A long time ago, in a land far away, there lived a King and queen who had just one son. The Prince was grown up and it was time for him to marry a princess.
“And she must be a real princess,” the prince told the king and queen.
But there were no princesses in the land where he lived, so the king and queen arranged for the prince to travel to strange and distant lands to find a bride.
The prince traveled north through frozen lands until he came to a castle where a princess lived.
This princess was tall and fair and very clever. But she was also vain and boastful.
“A real princess would not be boastful,” thought the prince,
So he traveled south through hot, sandy deserts until he came to a palace where a prince lived. This princess was very beautiful but was also very proud.
“A real princess would not be so proud,” thought the Prince.
And he traveled east through misty lands until he came to a mansion where a princess lived. This princess had a charming smile and a lovely voice – But she told the most shocking lies!
“A real princess would never tell lies,” thought the prince.
So he returned home from his travels, weary, sad, and lonely.
One evening, not long after the prince had come home, a terrible storm blew in from the west. Suddenly, there was a knock at the palace door! The king was so surprised that he went to answer it himself.
There, standing in the windy doorway, was the most bedraggled young woman the king had ever seen.
“Good evening, Your Majesty,” she said to the king, curtseying politely, “I am a princess, and I need shelter for the night. May I please come in?”
“Ofcourse,” said the king. “We will gladly give you shelter for the night”
When the king told the prince that a princess had turned up at the door, the prince was very eager to meet her. But the Queen told him he would have to wait.
“The princess said that she couldn’t possibly meet you wet and bedraggled,” the queen explained. “She had gone to have a bath and change into some dry clothes.”
“That’s a good sign,” said the prince. “But how can we be certain that she is a real princess?”
“I have an idea,” said his mother. “Leave everything to me.”
A short while later, the princess arrived in the main hall dressed in the queen’s clothes. Her hair shone, her cheeks were rosy, and her eyes sparkled merrily to match her smile.
The prince and princess sat beside the fire and talked for hours. The prince was enchanted but he still wasn’t sure that the princess was a real princess.
Meanwhile, the queen went to the best guest bedroom carrying a single tiny dried pea.
In the bedroom, she put the pea under the mattress. Then she asked a servant to bring another mattress to put on top of the first, and then another mattress and another… until there were twenty mattresses on the bed!
Then the queen told the servant to put twenty soft cozy quilts on top of the mattresses and had a ladder brought for the princess.
The princess was surprised when the queen brought her to the bedroom with its towering bed and ladder. But she didn’t protest or complain. She thanked the queen and wished her good night.
The princess climbed the ladder to the very top of the bed. Sighing contentedly, she settled down to sleep. But the princess did not sleep a wink. She tossed and turned all night.
By morning, the princess felt tired and weary. when she came down to breakfast, the prince, the king, and the queen greeted her eagerly.
“Did you sleep well?” asked the queen.
“I’m afraid not,” sighed the princess. “There was something small and hard in the bed, and no matter which way I turned, I still felt it. I’m dreadfully tired, for I hardly slept at all”
“I’m so sorry,” said the Queen. “But I’m delighted, too! This proves that you are indeed a real princess! Only a real princess would feel a tiny pea under twenty mattresses and twenty quilts!”
The prince was overjoyed, for he had already fallen in love with the princess – and she had fallen in love with him. And so they were married.
and what happened to the pea? It was put on a velvet cushion in a glass case, and sent to the museum, where it is still on display today!