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
three travelled 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
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."
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
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.
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
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
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.
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 wanting, 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 to pass, and he was changed into stone.
Next day, the second brother undertook the adventure; it did not,
however, 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 the turn came to Simpleton also, who sought in the moss. It
was, however, so hard to find the pearls, and he got on so slowly, that
he seated himself on a stone, and wept.
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.
Queen of the bees, which 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 released from sleep,
and those who had been turned to stone received once more their natural
Simpleton married the youngest and sweetest princess, and after her
father's death became King, and his two brothers received the two other
From Jacob and Wilhelm
Grimm, Household Tales, trans. Margaret Hunt (London:
George Bell, 1884), 1:269-271.