The Queen Bee
The Queen Bee
Once upon a time, two princes went out in the world to seek their fortunes. Unfortunately, they were rather lazy, and, having made some rather foolish choices while out in the world, they were too embarrassed to return to the palace.
Then their young brother, who was a dwarf, went out to look for his brothers. When he found them, they only laughed at him. Who did this simpleton think he was, seeking his fortune?
They decided, however, to travel together. After some time, they came to an anthill. The two elder brothers would have pulled it down to frighten the poor insects, but the little dwarf said, “Leave the poor things alone.”
So on they went until they came to a lake where many ducks were swimming. The two brothers wanted to catch two and roast them for dinner. But the dwarf said, “Let the poor things enjoy themselves. Don't kill them.”
And so, on they went. Next, they came to a bees' nest in a hollow tree; there was so much honey that it ran down the trunk. The two brothers wanted to light a fire under the tree and kill the bees and get at the honey. But the dwarf held them back, and said, “Leave the pretty insects alone.”
They continued on and finally came to a castle. As they passed by the stables, they saw fine horses standing there, but all were of marble. And there was nobody about. Then they went through all the castle rooms, until they came to a door with three locks. In the middle of the door there was a wicket, so that they could look into the next room. There they saw a little old man sitting at a table. They called to him a couple times, but he did not hear. When they called a third time, though, he got up and came over to them.
He said nothing, but took hold of them and led them to a beautiful table covered with all sorts of good things to eat and drink. When they had finished their meal, he showed each of them to a bedroom.
The next morning he came to the eldest and took him to a marble table, where there were three tablets, telling how to break the enchantment affecting the castle. The first tablet said: “In the wood, under the moss, lie the thousand pearls belonging to the king's daughter; they must all be found. If one is missing at sunset, he who seeks them will be turned into marble.”
The eldest brother set out and looked for the pearls the whole day, but the evening came. He had not found the first hundred, so he was turned into stone.
The next day the second brother tried to find the pearls, but he had no luck and so, too, was turned into stone.
Then came the little dwarf's turn. He looked in the moss, but it was so hard to find the pearls and the job was so tedious! He sat down upon a stone and cried. And as he sat there, the king of the ants (whose life he had saved) came to help him, with five thousand ants. It was not long before they had found all the pearls and laid them in a heap by his feet.
The second tablet said: “The key to the princess's bedroom must be fished up out of the lake.”
As the dwarf came to the edge of the lake, he saw the two ducks whose lives he had saved swimming about. They dove and soon brought up the key from the bottom.
The third task was the hardest: to select the youngest and the best of the king's three daughters. They were all beautiful, and all exactly alike. But he was told that the eldest had eaten a piece of sugar, the next some sweet syrup, and the youngest a spoonful of honey. He was to guess which one had eaten the honey.
Then, just in time, came the queen of the bees, who had been saved by the little dwarf from the fire, and she tried the lips of all three. Finally, she sat upon the lips of the one who had eaten the honey, and so the dwarf knew which was the youngest. Thus the spell was broken, and all who had been turned into stone awoke and took their proper form.
And the dwarf married the youngest and sweetest of the princesses, and was king after her father's death many years later. His two brothers married the other two sisters, and they all lived happily together.