by the Brothers
There were once two princes, who
set out in search of adventures, but who wasted their time
and their money in all sorts of foolish ways, so that
they were never able to come home again. Then the youngest, who had always been
thought the simpleton of the family, set
out to look for his brothers, but
when he found
them they only mocked him for his
“For,” said they,
“if we with all our
brains have not been able to make our way in the world, how
expect to do so ? “
But nevertheless they all started on
their way together, and journeyed on until they reached a
large ant hill.
The two eldest would have destroyed it, but the simpleton said
“Leave the poor little ants alone. I
not let you disturb them.”
So they went on their way until they
came to a pond, upon which a great many ducks were swimming,
the two eldest wanted to catch a couple and roast them, but
“Leave them alone. I will not let you
So on they went again, until they came
to a tree, in the trunk of which was a wild bees' nest. The
eldest wanted to make a fire under the tree and suffocate the
so that they might take the honey, but the simpleton again
refused to allow
them, and said
“Leave the poor creatures alone. l
not let you burn them.”
At last the three brothers came to a
castle, where the stables were full of stone horses, and where
single human being was to be seen. They walked through one
another, and at length came to a door in which there were
and in the middle of the door was a little grating through
could look into the room beyond.
They saw a little man, dressed in grey,
seated at a table. Twice they called to him, but he did not
answer, so they called a third time, and then he rose, opened
three locks, and came out.
He said not a word, but led them to a
table which was richly spread, and when they had eaten and
much as they wished, he took each of them to his own bedroom.
The next morning the little grey man
came to the eldest brother, beckoned to him to follow, and led
to a stone table, upon which were engraven three tasks, by
means of which
the castle could be disenchanted.
This was the first:-In the forest,
hidden beneath the thick moss, lay the
princesses pearls, a thousand in number.
These must be collected but if one single pearl was missing when the
then he who had sought for them would be turned into
The eldest Prince searched the whole day
long, but by sunset he had only found a
hundred of the pearls, and so he was turned to stone, just as
the stone table had said.
The following day the second Prince
tried his luck, but he fared no better than his brother, for
he had found but two hundred pearls, and he too was changed
At length it came to the simpleton's
turn. He searched all day amidst the moss, but the pearls were
difficult to find that at length he sat down upon a stone and
And as he sat there, the king of the ants,
whose life he had once saved, came with five thousand
before long the little creatures had found every one of the pearls and
piled them up in a heap.
The second task engraven upon the stone
table was this:-To fetch out of the lake the key of the
princesses sleeping chamber.
When the simpleton came to the lake, the
ducks which he had saved were swimming upon the surface. At
they dived down into the depths below and brought up the key.
But the third task was the post
difficult of all, for it was to tell which of the sleeping
princesses was the
youngest and dearest. They were a11 exactly alike, the only
being that before they went to sleep each of them had eaten a
sweetmeat – the eldest a piece of sugar, the second
a little syrup, and the
youngest a spoonful of honey.
Then came the queen of the bees, and tasted
the lips of all three, and when she came to the lips which had
sipped the honey she remained seated upon them, so that the
was able to recognise the right princess.
Thus the enchantment was at an end, the
sleepers awoke, and those
who had been turned into stone received
their human forms again.
And the simpleton married the youngest
dearest princess, and became King
her father's death, whilst his two
brothers married the other two princesses, and lived happily ever