Thursday, January 17, 2008

The "Original" Princess and the Pea

"The Princess and the Pea"
By Hans Christian Andersen
Translated by Maria Tatar and Julie K. Allen
From: The Annotated Hans Christian Andersen (W.W. Norton, 2008)

Before I go into retellings of "The Princess and the Pea", I thought it might be useful to touch on the original version. Although Andersen if often credited with writing “original” fairy tales, some of the ones he wrote were stories he had heard as a child. According to Tatar and Allen, Andersen probably heard a version of the “The Princess and the Pea” as a child and it might have been the Swedish tale “Princess Who Lay on Seven Peas.”

The story itself is rather short. A prince went all over the world looking for a princess only to return home and have the princess actually find him. The princess he is to marry actually arrives at his house during a storm. She needs to come in out of the rain and the royal family lets her. The queen wasn’t too sure she was really a princess so she puts a pea under twenty mattresses and twenty featherbeds. Only a princess would have sensitive enough skin to notice the pea. And the princess does. She wakes up black and blue from a dreadful sleep the night before. The prince realizes she is a real princess and marries her. They put the pea in a museum.

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