Once upon a time there was a prince
who wanted to find a princess
, but she would have to be a real princess. So he traveled all around the world to find one, but there was always something wrong. There were princesses enough, but he could never be sure that they were real ones. There was always something about them that was not quite right. So he came home again and was very sad, for he so much wanted to have a real princess.
One evening there was a terrible storm; it thundered and lightninged
and the rain poured down in torrents; indeed it was a fearful night.
In the middle of the storm somebody knocked at the town gate, and the old King himself sent to open it.
A princess was standing outside. But my goodness, how she looked from the rain and the weather! Water ran down from her hair and her clothes. It ran into the toes of her shoes and out at the heels. And yet she said that she was a real princess.
"Well, we shall soon see if that is true," thought the old queen. But she said nothing, went into the bedroom, took off all the bedding and laid a pea
on the bottom of the bed. Then she took twenty mattresses and laid them on the pea, and then twenty featherbeds of eiderdown
on top of the mattresses.
That was where the princess was to sleep for the night. In the morning she was asked how she had slept.
"Oh, horribly!" she said. "I hardly closed my eyes all night. Goodness knows what there was in the bed! I was lying on something hard, so that I am black and blue all over my body. It is horrible!"
Now they could see that she was a real princess, because she had felt the pea
right through the twenty mattresses and the twenty featherbeds. Nobody but a real princess could be that sensitive.
So the prince took her for his wife, because now he knew that he had a real princess.
-traditional Danish folk story