The Princess and the Pea was written by Hans Christian Andersen, who published it in 1835. Unlike the Little Mermaid, which is an original fairy tale by Andersen, The Princess and the Pea was based on traditional folk tales Andersen heard as a child.
The story goes as follows:
Once upon a time there was a (super snobby) prince decided he wanted to marry a princess. But not just any princess a real princess. (Because there are tons of fakes out there. Obviously.) He traveled the world searching for a real princess, but was unable to find one, and it seemed like there was something off about all the princesses he did meet.
So the prince returned home. One night, during a terrible storm, someone knocked on the castle door. The prince’s father–the King–went and opened it, revealing a soggy, mud spattered princess who claimed to be a real princess.
The prince’s mother–the queen–was suspicious, so she hurried to the bedchamber the so-called real princess was going to stay in, and took off all the bedding of the bed, placed a single pea there, then had twenty mattresses laid on top of it and twenty down beds on top of the mattresses. (Question: how did this real princess not suffocate from sinking into that many down beds? Second question: Why did the queen have twenty mattresses hanging around?)
The queen then sent the princess to the chamber and was told to sleep there all night. In the morning she asked the princess how she slept. The (ungrateful, whiny) princess lamented that she slept terribly poorly and couldn’t sleep all night because there was something so hard in the bed she got bruises on her whole body. (Uh-huh, not only is she a terrible house-guest, she’s apparently incapable of rolling on to her side.)
This (somehow?) proved to the King, Queen, and prince that she was a real princess–because she felt the pea through all the mattresses and down beds. And “Nobody but a real princess could be as sensitive as that.”
So the prince took her as his wife, and the pea was “put in a museum where it may still be seen, if no one has stolen it.” (Because everyone wants the pea that a whiny princess claimed gave her bruises. It makes the pea super valuable.)
And that’s the story! Charming, hmm? To be fair, I don’t think the story translates well into English, and Andersen chose some really poor wording in trying to get the moral across–which isn’t as terrible as it seems. We’ll talk about it in my next blog post on the story’s moral. Until then, Champions, enjoy the Summer Reading Event!