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Ask the Trope Fairy: No, You Don't Need to Kiss a Frog OR Find Your Prince

Ask the Trope Fairy is an advice column for characters navigating science fiction and fantasy realms.

Silhouette of a woman with her arm in the air against a purple backdrop with assorted fantasy trope symbols. Text reads "Ask the Trope Fairy"
Logo by Eleanor Hernandez

Dear Trope Fairy,

I realize that it’s my fault this whole thing started, but things have gotten really scary. At least for me. Everybody else seems to think it’s fine?

Most people my age have outgrown the whole “favorite toy” thing, but I have this golden ball that my mother gave me. It was one of the last things she gave me before she died. But also! It’s beautiful and precious, and I like to have it around me. Now I wish I had locked it away and only looked at it in the privacy of my own room.

I’ve often had to ask people to help me fetch it after it rolls into the muck and mud. In my defense, they get even more mad if I wade in myself. Princess-ly dignity and all that. So it’s just easier to ask them to help me.

Then one day, it rolled into a deep well, and I had no one to help me get it back. And there was no way I could get to it in my heavy, frilly dress. As I was crying, feeling like I lost my mother all over again, a talking frog turned up and offered to fetch it for me…for a price.

The frog wanted to eat from my plate (like a husband does!), and sleep in my bed (!!!), and be "precious" to me. I thought it meant as a pet. Honestly, I figured that if I came back with a “pet” then the palace would tell me it was un-princess-ly and get rid of the frog. So I lied and said okay.

I was very very wrong. I left the frog behind in my excitement (my bad again, I know). Then the frog showed up and told everyone that I had promised. Everyone insisted that I keep my promise! I had to eat from the same plate the frog got his slimy grossness on. It was so uncomfortable and embarrassing. Everyone was laughing.

Then the frog insisted on going to my room with me, and it got worse. Everyone made jokes about our romance escalating. I begged my father not to do it, to let the frog stay somewhere else if necessary, but no. I had promised, everyone said.

I looked around. I really thought they would help me when they saw how scared I was. But not even my father the king cared.

When we got to my room, I put the frog in his own bed with a pillow on the floor, but that wasn’t good enough. The frog jumped in bed with me. I leapt out in fright. It felt so not okay!

Then it got even worse. The frog turned into a young man. I guess he was handsome, but I screamed for help and no one came. I had to sleep the whole night with his arms around me.

Nothing else happened, the king my father made sure to ask about that the next day, but since I just said I stayed up all night feeling afraid and uncomfortable, everybody said I was lucky! Such a handsome man instead of a nasty frog!

But Trope Fairy…he’s still a nasty frog to me. And now I can’t outrun him, even for awhile. Now a carriage from his former kingdom has shown up and everybody wants me to get in and…I could just scream. But even if I screamed "HELP!" at the top of my lungs, I don't know if they'd hear me.

Am I the crazy one? Everyone keeps saying I have to go. That I am so lucky. That I will be a queen.

I Don’t Want to Be A Frog’s Queen

A brown frog peeking out of opaque water like an alligator...
Photo by Matt Kosloski on Unsplash

Dear Don’t Want,

Help is already on the way, my dear.

Usually, this is a place for advice rather than direct intervention, but this is a severe case, and I am most displeased with the protectors who have failed you.

Having traced your letter, the frog is a cursed prince with whom I am unfortunately quite familiar. On the down side, this means your concerns are very well founded. Listen to them.

On the bright side, this means that I know enough about his family that I can devise an escape plan.

During the ride in the prince’s carriage, there will be three very loud snaps. The frog’s companion will have a "reasonable" explanation for these snaps (we did not cause them, we are merely taking advantage). Try not to worry about the snaps themselves.

The frog will be on high alert during the first snap. Do not attempt anything, but notice where he looks and what he checks first during the moment of alarm.

The second time there is a snap, a young boy will appear briefly by your side and offer you a pair of old boots. Use the frog’s distraction to put them on your feet. Cover them with your skirts for a few minutes, but, after that time has elsapsed, they will become well-fitting shoes in both size and style and safe to show the frog if he gets suspicious.

The third time there is a loud snap, open the door of the carriage and run away. The boots will carry you seven-leagues with every step. You should be able to escape and return to your father’s castle.

I do not usually follow up with letter writers, but the immediate rescue is not the end of your problems, my dear, and I want to arm you with some advice for the next few weeks now that you are safely home.

Given your father the king’s initial reaction to the frog (and everyone else’s), you are likely being told a lot of rubbish about breaking promises and how you are ungrateful for the prince’s attention. You must resist this gaslighting.

You were not wrong to be afraid. I hope my panicked sending of help backs that up, but I want you to understand the full weight of how unacceptable what was done to you was.

Allow me to tell your story back to you, not in the terms of promises made and kept that your father and the frog used, but from a sense of balance and safety.

A man (in frog form) does one act of kindness for a very young girl then demands absolute control of her actions as fair payment. He invades her home, restricts her food, and demands to sleep in her bed with her. Everyone in her life tells her that she should be grateful that he turned into a handsome man who she can no longer physically overpower if necessary. Her voice is silenced by even her own father.

Not exactly a happily ever after, is it?

You do not owe someone your life for a single moment of kindness. The good news? You have fulfilled your promise in every way now. Even in magical realms that punish the breaking of any promise no matter the cause, your promise is complete. Nothing binds you to this frog anymore.

Do not let anyone tell you otherwise.

If people keep insisting, let’s try again to tell that story:

A frog, who is hiding his true identity, notices a young girl in a state of emotional turmoil, thinking she has lost the thing she loves the most forever. He takes advantage of her tears to extract a promise from her and then uses that promise to turn everyone in her life against her. No matter how much the girl tells the people in her life that she is afraid, they care more about that promise than her safety and free will. Then the man isolates her even further by taking her away from her home.

I am sorry, dear girl, that this is your story. But you did not bring it on yourself. You were not selfish or cold or untrustworthy. You trusted your gut even when everyone around you told you to ignore it. That makes you brave, my child. That makes you strong. That makes you a heroine.

No matter what the frogs in your life try to make you believe.

This letter was originally received many years ago, and I have been given permission by the original letter writer to let you know that she escaped from the frog successfully. She did not return to her father’s castle but rather used the shoes to travel the world and go adventuring, knowing that she could always get safely away if necessary. Several decades later, having found a lovely town where she wished to settle down, she gifted the shoes to a young lady trying to get to a distant ball in a gown she made herself out of scraps of fabric from her stepsister’s gowns. But that’s another story.


Transcribed and annotated by Katy Mulvaney with permission from the League of Fairy Surrogates and the Interdimensional Meta—Fantasy Council. The Trope Fairy can be reached by dropping your letter in the bottom of an old well in the middle of the woods. Watch out for frogs who hop out of the well. They are not part of the delivery service and there is no need to tip them (with anything).

A rusted iron heart hangs in front of a pile of fire wood.
Photo by Waldemar on Unsplash


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