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The Queen Bee
The Queen Bee Märchen

The Queen Bee - Fairy Tale by the Brothers Grimm

Reading time for children: 6 min

Two king’s sons once started to seek adventures, and fell into a wild, reckless way of living, and gave up all thoughts of going home again. Their third and youngest brother, who was called Witling, and had remained behind, started off to seek them; and when at last he found them, they jeered at his simplicity in thinking that he could make his way in the world, while they who were so much cleverer were unsuccessful.

But they all three went on together until they came to an ant-hill, which the two eldest brothers wished to stir up, that they might see the little ants hurry about in their fright and carrying off their eggs, but Witling said, „Leave the little creatures alone, I will not suffer them to be disturbed.“ And they went on farther until they came to a lake, where a number of ducks were swimming about. The two eldest brothers wanted to catch a couple and cook them, but Witling would not allow it, and said, „Leave the creatures alone, I will not suffer them to be killed.“

And then they came to a bee’s-nest in a tree, and there was so much honey in it that it overflowed and ran down the trunk. The two eldest brothers then wanted to make a fire beneath the tree, that the bees might be stifled by the smoke, and then they could get at the honey. But Witling prevented them, saying, „Leave the little creatures alone, I will not suffer them to be stifled.“

At last the three brothers came to a castle where there were in the stables many horses standing, all of stone, and the brothers went through all the rooms until they came to a door at the end secured with three locks, and in the middle of the door a small opening through which they could look into the room. And they saw a little grey-haired man sitting at a table. They called out to him once, twice, and he did not hear, but at the third time he got up, undid the locks, and came out. Without speaking a word he led them to a table loaded with all sorts of good things, and when they had eaten and drunk he showed to each his bed-chamber.

The next morning the little grey man came to the eldest brother, and beckoning him, brought him to a table of stone, on which were written three things directing by what means the castle could be delivered from its enchantment The first thing was, that in the wood under the moss lay the pearls belonging to the princess – a thousand in number – and they were to be sought for and collected, and if he who should undertake the task had not finished it by sunset, if but one pearl were missing, he must be turned to stone. So the eldest brother went out, and searched all day, but at the end of it he had only found one hundred; just as was said on the table of stone came to pass and he was turned into stone.

The second brother undertook the adventure next day, but it fared with him no better than with the first. He found two hundred pearls, and was turned into stone. And so at last it was Witling’s turn, and he began to search in the moss; but it was a very tedious business to find the pearls, and he grew so out of heart that he sat down on a stone and began to weep. As he was sitting thus, up came the ant-king with five thousand ants, whose lives had been saved through Witling’s pity, and it was not very long before the little insects had collected all the pearls and put them in a heap.

Now the second thing ordered by the table of stone was to get the key of the princess’s sleeping-chamber out of the lake. And when Witling came to the lake, the ducks whose lives he had saved came swimming, and dived below, and brought up the key from the bottom. The third thing that had to be done was the most difficult, and that was to choose out the youngest and loveliest of the three princesses, as they lay sleeping. All bore a perfect resemblance each to the other, and only differed in this, that before they went to sleep each one had eaten a different sweetmeat, the eldest a piece of sugar, the second a little syrup, and the third a spoonful of honey.

Now the Queen-bee of those bees that Witling had protected from the fire came at this moment, and trying the lips of all three, settled on those of the one that had eaten honey, and so it was that the king’s son knew which to choose. Then the spell was broken; every one awoke from stony sleep, and took their right form again. And Witling married the youngest and loveliest princess, and became king after her father’s death. But his two brothers had to put up with the two other sisters.

Backgrounds to fairy tale „The Queen Bee“

„The Queen Bee“ is a German fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm, also known as Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, in their famous anthology „Grimm’s Fairy Tales“ (originally published as „Kinder- und Hausmärchen“ in 1812). The Brothers Grimm were German academics, linguists, cultural researchers, and authors who collected and published folklore and traditional stories from various sources, including oral and written accounts.

The Grimms‘ collection of fairy tales has become a significant part of Western literary tradition and has influenced generations of writers, artists, and filmmakers. Their work aimed to preserve and promote the cultural heritage and traditional stories of the German-speaking world. „The Queen Bee,“ like many other Grimm tales, carries moral lessons and explores themes such as kindness, compassion, and the power of unity. Although the Brothers Grimm popularized the story, it is essential to note that variations of „The Queen Bee“ can be found in other cultures and regions. The tale’s central themes and moral lessons are universal, transcending cultural boundaries and resonating with audiences worldwide.

The tale of „The Queen Bee“ explores themes such as the importance of kindness, the rewards of good deeds, and the consequences of cruelty. Like many other fairy tales, it incorporates elements of magic and the triumph of good over evil. The tale is rooted in the oral storytelling traditions of European culture. The Brothers Grimm played a significant role in preserving and popularizing the tale, but it is important to remember that the story has evolved over time and that different versions may focus on various aspects of the narrative.

The story originates from the European oral storytelling tradition, passed down through generations before being recorded by the Grimm brothers. The fairy tale has been retold and adapted in various forms over the years, with some versions emphasizing different aspects of the story. Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm were dedicated to preserving the folktales and oral storytelling traditions of their time. They compiled their collection of stories from ordinary people, often from the lower classes, with the intention of creating a comprehensive collection of traditional German and European folktales.

The story of „The Queen Bee“ centers around two arrogant brothers and their kind-hearted younger brother, who is considered simple-minded by the others. They set out on a journey and encounter various challenges, during which the younger brother shows kindness to various creatures, including ants, ducks, and a queen bee. His brothers, in contrast, cause harm to the animals they encounter. Later, they come across a castle where they must solve riddles and complete tasks to free the princesses trapped inside. The younger brother’s kindness is repaid when the animals he helped earlier come to his aid, helping him succeed in the tasks and rescue the princesses. The tale concludes with the younger brother being rewarded with the kingdom and marrying one of the princesses.

Interpretations to fairy tale „The Queen Bee“

„The Queen Bee“ can be interpreted through several themes and morals:

Kindness and Compassion: Witling’s kind-heartedness toward the ants, ducks, and bees ultimately rewards him with their assistance in completing the tasks. This suggests that kindness and compassion toward others, even the smallest creatures, can bring unexpected rewards and blessings. The central message of „The Queen Bee“ is the importance of being kind to others, even the smallest creatures. The younger brother’s acts of kindness towards the ants, ducks, and queen bee are eventually repaid, emphasizing the idea that good deeds are rewarded.

The Importance of Humility: Witling is initially ridiculed by his brothers for his perceived simplicity, yet it is his humility that allows him to empathize with the creatures he encounters. In the end, his humble nature proves to be an asset, enabling him to complete the tasks and become king. The younger brother is considered simple-minded by his older siblings, who are arrogant and cruel. However, his humility and kind-hearted nature ultimately lead him to success, emphasizing the importance of being humble and valuing others.

The Consequences of Recklessness and Cruelty: The two elder brothers‘ reckless and cruel behavior toward the creatures they encounter leads to their failure and transformation into stone. This serves as a warning against thoughtless and harmful actions, which can ultimately lead to negative consequences. In contrast to the younger brother, the two older brothers harm the animals they encounter on their journey. Their cruelty ultimately leads to their failure, teaching readers that cruel behavior can have negative consequences.

The Significance of Cooperation: The various creatures Witling encounters, such as the ants, ducks, and bees, work together to help him accomplish the tasks. This illustrates the importance of cooperation and unity, emphasizing that even the smallest contributions can lead to significant results when working together. Witling faces challenges and setbacks throughout the story, but he never gives up. His persistence and resilience in the face of adversity are essential qualities that enable him to succeed in breaking the enchantment.

Triumph of good over evil: The younger brother’s good nature and kindness allow him to succeed in the challenges presented at the castle and ultimately rescue the princesses. This theme is common in fairy tales, where the protagonists often triumph over adversity through their good qualities and actions.

Interconnectedness of all creatures: The younger brother’s actions affect the lives of the creatures he encounters, and they, in turn, come to his aid when he needs it most. This theme highlights the idea that all living beings are connected, and our actions can have far-reaching consequences. The younger brother’s kind actions not only bring him success but also transform the lives of the animals he encounters, as well as the princesses he rescues. The story conveys the message that acts of kindness can have a profound impact on the world around us.

These interpretations of „The Queen Bee“ highlight various aspects of human nature and the human experience, as well as the moral lessons that can be drawn from the tale. Like many other fairy tales, this story serves as a vehicle for exploring universal themes and values that resonate across cultures and generations. „The Queen Bee“ is a tale that emphasizes the virtues of kindness, compassion, humility, persistence, and cooperation. It highlights the importance of treating others with respect and illustrates the power of unity in overcoming challenges.

Adaptions of the fairy tale „The Queen Bee“

„The Queen Bee“ has inspired various adaptations over the years in different forms, including books, television, film, and theater. These adaptations often put their unique spin on the story, emphasizing different aspects of the tale or modernizing it for contemporary audiences. Here are some specific examples of adaptations:

Illustrated Books: Illustrated versions of „The Queen Bee“ have been published over the years, often as part of larger collections of fairy tales. These editions make the story more accessible to younger readers and bring the tale to life through vivid artwork.

TV: „Grimm’s Fairy Tale Classics“ (1987-1989): This Japanese animated television series adapts various fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm, including „The Queen Bee“ in an episode titled „The Grateful Animals.“ The story follows the original tale closely while adding its unique animated style to appeal to a younger audience. „SimsalaGrimm“ (1999-2010): This German animated television series adapts a variety of Grimm’s fairy tales, including „The Queen Bee“ in an episode with the same title. The series often adds a modern twist to the classic tales, with the protagonists Yoyo and Doc Croc traveling to the world of fairy tales to help solve problems and set things right.

Theater: „The Queen Bee“ has been adapted for the stage in various forms, including plays, musicals, and puppet shows. These productions often use creative approaches to portray the magical elements of the story and may reinterpret the tale to emphasize different themes or lessons.

Films: „The Grateful Animals and the Queen Bee“ (2008): A short film adaptation of „The Queen Bee“ directed by Tony Bonacci. This adaptation uses live-action and puppetry to tell the story and remains faithful to the original tale while adding its unique visual style.

These adaptations of „The Queen Bee“ demonstrate the enduring appeal of the fairy tale and its ability to inspire creativity across different media. While the core story remains the same, each adaptation brings its unique perspective and interpretation, ensuring that the tale continues to resonate with new generations of readers and audiences. „The Queen Bee“ has been adapted in various forms over the years, from traditional retellings to modern adaptations featuring new twists and variations on the original tale.

Similar fairy tales

„The Queen Bee“ by Andrew Lang: Andrew Lang included a version of „The Queen Bee“ in his collection of fairy tales, „The Blue Fairy Book“ (1889). Lang’s version is similar to the Brothers Grimm’s original story, but it includes some variations and details that differ from the original.

„The Bee, the Harp, the Mouse, and the Bum-Clock“ by Hans Christian Andersen: This tale by Hans Christian Andersen has been described as a variation of „The Queen Bee“. It features a mouse, a harp, and a bee who all help a poor boy win the hand of a princess.

„The Magic Sword“ by Aaron Shepard: This retelling of „The Queen Bee“ features a boy named Jack who is helped by a magical bee to win the hand of a princess. The story includes some variations on the original tale, such as the addition of a magic sword.

„The Bee-Man of Orn“ by Frank R. Stockton: This short story is a humorous adaptation of „The Queen Bee“ in which a bee-man is mistaken for a king and is asked to marry a princess. The story features several comical twists and turns, and is more of a parody of traditional fairy tales.

„The Beekeeper’s Apprentice“ by Laurie R. King: This novel is a modern-day adaptation of „The Queen Bee“ that features a young girl named Mary Russell who becomes an apprentice to Sherlock Holmes. The story includes elements of mystery and adventure, and the queen bee plays a significant role in the plot.

Summary of the plot

„The Queen Bee“ by Brothers Grimm is a fairy tale about three brothers who set out on an adventure. The two eldest brothers are reckless and cruel, while the youngest, Witling, is kind-hearted and compassionate. They come across an ant-hill, a lake with ducks, and a bee’s nest, and at each location, Witling prevents his brothers from harming the creatures.

Eventually, the brothers reach an enchanted castle, where a grey-haired man shows them a stone table with instructions to break the enchantment. Each brother must complete three tasks: find 1,000 pearls belonging to the princess hidden in the moss, retrieve the key to her sleeping chamber from the lake, and choose the youngest and loveliest princess among three sleeping sisters. The two eldest brothers fail the first task and are turned to stone.

Witling begins the task and, as he despairs, the ant-king he saved brings 5,000 ants to help collect the pearls. The ducks he protected then dive into the lake and retrieve the key. Finally, the queen bee he preserved from the fire identifies the youngest princess by the taste of honey on her lips. With all three tasks completed, the enchantment is broken, and everyone awakens from their stony sleep.

Witling marries the youngest princess and becomes king after her father’s death, while his two brothers marry the other sisters. The tale demonstrates the power of kindness and compassion, as Witling’s gentle nature allows him to successfully complete the tasks and ultimately break the castle’s enchantment.


„The Queen Bee“ is a fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm about a kind-hearted younger brother and his two cruel older brothers who embark on a journey. The younger brother shows kindness to various creatures they encounter along the way, including ants, ducks, and a queen bee, while the older brothers harm the animals they come across. Later, the brothers arrive at a castle where they must solve riddles and complete tasks to free the trapped princesses. The younger brother’s kindness is repaid when the animals he helped earlier come to his aid, assisting him in solving the riddles and completing the tasks, while the older brothers fail due to their cruelty. In the end, the younger brother rescues the princesses, is rewarded with the kingdom, and marries one of the princesses. The story emphasizes themes such as the importance of kindness, the rewards of good deeds, and the consequences of cruelty, as well as the triumph of good over evil.

Informations for scientific analysis

Fairy tale statistics
NumberKHM 62
Aarne-Thompson-Uther-IndexATU Typ 554
Translations DE, EN, DA, ES, FR, PT, HU, IT, JA, NL, PL, RO, RU, TR, VI, ZH,
Readability Index by Björnsson45.1
Flesch-Reading-Ease Index67
Flesch–Kincaid Grade-Level12
Gunning Fog Index14.5
Coleman–Liau Index8.3
SMOG Index9.2
Automated Readability Index12
Character Count4.505
Letter Count3.509
Sentence Count26
Word Count859
Average Words per Sentence33,04
Words with more than 6 letters104
Percentage of long words12.1%
Number of Syllables1.079
Average Syllables per Word1,26
Words with three Syllables28
Percentage Words with three Syllables3.3%
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