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Literature / The Grateful Beasts

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The helpful queen bee.
The Grateful Beasts is a Hungarian Fairy Tale.

A poor couple send their three sons out to find their fortunes. The youngest of the three, Ferko, is exceptionally beautiful, so his jealous older brothers are convinced that he will be favored by everyone and they will have no chance of success anywhere. They trick Ferko into letting them break his legs and put out his eyes, then abandon him to his fate. He stumbles under a gallows tree, however, and overhears two ravens talking about the medicinal properties of the dew which falls on the hill and the lake below it. He manages to make his way to the hill and uses the dew to heal his own injuries; he then likewise uses the dew to save the lives of a wolf, a mouse, and a queen bee.

Ferko then finds his way to the royal court, where his brothers have also entered into service. Stunned at his well-being, the cruel brothers persuade the king that Ferko is an evil magician who will carry off the princess, and recommend that he demand Ferko complete an Impossible Task - and kill him if he fails. The king orders Ferko to construct a castle more beautiful than the one in which the king lives. Ferko turns to his friend the queen bee, who arranges for the castle's construction.

Ferko's brothers persuade the king to set him a second Impossible Task, against the objections of the kind-hearted princess, who has fallen in love with Ferko. This time he must gather all of the harvested grain in the kingdom into the barns. The mouse whom Ferko saved summons all the mice of the kingdom, and they perform the duty for him. This leaves Ferko's brothers more determined than ever to see him fail, and they incite the king to demand a third Impossible Task, which he does. He orders Ferko to summon all of the wolves in the kingdom. When the princess bursts into tears and protests this demand, her father locks her in a tower.

This means that she isn't there when Ferko's wolf friend puts out the call for all the wolves to convene upon the court, which they do... and they are hungry when they arrive. To put it mildly, the encounter between the court and the wolves does not go well for the court. Ferko releases the princess from her tower, marries her, and becomes king.

The English translation included by Andrew Lang in The Yellow Fairy Book here. Compare to True and Untrue

Tropes included

  • Androcles' Lion: Three of them: a wolf, a field mouse, and a queen bee. They repay Ferko's kindness by helping him complete the King's impossible tasks.
  • Clever Crows: In this instance, they're full of useful information. Ferko overhears them talking about the healing properties of the afternoon dew and the waters of a nearby lake.
  • Crippling the Competition: The two older brothers are so jealous of Ferko's good looks that they decide to cripple him in order to increase their chances of finding good fortune, first by gouging out his left eye and breaking his left leg, and later by doing the same to his right eye and leg.
  • Dude, Where's My Respect?: Ferko gets none for his accomplishments until the end, when the King's third task backfires spectacularly.
  • Evil Sorcerer: The two older brothers accuse Ferko of being a vile magician. It's nothing but slander; Ferko isn't a sorcerer of any kind.
  • Exact Eavesdropping: Conveniently, Ferko happens to overhear two crows talking about a lake that can restore one's body and the afternoon dew that can restore one's eyesight —precisely what he needs to heal himself.
  • Girl in the Tower: The King locks the princess in the tower briefly during the third task; Ferko frees her after he's dealt with her father.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: The two older brothers are insanely jealous of Ferko, to the point that they crippled and left him for dead, and then accused him of sorcery and called for him to be exiled or executed.
  • Happily Ever After: Ferko and the princess get married in the finale, after he's completed all the tasks her father had set for him —though not in the way the King expected.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The King's third task for Ferko is to gather all the wolves of the land on top of a hill; this backfires after Ferko, fed up with the King's mistreatment of him and encouraged by the wolf, sics the pack on the King and his court.
  • Impossible Task: The King sets three for Ferko: build a wondrous palace, gather all the grain in the country, and gather all the wolves of the country. The tasks are carried out by the animals Ferko helped with the lake's healing water.
  • Lifesaving Misfortune: Being locked in a tower certainly seems like a bad thing—except when it gets the princess out of the way when the wolves show up...
  • Love at First Sight: The princess falls for Ferko the moment she lays eyes on him, much to the two older brothers' chagrin.
  • Malicious Slander: Ferko's brothers' second attempt at taking Ferko out of the competition; they claim he's a malicious sorcerer who's come to steal the princess away.
  • Moving the Goalposts: The way the King copes with Ferko's success; every time Ferko succeeds at a task, the King sets him another one to complete by the next day on pain of death.
  • Noble Wolf: One of Ferko's helpers is a wolf whose broken leg he healed before arriving to the kingdom.
  • Offered the Crown: Ferko is made king after he deals with the previous King.
  • Rags to Royalty: Ferko goes from a poor farmers' son to ruler of his own kingdom, with a loving wife by his side.
  • Royal Brat: The King grows ever angrier with Ferko's successes, despite also feeling admiration for the boy's skills. He refuses to accept that Ferko is who he says he is and ends up setting him new tasks to complete.
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: If the brothers hadn't told the King that Ferko was a magician or that he was after the princess, Ferko would never have married her.
  • Standard Hero Reward: Effectively; after Ferko kills the King and frees the princess, he takes the throne and marries her.
  • Talking Animal: It's not clear if all the animals in the story are capable of speech or if Ferko is the only one capable of understanding them.
  • Tender Tears: The princess sheds them after her father finds new, even more arduous tasks for Ferko to complete, threatening him with death if he fails.
  • Youngest Child Wins: Ferko is the youngest of the brothers, and also the kindest and most handsome. His looks earn him the princess' admiration, and his kindness earns him three animal allies who help him complete the King's tasks.