curtain, saying that he was ill, and that they must not come near him. Only his Heinrich – for this was the name of the king’s beloved – was permitted to see him.

Heinrich loved him still, and cared for his king as well as he could; but the frog was ashamed to be what he was, and decided at last that he could bear it no longer.

“I will go to live as frogs do,” he said, “where I must not see the pity in your face another day. Perhaps I’ll find a girl who will share her bed with me and free me from this form, and then I’ll return to you, but I can no more pretend that I am still a man.”

On that day Heinrich’s heart broke into pieces, and in order that it might keep beating in his breast he bound it in place with three strong bands of iron.

The frog left the kingdom, and travelled from one place to another by streams and by brooks. Wherever he found a washerwoman or a girl fetching water he pleaded with her to let him share her bed, if only for a night; each time she ran from the river in terror or chased him away with shouts and sharp hurled stones. At last it seemed that there was no hope left. He found a well near the palace of a distant kingdom, a comfortable enough place for a frog to live, and there he stayed; and there, he thought, he might stay until he died.

There was a princess who often came to that well, the king’s youngest daughter; she would sit on its edge and play there with her favourite toy – a golden ball – tossing it up into the air and catching it again, and so passing the hours. The frog, who had given up hope, never spoke to her. But it happened, one day, that the princess’ golden ball fell into the water and past the home he had made for himself there; and so he crawled up to see whence it had come, and there found the princess weeping.

“Why do you weep?” he asked, and though the princess was startled to hear a man’s voice from a frog, still she answered him: “My ball has fallen into the well, and I cannot retrieve it.”

“I could bring it for you,” said the frog, with hope at last rekindling in his heart, “but only if you promise me this: that I may sit with you at your table and eat from your plate, that I may drink from your cup, that I may sleep this night in your bed with my head on your pillow.”

“Anything you like!” said the princess; and so the frog dove into the well and found the golden ball gleaming in the mud at its bottom, and carried it up to her in triumph. But she, in her joy that it had not been lost, carried it away without a backwards glance.

The frog knew where the palace lay, and followed in her footsteps. With a frog’s leaping gait he climbed the palace stairs, and flung himself against the door until, at last, the princess opened.

“Princess,” he said, “you made me a promise.”

There was fear in the princess’ eyes, now, but she knew the worth of a promise kept, and so she picked the frog up and carried him into the palace. He sat on the table beside her as she ate, and drank from her cup and ate from her plate; and when she had finished she carried him into her bedroom, and set him down – not on her bed – but in the farthest corner from it she could manage.

“I will not share my bed with you,” she said, “nor indeed with anyone. I thank you for helping me, but I cannot repay you as I promised.”

The frog felt hope die, again, and thought the well might be his home forever, and that he might never see his Heinrich again. “Please,” he said, “if only for a moment –” And he told her of Heinrich, and of the witch’s spell, and swore that he would do no more than sleep – and not even that, without her leave.

Only for a moment, the princess agreed.

When she swept him out of her bed the king was himself again, and overjoyed. He thanked the princess with all he had, and promised her honour and safe passage in his kingdom if ever she chose to come there, and sent word to Heinrich before the night was out. Heinrich came with a chariot to bring him home, and as they rode there was a sound as of something breaking; the king called a halt, in fear that the wheels had splintered, but Heinrich said to him: “My heart shattered when you left, and I laid three iron bands around it to keep it beating; now my heart is healing, and this was the sound of them coming undone.”
Written for Flash Fiction Month 2018, day 2. This year I'm also fulfilling a challenge suggested by an anonymous contributor - every character must be queer - as well as one suggested by Teague-Drydan: At least half of the month needs to be fairy tale re-writes. Bonus if they aren't well known fairy tales. Fairy tale count: 1/16.

This is a retelling of "The Frog King", gayest of all fairy tales. I pretty much didn't do anything here except make the subtext explicit. I actually pitched the idea for this to a diverse fairy tale project more than a year ago! I never heard back from them and their website never updated again.

The rest of today's stories can be found here.

Edit 08.07.2018: I can pretend no longer -> I can no more pretend
Edit 12.08.2018: Several minor changes to wording, mostly for flow (minimising unintentionally repeated phrases), and partly for clarity (especially strengthening the princess' characterisation).

Wordcount: 987 995.

If you've enjoyed this story, you may be interested in the collection of all my FFM stories this year: Beyond Dreams. You may also enjoy my FFM collections from the previous four years: Borrowed Strength, Ephemeron, Palalgia, and Changeling.
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:iconteague-drydan:
Teague-Drydan Featured By Owner Jul 10, 2018  Student Writer
oh, nicely done! I like the back story on this tale. thanks!
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:icongdeyke:
GDeyke Featured By Owner Jul 10, 2018   Writer
Thank you! :D
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:iconteague-drydan:
Teague-Drydan Featured By Owner Jul 10, 2018  Student Writer
you're welcome!
Reply
:iconscfrankles:
SCFrankles Featured By Owner Jul 8, 2018  Hobbyist Writer
I really liked your reinterpretation of the princess' situation  - not wanting to share her bed with the king, not because he was a frog but because she didn't want to have to share a bed with anyone.
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:icongdeyke:
GDeyke Featured By Owner Jul 8, 2018   Writer
Thank you! :w00t: It is but one of the many ways in which this whole story turned out startlingly wholesome.
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:iconinksoaked:
inksoaked Featured By Owner Jul 7, 2018  Hobbyist Writer
I just really love this. I love the consistent fairy tale theme, I love how all the tropes are subverted so daintily and more than all of that I love the emotional investment you were able to garner with the story. The sound of them coming undone was enough to make me hoot out loud. 
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:icongdeyke:
GDeyke Featured By Owner Jul 8, 2018   Writer
Aw, thank you! :w00t: That's absolutely amazing to hear.
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:icondomaex:
Domaex Featured By Owner Jul 3, 2018  Hobbyist General Artist
I agree with joe-wright, this story is so wholesome and sweet!
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:icongdeyke:
GDeyke Featured By Owner Jul 4, 2018   Writer
Aw, thank you!
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:iconjoe-wright:
joe-wright Featured By Owner Jul 3, 2018   General Artist
No day cannot be improved by a good wholesome frog story.
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:icongdeyke:
GDeyke Featured By Owner Jul 4, 2018   Writer
Who knew I could write wholesome feel-good stories?
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:iconwindysilver:
WindySilver Featured By Owner Jul 3, 2018  Hobbyist Writer
Nice work on the challenge! I second squanpie; you do write the fairy tale style well!
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:icongdeyke:
GDeyke Featured By Owner Jul 4, 2018   Writer
Thank you! :D I'm glad you think so!
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:iconwindysilver:
WindySilver Featured By Owner Jul 5, 2018  Hobbyist Writer
You're welcome! :D
Reply
:iconthornyenglishrose:
ThornyEnglishRose Featured By Owner Jul 3, 2018  Hobbyist Writer
It's always a bit disappointing when a reader can't think of anything to say except I really liked this... :hmm:
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:icongdeyke:
GDeyke Featured By Owner Jul 4, 2018   Writer
I'm glad you did, though. :heart:
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:iconsquanpie:
squanpie Featured By Owner Jul 3, 2018  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
You write the fairy tale style so well - and it's nice to have a sweet happy ending occasionally in FFM! 
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:icongdeyke:
GDeyke Featured By Owner Jul 4, 2018   Writer
Thank you! :D I do love this style.
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:iconilyilaice:
ilyilaice Featured By Owner Jul 2, 2018
I was wondering how and when the iron bands around Heinrich's heart would figure into the story. They made for a pretty sweet ending. :heart:

I also appreciate how the frog king was not forced to be straight in order to break his curse. He just found a loophole.
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:icongdeyke:
GDeyke Featured By Owner Jul 4, 2018   Writer
I promise I did not make that bit about the iron bands up. This is what I mean when I say there was always subtext.

:nod: Having to actually have sex with a woman would very much defeat the purpose of all this representation. Euphemistic language is great for loopholes!
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:iconilyilaice:
ilyilaice Featured By Owner Jul 4, 2018
Is this the same Frog Prince that Disney made a movie about? I must read the original fairytale sometime.
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:icongdeyke:
GDeyke Featured By Owner Jul 4, 2018   Writer
It's the one they based it on, I'm pretty sure, but Disney always changes a lot of things and this one was almost beyond recognition. The Grimm version ("Der Froschkönig oder der eiserne Heinrich") actually allows for "Iron Heinrich" (or Iron Henry, if translating names is a thing you're into) as an alternate title.

The version I'm most familiar with also involves the princess breaking the spell by literally flinging the frog against a wall as hard as she can, presumably killing him. I almost would've liked to go that way (something about Heinrich not being able to help because he refuses to hurt the king), but this thing just had to be all wholesome.
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:iconnamelessshe:
NamelessShe Featured By Owner Jul 2, 2018
This makes me happy. That ending is perfection.
Reply
:icongdeyke:
GDeyke Featured By Owner Jul 4, 2018   Writer
Glad to hear it. :w00t:
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