The Princess and the Pea
by Hans Christian Andersen
Once upon a time there was a prince who wanted to marry a princess; but she would have to be a real princess. He travelled all over the world to find one, but he couldn’t find what he wanted anywhere. There were princesses enough, but it was difficult to find out whether they were real ones. There was always something about them that was not as it should be. So he came home again and was sad, for he would have liked very much to have found a real princess.
One evening a terrible storm began; there was thunder and lightning, and the rain poured down in torrents. Suddenly someone knocked at the city gate, and the old king went to open it.
There was a girl standing out there in front of the gate. But, good grief! What a sight the rain and the wind had made her look. Water ran down from her hair and clothes; it ran down into the toes of her shoes and out again at the heels. And yet she said that she was a real princess.
“Well, we’ll soon find that out,” thought the old queen. But she said nothing, she went into the bed-room, took all the bedding off the bed, and laid a pea on the bottom; then she took twenty mattresses and laid them on the pea, and then twenty eider-downs on top of the mattresses.
On this the princess had to lie all night. In the morning she was asked how she had slept.
“Oh, very badly!” she said. “I have scarcely closed my eyes all night. Heaven only knows what was in the bed, but I was lying on something hard, so that I am black and blue all over my body. It’s horrible!”
Now they knew that she was a real princess because she had felt the pea right through the twenty mattresses and the twenty eider-downs.
Nobody but a real princess could be as sensitive as that.
So the prince took her for his wife, for now he knew that he had a real princess; and the pea was put in the museum, where it may still be seen, if no one has stolen it.
There, that is a true story.