Once in summer-time the bear and the wolf were walking in the forest, and the bear heard a bird singing so beautifully that he said, "Brother wolf, what bird is it that sings so well?" - "That is the King of birds," said the wolf, "before whom we must bow down." It was, however, in reality the willow-wren (Zaunkönig). "If that's the case," said the bear, "I should very much like to see his royal palace; come, take me thither." - "That is not done quite as you seem to think," said the wolf; "you must wait until the Queen comes." Soon afterwards, the Queen arrived with some food in her beak, and the lord King came too, and they began to feed their young ones. The bear would have liked to go at once, but the wolf held him back by the sleeve, and said, "No, you must wait until the lord and lady Queen have gone away again." So they observed the hole in which was the nest, and trotted away. The bear, however, could not rest until he had seen the royal palace, and when a short time had passed, again went to it. The King and Queen had just flown out, so he peeped in and saw five or six young ones lying in it. "Is that the royal palace?" cried the bear; "it is a wretched palace, and you are not King's children, you are disreputable children!" When the young wrens heard that, they were frightfully angry, and screamed, "No, that we are not! Our parents are honest people! Bear, thou wilt have to pay for that!"
The bear and the wolf grew uneasy, and turned back and went into their holes. The young willow-wrens, however, continued to cry and scream, and when their parents again brought food they said, "We will not so much as touch one fly's leg, no, not if we were dying of hunger, until you have settled whether we are respectable children or not; the bear has been here and has insulted us!" Then the old King said, "Be easy, he shall be punished," and he at once flew with the Queen to the bear's cave, and called in, "Old Growler, why hast thou insulted my children? Thou shalt suffer for it we will punish thee by a bloody war." Thus war was announced to the Bear, and all four-footed animals were summoned to take part in it, oxen, asses, cows, deer, and every other animal the earth contained. And the willow-wren summoned everything which flew in the air, not only birds, large and small, but midges, and hornets, bees and flies had to come.
When the time came for the war to begin, the willow-wren sent out spies to discover who was the enemy's commander-in-chief. The gnat, who was the most crafty, flew into the forest where the enemy was assembled, and hid herself beneath a leaf of the tree where the watchword was to be given. There stood the bear, and he called the fox before him and said, "Fox, thou art the most cunning of all animals, thou shalt be general and lead us." - "Good," said the fox, "but what signal shall we agree upon?" No one knew that, so the fox said, "I have a fine long bushy tail, which almost looks like a plume of red feathers. When I lift my tail up quite high, all is going well, and you must charge; but if I let it hang down, run away as fast as you can." When the gnat had heard that, she flew away again, and revealed everything, with the greatest minuteness, to the willow-wren. When day broke, and the battle was to begin, all the four-footed animals came running up with such a noise that the earth trembled. The willow-wren also came flying through the air with his army with such a humming, and whirring, and swarming that every one was uneasy and afraid, and on both sides they advanced against each other. But the willow-wren sent down the hornet, with orders to get beneath the fox's tail, and sting with all his might. When the fox felt the first sting, he started so that he drew up one leg, with the pain, but he bore it, and still kept his tail high in the air; at the second sting, he was forced to put it down for a moment; at the third, he could hold out no longer, and screamed out and put his tail between his legs. When the animals saw that, they thought all was lost, and began to fly, each into his hole and the birds had won the battle.
Then the King and Queen flew home to their children and cried, "Children, rejoice, eat and drink to your heart's content, we have won the battle!" But the young wrens said, "We will not eat yet, the bear must come to the nest, and beg for pardon and say that we are honorable children, before we will do that." Then the willow-wren flew to the bear's hole and cried, "Growler, thou art to come to the nest to my children, and beg their pardon, or else every rib of thy body shall be broken." So the bear crept thither in the greatest fear, and begged their pardon. And now at last the young wrens were satisfied, and sat down together and ate and drank, and made merry till quite late into the night.
不久，王后回来了，嘴上还衔着食物，她和国王开始为他们的儿女们喂食。 "现在行了吧！"熊说着就想走上前去，看看王宫到底是什么样子。 "再等一会儿，熊先生，"狼急忙说道，"我们得等国王和王后都出去才行。"于是，他们在看到鸟巢的地方挖了一个小洞作记号，接着就离开了。
走着走着，因为熊老是惦记着要看那王宫，不久他们就转了回来。 鸟王和王后此刻都不在，他们便上前向鸟巢里一瞧，看见五六只小鸟躺在巢底。 "真是胡扯！"熊先生开口说道，"这根本就不是王宫，我一生中还没有看见过这样污秽的地方。你们也不是什么王子公主，你们这些小家伙不过是一群私生子！"小山雀听到这些话，感到非常气愤，嘟囔道："我们不是私生子，你这笨熊！我们的父母是最正经的人。说这样的话，你要对你的无礼负责！"听到这里，狼和熊有点害怕了，急忙跑回他们的洞穴去了。
他们一走，这群小山雀就哭着喊着叫开了。 当它们的父母回家来给它们喂食时，它们都嚷道："我们饿死也不吃，连一只苍蝇的腿也不吃。熊来过了，说我们是私生子 ，要是不惩罚那个恶棍，我们就不进餐。 ""我亲爱的，你们放心好了，"
开战的时间快到了，山雀派许多间谍去窥探谁是敌方军队的主帅。 这些间谍中，蚊子是最聪明的一个，他在敌人驻扎的树林前后飞来飞去，最后隐藏在一棵树的叶子下面。 这天 ，敌军就要在这里发号施令了，熊正好站在这棵树下，蚊子能够清楚地听到他的说话。 他把狐狸叫过来对他说："你是我们兽类中最聪明的，因此，就由你当将军来指挥我们去作战。我们得首先统一某些信号，根据这些信号，我们就能够知道你要我们做什么。""大家看哪，"狐狸喊道，"我有一条漂亮的毛茸茸的尾巴，它很像一根白羽毛，它能让我们提高士气。现在大家记住，当你们看到我竖起尾巴时，就是要你们去赢得战斗了，你们要不顾一切地全力冲向敌军。但要是我把尾巴放下来，就是我们战败了，你们必须立即逃跑。"蚊子听了这些话，飞回到山雀那儿，把他所见所闻的一切都告诉了他。
进行决战的日子终于到来了。 瞧吧！ 这天天一亮，狐狸指挥的兽类队伍便都冲向前来，群兽窜动的声音可怕极了，连大地也为之颤动。 山雀国王领着他的队伍，飞过来严阵以待，翅膀飞翔时的拍击声、振动声、冲撞声，充斥着整个空中，听起来也可怕极了。 双方的军队在原野上各自摆开阵势。 山雀命令大黄蜂首先直接向敌军指挥官狐狸进攻，集中对他的尾巴进行攻击，尽全力螫他，大黄蜂遵照命令向狐狸冲了过去。 当第一只大黄蜂螫着了狐狸时，他晃了一下，一只腿抖了抖，但仍然坚持竖着尾巴。 第二只大黄蜂螫他时，他不得不将尾巴放下来一会儿。 可第三只大黄蜂螫着他时，他再也忍受不住，急忙把尾巴夹在两腿之间，拼命地逃跑了。 群兽一看，以为一切都完了，惊愕之下，也都急急忙忙窜过原野跑掉了。 鸟儿们成了这场战斗的胜利者。