001. The Frog King, or Iron Heinrich
*This post is part of A Grimm Project, a series of short fiction pieces using each of the Brothers Grimms’ Nursery and Household Tales as writing prompts. For more information about the project, click here. For more about the story which inspired this freewrite, click here.*
My heart, dear prince, is a slippery fool. When you were changed into a low creature, you also left—and this I could not bear. Now you’re saved, and I was not the one to save you.
I admit, some nights I told myself a story before falling asleep. In it, I was the one who cared for you, took you in and gave you food. I was your playmate and companion, I was your lover. And because of my attentions, you looked at me for the first time as a man instead of a servant. In your eyes I transformed just as you did, into a youth with kind and beautiful eyes. But in the morning, after dozing off to these dreams, I awoke still myself. I am faithful Hans, old Heinrich, devoted bearer of a broken heart. I would be made into a repugnant joke, I know, if I said these words aloud. If I confessed, and asked to be allowed at your table, to share your golden plate and your clean, wide bed, you would look on me with horror and shame. You’d cover your eyes from the sight of me. I know better than that.
But my heart, dear prince, my heart—it will give me away. So I have wrapped these heavy bands around it, to keep it from slipping. Ah! Even now, when they creak, you do not see me—you think the carriage is groaning. This, I know, is how it must be. But if wishing still helped, I would be yours.
I congratulate you on your marriage, though I hear it was hard won.
Your bride is very lovely.