The Prince and the Pauper – Chapter Seven – Fun Fact

Chapter 7 contains one of my favorite scenes in The Prince and the Pauper. Mark Twain exaggerates Tom’s first experience with his many royal servants for a comedic effect. It all culminates in a moment where Tom begins to twitch and his eyes begin to water. He finally reveals that his nose itches, and he is unsure if there is a servant to perform that task for him. So naturally that led me to wonder…

Why does our nose itch?

Poor Tom sat their miserably before finally scratching his itch. So what caused it? Keep reading or watch the video below for more information.

Reference in The Prince and the Pauper

“At that moment the muscles of his nose began to twitch, and the end of that organ to lift and wrinkle. This continued, and Tom began to evince a growing distress. He looked appealingly, first at one and then another of the lords about him, and tears came into his eyes. They sprang forward with dismay in their faces, and begged to know his trouble.

Tom said with genuine anguish—“I crave your indulgence: my nose itcheth cruelly. What is the custom and usage in this emergence? Prithee, speed, for ’tis but a little time that I can bear it.” None smiled; but all were sore perplexed, and looked one to the other in deep tribulation for counsel. But behold, here was a dead wall, and
nothing in English history to tell how to get over it.

The Master of Ceremonies was not present: there was no one who felt safe to venture upon this uncharted sea, or risk the attempt to solve this solemn problem. Alas! there was no Hereditary Scratcher. Meantime the tears had overflowed their banks, and begun to trickle down Tom’s cheeks. His twitching nose was pleading more urgently than ever for relief. At last nature broke down the barriers of etiquette:  Tom lifted up an inward prayer for pardon if he was doing wrong, and brought relief to the burdened hearts of his court by scratching his nose himself.” (p. 36-37)

I always enjoy this part of the book because this quote is followed up by Tom stating that his father doesn’t speak any languages except for maybe the language of the pigs. This causes everyone in the room to give him a shocked look, since for them it sounds as if he is talking about King Henry. So he needs to quickly apologize and blame his “sickness”.

What causes an itch (pruritis)?

The feeling of an itch is caused by irritation of skin cells or nerve cells associated with skin. The nerve endings that sense the itch (pruriceptors) can be stimulated though many different methods, including mechanical, chemical, or thermal means. Usually the cause of the itching feeling is related to inflammation, dryness, or damage to the skin, mucous membrane, or eye.

Why does it help to scratch an itch?

I’m no science expert, but from my very basic understanding of the sources I examined, here is the simplified explanation. Specific nerve cells called C-fibers send signals to our brain. These are identical to nerve cells associated with pain. When the signal reaches the brain, it causes a reflex of rubbing or scratching. The action of scratching/rubbing stimulates other receptors in the same area, disrupting the pruriceptor stimulation. This only causes temporary relief though, as many people know from personal experience.

What causes our nose to itch?

Here are some of the causes of a nose itch:

  1. Seasonal allergies – common
  2. Rhinitis (inflammation of the nose) – common
  3. Allergic contact dermatitis (nose contacts allergen) – common
  4. Dermatofibroma (swelling/lump in skin) – rare
  5. Chronic allergies – common
  6. Insect bite – common
  7. Normal episode of itchy skin (pruritis) – common
  8. Viruses – common
  9. Sinusitis – common
  10. Nasal polyps (non-cancerous growths in nose) – common
  11. Migraines – less common

Ways to get rid of a nose tickle

  1. Saltwater nasal spray
  2. Neti pot
  3. Drink more fluids
  4. Avoid triggers
  5. Avoid irritating the nose further
  6. Humidifier
  7. Check for irritants
  8. Take medication

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