How many fairy tales can you think of that involve a prince looking for someone to marry and choosing someone who was largely ignored by others for various reasons? How many stories involve overbearing mothers who are heavily involved in helping their sons choose wives
These are examples of archetypes or character types that are common in many fairy tales. In the fairy tale "The Princess and the Pea" by Hans Christian Andersen, we see these same character archetypes.
The prince in this story is looking for a wife. Despite traveling the world to find a wife, he was unimpressed with the women he met. It is important for him to marry a real princess, and due to the unpolished or rude behavior of some candidates, he is not sure if they are real princesses. He ended up marrying a woman who showed up unexpectedly at his castle one night because she passed a test his mother gave her to prove she was a real princess.
One rainy night, a woman shows up at the prince's castle, hoping to find shelter for the night. She tells the prince and his mother that she is a princess, but no one is sure if this is true. When the prince's mother puts her to the test to see if she is a princess, she passes with top marks, and the two are married. It's entirely possible that this woman was never a princess but somehow found out about the test her mother was doing and behaved according to her expectations.
Hans Christian Andersen's original title is The Princess ON the Pea, but the English title makes it seem almost as if the pea is a character unto itself. The pea represents the work we have to do, the same as the princess represents the system or the people who run the system. In the fairy tale, the little pea did not allow the princess to sleep well; she was so embarrassed by the tiny object buried deep in the sheets. The pea is a symbol of our truest selves.
She respected her son's decision to marry only the real princess. It was she who was smart enough to come up with a plan that would prove that the particular girl was the real princess. She was clever and didn’t allow herself to be deceived. She didn't take anyone's word for it until they proved themselves by deed. However, she was pleased when the princess proved to be the real one. She was finally able to marry her fastidious son.