There was once a prince who wanted to marry a princess; but she was
to be a real princess. So he travelled about, all through the world,
to find a real one, but everywhere there was something in the way.
There were princesses enough, but whether they were real princesses
he could not quite make out: there was always something that did not
seem quite right. So he came home again, and was quite sad: for he
wished so much to have a real princess. One evening a terrible storm
came on. It lightened and thundered, the rain streamed down; it was
quite fearful! Then there was a knocking at the town gate, and the
old king went out to open it.
It was a princess who stood outside the gate. But, mercy! how she
looked, from the rain and the rough weather! The water ran down from
her hair and her clothes; it ran in at the points of her shoes, and
out at the heels; and yet she declared that she was a real princess.
"Yes, we will soon find that out," thought the old queen. But she
said nothing, only went into the bedchamber, took all the bedding
off, and put a pea on the flooring of the bedstead; then she took
twenty mattresses and laid them upon the pea, and then twenty
eider-down beds upon the mattresses. On this the princess had to lie
all night. In the morning she was asked how she had slept.
"Oh, miserably!" said the princess. "I scarcely closed my eyes all
night long. Goodness knows what was in my bed. I lay upon something
hard, so that I am black and blue all over. It is quite dreadful!"
Now they saw that she was a real princess, for through the twenty
mattresses and the twenty eider-down beds she had felt the pea. No
one but a real princess could be so delicate.
So the prince took her for his wife, for now he knew that he had a
true princess; and the pea was put in the museum, and it is there
now, unless somebody has carried it off.
Look you, this is a true story.