The princess and the pea

Words: 301-400

Skills: Fact and Opinion Figurative Language Summary Theme

Grades: 1st 2nd 3rd

Topics: Fairy Tales and Fables

Genres: Prose

Lexile Range: 420L - 730L

Lexile Measure: 670L

CCSS: Reading: Literature


The Princess and the Pea

by Hans Christian Andersen from Hans Andersen's Fairy Tales, Second Series

Can a princess really feel a pea under a mountain of mattresses? This is the premise of Hans Christian Andersen’s tongue-in-cheek fairy tale “The Princess and the Pea.” Students will read the passage and respond to questions on the language and the theme of the story.

Reading Comprehension Passage

The Princess and the Pea

by Hans Christian Andersen from Hans Andersen's Fairy Tales, Second Series

There was once a prince who wanted to marry a princess. But she must be a real princess, mind you. So he traveled all round the world, seeking such a one, but everywhere something was in the way. Not that there was any lack of princesses, but he could not seem to make out whether they were real princesses; there was always something not quite satisfactory. Therefore, home he came again, quite out of spirits, for he wished so much to marry a real princess.

One evening a terrible storm came on. It thundered and lightened, and the rain poured down; indeed, it was quite fearful. In the midst of it there came a knock at the town gate, and the old king went out to open it.

It was a princess who stood outside. But O dear, what a state she was in from the rain and bad weather! The water dropped from her hair and clothes, it ran in at the tips of her shoes and out at the heels; yet she insisted she was a real princess.

"Very well," thought the old queen; "that we shall presently see." She said nothing, but went into the bedchamber and took off all the bedding, then laid a pea on the sacking of the bedstead. Having done this, she took twenty mattresses and laid them upon the pea and placed twenty eider-down beds on top of the mattresses.

The princess lay upon this bed all the night. In the morning she was asked how she had slept.

"Oh, most miserably!" she said. "I scarcely closed my eyes the whole night through. I cannot think what there could have been in the bed. I lay upon something so hard that I am quite black and blue all over. It is dreadful!"

It was now quite evident that she was a real princess, since through twenty mattresses and twenty eider-down beds she had felt the pea. None but a real princess could have such delicate feeling.

So the prince took her for his wife, for he knew that in her he had found a true princess. And the pea was preserved in the cabinet of curiosities, where it is still to be seen unless some one has stolen it.

And this, mind you, is a real story.

Passage Only

Reading Comprehension Questions

1. The author says that this is “a real story.” Do you think the story is true? Why or why not?

2. Do you think that it is true that no one “but a real princess could have such delicate feeling”?

3. What did the princess mean when she said she was “black and blue all over”?

4. What does evident mean in this phrase from the text: “It was now quite evident that she was a real princess”?

Vocabulary List

Vocabulary List

Each of the vocabulary words below are used in the reading passage. As you read the passage, pay attention to context clues that suggest the word’s meaning.

  1. satisfactory
  2. sacking
  3. miserably
  4. dreadful
  5. curiosities

Context Clues

Context Clues

Using context clues from the sentences in the passage, underline the correct meaning of the word in boldface.

1. “there was always something not quite satisfactory

a. smelling nice; perfumed     b. tasty; delicious     c. good or acceptable     d. beautiful or pretty

2. “then laid a pea on the sacking of the bedstead”

a. wood posts     b. goose feathers     c. soft pillows     d. coarse material for coverings

3. “Oh, most miserably!" she said”

a. poorly or badly     b. deeply or soundly     c. quietly; silently     d. warmly; feverishly

4. “It is dreadful

a. awful; terrible     b. unusual; not normal     c. ugly; not pretty     d. colorful; bright

5. “the pea was preserved in the cabinet of curiosities

a. jewels or gems     b. odd things; unusual items     c. vegetables     d. bedding; blankets