The spiritual Message of German Fairy tales

The Pea Trial (The Princess and the Pea)

Tale of the Brothers Grimm – Translation by Undine & Jens [2021]
Interpretation by Undine & Jens in green [2021]

Once upon a time there was a king who had an only son who wanted to get married and asked his father for a wife. “Your wish shall be granted, my son,” said the King, “but it is not acceptable for you to take someone other than a princess, and there is none to be around at the moment. In the meantime, I want to announce it; maybe someone will answer you from afar.” So there was an open letter, and it was not long before there were enough princesses. One came almost every day, but if someone asked about her birth and parentage, it turned out that it was not a princess, and she had to leave without having achieved anything. “If it goes on like this,” said the prince, “I will not have a wife in the end.” “Calm down, my son,” said the Queen, “before you know it, there will be one; happiness is often at the door, you just have to open it.”

Yes, dear old aristocracy! When the general worldview was reversed at that time, and material values triumphed over spiritual ones, the old aristocratic class also had a hard time. Today we know the noble kings and princes, especially from this period of decline, as a degenerate human class who suffered from inbreeding, practiced their old spiritual values only externally and were already addicted to material things internally. Correspondingly, deception reigned, as in our fairy tale, and it was understandable that at that time the bourgeoisie said: “We can do better!” Science provided the foundation for it. After the bourgeoisie, the workers raised their fists and shouted: “We can do even better!” This is how materialism took its course, with all its ups and downs that we know not only from history. That too was certainly a logical and necessary development of nature, even if man believed that he was thereby freeing himself from the constraints of nature.

We should not forget, however, that there were also good times under the rule of noble kings and princes, about which our historiography naturally has little to report. A class or caste system does not only have its dark sides. It has given humankind meaning and stability in life for a long time. Understandably, this only works as long as people can subordinate themselves and perform their tasks, like the cells in an organism (see e.g. [Petrarca Chapter 1.16]). If everyone wants to be king, anti-authoritarian child rearing is supposed to work and happiness in life is based primarily on material possessions, then of course democracy is the better choice. Today we can hardly imagine any other worldview.

Accordingly, when looking for a real princess, we usually think of an outer appearance first. The problem of authenticity, however, is not that simple. Let’s take a look at the tomatoes in the supermarket, for example: They are called tomatoes, look like tomatoes and sometimes taste a little like tomatoes. But are they real tomatoes? In this regard, our children can become scared. Will they ever be able to enjoy a real tomato again? - The mother reminds to be patient: “One does not have to pursue happiness endlessly. Calm down, and then all you have to do is open the door and let happiness in.” Wonderful! Where did people get so much patience and trust from back then? Of course, in those times, the tomatoes were still growing in front of the door, and people were happy about the harvest only during a few months. A really terrible satisfaction, the death of any market economy...

It really was just as the Queen had said. Soon afterwards, on a stormy evening, when wind and rain beat on the window, there was a violent knock on the gate of the royal palace. The servants opened the door and a beautiful girl entered, demanding to be brought before the king at once. The king wondered about the late visit and asked her where she was from, who she was, and what she wanted. “I come from a long way off,” she replied, “and I am the daughter of a mighty king. When your announcement arrived in my father’s realm and I became acquainted with the portrait of your son, I felt intense love for him and immediately set out on my way with the intention of becoming his wife.”

“That seems a little questionable to me,” said the king, “you don’t look like a princess to me either. Since when has a princess ever been traveling alone without any entourage and in such bad clothes?” “The entourage would only have hindered me,” she replied, “the colour on my clothes has faded in the sun and the rain washed them out completely. If you don’t think I am a princess, just send a message to my father.” “That is too complicated for me,” said the king, “an embassage cannot travel as fast as you can. People must have the time they need; it would be years before they came back. If you cannot prove in some other way that you are a princess, your wheat will not bloom here, and you do better make your way home again.” “Just let her stay,” said the Queen, “I want to put her to the test and I will know soon whether she is a princess.”

The queen herself went up the tower and had a bed made up in a splendid room. When the mattress was brought in, she put three peas on it, one on top, one in the middle and one on the bottom, then six soft mattresses were spread over them, linen sheets and a blanket of eider down. When everything was ready, she led the girl up to the bedroom. “After the long way you will be tired, my child,” she said, “get some sleep: tomorrow we will talk more.”

The day had scarcely dawned when the queen climbed the tower into the chamber. She thought to find the girl soundly asleep, but she was awake. “How did you sleep, my daughter?” she asked. “Miserable,” replied the princess, “I haven’t slept all night.” “Why, my child, wasn’t the bed good?” “I’ve never lain in a bed like this, hard from head to toe; it was as if I was lying on peas.” “I can see,” said the Queen, “you are a real princess. I will send you royal clothes, pearls and precious stones: adorn yourself like a bride. We want to celebrate the wedding today.”

Well, presumably there were other demands on a real princess back then as well. However, what is symbolically expressed here in the fairy tale is a truly great message and, in short, means: Real tomatoes are extremely sensitive! They refuse to accept monoculture, maximum yields, mass production and long transport routes. They say real tomatoes really have taste and are healthy. They saw the sun, experienced wind and weather, heard the hum of insects and felt mother earth. In addition, even the real tomatoes originally come from far away, namely from Central and South America, and were already cultivated by the Mayans...

Nevertheless, if you look through the tomatoes, you can see on the symbolic level of this fairy tale the male role of the king as rational knowledge based on externals, the female role of the queen as intuitive knowledge that tests the inner being, the prince as the wishing spirit and the princess as the active nature. The seven great principles of nature can even be found in the seven mattresses. For example the four medieval elements of wind, fire, water and earth with the three soul forces of will, understanding and memory (Voluntas, Intellectus and Memoria, which Augustine and Master Eckhart also speak of, for example). However, one can also imagine the five senses, the self-consciousness with the thoughts and the universal intelligence with the reason. Moreover, what could the three peas mean that torment us in nature? In Buddhism, for example, people speak of desire, hatred and ignorance as the three main causes of all suffering: I want some things, I don’t want other things, and I don’t know the true essence of things. As the fairy tale clearly explains, these sufferings begin above the first mattress, i.e. above reason, and work through the self-consciousness and the five senses as far as into our body, which is based on them.

Princess on the pea - four elements, Voluntas, Intellectus and Memoria, respectively five senses, self-consciousness und universal intelligence

Because intelligence is the spiritual basis of nature among the seven levels and not any dead matter, the motto of the fairy tale is: Real nature is extremely sensitive! Not in the sense of a general weakness, as it is usually considered, but in the sense of an indestructible strength. It was not for nothing that the princess made the long way in wind and weather, and just out of love. That is the essence of Mother Nature. It is incomparably strong, has fought with the toughest conditions for billions of years to make this planet first blue and then green. From this point of view, it seems to be indestructible. At the same time, we are becoming more and more aware of how sensitive nature is and how sensitive are all the many balances that make life on earth and in our bodies possible.

And why did it happen that way? Modern science speaks of coincidences. Our fairy tale speaks of “intense love”, so that nature developed out of love for the spirit. That was once a wonderful vision that made a completely different view of nature possible. Nature was a place of learning, full of messages and symbols. The whole earth with mountains, rocks, clouds, seas, forests and fields was alive. The whole universe with all the planets and stars was one great living organism. Why was all alive? Because all was intelligent and sensitive. This intelligent sensitivity was the basis of nature, which could be found down to the smallest particles that attract, repel and react with one another. And people assumed the same principles governed their everyday lives.

Then, from around the 18th century, the great reversal in the worldview came, and life became a by-product of a dead nature, which is said to have arisen at some point through evolution from stupid coincidences. This marked the beginning of the age of dead machines. Goodbye horse, hello car! Even humans became machines of work, consumption and fighting, also called “human resources”. Natural sensitivity is now a major obstacle to the “Iron Man”. For many people these days, the point of being sensitive is just going to the doctor for pills. Sensitivity has become a great enemy. Tons of pain pills are consumed every year, a billion dollar business. The society seems to be geared at anaesthesia with drugs and alcohol and tries to constantly overexcite and dull the senses with horror films, scandal news, shock advertising, disco volume, etc. Some have to jump into the abyss on an elastic rope so that they can feel some life again. Our natural senses wither more and more, and with the senses, reason withers. Because if you are not sensitive you cannot learn from nature, and without this learning there is no reason. You might ask yourself: What would our world look like if people were more sensitive and could learn from it?

So what’s the point of sensitivity? A useless weakness of nature? Then our stunning strategy would certainly be appropriate and a good way to go. But if sensitivity is the true strength of nature, which should lead to reason, then today we would march with kettledrums and trumpets in a wrong or destructive direction on the way to happiness, and we miss again the great wedding, in which spirit and nature unite in harmony.

Well, what is the right way to happiness now? How should we live with nature? Is it good to reduce it to insensitive matter, like a dead machine that is supposed to make us happy? Is it good to control it with scientific laws so that it serves our wishes, like a marriage contract with a thousand constraints? There may well be men who desire a woman’s body without loving her being. Similarly, we desire nature, we cannot live without it, but we do not really want to love or respect it. We treat it accordingly and use violence to fight its sensitive nature. Sure, no marriage without a fight. The only question is: Should this struggle culminate in endless enmity and militant tyranny or end in harmonious love and mutual trust? That would be the happy ending of our fairy tale.


... Table of contents of all fairy tale interpretations ...
Gambling Hansel - (topic: Delicate game with the world and nature)
Clever Grethel - (topic: Uncontrollable passion)
The Wolf and The Seven Little Kids - (topic: desire)
The Valiant Little Tailor - (topic: a healing way)
The Wise Servant - (topic: Search for wisdom, Reformation)
Fundevogel - (topic: path to liberation, spiritual values)
Doctor Knowall - (topic: Science, Spirit)
Spirit in the Bottle - (topic: Mind, School system, Homeopathy)
The Pea Trial / The Princess and the Pea (topic: Natural sensitivity)
The Seven Swabians - (topic: Corona Hysteria, the essence of fear)
Thumbling - (topic: What is the soul? Is our worldview correct?)

[Petrarca] Von der Artzney bayder Glück, des guten und widerwertigen, 1532, www.petrarca.pushpak.de
[2021] Text and Pictures by Undine & Jens / www.pushpak.de