Fairy tales and stories (Andersen, Tegner)/The Princess and the Pea

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For other English-language translations of this work, see The Princess and the Pea.


wreath with a heart in the middle


ONCE upon a time there was a prince. He wanted to marry a princess, but she must be a real princess. So he traveled all over the world to find such a princess, but everywhere there was something in the way.

Princesses there were in abundance, but whether they were real princesses he could not quite make out. There was always something which was not quite right. So he returned home, and was so distressed, for he wanted so much to find a real princess.

One evening a terrible storm set in. It lightened and thundered, and the rain poured down in torrents. It was really dreadful! All at once there was a knock, at the gate of the city, and the old king himself went to open it.

It was a princess who stood outside. But, merciful heavens! what a sight she was, after all the rains and the terrible weather! The water ran down her hair and clothes, and in at the toes of her shoes and out at the heels; and she told the king she was a real princess.

"Ah, well, we shall soon find that out," thought the old queen to herself; but she did not say anything. She went into the bedroom, took off all the bedclothes, and put a pea at the bottom of the bed. She then took twenty mattresses and put them on top of the pea, and next she put twenty eider-down beds on the top of the mattresses.

There the princess was to sleep that night.

In the morning they asked her how she had slept.

"Oh, horribly!" said the princess. "I have scarcely closed my eyes the whole night. Goodness knows what was in the bed. I have been lying on something hard till I am blue and black all over my body. It is really dreadful!"

Then they knew that she was a real princess, since she had felt the pea through the twenty mattresses and the twenty eider-down beds. No one but a real princess could be so tender and delicate.

The prince then took her for his wife, for now he knew that he had got a real princess; and the pea was placed in the Art Museum, where it is still to be seen, if no one has stolen it.

Now, that's what I call a really good story!