Princess & the Pea | Modern Interpretations

The story of Princess and the Pea and its themes have appeared in literature and other forms of art. This page provides a small discussion of some of the better known treatments by authors and other artists. Novels produced by romance publishers are not listed on this page, but can be found on Romance Novels: Fairy Tale Romances at Princess and the Pea.

Modern Interpretations

The Princess Test by Gail Carson Levine

Levine, Gail Carson. The Princess Test. New York: Harpercollins, 1999. Buy the book in hardback.

NOVEL: In The Princess Test, King Humphrey has decided its time for his son, Prince Nicholas, to marry. But he must make sure the bride is a real princess. So he devises a series of princess tests, designed to weed out the phonies and the fakes. Meanwhile, Nicholas has fallen in love with Lorelei, a mere blacksmith's daughter. She's no princess, but he wants to marry her all the same--but how will she ever pass the terrible tests?


Never After by Rebecca Lickiss

Lickiss, Rebecca. Never After. New York: Ace, 2002 Buy the book in paperback.

NOVEL: A novel featuring elements from many fairy tales, including Sleeping Beauty, Rumpelstiltskin, Frog Prince, and The Princess and the Pea. From publisher: "Take a princess, two bumbling wizards, an enchanted frog, a wicked stepmother, a handsome prince, and you have the most delightfully non-Grimm fairy tale of the year."



Violet Eyes by Debbie Viguie

Viguie, Debbie. Violet Eyes. New York: Simon Pulse, 2010. Buy the book in paperback.

NOVEL: From the publisher: "When a storm brings the dashing Prince Richard to her family's farm, Violet falls in love at first sight. Richard also gives Violet his heart, but he knows his marriage is destined to be an affair of state, not of passion. For the king and queen have devised a contest to determine who will win their son's hand in marriage. To be reunited with her prince, Violet must compete against princesses from across the land. It will take all of her wits -- and a little help from an unexpected source -- if Violet is to demonstrate the depth of her character and become Richard's bride."


A True Princess

Zahler, Diane. A True Princess. New York: HarperCollins, 2011. Buy the book in hardcover.

NOVEL: From the publisher: "Twelve-year-old Lilia is not a very good servant. In fact, she's terrible! She daydreams, she breaks dishes, and her cooking is awful. Still, she hardly deserves to be sold off to the mean-spirited miller and his family. Refusing to accept that dreadful fate, she decides to flee. With her best friend, Kai, and his sister, Karina, beside her, Lilia heads north to find the family she's never known. But danger awaits. . . .

"As their quest leads the threesome through the mysterious and sinister Bitra Forest, they suddenly realize they are lost in the elves' domain. To Lilia's horror, Kai falls under an enchantment cast by the Elf King's beautiful daughter. The only way for Lilia to break the spell and save Kai is to find a jewel of ancient power that lies somewhere in the North Kingdoms. Yet the jewel will not be easy to find. The castle where it is hidden has been overrun with princess hopefuls trying to pass a magical test that will determine the prince's new bride. Lilia has only a few days to search every inch of the castle and find the jewel—or Kai will be lost to her forever."



Black Thorn, White Rose

Constantine, Storm. "Sweet Bruising Skin." Black Thorn, White Rose. Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, eds. New York: Avon, 1995. Buy the book in hardback or paperback.



Once Upon a More Enlightened Time: More Politically Correct Bedtime Stories by James Finn Garner

Garner, James Finn. "The Princess and the Pea." Once Upon a More Enlightened Time: More Politically Correct Bedtime Stories. New York: MacMillan, 1995. Buy the book in hardcover. 



Fractured Fairy Tales by A. J. Jacobs

Jacobs, A. J. "Princess and the Pea." Fractured Fairy Tales.New York: Bantam, 1997. Buy the book in hardcover or paperback.



Newfangled Fairy Tales edited by Bruce Lansky

Lansky, Bruce. "The Princess and the Pea." Newfangled Fairy Tales: Book #1. Bruce Lansky, ed. New York: Meadowbrook Press, 1997. Buy the book in paperback.



Goldilocks on Management: 27 Revisionist Fairy Tales for Serious Managers

Mayer, Gloria Gilbert and Thomas Mayer. "The Princess and the Pea." Goldilocks on Management: 27 Revisionist Fairy Tales for Serious Managers. New York: American Management Association, 1999. Buy the book in hardcover.


Rubly Slippers, Golden Tears

Palwick, Susan. "The Real Princess." Ruby Slippers, Golden Tears. Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, eds. New York: Avon, 1996. Buy the book in hardcover or paperback.


Newfangled Fairy Tales #2 edited by Bruce Lansky

Tracy, Debra. "The Clever Princess Who Slept on a Pea."Newfangled Fairy Tales: Book #2. Bruce Lansky, ed. New York: Meadowbrook Press, 1998. Buy the book in paperback.


Tales From the Brothers Grimm and Sisters Weird by Vivian Vande Velde

Vande Velde, Vivian. "Matresses." Tales From the Brothers Grimm and the Sisters Weird. San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace, 1995. Buy the book in hardcover or paperback.




Bevington, Helen Smith. "The Princess and the Pea." American Wits: An Anthology of Light Verse. John Hollander, editor. New York: The Library of America, 2003.


Mills, Colleen. "The Pea Princess." Endicott Studio. 2003. (no external link available at this time) Accessed July 31, 2003.

You can read this poem on the Endicott Studio site at The Pea Princess.


Muldoon, Paul. "The Princess and the Pea." Poems 1968-1998. New York: Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2001. Buy the book in paperback.


Pastan, Linda. "This Enchanted Forest: The Princess and the Pea." Carnival Evening: New and Selected Poems, 1968-1998. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1998. Buy the book in paperback.


Also see Princess and the Pea on the Folklore and Fairy Tale Music page.

I have listed primarily classical compositions of music using the themes of this fairy tale in either ballet, opera or some other musical style. I have also provided links to popular recordings of the music when available at The advantage to these links is that you can listen to samples of the music at no charge.


"Märchenbilder, Op. 3: No. 2 The Princess and the Pea" by Ilona Prunyi from the album Korngold: Piano Works (1992) classical Buy the CD or Download the song.
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"Märchenbilder Op. 3 Seven Fairy Tale Pictures: II. Die Prinzessin Auf Der Erbse - the Princess On the Pea" by Martin Jones & Erich Wolfgang Korngold from the album Erich Wolfgang Korngold: The Piano Music (2004) classical Buy the CD or Download the song.
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Once Upon a Mattress starring Carol Burnett

Once Upon a Mattress. Original 1958 Broadway Cast featuring Carol Burnett. Buy the CD or Download the songs from the CD.
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Once Upon a Mattress starring Sarah Jessica Parker

Once Upon a Mattress. Original 1997 Broadway Cast featuring Sarah Jessica Parker. Buy the CD.
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"Princess and the Pea" by Ken Lonnquist from the album The Lost Songs Of Kenland (1997) Buy the CD or Download the song.
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"Princess and the Pea" by Chris O'Connor from the album Holler (2000) Buy the CD or Download the song.
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"The Princess and the Pea" by Lillian (Cookie) Anderson from the album A Feast for Little Ears (2002)
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"The Princess and the Pea Soup" by Mandee Ferrier from the album Seasonings (2005)
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"Princess and the Pea" by Shanna Kiel from the album Orphan (2006) Buy the CD or Download the song.
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"The Princess and the Pea" by Kinderjazz from the album Swing Right Through This Town (2007) Buy the CD.
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To learn more about these films, please visit the
Internet Movie Database.


Rocky and Bullwinkle Season 1 featuring Fractured Fairy Tales

Fractured Fairy Tales: Princess and the Pea (1959-60) (TV). In Rocky and Bullwinkle. Jay Ward Productions.
Buy the collection on DVD.

ANIMATION SHORT: The Fractured Fairy Tales segment became a popular part of the first season of the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show (known under various names through the years) that premiered in the fall of 1959. They have remained in syndication ever since. Princess and the Pea originally aired in Episode 10 of Season 1.


Princess and the Pea (1976)

Printsessa na goroshine (1976). Boris Rytsarev, director. USSR. USA Title: The Princess and the Pea.
Buy the movie on DVD.

Based on Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen's story, The Princess and the Pea tells the story of a handsome young prince's adventures as he searches the world for a true princess to love and marry, but sometimes what you are looking for is right under your nose. A lovely, lush production of this classic tale.


Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale TheatreFaerie Tale Theatre: The Princess and the PeaFaerie Tale Theatre: The Princess and the Pea

Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre: The Princess and the Pea (1984) (TV). Tony Bill, director. Buy the series on DVD.

Beatrice Straight ... Queen Veronica
Nancy Allen ... Princess Elizebeth
Pat McCormick ... King Frederiko
Liza Minnelli ... Princess Alecia
Tom Conti ... Prince Richard

This television series originally aired on Showtime for six seasons and a total of 27 episodes. To see a full episode list, go to Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre.


The Princess and the Pea (2001). Curtis Linton, director.

Bruce Bohne .... Papa Joe 
Kirsten Moore .... Princess Vee 
Rusty Schwimmer .... Mama Pat 
Hamilton von Watts .... Billy Boy

"The Princess and the Pea follows the search of a small country family (the very large & robust Mama Pat and the thin & wise Papa Joe) to find a wife for their son (the hunky, but simple Billy Boy). Set in a Dr. Seuss-like realm of otherworldly landscapes near the end of the 19th century, these odd characters promise wealth to any princess who will marry their son. Princess Vee arrives, much to the suspicion of Mama and the disdain of Billy who doesn't want a "real princess," but a "real girl" to fall in love with. In homage to the classic fairytale, Mama devises a plan to test the Princess. In the process, the family discovers that Princess Vee is not a royal princess, but is something more unique. Futhermore, the wealth that the family offers is not money, but love and friendship. In the end, Billy Boy and Princess Vee ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after." (


The Princess and the Pea (2002). Mark Swan, director.

Lincoln Hoppe .... Heath 
Nigel Lambert .... Sebastian the Raven 
Steven Webb .... Prince Rollo



Once Upon a Mattress (2005)

Rodgers, Mary. Once Upon a Mattress (2005).

Carol Burnett .... Queen Aggravain
Tracey Ullman .... Princess Winnifred
Denis O'Hare .... Prince Dauntless
Zooey Deschanel .... Lady Larken
Michael Boatman .... Jester
Edward Hibbert .... Wizard
Matthew Morrison .... Sir Harry

MUSICAL/LIVE ACTION: 2005 remake of popular musical.



Averill, Ric. The Princess and the PeaWoodstock, IL: Dramatic Publishing Company of Chicago
Read more about the play on the Dramatic Publishing website.

SHORT PLAY: This retelling of the classic fairy tale features a prince dumb with adolescence whose only hope is to find the perfect princess. Though three others apply, Princess Rose is the only one who can pass the test of the pea under 12 mattresses and save the kingdom.


Thompson, Jay; Marshall Barer; and Dean FullerOnce Upon a MattressMusic by Mary Rodgers. Lyrics by Marshall Barer. Book by Jay Thompson, Marshall Barer and Dean Fuller. London: Josef Weinberger.

MUSICAL: The Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale of the Princess who was so sensitive she was able to feel a pea beneath twenty mattresses must be known to everyone, but did you know that the story is not quite accurate? Well, this hilarious show goes all out to prove just that! The scheming Queen Agarvin tries to thwart the young lovers Princess Winifred and Prince Dauntless by setting the Princess every test and riddle under the sun to hinder their marriage but, as in all fairy tales, the lovers eventually win the day. Songs include "Yesterday I Loved You," "The Swamps Of Home" and "Spanish Panic."


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