Once upon a time, there was a prince who lived in a wealthy kingdom. When he had reached the proper age, his mother, the queen, decided the time was right for her son to find a bride. The prince, however was determined not to marry just any girl, but that his future wife should be a “real” princess. So he traveled the world and searched in all the kingdoms and met with all the princesses, but he still wasn’t satisfied.
One evening there brewed a terrible storm, with thunder, lightning, and rain. It was really frightful! In the midst of it all came a knock at the town gate. The old king went to open it.
Who should be standing outside but a young lass, and what a sight she was in all that rain and wind. Water streamed from her hair down her clothes into her shoes, and ran out in the heals. She claimed to be a real Princess.
Although no one believed her, she was invited in to stay for the night. The queen decided to test the young girl’s claim of nobility – without saying a word, the queen went to the bedroom stripped back the bedclothes, and put a single pea in the bottom of the bed. The queen then took 20 mattresses and stacked them on top of the pea and took 20 eiderdown feather beds and piled them on the mattresses. Up on top of all these the princess was to spend the night.
The next morning when the girl woke up, the queen asked how she slept. “Oh very poorly!” she said. “I scarcely closed my eyes all night. Heaven only knows what was in the bed, but I was lying on something hard, and now I am black and blue all over my body. It’s horrible!”
“They saw at once that she must be a real princess when she had felt the pea through twenty mattresses and twenty feather beds. Nobody but a real princess could have such a delicate skin.
So the prince took her to be his wife, for now he was sure that he had found a real princess, and the pea was put into the Museum, where it may still be seen if no one has stolen it.
Now this is a true story. “