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Ruth Manning-Sanders included it, as "The Donkey Lettuce", in A Book of Witches. In 1988, the story was also animated by Japan's Nippon Animation studio for its Grimm's Fairy Tale Classics series; the title of the episode in the English version produced by Saban Entertainment is The Magic Heart.
A huntsman gave an old woman alms. She told him to go to a tree where nine birds fought for a cloak. If he shot among them, one would die and they would drop the cloak that turned out to be a wishing cloak. Furthermore, if he swallowed the heart of the dead bird, he would find a gold coin by his pillow every morning.
He went out into the world and came to a castle where an old witch lived with her beautiful daughter. The witch knew about the bird's heart and told her daughter what she must do to steal it. She gave the man a drink, and the bird's heart came up. The daughter swallowed it herself. Then the witch told her that she had to steal the wishing cloak as well, and how to do it. The daughter looked at the Garnet Mountain and told the huntsman that she wished she were there. He took her under the cloak and wished them both there. He slept there and she stole the cloak and wished herself back home.
Three giants saw him and talked of killing him, but the third said that a cloud would bear him away. He climbed up the mountain and rode off on a cloud. It took him to a cabbage garden. He was so hungry that he ate some. It turned him into a donkey. He went on and found a different patch of cabbage which turned him back into a man. He took both kinds of cabbage and went back to the castle. He told the witch that he was a royal messenger sent to fetch the finest cabbage for the king, but he was afraid that the heat would make it wither. The witch asked for some. He gave it to her and she, her maidservant, and the daughter all ate the cabbages and became donkeys. The huntsman sold them to a miller, telling him to give the old one (the witch) one meal a day and three beatings, the younger one (the maidservant) three meals and one beating, and the youngest (the witch's daughter) three meals and no beatings.
After a time, he came back to the miller to see how the donkeys were doing. The miller told him that the oldest donkey was dead, but the two younger donkeys were so sad he thought they would die. The huntsman bought them back and turned them back into women. The witch's daughter told him where the cloak was and said she would give him back the heart as it had been stolen, but he said it would make no difference, if they wed. So they married.
In popular culture
- The Grimm's Fairy Tale Classics episode based on Donkey Cabbages called "The Magic Heart" made a few alterations to the story. In The Magic Heart, the huntsman is named Frederick, the witch's daughter is named Lisbeth and is really an enchanted princess, the old woman in replaced with an old wizard, the witch's maidservant as well as the three giants were not featured, and the transformed witch and Lisbeth were sold to a farmer. Instead of a bird's heart, Frederick swallows a golden orb. The "Magic Heart" of the episode's title is not the heart of a dead bird, but rather the magic of Frederick's heart when he forgives Lisbeth for her transgressions against him.