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The Princess and the Pea

Once upon a time in a faraway kingdom there was a prince who wanted to marry a princess.
Now, this particular prince was quite finicky. He wasn’t willing to marry just any princess. He wanted to find a princess who was beautiful, kind, witty, charming, and, most important of all, sensitive.
“Sensitive,” wailed the king. “How will you possibly know if your princess is sensitive until many years have passed? You don’t have time for this, Son.”

So, the prince started his frustrating search. He traveled to every part of the world by boat, on horseback, and on camel, crisscrossing the desert, climbing mountains, and crossing valleys, searching for the princess of his dreams. He looked in every country, great and small, but nowhere could he find what he wanted.

Sure, there were plenty of princesses available to a prince of his stature, but it was difficult to find out whether they were real, royal ones, with all of the qualifications this particular prince sought. And so it went. There was always something about the princesses he interviewed that was not as it should be. So he returned from his exhaustive search, sad and discouraged, wondering how he would ever find a real princess.

His parents were just about ready to give up and pass the kingdom on to his younger brother. One evening, as the gloomy prince was pondering his dilemma, a terrible storm blew in. There was deafening thunder and brilliant lightning, along with torrential rains and hail the size of goose eggs.

The rain continued to pour down in torrents. Then in the midst of this gale, a loud knock was heard at the castle gate. When the old king opened the gate, he found a bedraggled but beautiful maiden standing there.
“Hello, sire,” began the maiden, who was drenched beyond belief. “I am a princess from a neighboring kingdom. I am afraid that I’ve been caught out in this storm and my horse has run off. I’m not able to return home until the storm ends. Could I please pass some time here?”
The king was a bit skeptical about this maiden’s royal claims. How could she be a princess? She looked completely miserable. The water ran down from her hair and not-so-royal clothes into the toes of her shoes and out again at the heels.
“How can I be so sure that you’re a princess and not an impostor, wanting to steal something from my palace?” asked the king.
“You’ll simply have to look in your heart and decide for yourself if I am a real princess or not,” answered the maiden with a soggy smile.
Well, the king wasn’t any too certain that this maiden was a princess, but nevertheless he found her charming — and he wasn’t, after all, an ogre. The poor girl was soaking wet, so he invited her in to dry off and warm up by one of the huge fireplaces.
Once inside, the king introduced the maiden to the queen and the prince. The prince, being a bit of a skeptic himself, took one look at the maiden and decided she most certainly could not be a princess. After all, she was drenched and bedraggled. No princess he’d ever interviewed during his travels had appeared like this.

The queen was doubtful, too. “We’ll soon see if she is a real princess,” she said to herself. She told the prince about her plan to test the girl to see if she was telling the truth, showing him a tiny green pea that she was going to use for her test. The prince agreed it was a very good idea.

The queen went to prepare the spare bed for their young visitor. First she took off all the bedding and then she laid a pea at the very bottom. On top of the pea she put twenty mattresses and on top of the mattresses she put twenty feather beds.
The next morning the princess was asked how she had slept.

“Oh, very badly!” she groaned. “I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but I have scarcely closed my eyes all night. I tried everything I could think of to fall asleep but I had no luck. Heaven only knows what was in that bed, but I was lying on something incredibly hard and bothersome. Now, I am black and blue all over my body. Oh! It was completely horrible!”

With these words from the princess — for now they knew she was not just a maiden but a true princess — a great cheer went up from the prince, the king, and the queen . “Hip, hip, hooray!” shouted the king. “You are the sensitive princess our son has been looking for these many, many years. Now, you and the prince can marry, and the queen and I can retire to sunnier climates!”
They knew without a doubt that she was a real princess because she had felt the tiny, soft pea right through the twenty mattresses and the twenty eiderdown comforters. Nobody but a real princess could be as sensitive as that, they all agreed.
So the prince and the princess were married in an incredibly grand celebration. The palace kitchen prepared a huge wedding feast, consisting of many dishes prepared with peas: split-pea soup, creamed peas, stir-fried snow peas, and even sweet pea ice cream.


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