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The Princess and the Pea

Page history last edited by Amber Autry 13 years, 7 months ago

"A Simple Princess Test..."

Prince seeks a “real and true Princess” to be his bride.


But how does one prove that she is a “real” princess? Simple: A Princess Test.
The only items needed, according to Hans Christian Anderson, are 20 mattresses, 20 feather beds, and a single pea.


In Andersen’s version of “The Princess on the Pea,” included in Tales told for Children (1835), a prince is looking for a real Princess and having little luck. Then one night, amidst a terrible storm, a Princess comes to the palace and asks for lodging to escape the rain. She says she is a real Princess, but the King and Queen aren’t sure if they believe her. To test and see if she is truly a “real Princess” the Queen places a pea under 20 mattresses and 20 feather beds where the Princess is going to sleep. In the morning the Queen asks the Princess how she slept. The Princess exclaims that her night was horrible because there was something hard in her bed. This proved to the royal family that she was a real princess because only “a true Princess” could “be so tender.” The Prince then proceeded to marry the Princess.


When Charles Boner translated Andersen’s story to English he altered it slightly. Apparently the thought of “a single pea being discerned beneath”(Opie, 1974) all those mattresses and beds was ridiculous to Boner. He therefore changed the story so that the Queen “placed not just one pea but three” (Opie, 1974). Other versions of the story involved multiple nights, usually three, and various objects such as nuts, grain, pinheads, and even straw. In some variations there are a different number of mattresses. In others the princess, who is in fact a real princess, sleeps soundly, but acting on the advice of a cat or dog says that she slept poorly. There is also a similar Italian story titled “The Most Sensitive Woman” by Christian Schneller.


Check out the stories for yourself



  • Ashliman, D. (2010). Grimm brothers’ home page. Retrieved from http://www.pitt.edu.
  • Heiner H. (1999). SurLaLune fairy tales. Retrieved from www.surlalunefairytales.com
  • Opie P., Opie I. (1974). The Classic Fairy Tales. New York, Oxford; Oxford University Press.
  • Owens, L. (1981). The Complete Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales. New York, Toronto, London, Sydney, Auckland; Crown Publishers, Inc., Random House.
  •  Zipes, J. (2000). The Oxford companion to fairy tales: The western fairy tale tradition from medieval to modern. New York; Oxford University Press.


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