You know those things that make you question your sanity or wonder if you’ve somehow stepped into an alternate reality? The story of “The Princess and the Pea” is that for me. Everyone knows the basics of the story: A princess is so sensitive she can feel a pea under her mattress, even if you put it under a stack of many mattresses. In the story, a prince is looking for a bride. The prospective brides are tested in this manner to see if they are princesses. And here is where the story gets interesting. Everyone I’ve asked in the past twenty years has told me that the princess wakes up complaining about how she couldn’t sleep, and everyone knows she is a princess, since she could feel the pea. But that isn’t the story I heard as a child. In the version I heard, the princess doesn’t want to be a rude guest and tries to hide the fact that she couldn’t sleep. She is so tired, she ends up falling asleep at breakfast. The queen is livid. How dare a guest fall asleep at the table? The prince interrupts her rant and says that the princess showed true sensitivity. Not only did she feel the pea, but she showed sensitivity of heart by not wanting to hurt anyone’s feelings or be rude.
I can not find this version of the story anywhere. It is like it never existed. No one I know has ever heard it. It leaves me to wonder where I heard it, did I imagine it, or what? If anyone out there has heard this version of the story, I welcome your comments. If not, I also welcome a discussion on the merits of each of these stories. I am partial to the story I know. It teaches a lesson and shows that it is good to be polite and care about the feelings of others. I would love to find it in print somewhere, if only to know I’m not crazy. Until then, I will be content to share it with my children.