The world we live in isn’t all Disney and ‘happy ever after’. As a matter of fact, not too long ago, many folk tales, children’s stories, and fairy tales completely omitted the ‘happy’ part. Maybe they were meant to be cautionary tales. ‘Be careful what you wish for’, or ‘Be happy with what you have’.
Most of us are familiar with how Disney ‘child-safed’ many of their movies. But not all stories got the Disney treatment. Monique recently found a set of antique chromolithographs from around 1870. They featured the Frog who went a’courtin. In this case, it goes by the name “The Frog Who Would A Wooing Go.” I feel a Beavis and Butthead moment coming on… “Wooing”… there’s a word you don’t hear often.
Over the years, there have been multiple variations, but the prints we have feature one of the more gruesome variants. Yes, Froggy went a Wooing. Fell in love with Miss Mouse, but needed Uncle Rat’s permission to marry. In some versions, Froggy must fight and kill other suitors. Regardless of how it happens, eventually Uncle Rat approves the wedding.
Again, the story branches at this point. In some cases a cat or snake (or something else) eats the not-so-happy couple. And all the guests. In some cases, Froggy escapes… only to meet a delayed, but still gruesome, death as a hungry duck eats him.
Modern sensibilities are hard hit by stories like this. We worry so about ‘scarring’ our children, that we swath everything in a protective layer. Did you know that in Cinderella, the Grimm’s Fairy Tales version had her Pigeon buddies pluck out the wicked sisters eyes? Or that the wicked step-sisters sliced off bits of their feet in an attempt to lay to claim to the single glass slipper?
Cinderella may have gotten her happy ending with the prince, but she still had her dark side.
Froggy’s origin is obscured in history. But the association I like the best claims the Duke of Anjou’s wooing of Elizabeth I inspired the original story. Or maybe he wooed Mary Stuart. Even the explanation in the wiki is confusing.
At least the art is beautiful here. The colors, even after more than 100 years, are still vivid. I like how the faces and bodies keep their animal character. These aren’t humans with odd faces. They’re distinctly animals. Take a closer look at “The Merry-Making”, the print where they are singing and playing instruments. Miss Mouse’s hands and arms are very rodent-like. Her head, face, and especially teeth project her essential ‘mouse-ness’.
Take another look – Froggy has a very apropos head. No neck, no shoulders. Check out how purely FAT his thighs are, and how quickly they compress down into skinny ankles and froggy feet. It makes me understand how frog legs became a menu item…