Maya the Bee

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Maya the Bee
Created by Waldemar Bonsels
Original work Books
Print publications
Book(s) The Adventures of Maya the Bee
Films and television
Television series
Video game(s)
  • Maya the Bee & Her Friends (1999)
  • Maya the Bee - Garden Adventures (2000)[1]
  • Maya the Bee and Friends (2006)[2]
  • Maya the Bee: The Great Adventure (2002)[3]
  • Maya the Bee: Sweet Gold (2005)[4]
  • The Bee Game (2007)[5][6][7]
  • Maya (2013)

Maya the Bee (German: Die Biene Maja) is the main character in The Adventures of Maya the Bee, a German book, comic book series and animated television series, first written by Waldemar Bonsels and published in 1912. The book has been published in many other languages.

The stories revolve around a little bee named Maya and her friends Willy the bee, Flip the grasshopper (referred to as "Maja", "Willi" and "Philip" respectively in some versions), Mrs. Cassandra (Maya's teacher), and many other insects and other creatures. The book depicts Maya's development from an adventurous youngster to a responsible adult member of bee society.


Bonsels' original book contains fewer than 200 pages. The storyline is centered on the relation of Maya and her many adventures.

Maya is a bee born in a bee hive during internal unrest: the hive is dividing itself into two new colonies. Maya is raised by her teacher, Mrs. Cassandra. Despite Mrs. Cassandra's warnings, Maya wants to explore the wide world and commits the unforgivable crime of leaving the hive. During her adventures, Maya, now in exile, befriends other insects and braves dangers with them. In the climax of the book, Maya is taken prisoner by hornets, the bees' sworn enemies.

Prisoner of the hornets, Maya learns of a hornet plan to attack her native hive. Maya is faced with the decision to either return to hive and suffer her due punishment, saving the hive, or leaving the plan unannounced, saving herself but destroying the hive. After severe pondering, she makes the decision to return. In the hive, she announces the coming attack and is, totally unexpectedly, pardoned. The forewarned bees triumph over the hornet attack force. Maya, now a heroine of the hive, becomes a teacher like Mrs. Cassandra and shares her experiences and wisdom with the future generation.

Analysis of the book[edit]

It has been suggested by a modern critic[who?] that the book may have carried a political message, analogous to Jean de La Fontaine's or Ivan Krylov's work. According to this view, Maya represents the ideal citizen, and the beehive represents a well-organised militarist society. It has also elements of nationalism and speciesism. Maya gets angry in two instances. First, a grasshopper fails to distinguish between bees and wasps. Maya's verbal response includes calling the wasps "a useless gang of bandits" [Räubergeschlecht] that have no "home or faith" [Heimat und Glauben]. Second, a fly calls Maya an idiot, which prompts Maya to shout that she's going to teach "respect for bees" and to threaten the fly with her stinger. The critic interprets this to mean that respect is based on the threat of violence. Collectivism versus individualism is also a theme. Maya's independence and departure from the beehive is seen as reproachable, but it is atoned by her warning of the hornets' attack. This show of loyalty restores her position in the society. In the hornet attack part of the story, the bees' will to defend and the heroic deaths of bee officers are glorified, often in overtly militarist tones.[8]

In the post-WWII adaptations, the militarist element was toned down considerably, the hornets' role reduced, and the character of Willy, a lazy and quite un-warlike drone bee, was introduced (he does not appear in the novel). In the cartoon series, the briskly marching, but ridiculously incompetent ant armies provide a parody of militarism.

Main characters[edit]

  • Maya - Bee. The series main protagonist. She loves freedom and living in the meadow by herself, unlike other bees who live in the hive. She is good, fair, happy and willing to help everybody.
  • Willy - Bee. Lazy, clumsy, and cowardly, sometimes a showoff, but generally good-natured - not featured in the original Bonsels story, but a major character in all spin-off media afterwards. His relationship to Maya is depicted inconsistently: in most adaptations, he's her best friend, who is secretly in love with her, prone to jealousy when Maya's attentions turn to others. Often reluctantly dragged into adventures by Maya.
  • Flip (or Germany) - Grasshopper. A wise friend of Maya and Willy. Introduced first in the animated series. Whether he is meant to be identical with the unnamed grasshopper of the books is unclear.
  • Alexander (or Aleksander) - mouse. Intellectual, whose level of respect among the other creatures, and close friendship with Maya, often sends Willy into jealous rages. Appears only in the second season of the older animated series (1978).
  • Miss Cassandra - Bee, Teacher at the Bee-School.

Films, anime and television[edit]

Crew Feature films Television series
Maya the Bee Movie Maya the Bee:
The Honey Games
Maya the Honey Bee Maya the Bee
2014 2018 1975–1980 2012–2017
Director(s) Alexs Stadermann Noel Cleary and Sergio Delfino Seiji Endô and Hiroshi Saitô Daniel Duda and Jérôme Muschadet
Producer(s) Barbara Stephen and Thorsten Wegener Tracy Lennon, Brian Rosen and Thorsten Wegener N/A
Executive Producer(s) Jim Ballantine and Patrick Elemendorff Barbara Stephen and Hans-Ulrich Stoef N/A Katell France
Writer(s) Fin Edquist and Marcus Sauermann Story by:
Noel Cleary, Fin Edquist and Alexs Stadermann
Composer Ute Engelhardt Karel Svodoba Fabrice Aboulker
Editor Adam Rainford Marty Murphy Johanna Goldschmidt
Production company
Nippon Animation Studio 100 Animation
U.S. Distribution Shout! Factory Nickelodeon PBS Kids
Released March 8, 2015 (2015-03-08) May 1, 2018 (2018-05-01) April 1, 1975 (1975-04-01) – September 13, 1980 (1980-09-13) September 5, 2012 (2012-09-05) – August 23, 2017 (2017-08-23)

1924 film[edit]

German director Wolfram Junghans made a 1924 silent version (“starring” real insects). It was restored in 2005.

1975 anime[edit]

Perhaps the most popular and widely known adaptation of the story is the Japanese anime Maya the Honey Bee (みつばちマーヤの冒険, Mitsubachi Māya no Bōken, "The Adventures of Maya the Honeybee"). Originally aired on Japanese TV in 1975, the anime has been dubbed into 42 languages[9] and screened on television in various territories, including China, South Korea, Australia, Austria, Germany, Ireland, the United States, South Africa, Peru, Portugal, Canada, Belgium, the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Croatia, Chile, Israel, Italy, Greece, Albania, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Republic of Macedonia, Bosnia, Slovakia, Spain, Serbia, Finland, Poland, Ecuador, Hungary, Romania, Russia, Turkey, Lebanon as "Zena", and Iran as "Nikoo" (نیکو). The Japanese TV series was preceded by Tokyo Kodomo Club's musical play based on the short story, presented as Mitsubachi Māya ("Maya the Honeybee"), distributed on a LP album.

The original theme was composed by Karel Svoboda and sung by Karel Gott in the German, Czech and Slovak versions; Zbigniew Wodecki in the Polish version.[10][11]

2012 TV series[edit]

In 2012 Studio 100 Animation produced a 78-episode, 13-minute TV series.[12] The series was rendered in 3D CGI animation,[13] In September 2017, a background drawing of a penis was discovered in episode 35 of the first season, which led to Netflix removing the episode from the service.[14][15]

Film series[edit]

A 2014 film adaptation based upon the 2012 series was released.[16] In 2018, a sequel to the 2014 film, titled Maya the Bee: The Honey Games, released on March 1, 2018 in Germany and May 1, 2018 in United States.

Stage performances[edit]


Maya the Bee also served as the basis for a children's opera written by the Croatian composer Bruno Bjelinski in 1963. It was recently staged in Villach, Austria as part of their Carinthian Summer Music Festival.[17] This performance was distinguished by having the "bees" played by children and not professional opera singers as it is usually the case.[18]

Puppet musical[edit]

Singer-songwriter Nancy Harrow created a jazz-musical version of the story, called The Adventures of Maya the Bee, that featured puppets by Zofia Czechlewska. Harrow's adaptation was produced in New York City by The Culture Project in 2000,[19] and was revived in 2012.[20]


On October 10th 2016, Belgian company Studio 100 created a Flemish stage musical based on the 2012 series that has the people dressed in costumes for the characters from the show. The show contains songs made by Studio 100 with a few news songs created exclusively for the show.

Video games[edit]

Developed by Crawfish, published by Acclaim.

Developed by Neon Studios, published by Acclaim.

Developed by Kiloo and co-published by Plan-B Media.

Developed by Shin'en Multimedia, published by Acclaim.

Developed by Shin'en Multimedia, published by Midway.

Developed by Independent Arts Software GmbH, published by Midway (based on previous work by Shin'en).[citation needed]

  • Maya (Nintendo DS - 2013)

Developed by Studio 100, published by Bandai Namco Games Europe.


Many companies contributed worldwide to the success of the character by producing and selling merchandising. Most of them were drawn between 1976 and 1986 by the French licensed characters specialist André Roche.[28] His works have included motifs for textiles, porcelain, books, comics and games, including a campaign for Kinder Surprise Eggs.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Neon Studios Maya the Bee Archived March 23, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ Kiloo page Archived April 19, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ "Shin'en Maya the Bee". Retrieved 2012-04-30. 
  4. ^ "Shin'en Maya the Bee 2". March 18, 2005. Retrieved 2012-04-30. 
  5. ^ "tBG GBA page". Retrieved 2012-04-30. 
  6. ^ "tBG DS page". Retrieved 2012-04-30. 
  7. ^ "Midway the Bee Game page". Retrieved 2012-04-30. 
  8. ^ Riukulehto, Sulevi. "Lukiko Hitler Maija Mehiläistä? - Politiikka luuraa lastenkirjoissa. Tieteessä tapahtuu, 2001/7". Tieteellisten seurain valtuuskunta. 
  9. ^ Filip Rožánek (February 13, 2007). "Páteční youtubení: Včelka Mája | Blok Filipa Rožánka". Archived from the original on December 17, 2013. Retrieved 2012-04-30. 
  10. ^ "Populární včelka Mája se vrací ve 3D. Karel Gott nechybí" (in Czech). Týden. February 15, 2013. Retrieved May 3, 2014. 
  11. ^ "Jak Zbigniew Wodecki został Pszczółką Mają" (in Polish). Polskie Radio Program I. November 24, 2013. Retrieved May 3, 2014. 
  12. ^ "Studio100 » Animation". Retrieved 4 January 2018. 
  13. ^ Vlessing, Etan. "Canada's Thunderbird Films Steers 'Maya the Bee' into North America". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 4 October 2014. 
  14. ^ "Maya the Bee penis was 'very bad joke'". 25 September 2017. Retrieved 3 January 2018. 
  15. ^ "Netflix pulls episode of cartoon after 'disgusted' parent spots penis drawing". 21 September 2017. Retrieved 3 January 2018. 
  16. ^ Zahed, Ramin. "Flying Bark Launches 'Maya the Bee' Movie". Animation Magazine. Retrieved 4 October 2014. 
  17. ^ "Carinthischer Sommer 2012 | Festival Ossiach - Villach". Retrieved 2012-04-30. 
  18. ^ "Carinthischer Sommer 2012 | Festival Ossiach - Villach". Retrieved 2012-04-30. 
  19. ^ "A review of Maya the Bee". Retrieved 2016-09-13. 
  20. ^ "The Culture Project presents The Adventures of Maya the Bee". Retrieved 2016-09-13. 
  21. ^ Neon Studios Maya the Bee Archived March 23, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  22. ^ Kiloo page Archived April 19, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  23. ^ "Shin'en Maya the Bee". Retrieved 2012-04-30. 
  24. ^ "Shin'en Maya the Bee 2". March 18, 2005. Retrieved 2012-04-30. 
  25. ^ "tBG GBA page". Retrieved 2012-04-30. 
  26. ^ "tBG DS page". Retrieved 2012-04-30. 
  27. ^ "Midway the Bee Game page". Retrieved 2012-04-30. 
  28. ^ "- Holzwickeder Sport Club". Retrieved 3 January 2018. 

External links[edit]