Thursday, June 6, 2013

Taking an In Depth Look at an Old Short Classic

By JccKeith

I wasn’t going to write a post today despite it being classic Wednesday for me but then I realized if I didn’t write a post I wouldn’t be saying anything.  As much as I have taken a recent break from being serious, it is just unlike me to take a break from giving people my opinions on a daily basis.  And no, it doesn’t matter that you didn’t ask for my opinion.  I’m going to give it to you anyway.  Deal with it.

Normally, I am the first person to stand up and fight for the classics in literature.  I am all for enlightening people with information on why classics are classics, why they mean so much to the literary world, why they are still relevant, who some of the famous authors were and all sorts of other information.  Then I was sifting through the internet tonight which for those who are confused is just another way for me to say I was aimlessly surfing the world wide web.  I did eventually type in the words classic literature into a search engine in the vague hope of finding some spark of inspiration.

What I found was not what I would call inspirational in the traditional sense.  It did inspire me to write but more to write about what was wrong with the stories than what was right or create some new amazing work of literature.  One of the first websites I found was simply a classic story by Hans Christian Anderson – The Princess and the Pea.  Sure I knew the story, or I thought I knew the story. But this version was not what I remembered.  Here is the version I found tonight: 

The Princess and the Pea by Hans Christian Anderson

There was once a prince, and he wanted a princess, but then she must be a real princess.  He traveled right around the world to find one, but there was always something wrong.  There were plenty of princesses, but whether they were real princesses he had great difficulty in discovering; there was always something which was not quite right about them.  So at last he had come home again, and he was very sad because he wanted a real princess so badly.

One evening there was a terrible storm; it thundered and lightning and the rain poured down in torrents; 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.

It was a princess who stood outside, but she was in a terrible state from the rain and the storm.  The water streamed out of her hair and her clothes; it ran in at the top of her shoes and out at the heel, but 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.  She went into the bedroom, took all the bed clothes off and laid a pea on the bedstead: then she took twenty mattresses and piled them on top of the pea, and then twenty feather beds on top of the mattresses.  This was where the princess was to sleep that night.  In the morning they asked her how she slept.

“Oh terribly bad!” said the princess, “I have hardly closed my eyes the whole night!  Heaven knows what was in the bed.  I seemed to be lying upon some hard thing, and my whole body is black and blue this morning.  It is terrible!”

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.

The End

As I said, usually I am a fan of classics.  This one however, I could have sworn I had read a different version where the girl found the pea and pretended to have a bad night’s sleep or the queen was up to no good or something to that effect.  But that is beside the point.  My point tonight is, what exactly is the moral to this story?  It is a children’s story and usually they have morals or teach some lesson.

Is the moral that if you really are a princess, then everything will work out no matter what?  Is it that one should never settle for less than exactly what they want (as this prince refuses to settle for anything less than a real princess)?  Is it that real princesses are picky about what they sleep on?  Is it that queens are inherently mistrusting of strangers?  I just don’t know.

My other problems with the story are the unanswered questions.  Why was a real princess out and about all by her lonesome in a fearful storm?  Why was she on foot?  Was she from a poor kingdom that lacked horses or wagons?  Why were her hair and clothes soaked – did her kingdom lack umbrellas or raincoats?  What exactly constitutes being a real princess – why was this prince unable to find one in his worldly travels?  Did he carry a pea with him to put under the beds of these other women to determine if they were real princesses?  How did he even find out about the pea – it said the old queen said nothing and placed the pea herself – so did she confess to placing this pea in the bed the next day after the princess said she hadn’t slept well?  Why would the pea not still be in the museum?  Who would steal this infamous pea?  What kind of security is at this museum?  Why would someone be able to break in and steal the pea?  Is this a jab at the people of the kingdom being thieves? 

Well, that is all I have to say about this classic of children’s literature.  I hope you enjoyed my picking apart of this simple tale.  I think that perhaps such scrutiny was not meant to be directed at a short story such as this one but I found it to be an amusing endeavor nonetheless.

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