Andersen Fairy Tales, Andersen-Hans Christian

The Marsh King’s Daughter

The Marsh King's DaughterThe Marsh King’s Daughter

*Let’s start off by saying that this is probably the longest Andersen story there is and it’s not going to be the greatest summary.*

There was a family of storks who lived on a Viking’s castle way back in the day. They also happened to live not too far away from the swamp. One day three swans flew there, but one swan’s feathers were torn away by the other two swans. This swan wasn’t a swan at all but a princess.

The princess sank down and down into the swamp, which was home to a swamp king. Nothing more was heard of her for some time. One day the daddy stork found a baby in a water-lily. The daddy stork rightly figured that a tiny baby could not survive on its own in the swap. He figured that since everyone said that storks bring the baby anyway, that he would take the baby to the viking queen.

The queen was overjoyed to have a baby, but the little girl proved to be challenging in multiple ways. Firstly, her disposition as a human baby was horrible. She bit. She fussed. She did all the terrible things that babies do, but all the time. Second of all, she wasn’t always a human baby. When the sun set, she turned into a frog. The frog did not have a horrible attitude. The frog was a calm and caring creature. When the sun came back up, the frog turned back into the horrible little girl.

The viking queen was so thrilled to have a child that she ignored all of this. She hid the girl’s ability to turn into a frog from her husband. The husband thought the girl’s bad temper was funny. He thought it was so great that she was so fierce and wild; what else was the viking king’s daughter supposed to be.

The years passed by and the child grew into a young woman named Helga, who was beautiful and terrible during the day and an ugly frog at night with the sweetest disposition ever. The mother grew to love the frog almost more than the girl. Helga was uncontrollable though. She wanted to be the one sacrificing all the animals to the Pagan gods. She wanted to play in the blood that poured from their bodies.

One day a Christian preacher showed up at the castle. The vikings thought this was just great because they now had a human to sacrifice in the grove. Helga said she wanted to be the one to sprinkle his blood on all in attendance. The mother worried over both Helga and the preacher. The preacher hadn’t done anything wrong.

That night when Helga turned back into the frog, she let the preacher go. She gave him her horse and she went with him. They traveled and were attacked. Helga mourned the loss of the Christian, but realized there was something more. The preacher had said she was possessed by an evil spirit and tried to cleanse her. Helga became repentant and the preacher’s ghost helped her find her way.

Meanwhile, the storks had been to Egypt, where they heard about the other two swans that had torn apart the other swan’s wings. The first swan was really the king’s daughter. The other two swans were lesser princesses who were jealous of her. They had torn her wings apart and told the king that she had died. The princess had been on a journey to find a special flower that would cure her father of his disease. Upon hearing this the storks decided to steal the swan wings from the evil princesses. They took them back to their nest at the Viking’s castle.

Along the way, Helga’s true mother appeared. She told her that she had really come from Egypt and that she was the flower that would cure the king there. Helga knew she should say goodbye to her foster-mother first and she did. The storks gave the mother and her daughter the swan wings so they could fly back to Egypt. The storks and the swans flew together. They made it back to Egypt and Helga was able to cure the king.

Due to her new-found faith, Helga prayed that she could see heaven. Upon her wedding day to an Arab prince, Helga prayed so hard that she saw heaven for three minutes. She then came back down to the Earth. When she did everything was different. Upon inquiring, she found that her wedding had been hundreds of years previously. No one knew who she was. There had once been a princess fitting her description, but she had been married and just disappeared. When the sun came back up that morning, it hit Helga and she vanished into dust.


I told you, really long, and this is just the summary.

Why did people think it was possible for someone to turn into a frog? Surely, people knew by this point in history that it just couldn’t happen. I have to wonder, where the idea of people turning into animals started. Cultures all over the world have stories about people who can transform themselves into animals, seemingly independent of all the other stories of other cultures. How did it come about that basically every culture has a story about turning into a wild creature?

In this story the roles were reversed. The human had the animal’s demeanor and the animal had the human’s demeanor. Usually when a human turns into an animal they possess an animal’s instincts, but in this story, it’s the other way around.


This is a religious story to an extent. Notice this story doesn’t necessarily paint the pagans in a bad light. The mother was still a good person; she still took care of Helga even though Helga was absolutely beastly. She could have thrown that baby back into the swamp. Helga was a monster and this story says she was possessed by an evil spirit.

Honestly, this story would make a wonderful scary movie. Somebody get to work on that.

When Helga found Jesus, her mood changed. She was no longer subject to her beastly attitude. That animalistic part of her soul did not have such a great hold upon her. She could overcome it. That’s what marks us as human after all, we can overcome our animal urges and act civilized.

Finding Jesus, helped Helga to save herself, her mother, and her grandfather, but what did it ultimately profit her? She missed her life and then she died. Do you think she would have preferred to have stayed evil and lived a long life or found Jesus and lived the short life that she did? Is it better to live a short life and have Jesus than to live a long life and then go straight to Hell when you die? Living a long life isn’t going to put off what’s inevitable for you.

I think Helga ended up on the good end, even if her life was awfully short.

Here’s the thing–part of this wasn’t Helga’s fault. Was it Helga’s fault that her father was some swamp man? Was it Helga’s fault that she inherited his animal side? Was it Helga’s fault that she knew nothing of how to control this side of herself? Was any of this Helga’s fault?

When she got a little older, sure, some of her actions fell upon her own shoulders. She was spoiled and encouraged in her nasty attitude by her viking father. The things she did as a child before she knew anything weren’t her fault. The way she was taught wasn’t her fault, but this story seems to lay all the blame of her life upon her head. I’m sorry, but if someone misleads you and you have no way of knowing that you’ve been misled, your sins are kind of upon their head, not yours. If you, at some point, learn there is another way, but you still choose to act the way you did, then your sins are upon your own head, but if you don’t know and you cannot know, then it’s not your fault.

Helga wasn’t freaking possessed, she just didn’t know any better.


I hope heaven is good for Helga at least.

Weigh In

Do you think parents have a difficult time accepting their child’s behavior as their responsibility?

Does finding God mean you are more accountable than a person who doesn’t have God?


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