Once upon a time, in a kingdom far far away, there lived a handsome prince who wanted to marry a real princess. If only he knew a way to tell which princesses were real.
The prince traveled all over the world to find a real princess but he did not find anyone he wanted. He found a lot of princesses, but it was difficult to find out if they were real ones. There was always something about them that seemed weird or absurd. Frustrated, the prince 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. Everyone had to stay indoors so the wind won’t carry them away or worse, they could drown in the heavy flood caused by the rain!
Suddenly, someone knocked at the city gate, and everyone wondered who that could be. The guards at the city gate were reluctant to open it.
“Who goes there?”, one of the guards asked.
“I am a princess”, a girl replied and the guards were surprised. They wondered if she were truly a princess.
The guards sent word to the old king about the princess’s arrival and he ordered them to open the city gates.
It was indeed a princess standing out there in front of the gate. But, good gracious! The rain and the wind had made her look drenched and unpresentable. 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.
It was hard to believe she was a princess but she was led by the guards to the palace still. The prince was doubtful but he was stunned to see such a beautiful girl
“We will know if she is a real princess soon enough” thought the old queen when the princess entered the palace. But she said nothing.
She ordered the maids to make a room for the priincess and off they went into the bed-room, took all the bedding off the bedstead, and when the room was ready,the old queen laid a pea on the bottom.
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.
At night, the princess could barely sleep. She was uncomfortable because of the pea. She rolled all over the bed and felt pain in her back. In the morning, at breakfast, the old queen 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!”
“Goodness! She was indeed a princess” the old queen thought.
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. The prince was beaming with excitement. Now he had found himself a princess to marry.
So the prince married her for now he knew that he had a real princess. It was a grand wedding and everyone in the kingdom was invited.
The prince and the princess lived happily ever after and the pea was put in the museum, where it may still be seen, if no one has stolen it.