A translation of the Grimms’ “Frog King” by Edgar Taylor

One fine evening a young princess went into a wood, and sat down by the side of a cool spring of water. She had a golden ball in her hand, which was her favorite plaything, and she amused herself with tossing it into the air and catching it again as it fell. After a time she threw it up so high that when she stretched out her hand to catch it, the ball bounded away and rolled along upon the ground, till at last it fell into the spring. The princess looked into the spring after her ball; but it was very deep, so deep that she could not see the bottom of it.

Then she began to lament her loss, and said, “Alas! If I could only get my ball again, I would give all my fine clothes and jewels, and everything that I have in the world.”

Whilst she was speaking a frog put its head out of the water and said, “Princess, why do you weep so bitterly?”

“Alas! said she, “What can you do for me, you nasty frog? My golden ball has fallen into the spring.”

The frog said, “I want not your pearls and jewels and fine clothes; but if you will love me and let me live with you, and eat from your little golden plate, and sleep upon your little bed, I will bring you your ball again.”

“What nonsense,” thought the princess, “This silly frog is talking! He can never get out of the well. However, he may be able to get my ball for me; and therefore I will promise him what he asks.” So she said to the frog, “Well, if you will bring me my ball, I promise to do all you require.”Frog_King_by_Pyro_Artwork

Then the frog put his head down, and dived deep under the water; and after a little while he came up again with the ball in his mouth, and threw it on the ground. As soon as the young princess saw her ball, she ran to pick it up, and was so overjoyed to have it in her hand again, that she never thought of the frog, but ran home with it as fast as she could.

The frog called after her, “Stay, princess, and take me with you as you promised.” But she did not stop to hear a word.

The next day, just as the princess had sat down to dinner, she heard a strange noise, tap-tap, as if somebody was coming up the marble staircase. And soon afterwards something knocked gently at the door, and said,

Open the door, my princess dear,
Open the door to thy true love here!
And mind the words that thou and I said
By the fountain cool in the greenwood shade.

Then the princess ran to the door and opened it, and there she saw the frog, whom she had quite forgotten. She was terribly frightened, and shutting the door as fast as she could, came back to her seat. The king, her father, asked her what had frightened her.

“There is a nasty frog,” said she, “at the door, who lifted my ball out of the spring this morning. I promised him that he should live with me here, thinking that he could never get out of the spring; but there he is at the door and wants to come in!”

While she was speaking the frog knocked again at the door, and said,

Open the door, my princess dear,
Open the door to thy true love here!
And mind the words that thou and I said
By the fountain cool in the greenwood shade.

The king said to the young princess, “As you have made a promise, you must keep it. So go and let him in.”

She did so, and the frog hopped into the room, and came up close to the table. “Pray lift me upon a chair,” said he to the princess, “and let me sit next to you.” As soon as she had done this, the frog said, “Put your plate closer to me that I may eat out of it.” This she did. And when he had eaten as much as he could, he said, “Now I am tired. Carry me upstairs and put me into your little bed.”

And the princess took him up in her hand and put him upon the pillow of her own little bed, where he slept all night long. As soon as it was light he jumped up, hopped downstairs, and went out of the house.

“Now,” thought the princess, “he is gone, and I shall be troubled with him no more.”

But she was mistaken; for when night came again, she heard the same tapping at the door, and when she opened it, the frog came in and slept upon her pillow as before till the morning broke.

And the third night he did the same; but when the princess awoke on the following morning, she was astonished to see, instead of the frog, a handsome prince gazing on her with the most beautiful eyes that ever were seen, and standing at the head of her bed.

He told her that he had been enchanted by a malicious fairy, who had changed him into the form of a frog, in which he was fated to remain till some princess should take him out of the spring and let him sleep upon her bed for three nights. “You,” said the prince, “have broken this cruel charm, and now I have nothing to wish for but that you should go with me into my father’s kingdom, where I will marry you, and love you as long as you live.”

The young princess, you may be sure, was not long in giving her consent; and as they spoke a splendid carriage drove up with eight beautiful horses decked with plumes of feathers and golden harness, and behind rode the prince’s servant, the faithful Henry, who had bewailed the misfortune of his dear master so long and bitterly that his heart had well nigh burst. Then all set out full of joy for the prince’s kingdom, where they arrived safely, and lived happily a great many years.

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Wow – by W.B. Seabrook

W020090728483438395114(Inspired by an encounter with TO MEGA THERION)

ONE summer evening, a sentinel who stood leaning on his spear at the entrance to the Han Ku Pass – for this was many years before the building of the Great Wall – beheld a white-bearded traveler riding toward him, seated cross-legged upon the shoulders of a black ox.

Said the venerable stranger, when he drew near and halted:

“I am an old man, and wish to die peacefully in the mountains which lie to the westward. Permit me, therefore, to depart.”

But the sentinel prostrated himself and said, in awe:

“Are you not that great philosopher?”

For he suspected the wayfarer to be none other than Lao-tze, who was reputed the holiest and wisest man in China.

“That may or may not be,” replied the stranger, “but I am an old man, wishing to depart from China and die in peace.”

At this, the sentinel perceived that he was indeed in the presence of the great Lao-tze, who had sat for more than a hundred years in the shadow of a plum tree, uttering words of such extreme simplicity that no man in the whole world was learned enough to understand their meaning.

So the sentinel threw himself in the ox’s path, and cried out:

“I am a poor and ignorant man, but I have heard it said that wisdom is a thing of priceless worth. Spare me, I beg you, ere you depart from China, one word of your great wisdom, which may, perchance, enrich my poverty or make it easier to bear.”

Whereupon Lao-tze opened his mouth, and said gravely:

“Wow.”

After which he ambled westward in the twilight and disappeared forever from the sight of men.

As for the poor sentinel, he sat dumbly scratching his head, saying over and over to himself in puzzled, uncertain tones, “Wow. Wow! Wow?”

For this absurd monosyllable had precisely the same meaning in ancient Chinese that it has in modern English, which is another way of telling you that it had no meaning at all, and that Lao-tze might just as appropriately have said, “Poo,” or “Ba,” or “Oh, hum.”

But the sentinel, who imagined himself the possessor of some mighty incantation, went about his affairs as one demented, secretly repeating the strange word twenty thousand times a day, expecting with each breath that his wife would suddenly become young and beautiful, or that his hut would be transformed into a palace, or his spear into the ivory baton of a mandarin; until finally the exasperated captain of the guard took note of his strange mooning and muttering and had him beaten on the soles of his feet until he confessed the whole story of his encounter with Lao-tze.

And that was the end of the unhappy sentinel, for he died from the beating, but in due time the captain reported the saying of Lao-tze to the governor of the province, and eventually it reached the ears of the emperor.

Now the emperor cared more for the happiness of his subjects than for his own ease, and was accustomed to seek wisdom that he might apply it to better the condition of his people; so when he learned that the great Lao-tze’s valedictory to humanity had been “Wow,” he called his vizier and bade him consider the mystery.

The vizier engaged in a holy mediation on “Wow” for forty days and nights, after which he returned to the emperor and spoke.

“O Son of Heaven, doubtless it has often chanced that while engaged in the hunt, you have seen two vast companies of lions, arrayed in martial order, maiming and slaying each other in mighty battle.”

“Never in my whole life,” replied the astonished emperor.

“But surely, then, O Son of Heaven, you have noticed when coursing wolves, how certain of the pack are accustomed to act as slaves and burden bearers for the others.”

“You know very well that I have never seen such a sight,” answered the emperor, “but what I do see plainly is that my vizier has taken leave of his wits.”

“I beg forgiveness, O Son of Heaven,” persisted the vizier, “but I am at least convinced that you have observed how certain animals imprison others of their kind in chains and dungeons; how certain ones starve amid plenty; and how all the beasts of the forest, save a divinely favored few, are compelled to engage in heavy, life-long toil.”

“It is with the deepest pain,” interjected the emperor in a tone of exquisite politeness, “that I shall now call in the executioner to cut off your honorable head, but I am comforted by the reflection that this will probably cause you only a slight inconvenience, as you seem already to have lost the use of it.”

“My poor unworthy head will be too highly honored, O Son of Heaven, but harken yet once again ere you decree my death. You have never seen such things as I have described because the animals, whose communication is limited to ‘Wow,” or ‘Baa,’ according to their kind, live naturally and simply as God intended; while man, who alone among God’s creatures has invented speech to his confusion, is the only being afflicted with wars, prisons, slavery, poverty and sorrow.

“This is the hidden meaning concealed in the mystic utterance of the wise and holy Lao-tze:

“’Abolish Language, and man will return to primal simplicity and happiness.’”

“A most excellent idea, and I forgive you,” replied the emperor, “for while the abolition of Language may not accomplish all you say, it will at least put a stop to the incessant chatter and quarreling of my wives.”

So presently heralds were sent throughout all China, with an imperial decree that Language was to be abolished in the empire, beginning with the first day after the Festival of the Full Moon, and that thereafter none might say aught but “Wow,” on pain of death.

The people obeyed.

And so there dawned on China an era of simplicity and peace—a Golden Age, in which wars ceased, and industrial bondage and exploitation disappeared, for without spoken or written language they could no longer exist. Desires grew fewer. Each family tilled the soil just sufficiently to supply its own simple wants. Husband and wife, father and son, neighbor and neighbor, dwelt together in harmony and peace, for none said aught but “Wow,” and hence all were agreed.

Laws were no longer necessary. Though there were armor and weapons, there was no occasion for donning them. People no longer roved about, for they were everywhere content. Though there were ships and carriages, there was no occasion to use them. Where two villages lay close together, separated only by a little hill, the voices of their cocks and dogs were mutually heard, yet people came to old age and died with no desire to go from one village to the other.

And the emperor, who had grown very old, lived as simply in his palace as his people in their villages, for his empire was no longer a burden on his shoulders, and was governed perfectly because it was not governed at all.

But in the meantime there had been born in a distant village a child with an impediment in his speech, who, as he grew to manhood, endeavored to say “Wow,” but could only say “Wo.” At first he was ashamed and envious, but later he persuaded himself that his incompetence was a virtue and that his blemish was a mark of superiority, and whenever he heard people say “Wow,” in the contented, old-fashioned way, he would puff out his chest and ostentatiously cry, “Wo,” at the top of his voice, until finally he made himself such a nuisance that he was driven out of the village with sticks and stones.

When he arrived in the next village, where they knew nothing of the impediment in his speech, and stood in the market place saying, “Wo, wo, wo,” the people arose and would have slain him, when suddenly one of their number who like the rest had been content to say “Wow” all his life, suddenly took his stand beside the stranger and began to shout vehemently, “Wo! Wo! Wo!” And presently, strange to relate, half the village was imitating him.

Strangest of all, they immediately became discontented, and driven by an irresistible restlessness, abandoned their tranquil firesides and began to wander about the country, as in the old days, traveling in ones and twos and companies, arrogantly clamoring, “Wo, wo,” spreading amazement, quarrel and dissension.

All this began in a far-off province, and did not come to the ears of the emperor, who continued to live peacefully year after year in his palace, until one day the door burst open and his ancient vizier appeared, bent with age and exhaustion, covered with dust and sweat.

The emperor was greatly astonished, and uttered an amazed “Wow,” for the vizier had departed to his native village nearly a century before, and the emperor had never expected to see him or have need of seeing him again.

“O Son of Heaven,” cried the old man in a trembling and unaccustomed voice, “the time for saying ‘Wow’ has reached an end, for a marvelous thing has come to pass. On the great plain which lies not far beyond the palace walls are two vast armies, armed with scythes and clubs and stones—and they of one army are furiously screaming ‘Wow! Wow! Wow!’ as if they had gone mad, while they of the other army, with equal fury, are replying ‘Wo! Wo! Wo!’ Each army is trying to outshout the other, and if they come together in battle the rivers will run red with blood, for their numbers are constantly increasing, and town is arrayed against town, village against village, family against family, brother against brother.”

At these strange tidings, the emperor raised himself with difficulty from his couch, and with trembling hands lifted the lid of a massive chest from which he drew the sacred imperial robe of yellow and gold, embroidered with the emblem of the Great Dragon. His vizier’s robe of state he also drew forth, and when the two old men had vested themselves in the panoply of power and wisdom, supporting each other, arm in arm, they tottered out of the palace.

When they came to the Yang Shi Bridge, outside the walls, they saw that the waters of the river were running red.

As they stood sorrowing, they heard a confused shouting, and beheld two remnants of the battling armies, the one in pursuit of the other. And it appeared that there would be fresh slaughter at the river’s edge. But when the two onrushing bands espied the emperor and his vizier, they gave over flight and pursuit, stopped stockstill, and ceased their fighting.

The aged emperor stepped forward, rising his arms in a gesture that was at once paternal and majestic, and would have spoken. But straightway he was greeted with an angry chorus of “Wows” and “Wos” which were so mingled in the din that they sounded precisely alike to his astonished ears. And shouting thus together, for the moment, at least, in perfect harmony, they seized the emperor and his vizier, tied them together with a huge stone around their necks, and threw them headlong into the crimsoned river. After which, they remembered their former quarrel, and resumed their mutual slaughter.

And when the yellow moon rose, it shone, as of old, upon human strife and fields strewn with the dead, while naught remained of the emperor and the vizier and Lao-tze’s holy wisdom save a few empty bubbles floating on a river of blood.

The Parable of Master Hu

from Guo Qing-Fan, 19th Century.  Translation by: Charles Chace, Miki Shima

In Zheng, there was a magus by the name of Ji Xian who had knowledge of people’s life and death, whether they would be preserved or perish, whether they would experience calamity or good fortune, and whether they would live long or die young, predicting these things to the year, month, ten-day period, or even days as if he were a divinity.

Upon seeing him, the people of Zheng all rushed and ran.

Liezi saw him, and his mind was enchanted. Returning, he reported to Master Hu, proclaiming: “In the beginning, I regarded the Way of you sir, to be the ultimate! But there is another who possesses something even more supreme than you!”

Master Hu said: “Although I have given you its patterns, I have not yet given you its substance, and yet you are confident you have attained the Way?”

“If you have lots of hens and no roosters, then how could you have any eggs?”

“And yet you take this lesser way and proclaim it to the world, certain of its veracity. And for this reason you bid people accept it and assist you. Please try to bring this magus here and show him to me.”

The next day, Liezi brought him to see Master Hu. Upon leaving, Ji Xian said to Liezi: “Ah, your teacher is dying! He has no life left in him! He will not last even ten days! I saw the strangeness in him; I saw damp ashes in him.”

Liezi went in, sobbing tears that soaked his sleeves, and told Master Hu what Ji Xian had said.

Master Hu said: “Just now I showed my earthly pattern, the sprout of life seemed to neither stir nor be still. He probably saw that I had stopped up the power of my dynamic. Try to bring him back again.”

The next day, he again brought Ji Xian to see Master Hu. Ji Xian emerged and said to Liezi: “How auspicious that your teacher has met me. He has healed! He has completely come back to life! I saw that this stoppage was only temporary!”

Lieze went in and reported to Master Hu. Master Hu said: “Just now I showed him the vitality of heaven and soil, where neither name nor substance influences me, and my dynamic issued from my heels. So he probably saw me with health as my dynamic. Try to bring him back again.”

The next day, Liezi again brought Ji Xian to see Master Hu. He emerged and said to Liezi: “Your teacher is unstable. I cannot get any information, so I cannot read him. Try to stabilize him, then I will read him again.”

Liezi went in and reported to Master Hu. Master Hu said: “Just now I showed him the Great Thoroughfare where nothing is victorious. He probably saw me balancing my qi dynamic. The profound depths stirred by leviathans are an abyss, the profound depths where there is a stilling of waters are an abyss, the profound depths from where waters flow are also an abyss. There are nine kinds of abyss. Here then, are three of them.”

The next day, Liezi again brought Ji Xian to see Master Hu. Ji Xian stood but did not stay. He lost his composure and fled. Master Hu said: “Chase him!” Liezi chased him, but he was too late. He returned and reported to Master Hu saying: “He has already gone! I have lost him! I could not catch him!”

Master Hu said: “Just now I showed him that my ancestral influences had not yet begun to emerge, I was empty and entwined with him, so we could not know who was who. Thus were we blown like the wind; thus did we flow like a wave. It was for this reason that he fled.”

Afterword, Liezi himself understood that he has not yet even begun to learn from Master Hu and returned to his studies. He did not go out for three years; cooking for his wife and feeding the pigs with such care, it was as if he were feeding people; he had little to do with the affairs of the world. From the carved and polished, he returned to simplicity. Clod-like, his singularity became established in his form, he sealed himself off from confusion, and he uniformly remained like this to the very end.