The Frog Maiden (Burma)

An old couple was childless, and the husband and the wife longed for a child. So when the wife found that she was with child, they were overjoyed; but to their great disappointment, the wife gave birth not to a human child, but to a little she-frog. However, as the little frog spoke and behaved as a human child, not only the parents but also the neighbors came to love her and called her affectionately “Little Miss Frog.”

Some years later the woman died, and the man decided to marry again. The woman he chose was a widow with two ugly daughters, and they were very jealous of Little Miss Frog’s popularity with the neighbors. All three took a delight in ill-treating Little Miss Frog.

One day the youngest of the king’s four sons announced that he would perform the hair-washing ceremony on a certain date, and he invited all young ladies to join in the ceremony, as he would choose at the end of the ceremony one of them to be his princess.

On the morning of the appointed day the two ugly sisters dressed themselves in fine raiment, and with great hopes of being chosen by the prince they started for the palace.

Little Miss Frog ran after them, and pleaded, “Sisters, please let me come with you.”

The sisters laughed and said mockingly, “What, the little frog wants to come? The invitation is to young ladies and not to young frogs.”

Little Miss Frog walked along with them towards the palace, pleading for permission to come. But the sisters were adamant, and so at the palace gates she was left behind. However, she spoke so sweetly to the guards that they allowed her to go in. Little Miss Frog found hundreds of young ladies gathered round the pool full of lilies in the palace grounds. And she took her place among them and waited for the prince.

The prince now appeared, and washed his hair in the pool. The ladies also let down their hair and joined in the ceremony. At the end of the ceremony, the prince declared that as the ladies were all beautiful, he did not know whom to choose and so he would throw a posy of jasmines into the air; and the lady on whose head the posy fell would be his princess. The prince then threw the posy into the air, and all the ladies present looked up expectantly.

The posy, however, fell on Little Miss Frog’s head, to the great annoyance of the ladies, especially the two stepsisters. The prince also was disappointed, but he felt that he should keep his word. So Little Miss Frog was married to the prince, and she became Little Princess Frog.

Some time later, the old king called his four sons to him and said, “My sons, I am now too old to rule the country, and I want to retire to the forest and become a hermit. So I must appoint one of you as my successor. As I love you all alike, I will give you a task to perform, and he who performs it successfully shall be king in my place. The task is, bring me a golden deer at sunrise on the seventh day from now.”

The youngest prince went home to Little Princess Frog and told her about the task.

“What, only a golden deer!” exclaimed Princess Frog. “Eat as usual my prince, and on the appointed day I will give you the golden deer.”

So the youngest prince stayed at home, while the three elder princes went into the forest in search of the deer.

On the seventh day before sunrise, Little Princess Frog woke up her husband and said, “Go to the palace, prince, and here is your golden deer.”

The young prince looked, then rubbed his eyes, and looked again. There was no mistake about it; the deer which Little Princess Frog was holding by a lead was really of pure gold. So he went to the palace, and to the great annoyance of the elder princes who brought ordinary deers, he was declared to be the heir by the king.

The elder princes, however, pleaded for a second chance, and the king reluctantly agreed.

“Then perform this second task,” said the king. “On the seventh day from now at sunrise, you must bring me the rice that never becomes stale, and meat that is ever fresh.”

The youngest prince went home and told Princess Frog about the new task.

“Don’t you worry, sweet prince,” said Princess Frog. “Eat as usual, sleep as usual, and on the appointed day I will give you the rice and meat.”

So the youngest prince stayed at home, while the three elder princes went in search of the rice and meat.

On the seventh day at sunrise, Little Princess Frog woke up her husband and said, “My lord, go to the palace now, and here is your rice and meat.”

The youngest prince took the rice and meat, and went to the palace, and to the great annoyance of the elder princes who brought only well-cooked rice and meat, he was again declared to be the heir.

But the two elder princes again pleaded for one more chance, and the king said, “This is positively the last task. On the seventh day from now at sunrise, bring me the most beautiful woman on this earth.”

“Ho, ho!” said the three elder princes to themselves in great joy. “Our wives are very beautiful, and we will bring them. One of us is sure to be declared heir, and our good-for-nothing brother will be nowhere this time.”

The youngest prince overheard their remark, and felt sad, for his wife was a frog and ugly.

When he reached home, he said to his wife, “Dear princess, I must go and look for the most beautiful woman on this earth. My brothers will bring their wives, for they are really beautiful, but I will find someone who is more beautiful.”

“Don’t you fret, my prince,” replied Princess Frog. “Eat as usual, sleep as usual, and you can take me to the palace on the appointed day. Surely I shall be declared to be the most beautiful woman.”

The youngest prince looked at the princess in surprise; but he did not want to hurt her feelings, and he said gently, “All right, princess, I will take you with me on the appointed day.”

On the seventh day at dawn, Little Princess Frog woke up the prince and said, “My lord, I must make myself beautiful. So please wait outside and call me when it is nearly time to go.”

The prince left the room as requested. After some moments, the prince shouted from outside, “Princess, we must go now.”

“All right, my lord,” replied the princess. “Please open the door for me.”

The prince thought to himself, “Perhaps, just as she was able to obtain the golden deer and the wonderful rice and meat, she is able to make herself beautiful,” and he expectantly opened the door. But he was disappointed to see Little Princess Frog still a frog and as ugly as ever.

However, so as not to hurt her feelings, the prince said nothing and took her along to the palace. When the prince entered the audience chamber with his frog princess the three elder princes with their wives were already there.

The king looked at the prince in surprise and said, “Where is your beautiful maiden?”

“I will answer for the prince, my king,” said the frog princess. “I am his beautiful maiden.”

She then took off her frog skin and stood a beautiful maiden dressed in silk and satin. The king declared her to be the most beautiful maiden in the world, and selected the prince as his successor on the throne. The prince asked his princess never to put on the ugly frog skin again, and the frog princess, to accede to his request, threw the skin on the fire.


Source: Maung Htin Aung, Burmese Folk-Tales (Calcutta: Geoffrey Cumberlege, Oxford University Press, 1948), pp. 70-74

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