by Hans Christian Andersen (1835)
Long, long ago, there was a prince who wanted to marry a princess; but she would have to be a real princess. To find one, he travelled all over the world, but in vain. There were plenty of princesses, but it was difficult to find out whether they were real ones. There was something not quite right about them all. So he came back to his place again and was unhappy, for he so much wanted to have a real princess.
One evening there was a terrible storm, with thunder and lightning, and the rain poured down. Then there was a knock at the city gate, and the old king went to open it.To his surprise, he saw a girl who was a princess standing out. But my goodness! She was completely drenched by the rain and the water ran down from her hair and clothes; it ran down into the shoes and out at the heels; yet she insisted she was a real princess.
“Well, we shall soon find that out!” Thought the old Queen-mother; But she said nothing, went into the bedroom, took off all the bedding and laid a pea on the bottom of the bed; then she took twenty mattresses and laid them on the pea, and then twenty eiderdown quilts on top of the mattresses. The princess was asked to sleep on the bed.
The next day morning she was asked how she had slept.”Oh, horribly!” she said. “I hardly closed my eyes all night. God only knows what was in the bed! I was lying on something hard, so that I am black and blue all over my body. It has hurt me so much!”
Now they could see that she was a real princess, because she had felt the pea right through the twenty mattresses and the twenty feather beds. Nobody but a real princess could be as sensitive as that. So the prince married her, for now he knew that he had a real princess.
The pea was put in the museum, where it is still to be seen, if no one has stolen it.
And, that is a true story.
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