What would it be like to be a frog? Have you ever wanted to be one just for a day? You haven’t? Well Princess Beatrice loves animals so much that she once wished for just that… and she soon regretted it.
Written by Bertie
Read by Natasha
Illustration by Chiara Civati
Proofread by Claire Deakin.
Bertie and the Frog Princess
Hello, this is Natasha, and I’m here with the last story from both the palace and the pond. As you have no doubt heard, Bertie is a prince again and reunited with princess Beatrice. The wicked queen and Prince Boris are living on the pond as frogs. Let’s catch up with the last news from those enchanted waters.
After the wicked queen was turned into a frog, and went to live in the pond, she set up her court in a little cave among the rocks, just under the fountain. She made it her palace. All it took was a couple of simple spells to create the right atmosphere for a frog queen. The first spell pushed out the family of frogs who were living there at the time. They were moved by magic to the smelly side of the pond, where all the slime and duck weed collects. The next spell added some turrets and fluted pillars and a drawbridge. Inside there was a little marble bathroom with gold taps, and a kitchen where Prince Boris the Frog prepared their dinner made out of squashed flies and cockroaches. On a sunny day, she would often sit out on the terrace, and keep an eye on her new subjects, all the pondlife who lived in surrounding water.
Sometimes she would call everyone together and proclaim laws like, “Everyone must make their own beds and tidy up after breakfast. The penalty for failing to do so is life imprisonment inside a snail shell.”
You would be hard pushed to find a single frog, tadpole, fish or duck who was happy about the new regime on the pond. If somebody had asked Colin the carp his opinion, he would have been glad to give it. In fact, nobody did ask him, but he gave it anyway.
“They’re all the same; these princes, queens, and politicians. They’re just in it for what they can get out of it. We’d be better off without them. Give ‘em all a big kick up the behind, that’s what I say.”
At first some friendly fish nodded and guffawed in agreement, but soon nobody was listening to Colin very much. To tell you the truth, most of the pond’s creatures were too afraid to even think an opinion, let alone speak one out loud. Everyone knew that the wicked queen had some fearful magic.
There was one bird who refused to believe that anyone, even the wicked queen, could be all evil. Sadie the Swan was certain that that there must be a teeny weeny bit of good in the queen because, after all, she was royal. Sadie was sure of that because was was an ardent Royalist – in other words she believed that royals know best, and should always be in charge of everything.
One day, she was enjoying a quiet natter with Tim the Tadpole’s mum. “You know what, Henrietta,” she said, “I’m going to put in a personal petition to our new queen.”
“Do you really think that is a good idea?” Replied Tim’s mum, who was not at all sure what a personal petition meant, but thought that it sounded rather reckless.
“Surely she won’t mind,” said Sadie. “I think it is rather flattering when people request you to help them. All I am asking her to do, is to turn me into a human princess.
I have always known that deep down inside, I was meant to be royal. I am sure it would only take the teeniest weeniest bit of magic to make my dream come true.”
“I would swim carefully if I were you,” warned Tim’s mum, “She doesn’t look to me like the sort who does favours.” But Sadie was undaunted. She swam over to the fountain and the queen’s palace, curtsied a little in the water, and said, “Your majesty. I have come to you with a humble petition. May it be your pleasure, your greatness, to turn me into a human princess?”
The queen looked across from the balcony straight at the swan’s red beak and said simply, “Why?”
“Because, Your Majesty, I have always felt that I was born to be royal.”
“My dear, dream on,” replied the queen with great contempt.
Prince Boris was just inside the palace, but he had heard this exchange and he hopped out to give the queen his opinion.
“I know her,” he said. “She’s just a silly stuck up swan. I’ve seen her many a time, swanning around the pond like she’s a princess, but in fact anyone can tell that she’s as common as muck.”
Sadie was indignant. She pointed her beak at Boris and hissed quite viciously.
The queen raised her voice and said, “Now now, none of that my dear. Prince Boris is quite correct in this matter. You see that worm over there who is sticking his bald ugly head out of the earth. No doubt he thinks he’s the Emperor Napoleon. In truth, you are no more royal than he is.”
While this right royal scandal was disturbing the calm waters of the the pond, up in the rose garden of the palace, Bertie and Beatrice were taking a romantic walk, arm in arm. The prince and princess could hardly believe that they were in each other’s company. Bertie had been away for so long as a frog, that they could never take their togetherness for granted. Every moment together had a magic of its own.
She looked at her prince. He was in many ways just like his old self, but she could feel that inside he was different. I mean anyone who had been a frog for eight years would be bound to change a bit, wouldn’t they?
“Bertie,” she said. “Can you describe what it feels like to be a frog?”
“Well,” said Bertie, “Croak. Whoops… excuse me, those croaks still slip out sometimes.”
Beatrice giggled. She wasn’t sure if he did that as a joke or not. “All my life I’ve loved animals,” she said, “And you really know what it feels like to be one. You can see why I’m so fascinated.”
Bertie walked on a few steps while he gathered his thoughts.
“It was a big comedown of course,” he said. “I grew up a prince with nannies and servants and toys and the most delicious chocolate cake for tea. Then all of a sudden I was a funny green creature who ate flies. I had to live shoulder to shoulder with all that pondlife. Little tadpoles were swimming around bothering me all the time. There was this fish, a carp called Colin, who was so rude. I mean he called me names like, “pompous,” “fat,” and “stupid.” Nobody had ever spoken to me like that before, apart from my little brother, and Prince Boris, and the wicked queen – well nobody who wasn’t royal would have dared to be so discourteous. There was a swan who had all these ridiculous airs and graces. I didn’t know what to make of her. But then, bit by bit, I began to realise that they might be common or garden species, but they had hearts. Even an amphibian has feelings, you know.”
“Oh I do know,” said Beatrice, stroking the back of his head. They were sitting down now on a grassy knoll among the apple trees.
“I think it changed me for the better,” concluded Bertie, “I learned humility.”
“That’s a good word,” said Beatrice approvingly.
“Yes, it means realising that you aren’t actually any better than anyone else, just because you were lucky enough to be born in a palace with a silver spoon for your fruity yoghurt.”
“Oh, Bertie,” said Beatrice, “I do think it did you good. How I wish I could be a frog just for a day, so I could truly share that experience with you.”
Bertie suddenly became very serious. He sat up straight and said sternly, “Beatrice, you must be very careful what you wish for, because the wicked queen might hear you – and if you wish for something bad, she has the power to make it happen.”
Beatrice kissed him on the cheek and said, “Don’t fuss darling, I’ll be careful.”
They would have spent all day walking hand in hand talking sweet nothings, but Bertie had something important to do. The World Cup was on and he wanted to get back to the TV room in time for the kickoff of the big match.
Beatrice watched him run across the lawn back to the palace and she carried on wandering. Soon she found herself down by the the pond. She thought of all the times she had been here, sharing her thoughts out loud with the ducks and fishes, and not realising that her Bertie was just a few feet away, croaking on a lily leaf. She felt guilty that she had not sensed his presence.
Perhaps that was why she exclaimed, “Oh how I wish I could be a frog just for one day, so I could truly know what he went through.”
The wicked queen was crouching on the terrace of her palace under the fountain. She heard her stepdaughter utter those fateful words. Quick as a flash, she caught Beatrice’s wish on the end of her tongue as if it were a passing insect.
With Beatrice’s wish inside her frog’s tummy she thought, “What a dunderhead! She always was soft in the brain. Oh well, if that’s her wish, who am I to deny it?” Before the power of the silly wish could fade, she used her magic to make it come true.
Beatrice thought, “What’s this? I’ve come all over all funny.” Then she said, “Oh dear me. Croak!”
She tried to run back to the palace but she found that she was hopping. Then she heard a familiar voice call out, “Not that way, Beatrice. Over here to the pond where you belong now. So lovely of you to wish that you could join us.”
Beatrice jumped into the water. She had always been good at swimming, but now she found she could do an elegant scissor step that sent her shooting forward.
“This does feel good,” she thought. “It will be fun just for one day.”
When she reached the fountain she hopped onto a rock and looked up at the balcony.
“Hello stepmother,” she said. “I trust you are well.”
“Oh, I’ve never been better,” she lied. She sent Prince Boris to help Beatrice find her way up to the palace.
He hopped over the stones and said in his smarmy voice, “Good old girl Beatrice. I knew you wouldn’t be able to stand that idiot Bertie for long. Now we can marry and live happily ever after.”
“Oh no, you don’t understand,” said Beatrice. “I’m just here for one day, to see what it’s really like to be semi aquatic.”
Boris thought to himself, “Just one day, hey? I’ll ask the wicked queen to make it forever and a day,” but he said, “Well since you have such a short time among us, I’d better show you around. What would you like to see?”
“Oh I’d love to meet all the characters on the pond,” said Beatrice. “Bertie has told me so much about his friends; the carp, the swan, and the tadpole.”
“In that case I’ll introduce you to Colin the Carp. He’s a charming old gentleman who always has an interesting view on almost any topic.”
Boris dived into the water and Beatrice followed. They swam over to the gloomiest part of the pond where Colin liked to hang around, watching for unwary flies, hovering above the water. If he saw a particularly juicy one, he would leap out and snatch it in his jaws.
“Ahoy there, Colin. There’s a special visitor who wants to meet you,” called out Boris.
Colin poked his head up and said, “Tell whoever it is to make an appointment. I’m busy.”
“But she’s just with us for a short time,” lied Boris. “Her name is Princess Beatrice.”
“Do you mean the so called Lovely Princess Beatrice, that Bertie was always droning on about?” Said Colin. “I don’t suppose it’s her fault that he bored us all to death with his non stop pining for her.”
These words were music to Beatrice’s ears. She swam over to Colin and planted a froggy kiss on his old head. “It’s so lovely to meet you Colin,” she said, “Bertie’s told me all about you.”
Colin actually blushed and said, “Well Princess, the pleasure is all mine.” She had been on the pond no more than quarter of an hour, and she already had won one devoted fan.
The cockney sparrows tweeted out the word that the lovely Princess Beatrice was visiting the pond in the form of a gracious frog. Soon everyone wanted to meet her. Sadie the swan told her that this was the most exciting day of her life, and Tim the Tadpole asked what tasted better, pistachio ice cream or green slime? Everyone who spoke to her felt enchanted by her her charm and grace. Everyone, that is, except for Prince Boris and the wicked queen.
“Don’t worry, Boris,” said the queen, “Her popularity will run a bit thin when she’s done six months of hard pond life, and everyone can see what an airhead she is.”
That evening, when the sun was setting, Beatrice joined the queen on the terrace of the palace and said, “Thank you, stepmother, from the bottom of my heart, for granting my wish to be a frog for a day. It has always been my dream to be able to talk to the animals, and you made it come true. Now will you change me back into a princess please? Because I simply can’t wait to tell Bertie all about it.”
But the wicked queen smiled to herself and said, “Beatrice my dear. What’s the rush? Why do you want to go back to that nincompoop Bertie? Prince Boris is a far more suitable suitor now that you are a frog.”
“But stepmother, I only wished to be a frog for a one day.”
“Did you my dear? I must have misheard. I thought you said forever and a day. Never mind. Don’t cry. You’ll find that life can be quite comfortable here on the pond. We’ll have dinner soon. Prince Boris is preparing squashed flies in a salad of green slime, and he’s roasted a cockroach. You’ll feel better after you’ve eaten”
“Oh no!” Cried out Beatrice. “You can’t do this. Bertie will be frantic with worry.”
It was true, he was worried. His team was losing 2-1 in the World Cup and there were only ten minutes to go before the final whistle. When it was over, and he knew that his team were packing their bags and going home, he went to look for Beatrice because she always cheered him up. But she wasn’t in her room, and she wasn’t anywhere inside the palace.
He had a funny feeling that something was wrong. Badly wrong. He went outside into the garden, and ran through the rose garden and the orchard.
All the time he was calling out, “Beatrice, oh Beatrice. Lovely princess, where are you?”
But all he heard back was the sound of a nightingale singing, and the occasional cricket creaking.
With a feeling of dread in his heart he went down to the pond. He stood by the water and called out, “Now listen here, wicked queen. Beatrice had gone missing and I’ve got a strong idea that you’ve got something to do with this. If you have, give her back this instant or you will be jolly sorry.”
He got his reply back right away. It was a raucous chorus of croaks coming from the direction of the fountain. The wicked queen and Prince Boris were laughing at him.
Bertie waved his fist at them. “Don’t think you can get away with this, you bounders!”
But what could he do? He had no magic powers. He ran back to the palace, determined to fetch help, but what sort of help? By the time he arrived in his room, he knew he had to fight magic with magic, and there was only one person who could help him.
Bertie had a distant relative who was a witch. Her name was Aunt Katerina and she belonged to the Russian side of his family. These days she lived in Edinburgh, in Scotland, because she liked the bitter and biting wind that reminded her of St. Petersburg. It was late. In fact it was midnight – but surely that was the best time to call a witch? Fortunately he was connected to her on Skype. He pressed her icon and it rang, and rang… “Oh do please answer, Aunty Katerina,” he muttered to himself.
Eventually she did. Her face, which was extremely beautiful even though she was getting on in years, filled the screen.
“My nephew,” she said, in her still Russian accent, “It has been so long. If I had known you were a frog all that time I would have told Beatrice what to do to rescue you.”
“Yes, she did seem a bit clueless,” said Bertie, “But now she’s been turned into a frog, and I have to admit that I’m as clueless as she was. To tell you the truth, I’m in a bit of a funk. Tell me Aunty, you are my only hope, what must I do to get her back?”
“Ha ha, isn’t it obvious?” Laughed his witchy aunty.
“It is?” Asked Bertie, forlornly.
“Perfectly. Have you lost your marbles? Don’t you understand? You must kiss her,” said his aunt.
“Oh. Of course,” said Bertie. He was about to sign off and run down to the pond when another question popped into his head. “By the way,” he said, “What chance is there that the wicked queen might turn me back into a frog again? I shouldn’t like that to happen. Now I’m a prince again, I am starting to relearn all the advantages of being human, and I am rather enjoying it.”
“Don’t worry too much,” replied his aunt, “after eight years as a frog, I should think you have plenty of immunity against that type of spell. It’s rare to catch it twice.”
Bertie ran down to the pond. He stood by the water and called out softly, “Beatrice, darling Beatrice. Come here, I can help you. ”
But Beatrice was hiding behind a stone on the gloomy side of the pond, and she was softly crying. She felt ashamed to show herself because she felt she had been such a fool to let herself be tricked by the wicked queen and that smarmy Prince Boris who wanted to marry her.
Bertie called again, “Beatrice, I know you are there darling, please let me see you.”
Colin the Carp heard Bertie’s voice. He nudged Beatrice and said, “Princess, are you deaf or something? Can’t you hear that Bertie’s calling you?”
“Leave me alone,” cried Beatrice. “I don’t want to see him. I can’t. I’ve been such a ninny to get myself into this fix. He warned me not to wish for anything bad, and I went ahead and did it. Oh, what a fool I’ve been!”
Colin nudged her again and said, “Now listen here Beatrice. Bertie spent eight years on this pond and everyday he wished that you would come down to the water and call out his name. Now he’s come to you. So you’d better hop over to him right away or I’ll be cross. You don’t want to see me cross because I’m ugly when I’m angry.”
Beatrice thought, “Yes, he did miss me and long for me, and I didn’t realise he was here.”
Slowly she swam across the pond to where he was standing. She hopped out of the water and sat at his feet. She looked up at him and croaked.
For a moment, Bertie hesitated. A thought passed through his head that the wicked queen might have tricked him and come in Beatrice’s place. The last person he wanted to plant a kiss on was her. What a wrong he would do to the world if he turned her back into a person.
Beatrice croaked again. This time Bertie knew it was her. He felt a connection in his heart. He knelt down and she hopped into the palm of his hand. He moved his face towards her green head and placed his lips gently on them. A few moments later he was reunited with his princess.
And that was the story of Bertie and the Frog Princess. We hope the you enjoyed the story and the lovely new picture by Chiara Civati. She’s also doing some new illustrations for our story, Bertie in Siberia, which you can find on Storynory.com.