The Queen Bee
Two kings» sons once upon a time went into the world to seektheir fortunes; but they soon fell into a wasteful foolish way ofliving, so that they could not return home again. Then theirbrother, who was a little insignificant dwarf, went out to seek forhis brothers: but when he had found them they only laughed at him, tothink that he, who was so young and simple, should try to travelthrough the world, when they, who were so much wiser, had been unableto get on. However, they all set out on their journey together, andcame at last to an ant-hill. The two elder brothers would have pulledit down, in order to see how the poor ants in their fright would runabout and carry off their eggs. But the little dwarf said, «Let thepoor things enjoy themselves, I will not suffer you to trouble them.»
So on they went, and came to a lake where many many ducks wereswimming about. The two brothers wanted to catch two, and roast them.But the dwarf said, «Let the poor things enjoy themselves, you shallnot kill them.» Next they came to a bees’-nest in a hollow tree, andthere was so much honey that it ran down the trunk; and the twobrothers wanted to light a fire under the tree and kill the bees, soas to get their honey. But the dwarf held them back, and said, «Let thepretty insects enjoy themselves, I cannot let you burn them.»
At length the three brothers came to a castle: and as they passed bythe stables they saw fine horses standing there, but all were ofmarble, and no man was to be seen. Then they went through all therooms, till they came to a door on which were three locks: but in themiddle of the door was a wicket, so that they could look into the nextroom. There they saw a little grey old man sitting at a table; andthey called to him once or twice, but he did not hear: however, theycalled a third time, and then he rose and came out to them.
He said nothing, but took hold of them and led them to a beautifultable covered with all sorts of good things: and when they had eaten anddrunk, he showed each of them to a bed-chamber.
The next morning he came to the eldest and took him to a marbletable, where there were three tablets, containing an account of themeans by which the castle might be disenchanted. The first tabletsaid: «In the wood, under the moss, lie the thousand pearlsbelonging to the king’s daughter; they must all be found: and if onebe missing by set of sun, he who seeks them will be turned intomarble.»
The eldest brother set out, and sought for the pearls the whole day:but the evening came, and he had not found the first hundred: so he wasturned into stone as the tablet had foretold.
The next day the second brother undertook the task; but he succeededno better than the first; for he could only find the second hundred ofthe pearls; and therefore he too was turned into stone.
At last came the little dwarf’s turn; and he looked in the moss; butit was so hard to find the pearls, and the job was so tiresome!—so hesat down upon a stone and cried. And as he sat there, the king of theants (whose life he had saved) came to help him, with five thousandants; and it was not long before they had found all the pearls andlaid them in a heap.
The second tablet said: «The key of the princess’s bed-chamber mustbe fished up out of the lake.» And as the dwarf came to the brink ofit, he saw the two ducks whose lives he had saved swimming about; andthey dived down and soon brought in the key from the bottom.
The third task was the hardest. It was to choose out the youngest andthe best of the king’s three daughters. Now they were all beautiful,and all exactly alike: but he was told that the eldest had eaten apiece of sugar, the next some sweet syrup, and the youngest a spoonfulof honey; so he was to guess which it was that had eaten the honey.
Then came the queen of the bees, who had been saved by the littledwarf from the fire, and she tried the lips of all three; but at lastshe sat upon the lips of the one that had eaten the honey: and so thedwarf knew which was the youngest. Thus the spell was broken, and allwho had been turned into stones awoke, and took their proper forms.And the dwarf married the youngest and the best of the princesses,and was king after her father’s death; but his two brothers married theother two sisters.