Princesses and Peas

A fairytale through 18 artists

Only a real princess would have the sensitivity to feel a pea through such a quantity of bedding…

Always open to different interpretations, this is one of the most known fairytales ever. Written by Hans Christian Andersen, The princess and the pea was first published in Copenhagen, Denmark by C.A. Reitzel on 8 May 1835 in an unbound 61-page booklet. During his lifetime, Hans “was obliged to act as a dominated subject within the dominant social circles despite his fame and recognition as a writer”, so he seemed to develop a feared and loved view of the aristocracy.

The nervousness and humiliations he suffered in the presence of the bourgeoisie were mythologized by the storyteller in his tale, with he himself the morbidly sensitive princess who can feel a pea through 20 mattresses.

The story tells of a prince who wants to marry a princess, but is having difficulty finding a suitable wife. Something is always wrong with those he meets, and he cannot be certain they are real princesses because they have bad table manners or they are too fat or thin or not beautiful. One stormy night a young woman drenched with rain seeks shelter in the prince’s castle. She claims to be a princess, so the prince’s mother decides to test their unexpected, unwitting guest by placing a pea in the bed she is offered for the night, covered by 20 mattresses and 20 feather-beds.

In the morning, the guest tells her hosts that she endured a sleepless night, kept awake by something hard in the bed that she is certain has bruised her. The prince rejoices and decides to marry her.

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