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1001 Stories Collection

Ivan and the Frog Princess

Video and Learning Resources
1001 ivanandthefrogprincess johncameron
Added on 27th August 2020

Oral tradition Folktale from Russia

Russia Animals Folk and fairy tales Magic

Ivan's destiny is to marry a frog


Long ago, there was a tsar with three sons. One day, he told them each to shoot an arrow, and said that wherever it landed, they would find a wife. The arrows of the two eldest brothers landed near lovely young women, but the arrow of the youngest landed in a swamp, in the mouth of a frog. Ivan despaired, but destiny decreed that he must marry the frog. Little did he know that the frog was really a clever princess under a curse. When Ivan discovers the truth and burns the frog skin so that his bride cannot transform again, she is taken from him and he must go on a quest to find her. On the way he is helped by Baba Yaga and rewarded for his kindness to animals.

Why we chose it

One of the most popular Russian folktales and an animal transformation story in which the princess has been transformed rather than the prince.

Where it came from

The first Russian folktales appear in the 12th century, though arguably existed earlier. However, the telling of non-Christian narratives was forbidden by the Church, and folktales only started being recorded in the 16th century. The Frog Princess is a folktale with various versions and origins across Central and Eastern Europe. Russian variants of the tale include Ivan and the Frog Princess, Tsarevna Frog, and Vasilisa the Wise. Vasilisa, also known as Vasilisa the Wise or Vasilisa the Beautiful, is a stock character who appears in several Russian folktales. Multiple versions of the tale were collected by Alexander Afanasyev in his Russian Fairy Tales, published between 1855 and 1863.

Where it went next

Ivan and the Frog Princess remains one of the most popular folktales in Russia and has been retold in many story compilations. It has also been illustrated by famous artists including Ivan Biblin in 1901. Film adaptations of the story include Vasilisa the Beautiful (1940), a Soviet film. Folktales were often used by the Soviets as a form of propaganda. There was also an animated film in 1977.

Associated stories

An Italian variation on the story, The Frog appears in The Violet Fairy Book (1901) by Andrew Lang. In Italian Folktales (1956), Italo Calvino included another Italian version, The Prince Who Married a Frog, and noted that the tale appears throughout Europe.

A similar story from Georgia, The Frog's Skin sees the three brothers shoot their arrows and the youngest marry a frog. When he burns the skin and the world sees how beautiful his wife is, the lord of the land tries to win his wife from him by setting him impossible tasks but the girl sends him to the lake for help and the old woman he finds there gives him a gift that helps him to defeat his enemy.

In The Frog Prince, a common fairy tale most often associated with the Brothers Grimm, a princess kisses a frog, who then becomes a prince.

The betrayal of the animal spouse and subsequent quest is similar to the story East of the Sun, West of the Moon, where a girl discovers that a bear is really a prince but must travel to the trolls castle, East of the Sun, West of the Moon to rescue him from enchantment.

In our events programme

Ivan and the Frog Princess was one of the stories told as part of our Grimms Remix: Stories from the Woodshed in February 2021.

Added on 27th August 2020

Oral tradition Folktale from Russia

Russia Animals Folk and fairy tales Magic

Learning Resources

  • 1001 Ivan And The Frog Princess Resource Pack PDF (613.645 KB)