The Queen Bee
ONCE upon a time two princes started off in search
of adventure, and, falling into a wild, free mode of
life, did not come home again.
The third brother, who was called the Blockhead, set out
to look for the other two. But when at last he found them,
they mocked him for thinking of making his way in the world
with his simplicity, while they, who were so much cleverer,
could not get on.
They all three went on together till they came to an ant
heap. The two elder princes wanted to disturb it, to see
how the little ants crept away, carrying their eggs.
But the Blockhead said: "Leave the little creatures alone;
I will not allow you to disturb them."
Then they went on farther till they came to a lake in
which a great many ducks were swimming about. The two
wanted to catch and roast a pair.
But the Blockhead would not allow it, and said: "Leave
the creatures alone. You shall not kill them."
At last they came to a bee's nest, containing such a quantity
of honey that it flowed around the trunk of the tree.
The two princes wanted to set fire to the tree and suffocate
the bees, so as to remove the honey.
But the Blockhead stopped them again, and said: "Leave
the creatures alone. I will not let you burn them."
At last the three brothers came to a castle, where the
stables were full of stone horses, but not a soul was to be
seen. They went through all the rooms till they came to a
door quite at the end, fastened with three bolts. In the
middle of the door was a lattice, through which one could
see into the room.
There they saw a little gray man sitting at a table. They
called to him once, twice; but he did not hear them. Finally,
when they had called him the third time, he stood up and
opened the door and came out. He said not a word, but led
them to a richly spread table, and when they had eaten and
drunk, he took them each to a bedroom.
The next morning the little Gray Man came to the eldest
Prince, beckoned, and led him to a stone tablet whereon were
inscribed three tasks by means of which the castle should be
freed from enchantment.
This was the first task: in the wood, under the moss, lay
the Princess's pearls, a thousand in number. These had all
to be found, and if at sunset a single one were missing, the
seeker would be turned to stone.
The eldest went away, and searched all day, but when
evening came, he had only found the first hundred, and it
happened as the inscription foretold—he was turned to stone.
The next day the second brother undertook the quest; but
he fared no better than the first, for he found only two hundred
pearls, and he too was turned to stone.
At last came the Blockhead's turn; he searched in the
moss, but the pearls were hard to find, and he got on but
Then he sat down on a rock and cried, and as he was
sitting there, the Ant King, whose life he had saved, came up
with five thousand ants, and it was not long before the
little creatures had found all the pearls and laid them in a
Now the second task was to get the key of the Princess's
room out of the lake.
When the Blockhead came to the lake, the ducks, which
he had once saved, swam up, dived, and brought up the key
from the depths.
But the third task was the hardest. The Prince had to
find out which was the youngest and prettiest of the princesses
while they were asleep.
They were exactly alike, and could not be distinguished in
any way, except that before going to sleep each had eaten a
different kind of sweet. The eldest a piece of sugar, the
second a little syrup, and the third a spoonful of honey.
Then the Queen of the Bees, whom the Blockhead had
saved from burning, came and tried the lips of all three.
Finally, she settled on the mouth of the one who had eaten
the honey, and so the Prince recognized the right one.
Then the charm was broken and everything in the castle
was set free, and those who had been turned to stone took
human form again.
And the Blockhead married the youngest and sweetest
Princess, and became King after her father's death, while
his two brothers married the other sisters.