The Toad Prince
Once upon a time there was a handsome Prince but he wasn’t charming at all, not even a little bit.
He lived in a castle and was of marriageable age. Dozens of princesses from the surrounding kingdoms had been introduced to him in glittering ballrooms, but not one of them was beautiful enough to become his perfect bride. In despair of ever meeting his ideal princess he decided to take a break from the nightly balls. He journeyed with his retinue to his hunting lodge in the woods to consider his situation more carefully.
While pondering the Prince had the unfortunate habit of grinding his large white teeth. Enamel cracked beneath the pressure and he screamed in agony. Blood dripped from his lips and he dabbed it away with a silk handkerchief embroidered with the royal crest. The blood wasn’t blue, causing him to scream even louder. His Butler sent for a doctor but there were none nearby to attend to the Prince who continued to bellow. Couldn’t they see that he was suffering the most unspeakable agony?
The Housekeeper sent for the local Witch. A beautiful, enchanting young woman who didn’t have time to waste on fools with self-inflicted injuries.
The moment he saw her, the Prince decided that she would make the perfect bride and proposed immediately.
His speech was garbled because of his cracked tooth and enlarged gums. The Witch could barely understand a word, but she reassured him that he was going to be fine.
Removing the tooth was preferable, it would have prevented infection and allowed his mouth to heal. One of the many artisans in the kingdom could have cast a mould from the tooth to craft a replacement. The Prince wouldn’t allow it for fear of damaging his good looks. The Witch had to use a complicated spell to repair the tooth. A spell that she usually reserved for people who were elderly and had barely any teeth left.
The moment the Prince could speak clearly he repeated his proposal to the Witch.
She refused to become his wife. The Witch knew that the handsome Prince was far too inbred to be a good choice to father children. The only reason the Prince was handsome was due to the court Physician who had corrected many of the royal birth defects, but could do nothing about his numerous personality disorders.
The Prince flew into a rage. He tried everything within his power to force the Witch to marry him. He harangued her, begged her, followed her everywhere she went and sent flowers every hour.
The Witch would not change her mind, no matter what he threatened her with and she fled into the forest.
Being so easily thwarted was humiliating, but instead of being humbled by the experience, the Prince reached for the flaming torches. He rampaged through several villages and burned them to the ground. On advice from his Adviser the Prince implemented an Inquisition to track down and torture every witch in the kingdom. Having warts and a black cat became a death sentence overnight. The Prince’s rule degenerated into the worst form of despotism.
The Witch couldn’t stand aside while innocent people suffered. It was necessary to fight back and the covens gathered to join forces with her.
The Prince’s brutal soldiers were no match for the witches. Spells of temporary blindness, amnesia and apparitions of scolding grandmothers were bad enough, but weapons transforming into novelty items such as clockwork cockroaches was worse. Whole regiments fled the kingdom, trampling anything that got in their way.
To strengthen his diminished military the Prince ordered that the treasury be opened but no one could find the keys. He smashed open the doors and took the cash to hire mercenaries and wizards who were experienced at fighting witches.
Many battles were fought, but the witches knew that they couldn’t win. The Prince was completely insane. They could read the signs in the pattern of bulging veins in his neck.
With a heavy heart, the Witch had no choice but to submit to the vile Prince’s demand to marry him. The wedding day was set. After the wedding feast they retired to the royal bedchamber where the Witch cast a powerful curse on the Prince, breaking her wedding vows.
It was the only way to stop the Prince. His cruelty would not end even if she stayed with him as his wife. He would have declared war on the neighbouring kingdoms and used what he had learned while fighting the witches to spread his despotic rule.
As the curse took effect, the Prince became a disgusting toad. A creature that embodied the ugliness of his soul. A wide mouth for his greedy appetite and a toxic slimy skin for his repellent nature. He shrank down until he was the size of her clenched fist. The Prince blinked his bulging eyes and hopped toward the balcony.
The Witch forced herself to watch him leap between the railings into the pond below.
Tears dripped down her face. The Witch is horrified at the lengths that she has been forced to go to. In the end the monster had won.
All night she paced the royal bedchamber. In the morning she stood before her people and confessed. The people requested that she take the Prince’s place as their regent but she cannot. She has done too many terrible things that have hardened her and made her unfit to rule with true compassion.
The Witch returned to the forest in the hope that she could someday find a way to heal her heart that has been broken by war and horror.
Next in line to be regent is the Prince’s cousin. For years she has been in charge of the nurses that see to the needs of the current King and Queen. The elderly couple had struggled for many years to produce an heir and the effort had exhausted them. Neither of them knew what had happened to their son and were as helpless as newborn babies.
The newly crowned Princess has been in love with the Prince since she was a little girl. Every night she dreamed of marrying him and filled an endless series of diaries with details of each one. From birth she was indoctrinated with the belief that the royals were descended from divinity and that they had to keep their bloodline pure.
In her heart the Princess was absolutely certain that the Witch had used some sort of love spell on the Prince to make him behave the way he did. No one could convince her that she was wrong.
Determined to fulfil her destiny, the Princess offered all the remaining wizards and mercenaries wealth and titles within the nobility to search for her cousin.
While the mercenaries searched, the wizards devised a ritual to break the curse on the Prince to return him to his human form. The Princess must wear a wedding gown of purest white and hold a toad suspected to be the Prince during a marriage ceremony. Silver bells are rung by the wizards to signal when she should kiss the toad to break the curse. No one knew which toad was the Prince and they will have to perform the ritual as many times as it takes until they chance upon the cursed one.
The kingdom is searched far and wide for the Prince, but their efforts are futile. The Princess becomes increasingly desperate to find the Prince as the days turn into weeks. Each day is the same. She has a new wedding gown fitted in the morning before kissing toads all afternoon.
The Princess offers a reward to whoever can bring her the Prince in his toad form. Many people attempt to collect it, but the Princess soon loses patience. Weeks of kissing an endless supply of amphibians have turned her lips grey due to the toxic slime excreted from their skins. It was a sacrifice she was willing to make.
Until her gorgeous blonde locks began to fall out.
Flushed and furious, the Princess ordered her ladies-in-waiting to start a fashion for hats and has all the charlatans who presented her with false toads executed.
When the Witch heard what was going on in the kingdom she decided that she must take action again. After a few weeks of intensive searching for the Prince she finds the wretched little beast, squatting in a feculent bog, uglier and wartier than ever.
The Witch put the toad in a box and delivered him anonymously to the castle.
It is the first toad that anyone has seen in days. Servants had begun to panic at the lack of toads. In the interest of keeping their heads attached to their bodies they had made discreet inquiries into having a supply of toads imported.
On hearing of the delivery, the Princess rushed down to the chapel. She took her place next to the altar and adjusted her wig in a full length mirror that one of her servants held at the right angle while she waited impatiently for her wizards to begin the ritual.
This time she was sure that it would work. Finally, she would have her happily ever after with her perfect Prince who would love her forever. She smiled with joy as the toad was placed in her gloved hands.
Silver bells rang, signalling that it was time. At the touch of her grey lips on the toad’s warty skin the curse was broken. Darkness swirled as the Prince was restored to his human form.
The Princess screamed at the sight of him.
Nobody had told her that toads age faster than people. A hideous, wrinkled old man covered in age spots and hairy warts crouched on the floor at her feet. It may be possible to take the prince out of the toad, but not the toad out of the prince.