Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The German Fairy Tale of the Mysterious Bee Queen

Grimm’s Fairy Tale No. 62 The German Fairy Tale of the Mysterious Bee Queen

Two king’s sons went out looking for adventure and fell into a wild, dissipated life and did not return home. The youngest, who was also known as the dummkopf, went out looking for his brothers. But when he finally found them, they laughed and mocked him. He was a simpleton, they jeered. How could he succeed in life when they had failed so miserably and they were so much smarter? And so it was, the three brothers decided to go out together and soon they came upon an anthill. The two oldest wanted to stir up the sand and see how the little ants scurried fearfully around, carrying off their eggs. But the dummkopf said “Leave the animals in peace. I won’t tolerate your harming them.” The brothers continued on their way and came to a lake, where many ducks were swimming. The two brothers wanted to catch a few and roast them, but the dummkopf would not allow it. He said” Leave the animals in peace. I won’t tolerate your harming them.”

Finally they came to a bee nest. There was so much honey that it trickled down the trunk of the tree. The two older brothers wanted to light a fire under the tree and suffocate the bees, so that they could rob them of their honey. The dummkopf once more said “Leave the animals in peace. I won’t tolerate your harming them.” Finally the three brothers arrived at a castle. Here the stalls were full of stone horses. But not a single human being was found. They went through each room of the castle, until they arrived at the very last door. The door had three locks but in the middle there was a keyhole. Spying through the hole they saw a gray little man sitting at a table. They called to him, once, twice, but he did not hear. Finally they called a third time. He stood up, opened the locks and came out. But he never said a word. Instead, he led them to a richly set table. When they had eaten and drunk their fill, the old man brought each brother to a separate sleeping chamber. The next morning the gray little man came to the oldest, woke him and took him to a stone tablet. Three tasks were written on the tablet, and fulfillment of the tasks would redeem the castle. The first task was this: in the woods under the moss lay the pearls of the king’s daughter, one thousand in number. They all had to be gathered and if a single pearl was missing when the sun set, the person who was searching for them would be turned to stone. The oldest went out and looked the entire day. But when day was over, and he had only found one hundred, it happened just as the tablet had foretold. He was turned to stone. The next day the second brother took up the adventure. It did not go much better for him. He had found more than two-hundred pearls when he was turned to stone. Finally, it was the dummkopf’s turn. He searched through the moss but it was difficult finding pearls and took too long. He sat down on a stone and began to cry. And as he was sitting there, the ant king came, whose life the dummkopf had once saved. He arrived with five-thousand ants and it didn’t take long for the small animals to gather the pearls into a little pile. The second task was to fetch the key to the princess’s bed chamber at the bottom of the sea. As the dummkopf approached the water, the ducks came swimming, whose life he had once saved. They dove under and fetched the key from the depths. The third task was the most difficult. Among the king’s sleeping daughters the dummkopf had to determine the youngest and dearest. But they all looked the same and nothing distinguished them except for the fact that before they went to sleep, they each had eaten a different sweet: the oldest a sugar cube, the second, some syrup and the third a spoon of honey. The bee queen, whose lives the dummkopf had preserved against fire, arrived with her bees. The queen alighted on the mouth of each princess, but at last she lingered near the mouth of the princess who had eaten honey. In this way, the king’s son recognized the rightful princess. The magic was now over, everyone was freed from their sleep and the brothers who had been turned into stone, took on their human shape again. The dummkopf married the youngest and dearest daughter of the king and became king after her father’s death. But his two brothers married the other two sisters.

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