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The Princess and the Pea
The Princess and the Pea Märchen

The Princess and the Pea - Fairy Tale by Hans Christian Andersen

Reading time for children: 3 min

Once upon a time there was a prince who wanted to marry a princess; but she woul have to be a real princess. He travelled all over the world to find one, but nowhere could he get what he wanted. 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 a real princess. One evening a terrible storm came on. There was thunder and lightning, and the rain poured down in torrents. Suddenly a knocking was heard at the city gate, and the old king went to open it. It was a princess standing out there in front of the gate.

But, good gracious! what a sight the rain and the wind had made her look. The 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.

The Princess and the Pea Fairy TaleImage: Paul Hey (1867 – 1952)

„Well, we’ll soon find that out,“ thought the old queen. But she said nothing, went into the bed-room, took all the bedding off the bedstead, and laid a pea on the bottom. Then she took twenty mattresses and laid them on the pea, and then twenty eider-down beds 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!“ said she. „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!“

The Princess and the Pea Fairy Tale

Now they knew that she was a real princess because she had felt the pea right through the twenty mattresses and the twenty eider-down beds. 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.

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Backgrounds to fairy tale „The Princess and the Pea“

„The Princess and the Pea“ is a fairy tale by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen, first published in 1835 as part of his collection „Fairy Tales Told for Children.“ The story revolves around a young prince’s quest to find a true princess to marry and the unique test that ultimately proves her royal status.

Oral tradition and folklore: As with many of his fairy tales, Andersen was inspired by European folklore and oral storytelling traditions. The theme of a princess undergoing a test to prove her nobility can be found in various folk stories across different cultures.

Danish culture: Andersen’s fairy tales were greatly influenced by Danish culture and traditions. The idea of a sensitive and delicate princess might have been a reflection of the contemporary Danish ideals of femininity and nobility.

Literary influences: Andersen was familiar with various authors and literary works, including those from the Romantic movement, which often featured tales of royalty, love, and the triumph of good over evil. „The Princess and the Pea“ shares similarities with these stories, particularly in its focus on a royal protagonist and the quest for true love.

Satire and humor: „The Princess and the Pea“ is known for its humorous and satirical tone. Andersen often used humor and satire in his stories to poke fun at societal norms and expectations, and this fairy tale can be seen as a playful critique of aristocratic pretensions and the absurdity of certain social customs.

Morality and didacticism: As with many of his tales, Andersen’s „The Princess and the Pea“ also contains a moral lesson, albeit a subtle one. The story suggests that true nobility is not merely a matter of lineage or external appearances, but also resides in the sensitivity and inner qualities of a person.

Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875) was a prolific Danish writer best known for his fairy tales, which have been translated into more than 150 languages and continue to be popular worldwide. Though Andersen initially struggled to gain recognition as a writer, he eventually found success and became a prominent figure in the Danish literary scene. In addition to fairy tales, Andersen also wrote novels, plays, and poems.

The story of „The Princess and the Pea“ has been retold and adapted in various forms over the years, including children’s books, plays, films, and even ballets. The tale has become a part of popular culture, with the image of the pea under the mattresses symbolizing the idea of a small, seemingly insignificant detail having a significant impact. The story also showcases Andersen’s unique storytelling style, which often combines humor, irony, and a deep understanding of human nature.

In conclusion, „The Princess and the Pea“ is a charming fairy tale that reflects Andersen’s influences from folklore, Danish culture, and other literary sources. The story’s humor and satirical elements, along with its subtle moral message, have contributed to its enduring popularity and appeal to readers of all ages.

Interpretations to fairy tale „The Princess and the Pea“

„The Princess and the Pea“ has been interpreted in various ways, with themes and messages that resonate with readers across generations. Some common interpretations include:

True nobility: One interpretation of the story focuses on the idea that true nobility is not solely determined by lineage or external appearances but also by sensitivity and inner qualities. The princess’s ability to feel the pea beneath the many mattresses signifies her delicate nature and genuine royal blood. One interpretation of the story is that sensitivity and heightened perception are qualities associated with nobility or royalty. In this case, the princess’s ability to feel the pea under twenty mattresses and twenty eider-down beds is seen as proof of her royal status.

The power of intuition: The old queen’s clever test shows the power of intuition and wisdom in discerning the truth. She devises a subtle yet effective way to determine the authenticity of the princess’s claim, which ultimately leads to a happy ending for the prince and princess.

Critique of social hierarchies: Another interpretation is that the story critiques the arbitrary nature of social hierarchies and the emphasis placed on birthright. The idea that sensitivity to a pea could determine one’s worthiness as a royal spouse can be seen as an absurdity that highlights the irrationality of such systems.

Challenges of finding a suitable partner: The prince’s search for a real princess can be seen as an allegory for the challenges many people face in finding a suitable partner, especially when they have specific expectations or criteria. This interpretation emphasizes the importance of perseverance and patience in the pursuit of love.

Authenticity and inner worth: The tale can be seen as an allegory for the importance of recognizing and valuing a person’s inner worth, rather than being swayed by superficial appearances. The prince’s quest to find a true princess highlights the importance of authenticity and discernment in matters of love and relationships. The story can also be read as a reminder that true nobility and value come from one’s inner qualities rather than external appearances. The princess arrives at the castle looking disheveled due to the storm, yet her ability to feel the pea demonstrates her genuine royal nature.

Satire and social critique: „The Princess and the Pea“ is known for its humorous and satirical tone, which can be interpreted as a critique of aristocratic pretensions and the absurdity of certain social customs. Andersen uses the story to poke fun at the notion that royal blood or noble birth makes someone inherently superior.

Femininity and gender roles: The story has been analyzed from a feminist perspective, with the princess’s sensitivity seen as a reflection of societal expectations for women, particularly those of high social standing. This interpretation suggests that the story is a commentary on traditional gender roles and the limitations they impose on women.

The power of love: The prince’s quest to find a true princess can also be seen as a representation of the search for genuine love and connection. The story implies that true love can only be found by looking beyond superficial appearances and recognizing the inner qualities that make someone special.

The absurdity of tests: The tale may also be seen as a commentary on the arbitrary nature of tests and trials that people are subjected to in order to prove themselves. The princess’s ability to feel the pea is an exaggerated and whimsical way to demonstrate the absurdity of such tests.

In summary, „The Princess and the Pea“ offers multiple interpretations that highlight themes such as true nobility, authenticity, satire, gender roles, and the power of love. The story’s enduring appeal lies in its ability to engage readers with its humor and whimsy while also encouraging them to reflect on deeper social and personal issues. Overall, „The Princess and the Pea“ can be interpreted in multiple ways, offering readers various lessons and insights about sensitivity, inner qualities, wisdom, social hierarchies, and the challenges of finding a suitable partner.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „The Princess and the Pea“

„The Princess and the Pea“ is a literary fairy tale written by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen. It was first published in 1835 as part of Andersen’s first collection of fairy tales, titled „Eventyr, fortalte for Børn“ (Fairy Tales, Told for Children). Andersen’s fairy tales are known for their rich imagination, unique storytelling, and often poignant or thought-provoking themes. „The Princess and the Pea“ has been adapted into various forms of media, including films, television series, books, and stage productions. Some notable adaptations include:

Film adaptations: „The Princess and the Pea“ (2002): An animated feature film directed by Mark Swan, which expands upon the original story, adding new characters, songs, and adventures. The film presents a more detailed narrative while maintaining the spirit of Andersen’s original tale. „The Princess and the Pea“ has been adapted into several films and television shows, both animated and live-action. One popular adaptation is the 2002 animated film „The Princess and the Pea,“ which was produced by Golden Films.

Television adaptations: „Faerie Tale Theater“ (1982-1987): An American live-action children’s television anthology series created by Shelley Duvall. The series includes an episode titled „The Princess and the Pea,“ starring Liza Minnelli as the princess and Tom Conti as the prince. This adaptation stays close to the original story, emphasizing the humor and charm of Andersen’s tale. „Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child“ (1995-2000): An American animated television series that retells classic fairy tales with multicultural casts and settings. The series features an episode based on „The Princess and the Pea,“ which reimagines the story with a Caribbean setting and an Afro-Caribbean princess.

Book adaptations and retellings: „The Princess and the Pea“ (2006): A picture book adaptation illustrated by Rachel Isadora, which brings the classic tale to life through vibrant artwork and a faithful retelling of Andersen’s story for young readers. „The Princess and the Pizza“ (2002): A children’s book by Mary Jane Auch and Herm Auch that offers a humorous twist on the original tale, featuring a princess who must prove her worth by participating in a cooking competition. „The Princess and the Pea“ has been adapted into numerous children’s books, ranging from picture books for young children to chapter books for older readers. Some popular adaptations include „The Princess and the Pea“ by Janet Stevens, „The Princess Test“ by Gail Carson Levine, and „The Princess and the Pea: An Old Tale Retold“ by Rachel Isadora.

Theater and Stage productions: „Once Upon a Mattress“ (1959): A musical comedy adaptation of „The Princess and the Pea,“ with music by Mary Rodgers, lyrics by Marshall Barer, and a book by Jay Thompson, Dean Fuller, and Barer. The musical expands upon the original story, adding new characters, songs, and a comedic tone. It has been produced on Broadway, off-Broadway, and in regional and community theaters worldwide. „The Princess and the Pea“ (various productions): Numerous theater companies have produced plays and children’s theater adaptations of „The Princess and the Pea,“ often with added characters, dialogue, and music to enhance the story’s appeal for stage performances. „The Princess and the Pea“ has been adapted into numerous stage productions, including plays and musicals. One popular adaptation is the 1959 musical „Once Upon a Mattress,“ which was written by Mary Rodgers and Marshall Barer and has been staged on Broadway and in numerous regional theaters.

Opera: „The Princess and the Pea“ has also been adapted into several operas. One notable adaptation is the 1902 opera „The Princess and the Pea,“ which was composed by Edward German and has been performed by numerous opera companies around the world.

Art: „The Princess and the Pea“ has inspired many works of art, including paintings, illustrations, and sculptures. One notable example is the bronze sculpture „The Princess and the Pea“ by Danish sculptor Jens Galschiøt, which was created in 2003 and is now on display in the town of Kerteminde, Denmark.

These adaptations of „The Princess and the Pea“ showcase the enduring appeal of Andersen’s classic fairy tale across various media formats. By reinterpreting the story in different ways, these adaptations help to introduce new generations of readers and viewers to the charm and humor of this timeless tale. Overall, „The Princess and the Pea“ continues to inspire and entertain audiences of all ages and backgrounds through its many adaptations in various forms of media.

Summary of the plot

„The Princess and the Pea“ is a fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen about a prince who is searching for a true princess to marry. One stormy night, a young woman claiming to be a princess arrives at the castle, drenched and seeking shelter. The prince’s mother, the queen, decides to test the young woman’s claim to royalty.

The Princess and the Pea Fairy Tale

The queen places a single pea underneath a pile of twenty mattresses and twenty featherbeds, upon which the young woman is asked to sleep for the night. The next morning, the alleged princess complains about her restless night, saying she felt as though she had been lying on something hard and uncomfortable.

The queen is convinced that the young woman is indeed a true princess, as only someone of noble blood could possess such sensitivity as to feel a tiny pea through so many layers of bedding. The prince marries the princess, and the pea is placed in a museum as a testament to the story. „The Princess and the Pea“ is a charming, whimsical tale that explores themes such as true nobility, authenticity, and the importance of looking beyond appearances. Its enduring popularity lies in its humor and engaging storytelling, which continue to captivate readers of all ages.

Abstract

„The Princess and the Pea“ is a classic fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen about a prince who wants to marry a real princess. Despite traveling the world, he cannot find one to his satisfaction. One stormy night, a princess arrives at the palace, claiming to be a real princess despite her disheveled appearance. The old queen decides to test her claim by placing a pea underneath twenty mattresses and twenty eider-down beds, believing that only a real princess would be sensitive enough to feel it. The princess spends a sleepless night and complains about the discomfort she experienced. This confirms her royalty, as only a real princess would be sensitive enough to feel the pea. The prince marries her, knowing she is a true princess, and the pea is placed in a museum as a testament to their story.

Informations for scientific analysis


Fairy tale statistics
Value
Translations DE, EN, DA, ES, FR, IT, NL, RO,
Readability Index by Björnsson23.9
Flesch-Reading-Ease Index89.1
Flesch–Kincaid Grade-Level4.2
Gunning Fog Index6.4
Coleman–Liau Index7
SMOG Index6.5
Automated Readability Index3.6
Character Count1.945
Letter Count1.477
Sentence Count28
Word Count382
Average Words per Sentence13,64
Words with more than 6 letters39
Percentage of long words10.2%
Number of Syllables469
Average Syllables per Word1,23
Words with three Syllables9
Percentage Words with three Syllables2.4%
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