Popular Rhymes and Nursery Tales | Annotated Tale

Note that only the "Fireside Nursery Stories" section of this book has been included in the database comprising 19 tales. COMPLETE! Entered into SurLaLune Database in November 2018 with all known ATU Classifications.

Maiden and the Frog, The

MANY years ago there lived on the brow of a mountain, in the North of England, an old woman and her daughter. They were very poor, and obliged to work very hard for their living, and the old woman's temper was not very good, so that the maiden, who was very beautiful, led but an ill life with her. The girl, indeed, was compelled to do the hardest work, for her mother got their principal means of subsistence by travelling to places in the neighbourhood with small articles for sale, and when she came home in the afternoon she was not able to do much more work. Nearly the whole domestic labour of the cottage devolved therefore on the daughter, the most wearisome part of which consisted in the necessity of fetching all the water they required from a well on the other side of the hill, there being no river or spring near their own cottage.

               It happened one morning that the daughter had the misfortune, in going to the well, to break the only pitcher they possessed, and having no other utensil she could use for the purpose, she was obliged to go home without bringing any water. When her mother returned, she was unfortunately troubled with excessive thirst, and the girl, though trembling for the consequences of her misfortune, told her exactly the circumstance that had occurred. The old woman was furiously angry, and so far from making any allowances for her daughter, pointed to a sieve which happened to be on the table, and told her to go at once to the well and bring her some water in that, or never venture to appear again in her sight.

               The young maiden, frightened almost out of her wits by her mother's fury, speedily took the sieve, and though she considered the task a hopeless one to accomplish, almost unconsciously hastened to the well. When she arrived there, beginning to reflect on the painful situation in which she was placed, and the utter impossibility of her obtaining a living by herself, she threw herself down on the brink of the well in an agony of despair. Whilst she was in this condition, a large frog came up to the top of the water, and asked her for what she was crying so bitterly. She was somewhat surprised at this, but not being the least frightened, told him the whole story, and that she was crying because she could not carry away water in the sieve. "Is that all?" said the frog; "cheer up, my hinny! for if you will only let me sleep with you for two nights, and then chop off my head, I will tell you how to do it." The maiden thought the frog could not be in earnest, but she was too impatient to consider much about it, and at once made the required promise. The frog then instructed her in the following words,—

Stop with fog (moss),         
And daub with clay;       
And that will carry         
The water away.

               Having said this, he dived immediately under the water, and the girl, having followed his advice, got the sieve full of water, and returned home with it, not thinking much of her promise to the frog. By the time she reached home the old woman's wrath was appeased, but as they were eating their frugal supper very quietly, what should they hear but the splashing and croaking of a frog near the door, and shortly afterwards the daughter recognised the voice of the frog of the well saying,—

Open the door, my hinny, my heart,         
Open the door, my own darling;       
Remember the words you spoke to me,         
In the meadow by the well-spring.

               She was now dreadfully frightened, and hurriedly explained the matter to her mother, who was also so much alarmed at the circumstance, that she dared not refuse admittance to the frog, who, when the door was opened, leapt into the room, exclaiming:

Go wi' me to bed, my hinny, my heart,         
Go wi' me to bed, my own darling;       
Remember the words you spoke to me,         
In the meadow by the well-spring.

               This command was also obeyed, although, as may be readily supposed, she did not much relish such a bedfellow. The next day, the frog was very quiet, and evidently enjoyed the fare they placed before him,—the purest milk and the finest bread they could procure. In fact, neither the old woman nor her daughter spared any pains to render the frog comfortable. That night, immediately supper was finished, the frog again exclaimed:

Go wi' me to bed, my hinny, my heart,         
Go wi' me to bed, my own darling;       
Remember the words you spoke to me,         
In the meadow by the well-spring.

               She again allowed the frog to share her couch, and in the morning, as soon as she was dressed, he jumped towards her, saying:

Chop off my head, my hinny, my heart,         
Chop off my head, my own darling;       
Remember the words you spoke to me,         
In the meadow by the well-spring.

               The maiden had no sooner accomplished this last request, than in the stead of the frog there stood by her side the handsomest prince in the world, who had long been transformed by a magician, and who could never have recovered his natural shape until a beautiful virgin had consented, of her own accord, to make him her bedfellow for two nights. The joy of all parties was complete; the girl and the prince were shortly afterwards married, and lived for many years in the enjoyment of every happiness.


This tale of the frog-lover is known in every part of Germany, and is alluded to by several old writers of that country. It is the tale "Der Froschkönig, oder der Eiserne Heinrich," in Grimm. "These enchanted frogs," says Sir W. Scott, "have migrated from afar, and we suspect that they were originally crocodiles; we trace them in a tale forming part of a series of stories entitled the Relations of Ssidi Kur, extant amongst the Calmuck Tartars." Mr. Chambers has given a Scotch version of the tale, under the title of "The well o' the warld's end," in his Popular Rhymes, p. 236. The rhymes in the copy given above were obtained from the North of England, without, however, any reference to the story to which they evidently belong. The application, however, is so obvious to any one acquainted with the German and Scotch tale, that the framework I have ventured to give them cannot be considered incongruous; although I need not add how very desirable it would be to procure the traditional tale as related by the English peasantry. Perhaps some of our readers may be enabled to supply it.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Maiden and the Frog, The
Tale Author/Editor: Halliwell, James Orchard
Book Title: Popular Rhymes and Nursery Tales
Book Author/Editor: Halliwell, James Orchard
Publisher: John Russell Smith
Publication City: London
Year of Publication: 1849
Country of Origin: England
Classification: ATU 440: The Frog King or Iron Henry

Back to Top