The Frog Princess: Author, Summary & Characters

Instructor: Ivy Roberts

Ivy Roberts is an adjunct instructor in English, film/media studies and interdisciplinary studies.

E.D. Baker's ''The Frog Princess'' (2002) borrows its story from the old fairy tale of the Frog Prince, but the 21st century version is very different. Let's look at how the author transforms the classic story with a modern twist.

Reinventing a Classic Amphibian's Tale

The Frog Princess (2002) is the first of 9 books in E.D. Baker's Tales of the Frog Princess series. You might recognize the story from the Disney adaptation, The Princess and the Frog (2009), which was loosely based on Baker's novel. Both versions were inspired by the classic fairy tale, The Frog Prince, about a princess who breaks the magical spell of her transfigured beau. Baker's writing is boldly hilarious, blunt, and readable. The story moves along at a pace that keeps readers entertained and immersed.

The Frog Prince, Illustrated for Grimms Fairy Tales
frog prince

Meet Emma, the Clumsy Princess of Swamp Castle

Emma (short for Esmeralda) lives in a castle at the edge of a pungent swamp. Her mother and father are queen and king, which makes Emma a princess. Emma writes in first person; she narrates her own story. Even though Emma is only 14, her mother, the queen, already has plans for her engagement to Prince Jorge. But Emma can see that he's self-obsessed. ''As far as he's concerned, I might as well be a piece of furniture.''

Her aunt, Grassina, is more understanding. Emma admires Grassina because her aunt dresses the way she likes and doesn't always follow the rules. Better known as The Green Witch, she has been teaching Emma how to cast spells. Emma is disappointed to find that, in addition to her lack of grace and confidence, she also lacks the skills to be a witch.

Emma's favorite past-time is taking walks through the swamp, ''a magical place where new lives began and old ones ended, where enemies and heroes weren't always what one expected, and where anything could happen, even to a clumsy princess.'' On her current trip through the swamp, she comes upon a frog, which doesn't seem out of the ordinary at first, until he opens his mouth and speaks to her.

He introduces himself as Prince Eadric. A witch's curse turned him into a frog, and only a princess's kiss can return him to his natural form. Emma is a little taken aback, but ultimately just glad to have a confidante. After she gets the animosity toward her arranged marriage off her chest, the frog convinces her to kiss him to break the spell on him. To everyone's surprise, the spell backfires and turns Emma into a frog as well.

Would you kiss a frog?
frog kiss

There is a part of being a frog that Emma is initially glad about. She won't have to marry Jorge anymore, and she can get out of those uncomfortable skirts and corsets. On the journey to return to their natural forms, prince and princess encounter terrible dangers, make new friends, and learn lessons. You can't be a frog and not know how to swim, so Eadric makes Emma jump in the deep end. He also teaches her how to find food and protect herself from the many enemies in the swamp, including but not limited to birds, snakes, and witches.

An evil witch named Vannabe captures the two frogs and carries them in a sack back to her cottage. Vannabe is going to cut out their tongues and dismember their legs for ingredients for her next spell! Her pet bat, named L'il Stinker, informs them that she stole another, better witch's spell book and has been trying to teach herself how to cast (her name is a play on 'wanna-be'): ''Vannabe couldn't turn a cabbage into coleslaw. She's trying to be a witch, but she doesn't have the knack for it.'' The witch's kitchen is cluttered with cages, which are homes to all sorts of swamp creatures: spiders, snakes, mice, etc. With the help of the other creatures, Emma is able to get the spell book and open all the cages by casting a spell called 'Easy Open.' A feeling of complete satisfaction flows through her. Maybe she can be a good witch after all.

Emma and Eadric race from the house. L'il and a snake named Fang join them on their journey back to the swamp. L'il saves Emma from an owl, and Fang protects the bunch from low-lying predators.

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