Acaudal

I am not quite unique. There have been a rash of princes turned to frogs in these last few years; not even by the same witch. This punishment stretches across county lines, into kingdoms I’ve never even heard of. But that scarcely improves the malady, does it? It just goes to show that curses have their fashions too. And this season – this long season of amphibious spellbinding – happens to include me, Sir Thomas Geoffrey Mallory Doyle Eco Humperdinck. My family was mortified.

I say I am not quite unique and this is to say that I am somewhat unique, among my royal fraternity, in that I was barely a toddler when I was slammed by a wizened old crone’s displeasure. The general consensus round the court is that the crone is mildly demented, and has been since her second centennial. My great sin was not denying her entry into my spacious palace whilst the rain and sleet clawed at her fragile skin, nor that I was too full of myself to see the beauty in others, nor that I had greedily pilfered her subterranean cave of its geriatric trinkets. No, no, my sin was that I laughed when the old crone sneezed over her cauldron.

The way it happened was, my father (the King, no less, which should stand as a lesson to the underclasses that the aristocracy is above many things but not above good old-fashioned superstition) had heard a prophecy that his son would be a cold-blooded fool, a small-brained ruler, with sticky fingers and unnatural appetites, that he would be reviled by his subjects and repulse his own family. As a parent, as a beloved dictator, he considered it his duty to avert this destiny. And I, still soiling my trousers, with a wide-eyed expression permanently affixed to my pate and drool perpetually dribbling from my lips – I was eighteen months born – would not weigh in on the wisdom of consulting the crone, which is precisely what my father did.

In the court, the crone set her rusted cauldron on the good carpet and called for ingredients of all sundry types, dead things and stinky things and valuable things; all went into the pot, complete with incantations, smoke. And too much or too little, the sinister vapors crept up her cavernous nostrils and triggered her allergies. She sneezed, and out popped her milky eye. It bobbed in the cauldron like a slimy fishing lure, scalding the woman, scalding her hands as she reached for it, and scalding the back of her ancient optic nerve. She danced about the bubbling stew, screaming and slapping at her hands and eye, making no headway in her efforts. The eye swung over the lip of the cauldron like a tether ball. I have no memory of this myself, but when the court gasped in horror, I giggled madly. On the spot, without even glancing (well, how could she have?), she muttered her nonsense and POOF, frog.

Of course, being an infant, not quite a frog, more of a tadpole. It was not until I’d reached the acaudal stage of my development that my mother explained all of this to me. I’ve never known much else and so it is not so terrible, and I eat very little as compared to my brothers and sisters.

I wish I could complete this tale with some sort of moral but I’ve found, in twenty years as a small, green tree frog living in a stone walled castle, that one can have lots of fun climbing to the rafters and pouncing on chambermaids’ heads. No frog I have met has ever died of the flux; we also missed out on the pox, which did for quite a few of my countrymen. Yes, I understand there are certain better uses a prince of the blood might make of his chambermaids, and my brothers have certainly taken their liberties. But then again, my brothers are also fond of lying in wait and killing each other for the family fortune. My sisters are no better, posing as chambermaids themselves to lure unsuspecting brothers to their stiff-necked doom. Since my father died in a terrible centaur-hunting accident, the court has been rather chaotic.

When my family has devoured itself, I suppose I shall be the only one left. A frog prince you may have heard of, but seldom a frog king, eh?

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