Bedtime Stories

Traditional Tales for young & old

The Princess and the Pea

A short Fairy Tale
Hans Christian Andersen

Short Intro by Book of Tales
The Princess and the pea is one of the many tales told by Hans Christian Andersen. He said he had heard the tale in childhood, as undoubtedly he had, although curiously the tale has never, as far as is known, been traditional in Denmark. Similar tales though are known in Sweden. Also in the East the sensitivity of those of royal or distinguished blood has been made the subject of fable, for many centuries. i
But what are these stories more than fairytales. To be used solely to entertain our small ones. As we adults know that this would never happen for real and that there is no truth in the story. Or do we?
PS  If you are too curious to read the story first but want to know more about the moral of the story then just click here on
The Hidden Message  >>

The Princess and the Pea

English Translation by Mrs. Paul (1872)
Illustrated by Jef Franssen (2009)

Once upon a time there was a prince
who wanted to marry a princess;
but she would 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.
"Well, we'll soon find that out," thought the old queen.
But she said nothing, went into the bedroom,
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!", she said.
"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!"

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.

~ The End ~

Have a look under the princess' pillow
or just click on The Hidden Message
to see what this old children's fairy tale is hiding.
The Hidden Message  >>

The Princess and the Pea is part of Book of Tales' Bedtime Stories. For more Bedtime Stories click here on Bedtime Stories  >>

  1. Opie, Peter, Iona Opie, The Classic Fairy Tales, New York, 1980, ISBN 0-19-520219-8 (pkb.)
© Brigitte Franssen 2009
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