'The Princess and the Bee' | Ep. 174

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What do you think makes a good leader?

Honesty? Fairness? Wisdom?

We’re about to meet a mother and daughter who have differing ideas about what qualities a leader should have. One votes for a clear head, while the other votes for a warm heart!

Our story is called “The Princess and the Bee.” It was inspired by tales from Turkish, Tibetan, Arab, and Jewish lore.

Voices in this episode include Chelly Li, Suzie McGrath, and Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York.

Suzie McGrath is known for her roles in Star Wars Resistance on Disney +, and the hit kids’ podcast, The Punies. You also can hear her in our season-two episode, “Turtle Island.”

Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, starred in our season-four episode, “The Missing Knight.” You kids can check out her YouTube series, “Storytime with Fergie,” and you grown-ups can check out her mystery novel, A Most Intriguing Lady, coming out in February 2023. As a global humanitarian, her charity, Sarah’s Trust, has helped children all over the world – most recently in Ukraine and Poland.

This episode was adapted for Circle Round by Rebecca Sheir. It was edited by Circle Round’s supervising producer Nora Saks. Original music and sound design is by Eric Shimelonis. Our artist is Sabina Hahn.

Coloring Page

ADULTS! PRINT THIS so everyone can color while listening. We’re also keeping an album so share your picture on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and tag it with #CircleRound. We'd love to see it! To access all the coloring pages for past episodes, click HERE. Our resident artist is Sabina Hahn and you can learn more about her HERE.

Things To Think About After Listening
If you were next in line for a position of leadership – like a queen or king, or even a school principal or sports coach – what are three qualities you would demonstrate?
Maybe you’re a really good listener. Perhaps you have a whole lot of patience. Or maybe you have an eye toward fairness, and would ensure justice for all.
Think about your qualities, then describe them to someone you like to have fun with. After that, ask them to describe the three qualities they would show as a leader!

Musical Spotlight: The Harpsichord

Some of the harpsichords at the Berlin Musical Instrument Museum date back to the 1600s! (courtesy of Ali Eminov)
Some of the harpsichords at the Berlin Musical Instrument Museum date back to the 1600s! (courtesy of Ali Eminov)

The harpsichord has keys like a piano, but a much simpler design dating back to the middle ages. Each harpsichord key activates a small piece of material known as a “plectrum,” which plucks a metal string to make sound. But since you can’t control how loud or soft that sound is, when the more dynamic piano came along around 1700, the more modern instrument all but replaced the harpsichord.

Still, the sharp yet mellow sound of the harpsichord defines the sound of the Baroque era, and is played by many modern musicians – including composer Eric Shimelonis!


NARRATOR: Once upon a time, there lived a princess and a queen.

And the daughter and mother were as different as north and south.

The princess was a friendly, free spirit. The queen was stern and no-nonsense.

The princess spent hours in the palace garden, frolicking amongst the flowers and daydreaming beneath the trees. The queen was always working: writing laws, issuing decrees, and deciding verdicts in cases brought to her by her subjects.

But as the queen grew older, the princess noticed that her mother was beginning to tire of all the law-writing and decree-issuing and verdict-deciding.

So one morning, over breakfast in the royal banquet hall, the princess asked her mom whether it might be time… to retire.

QUEEN: Retire…?!? You mean, give up the royal throne?!?

PRINCESS: Well, yes, Mother! You’ve been working so hard all these years. You deserve a break!

QUEEN: But if I retire, Daughter… then who will become queen?

NARRATOR: The princess smiled.

PRINCESS: Why I will, of course! I’m your only child, after all.

QUEEN: I know that, dear. But you’re not ready!

NARRATOR: The princess frowned.

PRINCESS: “Not ready”!? I’m the same age you were when you became queen!

QUEEN: This isn’t about age, Daughter! It’s about experience! (beat) You’re too carefree! Too fun-loving! You’re not near serious enough to wear the royal crown.

PRINCESS: With all due respect, Mother, isn’t being queen about more than just being serious?

QUEEN: Yes! It is! It’s also about being clever… and quick-witted… and showing plenty of co – (gets interrupted)

PRINCESS: (interrupting) …kindness? Because goodness knows I would give anyone the shirt off my back if they asked! You know I would!

QUEEN: No! Not “kindness”! I was going to say common sense! There’s no use having a warm, fuzzy heart if you don’t have a sound and sensible head. (beat) Therefore, if you truly wish to become queen, you’ll have to prove to me that you have the cleverness, quick wit, and common sense that the job requires.

PRINCESS: And how am I supposed to do that?

NARRATOR: The queen thought for a moment.

QUEEN: …I will give you… a test! (beat) No! Three tests!

PRINCESS: Three tests?

QUEEN: Yes! Three tests that will challenge your cleverness. Your quick wit. Your common sense. Pass my three tests, Daughter, and I will step down from my throne… and allow you to step up. (beat) So. Are you ready?

NARRATOR: The princess paused and considered the queen’s challenge. And then…?

PRINCESS: You bet I’m ready, Mother. (beat) Bring it on!

QUEEN: Very well then! For your first test, you must bring me… a hunter!

PRINCESS: A hunter…? What kind of a hunter?

QUEEN: You must bring me a hunter who throws away what they catch… and carries with them what they can’t catch.

NARRATOR: The princess scrunched up her forehead.

PRINCESS: But what kind of a hunter does that? What kind of hunter throws away what they catch… and carries with them what they can’t catch?

QUEEN: That is for you to figure out! Unless, of course, you’re not up to the task…

NARRATOR: The princess threw back her shoulders.

PRINCESS: Oh, I’m up to the task alright. Just you wait!

NARRATOR: Then she leaped from her chair and went marching from the room, with her head held high. But when she got to the palace corridor…

PRINCESS: What is my mother talking about?!?

NARRATOR: ...she dropped her head in her hands.

PRINCESS: How can I find a hunter who throws away what they catch… and carries with them what they can’t catch? (beat) I need to think.

NARRATOR: The princess made her way to her favorite place: the royal garden. She always felt calmer and more at ease as she strolled through the leafy shade of the trees, and smelled the colorful flowers. But just as she knelt down to get a whiff of a bright red rose…

BEE: Help me!

NARRATOR: …she heard a voice!

BEE: Someone please! Help me!

NARRATOR: The princess jumped to her feet.

PRINCESS: Who’s there? Where are you?

BEE: I’m over here! In the bird bath!

NARRATOR: The princess bolted over to the bird bath. Struggling to stay afloat in the cool, clear water… was a fuzzy yellow-and-black-striped bee!

BEE: I was racing to get away from a woodpecker that wanted to eat me, and somehow I landed in this bird bath! And I can’t swim! Can you help me? Please?

NARRATOR: The princess felt a rush of pity for the helpless creature. Quick as a wink, she dipped her hands into the water, scooped up the bee, then placed it on a bush.

PRINCESS: There you go, Bee! All better!

BEE: Whew! Thank you! A few more seconds and I would have been a goner! Tell me. How can I repay you?

NARRATOR: The princess shook her head.

PRINCESS: Oh, there’s no need to repay me; I’m always happy to help someone in need! (beat) But regardless… how in the world could a teeny-tiny creature like you possibly repay a princess?

BEE: (gasp) Wow! You’re a princess?

PRINCESS: I am! And with any luck, one of these days I’ll become queen. Of course, first I have to pass my mother’s three tests and – anyway, it’s a long story.

BEE: I see... Look. I don’t blame you for being skeptical, princess. But when the time comes, I promise: I will repay you for the kindness you’ve shown in saving my life. Just you wait!

NARRATOR: Then the fuzzy yellow-and-black-striped bee buzzed away.

PRINCESS: Well that was interesting! (beat) Of course, I’m no closer to passing Mother’s first test and finding a hunter who throws away what they catch – and carries with them what they can’t catch. But I’ll think of something. (beat) I hope!!!

NARRATOR: What kind of hunter do you think the queen is looking for?
And will the princess find them?
We’ll hear what happens next, after a quick break.


NARRATOR: Welcome back to Circle Round. I’m Rebecca Sheir. Today our story is called “The Princess and the Bee.”

NARRATOR: Before the break, the queen told the princess she must pass three tests before she could take over the throne. While the princess was seeking the answer to the first test, she rescued a bee who got caught in the garden bird bath. The tiny insect promised it would one day repay her kindness. After it buzzed away, the princess turned her attention back to her mother’s first test.

PRINCESS: Mother’s first test was to find a hunter who throws away what they catch… and carries with them what they can’t catch.  I know! I’ll go ask the royal gamekeeper! He’s my mother’s official bird hunter, and is always catching pheasants and quail and grouse. Perhaps he’ll have an idea!

NARRATOR: But when the princess reached the gamekeeper’s cottage, no one was home.

PRINCESS: Hmmmm. The gamekeeper must be out hunting. Yet he left one of his hunting dogs behind! Hello there, boy!

NARRATOR: The princess crouched down before a brown and white hound dog. The hound let out a happy squeal as the princess patted its head. But then, all of a sudden, the dog let out a whimper and began scratching its head with one of its hind legs.

PRINCESS: Oh dear! You seem terribly uncomfortable, boy! Why are you so itchy?

NARRATOR: The scratching leg moved faster and faster. At last, the hound gave a great kick, and a tiny brown speck went flying off of its head.

PRINCESS: Oh! Was that a flea? Was a pesky flea irritating you?

NARRATOR: The hound seemed to breathe a sigh of relief. But then, all at once, it set to work scratching again.

PRINCESS: Oh dear! Just when you caught one flea and threw it away, now you have to try and catch another! You poor thing! If only I could – (a-ha moment) (gasp) Wait a minute!

NARRATOR: The princess’s eyes lit up.

PRINCESS: Of course! That’s it!

NARRATOR: The princess grabbed a blanket, wrapped it around the hound dog, then brought the squirming bundle to the queen. When the queen caught sight of the wiggling, wriggling lump in her daughter’s arms, her eyes danced with curiosity.

QUEEN: What on earth have you brought me, daughter? And what on earth is that noise?

PRINCESS: I’ve brought you the answer to your first test, Mother! And that noise is the sound… of hunting!

NARRATOR: The princess threw off the blanket, revealing the gamekeeper's hound. She put the animal on the floor, where it began scratching itself again. Every now and again a tiny brown speck would go flying off of the dog’s brown and white fur.

PRINCESS: As you can see, this dog is hunting fleas! He throws away what he catches… and carries with him what he can’t catch.

NARRATOR: The queen cocked her head to one side, then the other. Then her lips curled into a grin.

QUEEN: Congratulations, Daughter, on passing your first test. Now let’s see if you have the cleverness, quick wit, and common sense to pass your second. (beat) This time, you must bring me one thousand trees… in the palm of your hand.

NARRATOR: The princess felt her stomach fill with butterflies.

PRINCESS: I must bring you one thousand trees… in the palm of my hand?!? But how is that even possible?

QUEEN: That is for you to figure out! Unless, of course, you’re not up to the task…

NARRATOR: The princess smiled.

PRINCESS: No. I’m up to the task. You’ll see!

NARRATOR: Then she turned on her heel and strode out of the room, standing tall.
But when she reached the palace corridor…

PRINCESS: What is my mother talking about?!?

NARRATOR: ...she slumped against the wall.

PRINCESS: How can I bring my mother one thousand trees in the palm of my hand?!? (beat) I need to think.

NARRATOR: The princess went back to the garden and plopped down beneath an oak tree that grew in the corner. As she leaned against the rough, gray trunk, a gentle breeze stirred the branches above.

PRINCESS: Boy oh boy. My mother was right; this second test is tough! But I have to figure it out! It’s the only way I can --  OWWWW!

NARRATOR: The princess clamped a hand to her head.

PRINCESS: What was that?!? What just hit me on the head?  Oww! There it is again!

NARRATOR: The princess glanced up at the oak branches swaying in the wind. Suddenly, she realized what had been clocking her on the noggin!

PRINCESS: Acorns! Every time the wind blows, the tree drops more acorns! I’d better get out of the way!

NARRATOR: The princess stepped to the side and watched as the tough, round seeds fell from the trees branches and plummeted to the ground.

PRINCESS: Wow! Those acorns may be small, but their shells are hard as nails! But then I guess you have to be extra-tough and durable if you want to grow into a great big oak tree someday. (a-ha moment) (gasp!) Wait a minute!

NARRATOR: The princess’s eyes grew wide.

PRINCESS: Of course! That’s it!

NARRATOR: The princess grabbed an acorn, clutched it in her hand, then sprinted back to the palace. When the queen saw her daughter come running in, she crossed her arms and tilted her crowned head.

QUEEN: Well, daughter? Where are your thousand trees?

PRINCESS: They’re right here, Mother!

NARRATOR: The princess held up her hand… and showed the queen the acorn.

PRINCESS: This tiny little seed will one day grow into an oak tree. That oak tree will produce thousands of its own acorns. Many of those acorns will grow into their own oak trees. Which will produce thousands of their own acorns. Which will grow into their own oak trees! Before long, you’re bound to have a thousand trees! At least!

NARRATOR: The queen gave her daughter a long, thoughtful look. Then, she gave her a smile.

QUEEN: Well done, my dear! You’ve passed your second test! I’m impressed by the cleverness, quick wit, and common sense you’ve shown so far.

PRINCESS: Thank you, Mother!

QUEEN: Don’t thank me yet. Because your third test is a real puzzler… and I need time to prepare for it. (beat) Meet me in my throne room first thing tomorrow. And we’ll see if you have what it takes to become queen!

NARRATOR: The rest of the day, the princess watched as the palace servants wheeled box after box into the throne room. But every time she tried sneaking a look inside…
QUEEN: Uh-uh-uhhhh! No peeking!

NARRATOR: …the queen kicked her out! The princess’s curiosity grew and grew. As did her excitement about her third test!
But when she was finally allowed to enter the throne room the next morning, her anticipation turned to confusion.

PRINCESS: What on earth?!?? Um, Mother…?!? What’s going on here? Your throne room is filled… with flowers!

NARRATOR: It was true. Covering the floor wall to wall was a thick layer… of soil. And popping out of that soil were countless rows of flowers. Lilacs and lilies… orchids and azaleas… carnations and chrysanthemums.

QUEEN: Welcome to my new garden, my dear! What do you think of it?

NARRATOR: The princess’s eyes roved around the room.

PRINCESS: I think it’s beautiful! And it smells divine! But what about my third test? Isn’t that why you called me here?

QUEEN: It is! It’s also why I’ve had the servants plant all of these flowers! (beat) You see, of all these gorgeous, fragrant blossoms, only one of them… is real. The rest are fake. Phony. Completely artificial! Crafted by the best artists in the kingdom so that they look real. Smell real, too! (beat) So for your third test, my dear daughter… you must tell me which one of the flowers is the real one. The authentic one. The one that actually grew from the earth – not from human hands.

NARRATOR: The princess felt her heart tumble in her chest. All of these thousands of flowers looked so real to the eye – and smelled so real to the nose! How could she ever choose the one authentic blossom?
But just as she was about to give up hope…

NARRATOR: …she heard a familiar sound.

NARRATOR: And do you know what was making that sound? Of course! The fuzzy yellow-and-black-striped bee from the garden!

BEE: I told you I would repay you for your kindness, princess! And now it’s my chance!

NARRATOR: The bee buzzed into the room through an open window, then went whizzing from flower to flower to flower, until, at last, it settled on a bright red rose in the corner, and took a big sip of nectar. Real nectar. The princess’s face glowed with joy as she called out to the queen.

PRINCESS: I know which one is the real flower, Mother! It’s the red rose in the corner!

NARRATOR: The queen’s jaw dropped so low it practically hit the floor.

QUEEN: But - but - how did you know? I made this test practically impossible! All the cleverness, quick wit and common sense in the world couldn’t have cracked it!
PRINCESS: I know that, Mother! Luckily, I had a little help from a friend.

NARRATOR: The princess flashed the bee a grateful grin. The bee zipped around her head in a happy little circle, then went whizzing out the window and up toward the sky. Thus it was that the princess passed all three of the queen’s tests – with cleverness, quick wit, common sense… and kindness. So when she became queen… and spent long hours writing laws, issuing decrees, and deciding verdicts in cases brought to her by her subjects… she didn’t just do it with a sound, sensible head. She did it with a warm, fuzzy heart, too.

Rebecca Sheir Host, Circle Round
Rebecca Sheir is the host "Circle Round," WBUR's kids storytelling podcast.



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