Once there were two royal brothers that went out into the world to make their fortunes, but they fell among the wrong friends and so failed miserably.
When their youngest brother found them, they mocked him, saying he was stupid in addition to being young.
“And if such clever fellows as we cannot find our way in the world, what makes you think you can, Blockhead?”
But, knowing that they were preparing again to travel he insisted on accompanying them, despite the abuse they heaped on him.
A few days into their journey the three princes came upon an anthill, and the elder two wanted to kick it apart, for the entertainment of watching the little creatures scurry about, seeking safety for their young.
Blockhead stood between them and the mound, and wouldn’t permit it.
A little ways on they came to a lake with many nesting ducks, and again the elder brothers wanted to destroy a nest for the sport of it, but Blockhead prevented them.
Finally the three came to a bee tree so full of honey it was dripping down the outside of the hollow trunk.
The elder brothers plotted together to burn the tree and steal the honey, but once more Blockhead interrupted their plans.
They eventually came, as all traveling princes must, to an enchanted castle.
It was empty of people, but they found three bedrooms prepared for their arrival and weary as they were they asked no questions but went in and slept.
Before he’d been asleep long the eldest prince was wakened by a strange old man.
“Would you take the chance to free this castle from its enchantment and win a princess?”
Of course he would.
The old man took him out under the trees and told the prince that 2,000 pearls were buried under the old leaves of the forest floor.
If the prince could not find them all by sunrise he would be turned to stone.
The prince then understood why the many stones about him were all human in form.
He began frantically to search, but succeeded in finding no more than 100 pearls before the sun rose, so he was turned to stone.
The next night the same old man woke the second brother, but though he, too, accepted the challenge, the second prince found only 200 of the pearls before the sun rose and he became the next human pillar.
When the third prince learned that a mere three tasks stood between him and the hand of a princess, he readily agreed.
But when he recognized the stone forms of his two missing brothers he began to despair of ever completing the task that they could not.
Then he felt a tickle across the back of his hand.
It was the king of the ants. And he told Blockhead not to give up, for this first task the ant-people could help with.
Before morning all 2,000 pearls from the ground were in a pile waiting for the old man.
The second task, the old man assured Blockhead, was the simplest of the three.
It consisted merely of retrieving a key from the bottom of the castle lake, where it had been thrown.
Blockhead found the lake, but realized the mockery of the old man, for the lake was so large and deep he doubted if he would be able to hold his breath to the bottom to search, even if he didn’t freeze in its dark chill.
But the ducks whose nest he’d saved had not forgotten him.
Once they understood his need the pair dove and searched until, before sunset, they returned, carrying between them the heavy gold key.
The old man then informed him that the key unlocked the room where three princesses lay in enchanted sleep, and would not awake until he could identify which of them was the youngest, and heir to the throne.
She was also known to be the sweetest of the three, but as they lay there sleeping the sisters were as alike as three peas.
“Is there no clue you may offer me?” pleaded the young prince.
“Only this,” said the old man. “The oldest drank wine before she slept, the second cream, and the third had honey on her lips when sleep claimed her.”
The prince studied their lips, but dared not touch any before he was sure.
Then he heard a buzzing, and looking up he saw a single bee in the room.
“I am the queen of the bees,” she told him, “and in gratitude for your earlier help, I will find the youngest princess for you.”
She lighted on the lips of each girl before climbing to the forehead of the third.
“This is the one,” she said.
Blockhead took the girl’s hand. The old man smiled as he disappeared, and the whole castle began to come alive.
The youngest, sweetest princess married Blockhead, and with her he received the kingdom.
His brothers, who were changed from stone to flesh when he broke the spell, married the two older princesses. They were not so sweet as the youngest, but Blockhead as his queen were happy together the rest of their days.