Wednesday, 6 December 2017

The Frog and the Transgender Prince
  
by Kathleen Murphey


                Once upon a time in a small kingdom, there lived a princess.  She was the apple of her parents’ eyes.  They showered her with affection and love, but she was not a happy child.  Stephanie never felt quite right in a way that she couldn’t explain to herself.  Her father was dark skinned, a deep dark brown that was nearly black.  His hair was kinky and wiry.  He wore it in tight thin braids and usually tied it back in a pony tail of sorts.  His eyes were dark, nearly black.  Her mother was fair skinned with wavy light brown hair and crystal blue eyes.  Stephanie was somewhere in between.  Not quite the image of her father and not quite the image of
her mother.  Her skin was a lighter brown than her father’s but much darker than her mother’s.  Her hair was raven black but had the texture of her mother’s fine hair except that it was crazy curly—in tight corkscrew curls that were impossible to tame.  Her eyes were a light brown flecked with green, but it wasn’t just her skin, hair, and eyes.  She never felt graceful like the other girls at court or in the palace.  They seemed to glide through their actions, and Stephanie always felt like she plodded along.  Once she hit puberty, she felt even more miserable.  Other girls were naturally shapely in a feminine way, and she just wasn’t.  She didn’t have wide hips; her waist was thick rather than slender, and she had broad shoulders.  There were other things.  She loved history and philosophy; she hated needle work and was not a good musician or singer.  Her dancing drew the frown of the dancemaster who often made the compromise of having her dance the less complicated male leads of the dances.
                Feeling so out of sorts, she had few close friends.  When she could, she went riding to be alone.  She enjoyed hunting, and though women rarely accompanied hunts, her father allowed her to come with them because so few things seemed to give her pleasure.  She watched the boys and men of the palace train with interest.  The physicality of what they did looked fun and engaging, but watching was all she was permitted to do.
For her eighteenth birthday, the princess had been given a golden ball.  A travelling sorceress had given the ball to the king and queen assuring them that the ball would transform the princess’ life and lead her to true happiness.  Stephanie had thought the whole thing was ridiculous, but knowing how her parents grieved over her discomfort, she had accepted the ball. 
Shortly after her birthday, she had ridden deep into the forest.  She had dismounted and was leading her horse through a stand of trees when the trees thinned suddenly to reveal a beautiful small pond.  Her horse drank eagerly from the water.  Stephanie sated her own thirst and then walked absently around the charming pond admiring the wild flowers that grew around it.  After her initial exploration, she sat down at the edge of the pond and ate her small packed snack of bread and cheese and dried fruit.  She fed an apple to her horse and found herself drowsy, so she spread out her cloak and fell asleep to the peaceful sounds of the pond and the forest. 
                She woke with a start and had the uncomfortable feeling that she was being watched.  She got up and gathered her things warily, but her horse was completely peaceful and contented, so she convinced herself that it had only been her imagination.  To distract herself, she took out the golden ball and started playing with it.  She threw it up in the air and caught it.  Such a small and insignificant thing, she thought; how was a ball supposed to change her life?  Still it was made of gold, a precious metal.  Perhaps that was the price of change—something precious.  Frustrated by the seemingly futile train of her thoughts she threw the ball up higher than she had intended, and she realized that she couldn’t catch it on its way down.  She watched helplessly as the golden ball dropped into the pond and disappeared. 
                She was shocked by the depth of emotion that accompanied the disappearance of the ball.  She had not truly believed that the ball could do anything for her, and yet with its loss, the potential for her true happiness was lost too.  She sat down on the edge of the pond and wept.  She had been so consumed with grief that she did not notice that something was trying to talk to her.  Finally, she realized that a voice was speaking to her, and she looked up in shock. 
                “Miss, please, miss, why do you cry?” the voice said.  It was coming from a frog who seemed to have come out of the pond or had otherwise appeared out of thin air.  The princess stared at the frog.  I have finally lost my mind, she thought, and looked around frantically to see what her horse was doing.  If a frog could talk, perhaps Star Blaze had grown wings and could fly as a Pegasus.  But, no, Star Blaze stood grazing happily, four legs and a tail and no wings.  Stephanie looked back at the frog who seemed to be eyeing her with amusement.  There didn’t seem to be any choice, so as foolish as the princess felt, she spoke to the frog.
                “Are … are … you speaking to me?” she asked, the incredulity clear in her voice.
                “Well, yes,” the frog said softly.  “You seem so upset.  What is wrong?” it asked again.
                Stephanie felt ridiculous, but she tried to explain.  “My parents gave me a golden ball for my birthday, and I have lost it in the pond,” she answered.
                The frog looked from Stephanie to the pond and back again.  “I could get it for you,” the frog said slowly, “but you would need to do me a favor in return.”
                Without considering the consequences of such a promise, Stephanie answered immediately.  “Of course, anything you want, so long as you fetch my ball for me.”
                “Anything I want,” the frog repeated, looking at Stephanie carefully.
                Stephanie felt a tinge of panic—what was she promising this creature obviously touched by magic?  It is just a frog, some voice in Stephanie’s head answered, dismissing the fears that suddenly presented themselves to her. 
                As if reading Stephanie’s mind, the frog looked into Stephanie’s eyes and asked, “Who are you and where do you live?”
                With the vanity of nobility, Stephanie announced herself, “I am Princess Stephanie, the heir of King Marcus and Queen Rose.”  Realizing too late that she was giving the frog more information than she intended if she didn’t intend to honor her promise, which she didn’t, she lied about where she lived, waving vaguely in the opposite direction from her father’s palace.
                The frog nodded.  “I will hold you to your promise, princess,” and then it turned and hopped into the pond and disappeared.
                Stephanie stood and found herself worrying her hands together in anticipation.  Just when she was concluding that she had imagined the whole thing, the frog hopped out of the pond and hopped to her feet, spitting out the golden ball from its mouth.
                Stephanie stooped down and snatched up the ball.  “Thank you,” she said, and she meant that part.  “Now it is time for me to return home,” and she snatched up her cloak and started for Star Blaze.
                “But, your promise, princess,” the frog protested.
                Stephanie ignored the frog, mounted her horse, and was gone without giving her broken promise a second thought.
                The following day, Stephanie had convinced herself that her encounter with the frog had been a dream.  So that evening at dinner, when the page announced the frog as “a guest of Princess Stephanie, heir to King Marcus and Queen Rose,” Stephanie was just as surprised as her parents.  The frog slowly hopped its way through the royal family dining room and stood before the king and queen.
                “What is the meaning of this, Stephanie?” the queen asked.
                So Stephanie told the king and queen the story of her encounter with the frog at the pond.  Both her parents looked stricken when she explained that she had promised the frog anything it wished—and she began to realize that promising anything was a very dangerous thing to do.
                “What is it that you wish of our daughter?” the king asked cautiously.
                “For now,” the frog said politely, “I only wish to be the princess’ primary companion.  To eat with her and to be with her through the days and nights.”
                The king and queen relaxed slightly hearing these words.  The king turned to his daughter, “You have heard the request, my child.  Make the frog feel welcome in our home.”  Stephanie looked at her father trying to recover from her shock.  He was dead serious.  He wasn’t even faintly dismissive of a frog requesting to be her new best friend.  She started to say something in protest, but her father shook his head slightly.  There was no argument to this request; it was an order.  Whether she wanted to or not she had to befriend the frog.  The frog hopped up on the table and helped itself to small scraps of her stewed meat.  When they were all finished dinner, the princess retired to her rooms to save herself the humiliation of entertaining the frog in front of the court.  Alone in her apartments, the princess ignored the frog.  The frog didn’t seem to mind and contented itself with looking through her books and possessions.
                Stephanie was miserable.  Previously unhappy and out of place, she now felt herself the butt of every joke, the subject of all the gossip in the palace, the object of every stare.  She tried to ignore the frog as best she could, but her parents grilled her every day about how well she was being companionable to her guest.  Worse, the frog talked to her.  It told her all its favorite stories.  It talked to her about its favorite periods of history and favorite philosophers.  Stephanie found herself listening to the frog despite herself.  They spent long hours alone in Stephanie’s apartments.  The frog would page through the princess’ books.  Sometimes the frog would read to Stephanie.  The frog began to be fascinated by poetry and would read out its favorite poems.  Once the frog had gone through all the volumes of poetry in the princess’ apartments, Stephanie took it to the formal library and let the frog choose volumes of poetry to take back to their rooms.
                Slowly, Stephanie began to talk to the frog.  She talked to it about all the ways she didn’t feel comfortable with herself and her life in the palace.  She told the frog things that she had never told anyone.  She wondered why she could tell it such things.  Perhaps, she mused, because no one would believe a talking frog or perhaps because, as a frog in the palace, it was as out of place as she felt. 
                One day, they had been reading a story about seal-man whose pelt had been stolen by a human woman, so that he had no choice but to marry her and live with her in his man form, but she had grown to love him in that selfless way that is the way of true love, and she had given him back his pelt so that he could return to his home and his people.  She had truly expected him to leave her then, but he had grown to love her as well, so he stayed with her until she died and only then returned to his home.  The transformation part of the story fascinated and excited Stephanie.  If she could only transform, perhaps then she would feel like she belonged.  But transform into what? 
                “If I could transform into anything, what do you think I would be best be suited to turn into?” Stephanie found herself asking the frog.
                The frog stared at her for a long time.  Stephanie thought there was a desperate longing in the eyes of the frog, but it shook its head and turned away from her.
                “What is it?” Stephanie asked.  “Tell me,” she demanded.
                “Nay, princess,” it said softly, “I cannot tell you.  It is a selfish desire of my own, and I love you too well to speak of it.”  The last few words were spoken so softly that the princess could barely hear them. 
                Stephanie stared at the frog.  The whole crazy situation seemed to make perfect sense now.  How could she not have seen it?  How could she not have guessed?  How could a frog talk?  How could a frog read or know history or philosophy?  How could a frog know the obligations of court and royalty?  Only if the frog had in fact been a human and been transformed him or herself.  “Who are you?” Stephanie demanded.
                “No one of consequence, princess,” the frog answered, but Stephanie did not believe it.
                “Yes, you are!  You are of consequence to me.  Who are you and why were you transformed?” Stephanie demanded again.
                The frog looked at her again with the sad longing present in its eyes.  “Once I was a child every bit as spoilt as you, but I had the misfortune to be rude to a fairy queen who transformed me into a frog.”
                Excitement coursed through Stephanie’s veins, “But then I can free you, can’t I?  If I love you and tell you so and kiss you, I can free you?” she said in a rush.  And she felt like she had never wanted anything more.  This was it; it was all true.  The golden ball was transforming her life.  It had brought her the frog, and the frog was a prince, her prince, and she would be happy.  “I love you,” Stephanie said breathlessly, and she bent and kissed the frog on the head.  She stepped back to see the transformation clearly, but nothing happened.
                “Nay, princess, I am a princess myself, and though I love you dearly as a friend, I need the love of a prince to save me,” the frog explained slowly.
                Stephanie stared at the frog.  She felt as though the world had shifted under her feet.  Of course, that was it.  She sat down and looked out the window.  She had never been comfortable as a girl, but it had never occurred to her to be a boy.  The rightness of it took her breath away.  Would her parents care?  No, she thought firmly—they had only wanted her happiness.  The frog could ask for anything—even her life.  The frog could have demanded that Stephanie become her prince, but the frog loved her well enough to remain a frog forever, and she loved the frog well enough to make the change into a prince as much for her own sake as for the frog’s. 
                Her name was even suited for it; she would change from Princess Stephanie to Prince Stephen.  She laughed at the thought.  “What is your name?” the princess asked.
                “Julia,” the frog answered softly.
                “Julia, my sweet, Julia, I will be your prince, and you will be my princess, and we will be happy forever,” Stephanie/Stephen answered.
                “I cannot ask it of you, princess,” the frog said carefully.
                “But I give it freely.  Nothing would make me happier—and you know this better than anyone could,” Stephanie/Stephen answered firmly.  “I love you, Julia; take me as I will take you,” and Stephanie/Stephen kissed the head of the frog.  There was a blinding light.  Stephanie/Stephen felt a deep glowing flowing throughout her/his body.  She/he could not see.  She/he could only feel the glowing coursing through her/his body.  Slowly the glowing stopped and the bright light faded, and he sat on edge of his bed naked, now Prince Stephen.  Next to him sat a naked, beautiful young woman with russet skin and long straight black hair with dark brown/black eyes. 
                “Julia?” he asked softly.
                “Stephen?” she asked at the same time.
                They nodded at each other and laughed.  Shyly they reached out their hands and explored each other.  Touching progressed to kissing, nibbling, sucking, and licking.  Julia seemed to discover her own body as Stephen explored it, and perhaps she did, having been a frog for he didn’t know how long.  Stephen certainly found that he discovered his own body through Julia’s exploration of it.  His proportions all seemed much more natural in male form, and he felt a deep genuine contentment and self-satisfaction that he had never experienced with himself as a female.  He made her climax using his fingers—his former self-pleasuring in female form—aiding this particular sexual skill.  The sexual intercourse part was harder.  They both knew that his penis needed to go into her vagina but beyond that both were novices.  He was gentle.  He entered her carefully and slowly.  As they both got used to that, he proceeded slowly.  Gradually, he could move in her easily, and when he climaxed, it was wonderful—filled with the same transcending sensational experience as it had been before—but different—the semen exploding out of him in pulsing spurts.  They lay in each other’s arms, kissing and talking softly.  Mostly, they were so grateful to each other and so happy and fully together after having been alone for so long.
Finally, Stephen wrapped himself in a blanket, went to the outer room, and called for a maid.  The young woman nearly fainted at the sight of him.  He was recognizably Stephanie, only a young man now, not the young woman she had been an hour before.  Stephen demanded the maid go to the tailor for a suit of men’s clothes that would fit him.  Next, he looked through his former clothes and helped Julia dress in the most beautiful clothes he had.  Once the maid returned, Stephen dressed himself as best as could, the novelty of male clothing being new to him.  Assured by Julia that he was thoroughly presentable, Stephen led Julia through the palace to find his parents and present themselves. 
The king and queen were in their royal apartments.  The queen was doing needle work, and the king was writing a letter.  They looked up as Stephen entered.  Their eyes went wide with both shock and recognition.  Stephen smiled hugely at them and motioned Julia to his side—grasping at her hand and linking his fingers through hers.
“Mother, father, I have the most wonderful news.  Julia is my frog, and I am her prince, and we are happy, really truly happy,” he said in a rush.
The king and queen made the two tell the story again from the beginning.  Having either Julia or Stephen go over bits they found particularly confusing again and again, but at last they understood the story.  They also understood the joy and love that flowed through and around the young couple, and they gave them their blessing.  They were married in the following weeks, and the kingdom rejoiced that the princess had found her true self as a young man and that their new prince had found joy with a princess who loved him.


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Kathleen Murphey is an associate professor of English at Community College of Philadelphia.  Recently, she has been writing fiction (both short stories and poetry) on women’s and social justice issues.  To learn more about her work, see www.kathleenmurphey.com

A voice recording by the author of "The Frog and the Transgender Prince" is available on www.kathleenmurphey.com.