Study Guide

The Prince and the Pauper

By Mark Twain

The Prince and the Pauper Introduction

Barbie has done it. Mickey Mouse has done it. Even the Olsen twins have done it. But Mark Twain was the first person to write the story that we all know and love as The Prince and the Pauper.

Published in 1881, the story of Prince Edward VI swapping places with a poor boy in 16th-century England was Twain's first foray into historical fiction. Now, Twain himself thought that The Prince and the Pauper was the best thing he had ever written, but it's never been quite as popular as Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer (source).

One reason for this might be that The Prince and the Pauper is an unusual book for Mark Twain. If you're a Twain lover, you may not even recognize your favorite folksy author underneath all the Dickensian prose.

In fact, Twain was influenced by quite a few other authors when he wrote this novel. For instance, most of the book's historical information comes from David Hume's History of England and other old English histories. Twain also took the premise from Charlotte M. Yonge, who wrote a book called The Prince and the Page. Sound familiar?

The Prince and the Pauper may not be as popular—or as controversial—as Twain's other novels, but it shows a different side of this author. Even if people don't read this one as often as Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, the story itself has been adapted into movies, TV shows, video games, novels, and pretty much anything else that you can imagine. Even if you've never read the novel, you probably already know the story.

So why get this story second-hand? Dig in and see what Twain was up to, in his own words. And hey, if the big Samuel Langhorne Clemens himself thought this was his best work, we're not gonna argue.

What is The Prince and the Pauper About and Why Should I Care?

Things used to be… bad. Bad bad. Like... people-used-to-be boiled-alive-and-have-their-ears-chopped-off bad.

We've advanced a bit since then, but things are still pretty bad for a lot of people in the world. Those of us who are lucky enough to be reading about literature on the Internet using our iPads might feel like our problems are gigantic. But if we swapped places with someone less fortunate for a day, we'd probably end up just like Edward. We'd realize that things are not as bad as they seem, and that there's always someone who has it much worse than we could even imagine.

So if there's one thing that The Prince and the Pauper tells us, it's that the grass is always greener on the other side. But that might just be because it's covered in radioactive waste. So you might want to just be happy with your side of the lawn.

The Prince and the Pauper Resources

Websites

This Gossip Is Only 400 Years Old
It might not be the freshest gossip, but if you want to know all the juicy tidbits about Tudor England, this site's got your covered.

Top Ten on the List
Maybe not the list you want to be on, but here are the top 10 high profile executions of King Henry VII's reign.

Got a Question? Need an Answer?
Any question you could possibly have about the Tudors will be answered here. By whom? Random Tudor geeks on the Internet, of course.

Movie or TV Productions

We Knew Miles Hendon Was a Star
Sure, the movie is in black and white, and somehow a minor character became the top billed actor, but hey, don't knock it till you try it.

Made for Shorter Attention Spans
If the movie above seemed just a bit too long, this hour and a half long made-for-TV movie might do it for you.

Historical Documents

Even Tyrants Can Love
Henry VIII did not go down in history as a Casanova, but these letters seem to show that he loved his lady.

Hey, He Was Just a Kid
So, maybe Edward didn't have the best handwriting in the world. That's okay. That's what the Great Seal is for.

Video

Mickey, Meet Mickey
It was only a matter of time before Disney got their hands on this story.

Miles Hendon—er, The Prince and the Pauper
The official trailer for the 1937 movie, starring Errol Flynn.

Alternate Ending
This is how we imagine the story really would have ended.

Audio

Six Hours of Prince and Pauper Gold
Give your hands and eyes a rest, and listen to this audio version of the story.

Tudor Knowledge, Delivered Straight to Your Ears
Ever want to know about work, play, drama, or music during the Tudor era? The BBC (who else?) has got you covered.

Images

The Main Man
For only 15 years old, Edward VI sure had a lot of portraits made of him.

The Illustrated Story
See all of your favorite moments from the book in Technicolor! Okay, maybe not, but black and white is still pretty cool.