The Queen Bee
– A Fairy Tale by the Brothers Grimm –
ONCE upon a time two King’s sons set out to seek adventures and fell into such a wild kind of life that they did not return home.
So their youngest brother, Dummling, went forth to seek them; but when he found them they mocked him, because of his simplicity. Nevertheless they journeyed on, all three together, till they came to an ant-hill, which the two eldest brothers would have overturned, to see how the little ants would run in their terror, carrying away their eggs; but Dummling said, ‘Let the little creatures be in peace; I will not suffer them to be overturned!’ Then they went farther, till they came to a lake, on which ducks were swimming in myriads. The two brothers wanted to catch a pair and roast them; but Dummling would not allow it, saying, ‘Let these fowls alone; I will not suffer them to be killed!’
At last they came to a bees’ nest, in which was so much honey that it was running out at the mouth of the nest. The two brothers wanted to make a fire at the foot of the tree to smoke the bees out, and so secure the honey; but Dummling again held them back, saying, ‘Leave the creatures alone; I will not suffer them to be touched!’
After this the three brothers came to a castle, where in the stable stood several stone horses, but no man was to be seen; and they went through all the rooms until they came to a door quite at the end, on which hung three locks, and in the middle of the door was a hole through which one could see into the room.
Peeping through this hole, they saw a fierce-looking man sitting at the table. They called to him once—twice—but he heard not; but as they called the third time he got up, opened the door, and came out. Not a word did he speak, but led them to a well-supplied table; and when they had eaten and drunk, he took each of them into a sleeping-chamber The next morning the man came to the eldest, and, beckoning him up led him to a stone table on which were written three sentences. The first was that under the moss in the wood lay the pearls of the King’s daughter, a thousand in number, which must be sought for, and if at sunset even one was wanting, he who had searched for them would be changed into stone.
The eldest brother went off and searched the whole day, but only found a hundred, so that it happened to him as the table had said—he was changed into stone. The next day the second brother undertook the adventure, but he fared no better than the other, for he found but two hundred pearls, and he, therefore, was turned into stone. Then the turn came to Dummling, who searched the moss; but it was very difficult to find the pearls, and the work went on but slowly.
Then he sat himself down on a stone and wept, and while he did so, the Ant King, whose life he had formerly saved, came up with five thousand companions, and before very long they searched for, and found, and piled in a heap, the whole thousand pearls. But the second sentence was to fetch the key of the Princess’s sleeping-chamber out of a lake which, by chance, the brothers had passed.
When Dummling came to the lake, the Ducks whose lives he had before saved swam up to him, and, diving below the water, quickly brought up the key. The third sentence, however, was the most difficult of all—of the three daughters of the King, to pick out the youngest and prettiest. They were all asleep, and appeared all the same, without a single mark of difference, except that before they fell asleep they had eaten different sweetmeats—the eldest a piece of sugar, the second a little syrup, and the youngest a spoonful of honey.
Presently in came the Queen of all the Bees, who had been saved by Dummling from the fire, and tried the mouths of the three. At last she settled on the mouth which had eaten the honey, and thus the King’s son soon knew which was the right Princess. Then the spell was broken; every one was delivered from the sleep, and those who had been changed into stone received their human form again. Now, Dummling was married to the youngest and prettiest Princess, and became King after his father’s death; but his two brothers were obliged to be content with the two other sisters.
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