Illustration from: Andersen, Hans Christian. The Snow Queen and Other Stories from Hans Andersen. Edmund Dulac, illustrator. London: Hodder & Stoughton 1911.

“The Princess and the Pea” by Hans Christian Andersen

Most of us have heard or seen versions of this fairy tale, called “The Real Princess” in the version of Andersen’s Fairy Tales I read at Project Gutenberg.

A prince wants to marry a princess and travels far and wide to find the perfect woman, but there is something wrong with each woman he meets. He can’t be sure they are “real” princesses, so he returns to his castle alone.

On a dark and stormy night, a young lady pounds on the door, stating she is a real princess. She is invited to stay the night, but the Queen-mother sets up a test to see if the woman truly is a “real” princess. The Queen-mother puts three peas under the twenty mattresses and twenty feather beds that the woman is to sleep on.

As we all know, the princess does not sleep well.

“I have scarcely closed my eyes the whole night through. I do not know what was in my bed, but I had something hard under me, and am all over black and blue. It has hurt me so much!”

The Prince marries her, convinced by her remarkable sensitivity that she is in fact a real princess. And the peas, in a humorous note at the end, are put into the “cabinet of curiosities,” where they may still be seen if they’re not lost.

I’m going to skip the fact that the prince has to marry a princess, and a real princess at that, never is love even discussed. I’m also going to ignore the more than slightly creepy thought that the prince wants to marry someone who is made black and blue by a couple of peas.  Why does he want to marry someone so easily bruised? What kind of turn-on is that? Maybe it’s just a metaphor for her extremely sensitive, caring and emotional nature.

Anyway, I love that the princess shows up in the middle of the storm, she’s no dainty girl. She’s capable of finding her way to the castle in the midst of a downpour. She’s strong enough to knock “violently” on the door, and she tells them how she truly slept, no lying about it being wonderful. She’s got some guts.

Lauren Child has retold the story for children in kindergarten through third grade in the adorable  The Princess and the Pea. It’s faithful to the original, but the prince is determined to marry for love.

The Prince explained to the king and the queen how simply none of [the princesses] was mesmerizing or fascinating. And none of them , not one of them, had a certainsomething about them. No, if he couldn’t marry for love, then he would rather live alone for all eternity, gazing at all the stars in the night sky. Not only was he romantic but also a little dramatic.

The story also talks about why the girl is out in the storm in the first place,not the smartest of decisions on her part. She also recognizes that the Prince is a “real” prince, so chooses to marry him.

It’s a fun book, slightly tongue-in-cheek, and illustrated with very cute photographs taken by Polly Borland, setting the story in an a miniature three-dimensional dollhouse world.

Tif, from Tif Talks Books, is the hostess of this great feature, Fairy Tale Fridays. Head over there for her take on “The Princess and the Pea” and to share your own thoughts. Next week, the focus will be on Aesop’s fable “The Monkey and the Camel,” a new one for me.

The Princess and the Pea by Laura Child was first published in 2005
44 pages

Challenges: 100+, A to Z

My copy was borrowed from the library and the above is my honest opinion. I am an Amazon associate.


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