Two kings' sons once went out in search of adventures, and fell into
a wild, disorderly way of living, so that they never came home again.
The youngest, who was called simpleton, set out to seek his brothers,
but when at length he found them they mocked him for thinking that he
with his simplicity could get through the world, when they two could
not make their way, and yet were so much cleverer.
They all three traveled away together, and came to an ant-hill. The
two elder wanted to destroy it, to see the little ants creeping about
in their terror, and carrying their eggs away, but simpleton said,
leave the creatures in peace, I will not allow you to disturb them.
Then they went onwards and 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 length they came to a bee's nest, in which there was so much honey
that it ran out of the trunk of the tree where it was. The two
wanted to make a fire beneath the tree, and suffocate the bees in
order to take away the honey, but simpleton again stopped them and
said, leave the creatures in peace, I will not allow you to burn
At length the three brothers arrived at a castle where stone horses
were standing in the stables, and 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,
however, there 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, when he got up, opened the locks,
and came out. He said nothing, however, but conducted them to a
handsomely-spread table, and when they had eaten and drunk, he took
each of them to a bedroom.
Next morning the little grey man came to the eldest, beckoned to him,
and conducted him to a stone table, on which were inscribed three
tasks, by the performance of which the castle could be delivered from
The first was that in the forest, beneath the moss, lay the
princess's pearls, a thousand in number, which must be picked up, and
if by sunset one single pearl was missing, he who had looked for them
would be turned into stone. The eldest went thither, and sought the
whole day, but when it came to an end, he had only found one hundred,
and what was written on the table came true, and he was turned into
stone. Next day, the second brother undertook the adventure, but it
did not 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
it was simpleton's turn to seek in the moss, but it was so difficult
for him to find the pearls, and he got on so slowly, that he seated
himself on a stone, and wept. And while he was thus sitting, the
king of the ants whose life he had once saved, came with five
thousand ants, and before long the little creatures had got all the
pearls together, and laid them in a heap.
The second task, however, was to fetch out of the lake the key of the
king's daughter's bed-chamber. When simpleton came to the lake, the
ducks which he had saved, swam up to him, dived down, and brought the
key out of the water.
But the third task was the most difficult, from amongst the three
sleeping daughters of the king was the youngest and dearest to be
sought out. They, however, resembled each other exactly, and were
only to be distinguished by their having eaten different sweetmeats
before they fell asleep, the eldest a bit of sugar, the second a
little syrup, and the youngest a spoonful of honey.
Then the queen of the bees, whom simpleton had protected from the
fire, came and tasted the lips of all three, and at last she remained
sitting on the mouth which had eaten honey, and thus the king's son
recognized the right princess. Then the enchantment was at an end,
everything was delivered 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, and his two brothers received the two