Fairy Tale Facts: The Princess and the Pea

In May of 1835, Hans Christian Anderson published a brochure of four original fairy tales. One of the stories was the now-popular The Princess and the Pea. Today we’ll take a look at some aspects of the story.


What It’s About

A young prince wishes to marry a princess and travels the world to find a bride. Though he finds many princesses, he is never satisfied with them. He is determined to find a “real” princess. Eventually he returns home, dejected. Not long after, a storm blows in. With it came a bedraggled young girl who insisted she was a real princess. The queen decides to test the girl’s claim. On the queen’s orders, a pea is placed under a stack of bedding. The next morning, they asked the girl how she slept. She replied that she slept badly because of a lumpy mattress. The royal family then knew that she was a true princess, because only a real princess could be so sensitive. The prince married her and happily ever after ensued.

Fun Fact #1

The number of mattresses varies from telling to telling; the version I have states that the pea was placed under twenty mattresses and then twenty down beds.

Fun Fact #2

Anderson treats this story as a true one; as an ending he states that the pea was put in a museum, where it can still be viewed.

If You’re Interested….

In 1959, Anderson’s tale was adapted into a stage musical, Once Upon a Mattress. It’s a hilarious piece that follows Prince Dauntless the Drab in his search for a wife. He becomes infatuated with Princess Winnifred “Fred” the Woebegone. Despite the queen’s meddling, and through a set of catchy songs, the two fall in love and fight for their happily ever after. In 2005, a film version was released. Check it out sometime!

Until next time, word nerds!

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