Gram­mar Tales

Erin­nern Sie sich an das Märchen „Die Prinzessin auf der Erbse“? Hier stellen wir Ih­nen eine mod­erne Ver­sion vor – zum Sch­mun­zeln und zum Englis­chler­nen. Von DAG­MAR TAY­LOR


The prince and the pea — a fairy tale for learn­ers

We all know at least a few fairy tales: Hansel and Gre­tel, Lit­tle Red Rid­ing Hood or Sleep­ing Beauty. The struc­ture of these tales is fa­mil­iar to us. They be­gin with the phrase: “Once upon a time...” and use repet­i­tive lan­guage to cre­ate drama: “Grandma, what big teeth you have! Grandma, what big ears you have!”

Spot­light has rewrit­ten 24 fa­mous fairy tales for the 21st cen­tury. Each one in­cludes ex­am­ples of a spe­cific gram­mat­i­cal struc­ture. This struc­ture is ex­plained in the notes at the end, where you will also find a re­lated ex­er­cise. This month, we present a new ver­sion of The Princess and the Pea, rein­vented here as “The prince and the pea”.

The prince and the pea

Once upon a time, there was an un­mar­ried prince called Fer­di­nand.

Fer­di­nand looked in the mir­ror. He straight­ened his tie and tried to ig­nore his re­ced­ing hair­line. One more elim­i­na­tion round, and he could go home to the palace — per­haps with a bride. Find­ing a wife on na­tional tele­vi­sion seemed to be very much against the grain, but his ad­vis­ers had told him it was just what the royal fam­ily needed to boost its pop­u­lar­ity. Prince Fer­di­nand’s pri­vate sec­re­tary, Dar­ren, was quite in­sis­tent. “The royal fam­ily needs to prove that it’s not just a col­lec­tion of relics from a by­gone era,” he said. “Did you know that, ac­cord­ing to re­cent polls, 74 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion think you’ll never get mar­ried? You can no longer af­ford to be so fussy.”

Fer­di­nand winced. The tabloids were full of tales of his dal­liances with beau­ti­ful women and reg­u­larly listed them, to­gether with their “flaws”: too thin, too ath­letic, too old, too po­lit­i­cal... The list went on. It was all rub­bish. He didn’t think he was fussy. He sim­ply didn’t want to make the same mis­take that his un­cle, his aunt and his par­ents had made. He had no de­sire to go through a right royal di­vorce.

“The pub­lic have sim­ply lost in­ter­est, your royal high­ness,” Dar­ren said. Mer­chan­dise sales have slumped dra­mat­i­cally, and the loss in rev­enue has meant that we’ve had to open up the east wing of the palace for wed­dings and other events.” Fer­di­nand sighed.

“A royal wed­ding is the an­swer,” Dar­ren went on. “It would give a huge boost to morale. And a royal baby or two would be even bet­ter.”

More than 5,000 women had ap­plied to ap­pear on the show, but af­ter a strict vet­ting pro­ce­dure, only 12 were con­sid­ered wor­thy to take part. These women had been on one-on-one or two-on-one dates with the prince and had taken part in var­i­ous chal­lenges and com­pe­ti­tions. Now only three women were left — Amelia, Brigid and Carme­line. Fer­di­nand knew which of the three he would like to know bet­ter. When he had first seen her, he had known that she had a face he would never tire of look­ing at. When she smiled, it was as if a light shone from within her, mak­ing ev­ery­thing around her warmer and brighter. But did she like him?

The prince had lost count of how many elim­i­na­tion rounds there had been. The rounds that stuck in his mem­ory were the glass-slip­per round, the seven-dwarfs round and the kiss-the-frog round. The pro­duc­ers had gone mad with the princess theme. They’d saved the pea round for last. Ap­par­ently, there had been a great deal of dis­cus­sion about the name.

Last night, the con­tes­tants had slept in four-poster beds piled high with 20

mat­tresses, be­neath which a dried pea had been se­cretly placed. Only a real lady would be sen­si­tive enough to feel the pea through so many mat­tresses.

Fer­di­nand walked on to the set. The con­tes­tants had been styled to within an inch of their lives and smiled at the prince as he en­tered. Fer­di­nand glanced at the au­tocue and asked Amelia, “How did you sleep last night?”

“Very well,” replied Amelia. “It was the best night’s sleep I’ve had in ages.”

“That’s good,” said the prince. He was re­lieved. He wasn’t keen on Amelia. He’d over­heard her jok­ing about the other women, but the pro­duc­ers had in­sisted on keep­ing her on the show be­cause she was pop­u­lar with view­ers.

Turn­ing to Carme­line, he asked, “How did you sleep?” “Very peace­fully,” she gig­gled. “With all those mat­tresses, it was like sleep­ing on a gi­ant marsh­mal­low.”

“Ex­cel­lent!” re­sponded Fer­di­nand. There was no doubt that Carme­line had a sweet na­ture, but Fer­di­nand hadn’t been able to have a proper con­ver­sa­tion with her at any point dur­ing film­ing. He hadn’t had the heart to elim­i­nate her, though.

He looked at Brigid and smiled. “And Brigid, how did you sleep?”

“I slept fine,” replied Brigid.

“Re­ally?” Fer­di­nand was dis­ap­pointed. “Well, ac­tu­ally, no, not re­ally. I hardly slept at all, to be hon­est. There was some­thing hard in the mat­tress, and it kept pok­ing me in the ribs.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” beamed the prince.

“You don’t look very sorry,” teased Brigid with a twin­kle in her eye.

“I ap­pre­ci­ate your hon­esty,” laughed Fer­di­nand as he walked to­wards her.

Brigid held out her hands. Fer­di­nand took them and asked hope­fully, “Do you think you would like to get to know me and my com­pli­cated fam­ily?”

“Why, yes!” ex­claimed Brigid. “But does that mean you’re not go­ing to pro­pose to me on na­tional tele­vi­sion?” She asked this, pre­tend­ing to sulk.

Fer­di­nand smiled. “We al­ready know you’re a queen. You felt the pea through all the mat­tresses. You won the round!”

“There was a pea un­der the mat­tresses? Who’d have thought it?” laughed Brigid.

Af­ter get­ting to know each other — away from pry­ing eyes and hid­den cam­eras — Fer­di­nand and Brigid de­cided they would like to spend the rest of their lives to­gether. The na­tion re­joiced, Dar­ren heaved a sigh of re­lief, and the pea was put on dis­play in the tele­vi­sion stu­dio, where fu­ture gen­er­a­tions would be able to look at it and won­der at the role it had played in bring­ing to­gether the king and queen. And ev­ery­one lived hap­pily ever af­ter.

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