In Defense of the Princess and the Pea

Brief History: Hans Christian Andersen (of Little Mermaid, Little Match Girl, and other depressing tales) wrote this simple story of an unconventional princess. She appears on the castle door of a prince in search of a bride without an entourage and soaked from a storm. The prince is instantly taken with this quirky young woman. The queen suspects that she’s a fraud and, although offers her a bed for the night, places a single pea under 20 mattresses and 20 quilts. She tells her son that only a true princess would be sensitive enough to feel a pea under such a high bed. The next day, the princess politely reports that she didn’t sleep well and that something in the bed bruised her. The prince marries her right off and they put the pea under glass in a museum.

Analysis: This concept creates many questions. When the queen was a princess, was she that sensitive which was how she knew this? Now that she was queen, was she still that sensitive? Did the princess really feel the pea or was she just freaked out all night by being so high up? On the positive side, this is a princess who is purposely unusual. She had to be quirky to make the queen suspicious, yet she is the one the prince wants. This is also sweet because he wants her even if she wasn’t a true princess.

Blame it on the Victorians: What! Andersen wrote a happy story? This must’ve been an off-day for him. As far as Victorian writers go, let’s face it, most of his stories are the pits.

Last thoughts: Best version is the Faerie Tale Theatre episode staring Liza Minelli. Anyone remember that?

*If you want know any of the places where some of my research comes from, just contact me.