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Why is the bee black, and why has it a narrow waist?

The Story of the Bee and the Devil.

WHEN God created the bee she was white of colour, hence her name albina, the white one. One day, however, God sent the bee to the Evil One to ask him for his advice, whether God should make one sun or several. The bee went to the Evil One and told him God's message. Then she slyly hid herself in his bushy hair, for the bee knew that he would talk to himself aloud, and she would be able to find out his true thought. And so it happened: for no sooner did he think that the bee was not within earshot, than he started talking aloud to himself and said:

               "One sun is better than a number of suns, for if there were a number of suns the heat would be much greater than my fire and I should not be able to torture and to burn. Then, too, if there were several suns, they would shine all day and all night, and the people would not be able to fall into my power. One sun would be best."

               When the bee had heard his reasoning and the conclusion to which he had come, she started flying back to God. As she started, the Evil One heard her buzz and, filled with anger at the trick which the bee had played him, he struck her across the body with his whip. The white colour was then turned black and the body of the bee nearly cut in twain. The waist became as thin as a thread. In the beginning it was white, and hence the name. It is due to the merit of the bee that there is only one sun now in the heavens and not many.

               In the Bulgarian parallel it is not a question as to how many suns were to be created but whether the sun is to get married. The story is as follows (Dähnhardt, Natursagen, Leipzig u. Berlin 1907, i. p. 127):

               When God grew old he wanted to marry the sun. He invited all the creatures. Among them also the devil, but he saddled his ass and rode away angrily. Then God sent the bee to find out the thought of the devil. The bee settled on his head and heard him mumble to himself:

               "Oh yes, it is a long time since God had remembered me, who helped him in the making of the world, but he does not know what he is doing now. If he marries the sun he will destroy mankind and burn up the world."

               The bee heard it, and flying away went to God. The devil noticed her and, thinking that she had overheard what he was saying, wanted to kill her. He ran after her and shot at her. The bee hid herself in a willow tree. After trying many times, he at last hit her and cut her in two. With difficulty she reached God and told him what had happened.

               The Lord blessed her and said, "The lower part shall be thy best and the upper part may remain as it is;" and he joined the two parts together. God thereupon stopped the wedding, and the sun has remained an unmarried maiden to this very day, whilst the bee is making honey even now.


The story of the marriage of the sun does not concern us here. In a different form it occurs in Rumanian Fairy Tales, where we are told that sun and moon were a brother and sister. They wished to woo one another, but God forbade it, and therefore God put them in the heavens and changed them into sun and moon, which never meet. When one rises the other sets. (L. Saineanu, Basmele Române, Bucur 1895, p. 398.) Other mythical references to sun and moon, and the way in which the devil tries to steal them from Paradise, will be found in the Carol given below, No. 15.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Why is the bee black, and why has it a narrow waist?
Tale Author/Editor: Gaster, Moses
Book Title: Rumanian Bird and Beast Stories
Book Author/Editor: Gaster, Moses
Publisher: Sidgwick & Jackson
Publication City: London
Year of Publication: 1915
Country of Origin: Romania
Classification: unclassified

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