Literature / The Princess and the Pea

"The Princess and the Pea" (Danish: "Prindsessen paa ærten"; "Prinsessen på ærten" in modern orthography) is a Fairy Tale by Danish poet and author Hans Christian Andersen about a young woman whose claim to being a real princess is tested by placing a pea under her mattresses. The tale likely had its source in folk material although the original source of the story is a bit obscure. The story was first published in 1835. It has been adapted to various media including musical comedy and television drama.

A prince at the age of marriage travels about the world searching for a real princess but returns home disappointed. One evening, a young woman claiming to be a princess seeks shelter from a storm in the prince's castle. The prince's mother decides to test her claim by placing one (or three) peas on her bedstead, underneath twenty mattresses and twenty feather beds. The following morning their young guest tells her hosts she endured a sleepless night because of the terrible lump in her bed. The prince rejoices, for only a real princess could be so tender. They marry and live happily ever after.

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"The Princess and the Pea" has examples of:

  • Honorary Princess: Maybe: it remains unknown if the heroine is an actual princess on the run, and the pea under the mattresses reveals her as such. Or, if she thinks of herself worthy of being a princess when asked if she is one, and by coincidence has the sensitive skin of a royal girl.
    • Regardless, even if she supposedly wasn't a princess she still would've become one at the end.
  • Women Are Delicate: Or at least the real princess should be, as that's the entire point of the title.