“The Queen Bee” is a German fairy tale, tale number 62 from over 200 collected by the Brothers Grimm. It represents a type 554 ‘the grateful animals’ motif according to the Aarne-Thompson classification system of folktales.
“Two sons of a king went out to seek their fortunes, but fell into disorderly ways. The third and youngest son, Simpleton, went out to find them, but they mocked him. They traveled on, and Simpleton prevented his brothers from destroying an ant hill, killing some ducks, and suffocating a bee hive with smoke. Then they came to a castle with stone horses in the stable, and no sign of anyone. They hunted through the castle and found a room with a little gray man, who showed them to dinner. In the morning, he showed the oldest son a stone table, on which were written three tasks. Whoever performed them would free the castle.
“The first task was to collect the princess’s thousand pearls, scattered in the woods. Whoever tried and failed would be turned to stone. Each of the older brothers tried and failed, and they were turned to stone. For the youngest, however, the ants collected the pearls. The second task was to fetch the key to the princess’s bedchamber from the lake, which the ducks did for him. The third task was to pick out the youngest princess from the three sleeping princesses who looked exactly alike; the only difference was that the oldest had eaten a bit of sugar before they slept, the second a little syrup, and the youngest some honey. The queen bee picked out the youngest.
“This woke the castle, and restored those who had been turned to stone. The youngest son married the youngest princess, and his two brothers, the other princesses.”