The princess and the pea revisited. December 26, 2008Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
Tags: fairy tales, Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, The Princess and the Pea
Silence Dogood here. Our friend and fellow blog contributor, Richard Saunders, wants to do a series of January posts focusing on the Founding Fathers. But while it’s still December, I’d like to do some fairy-tale bashing. “The Princess and the Pea” springs to mind.
All of you probably recall the story: A prince decides to search for a bride. But of course, not just any bride will do. It has to be a delicate, sensitive bride, a true “lady”. So he hides a dried pea under about a thousand feather beds (the feather-stuffed mattresses, about twice the thickness of today’s comforters, that were in vogue at the time), then invites all the princess-wannabes in the kingdom to come take a shot at measuring up to his exacting standards. As you can already see, this would have made a great reality TV show. (“Who Wants to Be a Princess?”)
Contenders come from far and wide. Many are lovely and accomplished, but all fail the ultimate test: When shown to their room for the night, they fail to perceive that pea under the 50th mattress, and enjoy a good night’s sleep. As a result, they’re unceremoniously booted out. Finally, a young girl arrives who is so extremely sensitive that, after a night on the pea-infested bed, she not only has been unable to sleep a wink but is bruised all over from the hateful pea lurking under the mattresses. The ecstatic prince marries her and they live happily ever after.
What a moron! Clearly his inbred line was due for a Darwin Award any second. How do I know? Because I, Silence Dogood, would also have been selected by the prince as his lovely bride. My skin is so sensitive that it will bruise if someone looks at it. I long ago abandoned any thought of trying to recall how a given bruise or cut appeared on my skin, since otherwise I’d have to spend 24 hours a day pondering it, and I really have better things to do. Believe me, sensitivity is overrated. It’s pointless, painful, and stupid.
What could the prince have been thinking? Did he want to display his future queen to the court with bruises all up and down her arms? How attractive! Did he want to spend his private time being subjected to a barrage of complaints about how this hurt and that hurt? How this sheet abraded her skin, this sweater rubbed her raw, this soap made her bleed? Good grief!
Surely he’d have been better off with some nice, smart girl who could have helped him run the kingdom (clearly, he could have used some help) rather than a porcelain idol. Someone who could have been helpful rather than helpless. (Not that I, Silence, am helpless, as our friend Ben can attest! But to make physical sensitivity a criterion, much less the sole criterion, is unbelievable.)
I don’t know about you, but I would love to drop in on our hero about 10 years down the road. I can just imagine a household much like the Bennets’ in Jane Austen’s immortal Pride and Prejudice, where Mr. Bennet has to spend pretty much all his time trying to block out Mrs. Bennet’s interminable complaints. Mr. Bennet is portrayed as a very smart, educated man with a priceless sense of humor. I can’t help but wonder how the plot would have developed had he married a woman who was his equal. Instead, we have a deathless portrait of the IQ-deprived Mrs. Bennet: “Nobody knows how I suffer! You have no compassion on my poor nerves!” I hope that stupid prince, wherever he may be, is hearing that 24/7.
‘Til next time,