June 30, 2024

Did the Princess have VWD?


School’s out! When I remember summer days as a child, I recall being outdoors, riding my bike, taking walks in the wood, playing with my siblings… and reading. While we all get assigned summer reading lists for school, I truly enjoyed reading and would devour anything I could.

Credit: Andrea Petrlik

Most of us hear “fairy tales” as our first stories. Our archivist Richard Atwood of North Carolina, has a “bleeding disorder” point of view on a classic fairy tale—Hans Christian Andersen’s The Princess and the Pea.

He writes a summary: A prince, wishing to marry, searches the world to find a real princess. Unsuccessful in his search, he returns home. During a storm, a princess arrives soaking wet and claims to be a real princess. The prince’s mother, the old queen, devises a test. Servants place a pea from the garden under 20 mattresses and 20 quilts on the bed they make up for the princess to sleep upon. She believes that only a real princess would be sensitive enough to feel a pea buried under so many mattresses.

The next morning, the princess complains that the bed kept her awake and made her black and blue all over! The test proves that she is a real princess. And the prince proposes marriage.

Apparently, Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875) equates sensitivity with being an alleged real princess. The underlying bruising is ignored. Women with bleeding disorders can relate to the etiology of bruises being misdiagnosed for many years.

Whether fiction, nonfiction or fairy tales, be sure to read this summer!

Source: Hans Christian Andersen, 1984, The Princess and the Pea. Illustrated by Dorothee Duntze. New York, NY: North-South Books. 22 pages.

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