Tag Archives: mattress

The Dreaded Pea Test

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The Dreaded Pea Test

The Dreaded Pea Test

The Princess and the Pea

Week #2

The Positive Aspect

What are the positive aspects of the story? I’ve seen many pictures of the Princess high a top the pile of mattresses and feather comforters and the “bed” its self looks very fun. It reminds me of my childhood when my father would pile the backseat of our car with a mattress, lots of pillows and blankets so that my brother and I could see over the front seats and out the front window. We were headed to the drive-in movies. The backseat bed was perfect. Before the second movie started we kids would have fallen fast to sleep, scattered about the backseat like puppies among the pillows.

 The stack of mattresses the Queen prepares for the Princess would create a tower in which to observe the room from a different perspective. I would imagine from up top of the stack you might feel quite lofty.

 If you look at the story from the view point of the Prince he no longer has to search the world for the “real” princess. Since the Queen mother herself created the test and the young woman passed the Queen would give her stamp of approval. Now the prince can proceed with confidence knowing that he has found the right girl. Plus he would have his family’s approval.

 If you look at this fairy tale as I suggested last week, as poking fun at the aristocracy, there are lots of things in the story to make you laugh. Imagine the young princess at the door, like a common person, dripping wet, perhaps her tiara slipping down her hair, her fine clothes, even her lovely shoes completely soaked and on top of that she has no attendants. Most of us have gotten wet by the rain and most of us do not have attendants, but a princess, oh my, what an outrage. Poor little princess, are you wet and cold? Isn’t it just dreadful? How very un-princess like. What other un-princess like things could occur? How about a test?  Your integrity questioned. Oh no not the dreadful Pea Test! Oh sleepless night! The Princess and the Pea is a delightfully fun story.

The Pea under the Mattresses

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Who is the Real Princess?

Who is the Real Princess?

The Princess and the Pea
Essay
The Big Picture

This tale was written by Hans Christian Andersen back in 1830-1840. He was a Danish author of novels, plays, poetry and children’s fairy tales. Time has cherished his Children’s Tales, loved by adults and children alike. This story is really quite short usually less than two pages.

I think that this tale has remained popular over time because it demonstrates how ridiculous and goofy some tests can be. Many of such tests are touted as real and important and they are not. They are used by a group to insure that unknown persons are worthy of being part of the group. The tests usually either rule them in or rule them out. As a culture we find these tests everywhere. In the story of The Princess and the Pea, the Prince wants a bride but feels he must find a “real” princess. But how can he be sure that the woman claiming to be a Princess is in fact a real true, honest to God, Princess?

The Old Queen knows how to find out. She dreams up the perfect test. A single lone pea under twenty mattresses and twenty feather beds will establish whether the young woman is group worthy. If you think about it you might agree with the Old Queen’s test, for if the young woman had always been privileged, pampered, her every whim attended to, she would of course notice that her bed was not quite right. She would be use to wining and making a fuss over trivial matters. These would be the proper indicators to prove that she was use to special treatment. True to form, the self-acclaimed princess turns out to be a “real” Princess. We know that because she acted like a spoiled Princess of the highest order. She rudely tells her hosts, the King, Queen and Prince that she had a horrible night, couldn’t close her eyes, body bruised all over … “Heaven knows what was in the bed.” This is what the Prince and Queen are looking for and so the Prince happily marries her. I say, they deserve one another. They will all live happily ever after, expecting to be over indulged, pampered, because they believe and feel entitled to have their most trivial demands met.

Most of us, in the same circumstances would probably have been grateful to have such a soft bed, who even owns twenty mattresses, let alone twenty feather beds. We would have been polite, smiled and said nothing. Because we would be grateful to be in out of the cold and rain. Therefore, we would have failed the test and would not be considered a part of the Queen, King and Prince’s group. We would be ruled out because we believe in gratitude and courtesy.

I think Hans Christian Andersen was making fun of the aristocracy and their social rules and tests.

In our every day life there are lots of different tests given on a regular basis. The tests are used to pigeon hole or rank and classify individuals without having to actually get to know them. Things like … where you live, what type of car you drive, the restaurants you frequent, the name brands of the clothes you wear, your name, your age, were you work or don’t work, the charities you support; the tests goes on and on.

Education can be used to screen and rank people. Did you go to college? Which college? Was it an Ivy League college, one of the top seven located in the east? Was it Harvard or Yale? Were you at the top of your class? Each yes moves you up in rank. The subject you studied becomes important and so does advanced degrees. There are even more ways to rank or screen individuals. To discover who is a witch and who is not one, just throw the woman in the river and if she survives she’s a witch if she drowns she has been forgiven.

All this testing is done because we have ranked our self and we are looking for a short cut to find some one like us to form a familiar bond. We make up tests for ourselves and others so that we can be sure that we are one of the “REAL” people. At some point, hopefully, we realize that most of these tests are as silly as the lone pea under the twenty mattresses.

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The Princess and the Pea

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Princess and Pea

This month we leave ancient myths and time-honored tales to devote ourselves to a modern composer of fairy tales.  It takes real art and a profound grasp of human nature to create the kind of story that rings true across differing cultures and thus becomes told and retold time and time again, fitting seamlessly into the repertoire of wonder tales read aloud in the evening before bedtime.

Hans Christian Anderson was such a fellow.  Bullied during an impoverished childhood he took refuge in books and made the land of enchantment his own at a very early age.  He was an awkward shy man with unfortunate features, given to romantic crushes on beautiful unobtainable people.  The suffering and depression thus engendered added that dark undertone to stories based on acute observation and understanding of the quirks of human behavior.  Though humor isn’t an overt feature of his stories it lurks in the character sketches of his secondary characters.  The mother duck that hatches a swan, silly Thumbelina and her toad, the poor soldier’s magic gadget which allows him to know what everyone in town is having for dinner all represent sly tongue-in-cheek sketches of human psychology and culture, keeping the stories just as fresh today as when he wrote them.

It is just this combination of bold plots, dark pathos and embedded humor that appealed to me and also thousands of other children around the world.  Certainly it is a mix that strongly mirrors the reality of many childhoods.  Though adults often choose to forget, children often find adult behavior ludicrous.  They quickly learn to hide their smiles and opinions, but revel in stories, which subtly mock their guardians.

“The Princess and the Pea” is one of our favorites.  It is very short- we’ll see how we get on as we go along.  Lot of other stories by H.C. Anderson are jumping up and down right off-stage impatiently waiting their turn!!

Meanwhile, today the story hit me as very African, in that African tales often deal with relationships between people involving their place in the family, tribe or society.  The Princess and the Pea is a mother-in-law story.  It has only three characters and two props – the mattress(es) and the pea.

African families tend to be large intimate extended associations with little privacy and an abundance of opinions in which the mother’s voice and views dominant in domestic affairs.  When a new wife enters the household she is frequently in competition with her husband’s mother for his attention.  Of course this happens in many cultures around the world, but in western countries, particularly the United States where women exercise power outside the home and families live in small private units, mother-in-law issues have greatly subsided.  However, Anderson was writing at an earlier time when living space was divided into two domains – the domestic and public.  Women ruled the domestic sphere and men the public. This story depicts a power struggle between the matriarch (queen) and the son’s fiancé.  Though the prince loves this woman, he will not save her from the trials imposed by his mother and closes his eyes to any conflict. The bride wins her place in the family because her innate character and backbone (depicted in reverse as sensitivity) let her prevail.

In my collage racism (hinted at in the different skin tones of mother, son and bride) is a metaphor for all the ways we humans rank and judge each other according to our differences.  In this story we sense no one would really be good enough for the queen’s son, because she doesn’t want to share him at all.  Thus she is looking for any and all reasons to discredit and discard his lover.

However, the young woman is accepted and she does become part of the family, so the different skin tones also show the beautiful melding and acceptance possible when we manage to set prejudice aside.

The earliest known bedding dates to 77,000 BCE and was discovered in Sibudu Cave, South Africa. Beds have always been a sign of wealth.  Until recently they were often listed in wills as significant pieces of property.  The number of mattresses available to the Queen implies prodigious wealth.  When the girl calls for more and more of them, she is attempting to demonstrate ability and poise in coping with that unfamiliar wealth.

Dried peas are still a very important food staple in Africa as they were for many centuries in Europe where they often served to ward off famine.  (“Pease porridge hot, pease porridge cold, pease porridge in the pot nine days old.”) Perhaps this bride-to-be’s sensitivity to the pea portends a respect for food, survival and the necessity to provide and care for the general population of her new kingdom.