Gender-Flipped Tales: The Prince and the Pea

Prince CrownThe Tale:

There was once a Princess who wished to marry a Prince; but then he must be a real Prince. She travelled all over the world in hopes of finding such a gentleman; but there was always something wrong. Princes she found in plenty; but whether they were real Princes it was impossible for her to decide, for now one thing, now another, seemed to her not quite right about the gentlemen. At last she returned to her palace quite cast down, because she wished so much to have a real Prince for her husband.

One evening a fearful tempest arose, it thundered and lightened, and the rain poured down from the sky in torrents: besides, it was as dark as pitch. All at once there was heard a violent knocking at the door, and the old Queen, the Princess’ mother, went out herself to open it.

It was a Prince who was standing outside the door. What with the rain and the wind, he was in a sad condition; the water trickled down from his hair, and his clothes clung to his body. He said he was a real Prince.

The Princess and the Pea jewelry“Ah! we shall soon see that!” thought the old King-father; however, he said not a word of what he was going to do; but went quietly into the bedroom, took all the bed-clothes off the bed, and put three little peas on the bedstead. He then laid twenty mattresses one upon another over the three peas, and put twenty feather beds over the mattresses.

Upon this bed the Prince was to pass the night.

The next morning he was asked how he had slept. “Oh, very badly indeed!” he replied. “I have scarcely closed my eyes the whole night through. I do not know what was in my bed, but I had something hard under me, and am all over black and blue. It has hurt me so much!”

Now it was plain that the gentleman must be a real Prince, since he had been able to feel the three little peas through the twenty mattresses and twenty feather beds. None but a real Prince could have had such a delicate sense of feeling.

The Princess accordingly made him her husband; being now convinced that she had found a real Prince. The three peas were however put into the cabinet of curiosities, where they are still to be seen, provided they are not lost.

Wasn’t this a gentleman of real delicacy?

The Princess and the Pea papercutby Hans Christian Andersen (available in its original form at SurLaLune Fairy Tales)


This story actually flipped really well. Not only did the characters generally switch pretty smoothly (with the single exception of “Queen-mother” to “King-father”, which just sounds strange), but the story still makes just as much sense, maybe even more! A princess who is destined to inherit a kingdom would have to get married, but it is believable that it would be important to her and to her parents to keep their family line going and of pure royal blood, thus her husband must be a Real Prince. So she goes looking for one and her father even devises a test. When a suitable prince is found, the test (which must be something a prince would never suspect or anticipate) is performed. It all makes a lot of sense, actually. This exercise might even have made me like this story a little more.

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