Reading Group Guide

About The Frog Prince

In this brilliant jewel of a book, the best-selling author of Tao Te Ching: A New English Version expands and deepens the classic fairy tale in the most surprising and delightful ways, giving new emphasis to its message of the transcendent power of love.

The Frog Prince tells about a contemplative frog's love for an intelligent and independent princess, how she came to love him in spite of herself, and how her steadfast belief in him helped him become who he truly was. A love story between a princess and a frog? Wildly improbable as this seems, The Frog Prince brings the two characters to vivid life and invites us into their minds and hearts. It takes place in the Renaissance that never was -- when the Chinese classics were venerated by all the royal courts of France and the problem of talking animals was a major international dilemma. The narrative deals with such issues as eros and freedom, beauty and ugliness, promises, interspecies intermarriage, and personal transformation. It moves back and forth from story to meditation, telling a deliciously outrageous tale that will sometimes take readers into the depths of meditation and sometimes make them laugh out loud. Warm, hilarious, and always unpredictable, The Frog Prince is a modern classic.

Questions for Discussion

  1. In the original Brothers Grimm version of the tale, the Princess throws the Frog against a wall out of anger, and he unexpectedly becomes a prince. In Mitchell's version, she throws the Frog as an act of faith in his inherent princeliness. How does this twist change the story? How does it make the story resonate with you?

  2. Many of the larger themes in this telling are related to the Tao Te Ching: For example, disaster as blessing, doing/not doing, seeing something beautiful making other things ugly. Were you aware of this while reading the book? If so, did these connections deepen your understanding of the story? If not, how does this discovery change your perception of it now?

  3. In Chapter XIX, Mitchell writes the following about the Princess: "What may appear to be proud, ungrateful, and headstrong from the outside may from the inside express an unshakable integrity of character. Pride, if it doesn't step over the line into arrogance, is simply an unprejudiced self-esteem. Ingratitude is the appropriate response to a kindness that has hooks on it. 'Headstrong' is another word for trusting your own heart." Are there instances in your own life, romantic or otherwise, that show this to be true?

  4. Chapter XXIV has much discussion of interspecies mating. How does the chapter manage to be funny even though all the characters in the discussion are serious? Ultimately, the King convinces the Queen that it doesn't matter what the parents' lineage is. Would such an argument hold true in your own family concerning interreligious or interracial relationships?

  5. In Chapter XXVII, the Princess admits that while her mind loves the Frog as he is, her body does not. She insists that this is because he is truly a prince, and so being a frog is not his true self. What parallels do you see with real-life situations?

  6. Perhaps the most important quote from the Tao Te Ching comes at the end of Chapter XXX, while the Princess is deciding what to do with the Frog: "Do you have the patience to wait till your mud settles and the water is clear? Can you remain unmoving till the right action arises by itself?" What does this passage make you think about life at the close of the twentieth century?

  7. The next lines in that passage from the Tao Te Ching (not quoted in The Frog Prince) are: "The Master doesn't seek fulfillment. Not seeking, not expecting, she is present, and can welcome all things." How does this relate to the story of The Frog Prince?

  8. In Chapter XXXIII, the Frog realizes that once he's thrown against the wall he will no longer be himself: Either he will die from the force or he'll be transformed into something else -- a prince. Ultimately, he decides it's worth it. Do you think that true love requires us to leave behind our small self in order to become something greater? Would you be willing to die for the person you loved?

  9. In Chapter XXXVI, Mitchell says that a major requirement for frogs becoming princes is patience: "an enormous patience, since the interval between the being-thrown and the actual impact may last for a decade or more." Yet in The Frog Prince the transformation is instantaneous. Is this the difference between a fairy tale and real life?