The Princess and the TIn Box

The Princess and the TIn Box

"The Princess and the Tin Box" by James Thurber is a short fable about a spoiled princess and how she picked her husband.

Plot Summary

Once upon a time, in a far off country, there lived a king whose daughter was the most beautiful in the world. From the minute of her birth, expensive gifts were lavished upon her. All her toys were made of gold or platinum and other precious gifts. China dolls or wooden blocks or linen books were not given to her as they were deemed too cheap for a beautiful daughter of a king.

When it came time from the princess to marry, five princes from neighboring kingdom came to her and presented her with gifts. The first prince brought her an enormous golden apple, the second prince brought her a nightingale of a thousand diamonds, the third prince brought her a great jewel box made of sapphires and diamonds, and the fourth prince brought her a gigantic heart made of rubies pierced by an emerald arrow.

The fifth prince was the strongest and the handsomest of all the suitors but unfortunately, the poorest. His kingdom had been overtaken by mice, locusts, wizards, and mining engineers so that nothing much of value was left. He brought to the princess a tin box filled with mica, feldspar, and hornblende which he had picked along the way.

The king told the princess to select the gift she liked best and then she would marry the prince who brought it. The princess admired the first four gifts but examined the tin box with great interest for in all of her life she had never seen tin or mica or feldspar or hornblende.

After careful consideration, the princess selected the gift she liked best: the platinum and sapphire jewel box, her logic being that she would meet more admirers who would give her gifts in which she could put in the box. The princess married the third prince that very day.


"All those who thought the princess was going to select the tin box filled with worthless stones instead of the other gifts will kindly stay after class and write one hundred times on the blackboard 'I would rather have a hunk of aluminum silicate than a diamond necklace."'

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