The Queen Bee
Three brothers try to find their luck in the world. The oldest think themselves smart, but the youngest one is kind to ants, ducks and even the queen bee…
The Queen Bee is a Brothers Grimm fairy tale about three princes who adventure into the world. The youngest one, called Simpleton, saves ants, ducks and bees from his brothers’ destruction. These animals help him later break the enchantment on a castle and its princesses.
Complete text The Queen Bee
Simpleton rescues animals from his brothers’ destruction
Once upon a time there were two princes who went out in search of adventures. They fell into a wild, disorderly way of living, so that they never came home again.
Their younger brother, called Simpleton, set out to seek his brothers. When at last he found them they mocked him for thinking that he with his simplicity could find his way in the world. They two could not make their way and yet were so much cleverer.
Traveling all three together, they came to an ant hill. The two elder ones wanted to destroy it. They liked to see the little ants creeping about in their terror and carrying their eggs away. Simpleton said, “Leave the creatures in peace; I will not allow you to disturb them.”
Onward they went. They came to a lake, on which a great number of ducks were swimming. The two brothers wanted to catch a couple and roast them, but Simpleton would not permit it, and said, “Leave the creatures in peace, I will not suffer you to kill them.”
At last they came to a bee’s nest. There was so much honey in the nest that it ran out of the trunk of the tree where the nest was.
The two wanted to make a fire beneath the tree, to suffocate the bees in order to take away the honey. Simpleton again stopped them and said, “Leave the creatures in peace, I will not allow you to burn them.”
The three brothers arrive at a castle
At last the three brothers arrived at a castle. Stone horses were standing in the stables. No human being was to be seen, and they went through all the halls until, quite at the end, they came to a door in which were three locks.
In the middle of the door was a little pane, through which they could see into the room. There they saw a little grey man, who was sitting at a table. They called him, once, twice, but he did not hear; at last they called him for the third time.
He got up, opened the locks, and came out. He said nothing, however, but conducted them to a handsomely-spread table. When they had eaten and drunk, he took each of them to a bedroom.
Next morning the little grey man came to the eldest. He beckoned to him and brought him to a stone table, on which were inscribed three tasks. By performing those tasks the castle could be delivered.
The brothers try the first task
The first was that in the forest, beneath the moss, lay the princess’s pearls. A thousand of them, which had to be picked up. If by sunset one single pearl was wanting, he who had looked for them would be turned into stone.
The eldest went into the forest and sought the whole day. When the day ended, he had only found one hundred. What was written on the table came to pass, and he was changed into stone.
Next day, the second brother undertook the adventure. It did not, however, fare much better with him than with the eldest. He did not find more than two hundred pearls, and was changed to stone.
At last the turn came to Simpleton also, who sought in the moss. It was so hard to find the pearls and he got on so slowly, that he sat down on a stone and wept. While he sat there, the king of the ants whose life he had once saved came with five thousand ants,. Quickly the little creatures got all the pearls together and laid them in a heap.
Simpleton completes the second task
The second task was to fetch out of the lake the key of the king’s daughter’s bedchamber. When Simpleton came to the lake, the ducks which he had saved, swam up to him. They dived down and brought the key out of the water.
Simpleton completes the third task
But the third task was the most difficult. From among the three sleeping daughters of the King was the youngest and dearest to be sought out. They resembled each other exactly and were only to be distinguished by their having eaten different sweetmeats before they fell asleep. The eldest had eaten a bit of sugar, the second a little syrup, the youngest a spoonful of honey.
Then the queen of the bees, which Simpleton had protected from the fire, came and tasted the lips of all three. She remained sitting on the mouth which had eaten honey. And so he recognized the right princess.
The enchantment was broken, everything was released from sleep and those who had been turned to stone received once more their natural forms.
Simpleton married the youngest and sweetest princess, and after her father’s death became king. His tow brothers got together with the two other sisters.
Tips for Telling The Queen Bee
- Stories thrive on contrast. There is a big contrast between the older brothers and the youngest one. Feel their feelings about each other and let it shine through in your telling.
- Take some time to clearly paint the image of each task the youngest one needs to do. Your audience will quickly figure out which animal comes to help.
- Don’t spend too much time telling your listeners what they already have realized for themselves. Little children you might need to give more information, adults less.
All Questions Answered
This fairy tale was published by the Brothers Grimm in the second edition of their Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Source: Fairy tale collection by Albert Ludewig Grimm (not family).
The Brothers Grimm included it in the 1819 second edition of their Grimm’s fairy tales.
Be kind to animals, they will be kind to you when you need their help at a later time.
More useful information
Fairy tales with an ant
Fairy tales with a bee
Fairy tales with a duck
- Hansel and Gretel
- Herr Korbes
- Sweetheart Roland
- The Pack of Ragamuffins
- The Queen Bee
- The Three Little Men in the Woods
- The White Snake
Photo credits: Dustin Humes on Unsplash
The Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales on this website are based on the authentic translation of Margaret Hunt. They were edited and reformatted for pleasant reading and telling by Storyteller Rudolf Roos.
See the complete list of The Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales (link to internationalstoryteller.com).