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by Charles Perrault
Page 137 illustration from Fairy tales of Charles Perrault (Clarke, 1922).png
Illustration by Harry Clarke (1922).
CountryFrance (1695, 1697)
Genre(s)Literary fairy tale
Publication typeFairy tale collection

Donkeyskin (French: Peau d'Âne) is a French literary fairytale written in verse by Charles Perrault. It was first published in 1695 in a small volume and republished in 1697 in Perrault's Histoires ou contes du temps passé.[1] Andrew Lang included it, somewhat euphemized, in The Grey Fairy Book.[2][3] It is classed among folktales of Aarne-Thompson type 510B, unnatural love.


Illustration by Gustave Doré.

A king had a beautiful wife and a rich castle, including a marvelous donkey whose droppings were gold. One day his wife died, after making him promise not to marry except to a woman whose beauty and attributes equaled hers. The king grieved, but was, in time, persuaded to seek another wife. It became clear that the only woman who would fit the promise was his daughter.

She went to her fairy godmother who advised her to make impossible demands as a condition of her consent: a dress as bright as the sun, a dress the colors of the moon, a dress all the colors of the sky, and finally, the hide of his marvelous donkey (which produced gold, and thus was the source of his kingdom's wealth). Such was the king's desire to marry her that he granted all of them. The fairy godmother gave her a marvelous chest to contain all she owned and told her that the donkeyskin would make an excellent disguise.

Illustration by Gustave Doré.

The princess fled and eventually found a royal farm where they let her work in the kitchen, despite her ugliness in the donkeyskin. On feast days, she would dress herself in the fine gowns her father had given her, and one such day, the prince came by her room and peeped through the keyhole. He fell in love at once, fell ill with his longing, and declared that nothing would cure him but a cake baked by Donkeyskin, and nothing they could say of what a dirty creature she was dissuaded him.

When Donkeyskin baked the cake, her ring fell into it. The prince found it and declared that he would marry only the woman whose finger it fit. Every other woman having failed, he insisted that Donkeyskin try, and it fit her perfectly. When she had dressed herself in her fine gowns, his parents were reconciled with the match. Donkeyskin later found that her father had remarried to a beautiful widow and everyone lived happily ever after.


Donkeyskin finds work in a menial position. Illustration from a 1908 publication.

Tale type[edit]

The tale is classified in the international Aarne-Thompson-Uther Index as ATU 510B, "The Dress of Gold, of Silver, and of Stars (Cap O'Rushes)".[4] However, the tale type was renamed "Peau d’Asne" by German folklorist Hans-Jörg Uther in his 2004 revision of the folktale index, while still retaining its numbering.[5]


According to scholarship, the tale type features the death of the heroine's mother, her father's incestuous desire, and her fleeing to another kingdom, where she finds work in a menial position.[6][7]


In a study, scholar Ruth Bottigheimer notes that, before Perrault's tale, French author Bonaventure des Périers had a heroine (named Pernette) dressed in a donkey's hide (albeit to repel a lover's advances), and, in a later tale, a heroine is called "Peau d’Asne", but she is helped by ants. Bottigheimer also suggests that Perrault did not introduce the incest motif, but must have reworked it from an earlier source, namely, Giambattista Basile's The She-Bear (from Pentamerone) and Straparola's Teobaldo (from The Facetious Nights).[8]

Relation to other tales[edit]

According to Ton Deker and Stith Thompson, after the heroine flees home and finds work elsewhere, the second part of the tale type (the three balls and three dresses) connects tale type 510B to type 510A, that is, Cinderella.[9][10]




In a Greek variant from Epeirus collected by Austrian consul Johann Georg von Hahn with the title Allerleirauh, a widowed king declares he wants to marry his own daughter, despite her protests. To delay him, the princess asks him to fashion her two dresses of gold and a bed that can furrow through the ground to reach any other place. The king gives her the requested items; she takes the dresses, some ducats for money, jumps on the bed and goes to another city. The city's prince, during a hunt, finds the princess, wrapped in furs, in the forest and takes her in as a goose herder. Some time later, this prince holds a grand ball, and the princess attends it with her dress of gold. She dazzles the prince, but escapes the ball back to her low station, and throws some ducats to delay the prince. He becomes interested in finding her, so he holds two more balls. After the third ball, the princess loses one of her shoes and the prince tries it on every maiden, but cannot find its owner. At last, the princess, still wearing her golden dress underneath the animal furs, goes to bring some water to the prince, and he recognizes her.[11]

Von Hahn summarized a Greek tale from Smyrna: after his wife dies, a king promises to marry one that can fit the dead queen's ring on her finger. The ring fits on his daughter, and he tries to marry her. To stop her father, she is advised by a being named Miren to ask for three seamless dresses: one of silver, another of gold and a third of pearl. The devil, disguised as an old man, gives the king the dresses, to the princess's horror. Miren guides the princess to a cave in the outskirts of another town, and she gives food and water for the princess for six months. One day, a prince, during a hunt, stops to rest in front of the cave and prepares some food. Drawn by the smell, the princess comes out of the cave; the prince finds her and takes her in to his castle. The princess, called Μαλλιαρή due to her hairy appearance, she only nods in agreement as she does her chores. The prince then holds three balls, one on each night, and the princess, doffing her shaggy appearance, wears each of the dresses for each night. The prince becomes ill with longing, and his mother asks for some food to be prepared for him. The princess bakes a bread for him and hides her ring, then a clock, and lastly a string of pearls.[12]

East Slavs[edit]

Tale type ATU 510B also exists in the repertoire of the East Slavs. According to the East Slavic Folktale Catalogue (Russian: СУС, romanizedSUS), last updated by scholar Lev Barag [ru] in 1979, the type is known as SUS 510B, "Russian: Свиной чехол, romanizedSvinoy chekhol, lit.'Pigskin'": on threat of an incestuous marriage with her own father, the heroine asks for three dresses to be made (one of stars, one of the moon and one of the sun); she wears a pigskin and finds work elsewhere; a prince holds three balls that she attends, and he goes after her.[13]


According to Portuguese scholars Isabel Cárdigos and Paulo Jorge Correia, tale type ATU 510B also exists in the Portuguese Folktale Catalogue with the title Peau d’Âne or Portuguese: A princesa na Pele de Burro, lit.'The princess in the Donkeyskin'.[14][15]


In a Sicilian tale collected by folklorist Giuseppe Pitrè with the title Pilusedda, a king and a queen have a beautiful daughter. One day, the queen falls ill and bids her husband marry any other woman that can fit her own ring. After she dies, the princess unsuspectedly tries on her mother's ring, and is found out by the king, who wishes to marry her. Horrified at the idea, the princess consults with a wise man, who advises her to ask her father for three dresses: one the colour of the sky, embroidered in gold and bedecked with stones like the sun, the moon and the planets; one of a sea-green colour and decorated with the houses of the countryside; and one rose-coloured dress with four rows of bangles and tiny golden bells. The king summons his cousin, who is a devil, and arranges the three dresses for his daughter. As a last resort, the wise man gives the princess three hazelnuts and advises her to wear a horse-skin as disguise. The princess does so and flees to another kingdom, where she is found by a prince's gamekeeper and brought to the castle as a kitchen maid. She prepares the prince three pieces of bread on different occasions, and places her father's watch, her father's tiepin and a golden ring inside. The prince finds the objects inside the food and suspects Pilusedda is more than what she appears. Later, the prince invites Pilusedda to accompany him to the Royal Chapel, but she declines. After he leaves, she takes off the horse-skin, cracks open a hazelnut and wears one of the dresses her father gave her to the chapel, where she dazzles the prince. After her third visit to the Royal Chapel, the prince follows her carriage and discovers the mysterious maiden at the Chapel was Pilusedda. They marry.[16]


United States[edit]

American folklorist Leonard W. Roberts collected a tale from a Kentucky teller of French descent, in Beattyville, Kentucky. In this tale, titled The Princess in the Donkey Skin, a king plans to marry his daughter to the ugly king of Faraway Land, but the princess refuses and declares she would rather live in a donkey's skin than marry him. Considering it a provocation, the king gives her the donkey's skin and banishes her from the palace. The princess wanders off and finds work with an old woman in her hut. Later, the king of Faraway Land and his son, after a hunt, go to the old woman's hut to eat, and the old woman orders the princess to prepare them dinner. The princess cooks some soup for the royal guests and lets a diamond ring slip inside. The prince eats the soup, finds the ring and pockets it. Meanwhile, the princess is crying in her room, when a fairy godmother appears and turns her into a "purty" girl, with diamonds in her hair and with a beautiful dress. The princess, in new clothes, goes to the balcony under the moonlight. The prince sees her and, falling in love, comes to court her. The princess then leaves. The prince returns later for a second visit and meets the princess again. With the ring in hand, he decides to look for its owner all over the world. Failing that, he then goes back to the girl in the donkey's skin and places her ring on her finger. Finding the ring's owner, the prince and princess marry.[17]

Retellings and adaptations[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Perrault, Charles. "Donkeyskin". University of Pittsburgh. Retrieved 7 June 2011.
  2. ^ Lang, Andrew (ed.). "Donkeyskin". The Grey Fairy Book. SurLaLune Fairy Tales. Retrieved 18 May 2020.
  3. ^ Bottigheimer, Ruth. "Before Contes du temps passe (1697): Charles Perrault's Griselidis, Souhaits and Peau". The Romantic Review, Volume 99, Number 3. pp. 175-189
  4. ^ Aarne, Antti; Thompson, Stith. The types of the folktale: a classification and bibliography. Folklore Fellows Communications FFC no. 184. Helsinki: Academia Scientiarum Fennica, 1961. pp. 177-178.
  5. ^ Uther, Hans-Jörg (2004). The Types of International Folktales: A Classification and Bibliography, Based on the System of Antti Aarne and Stith Thompson. Suomalainen Tiedeakatemia, Academia Scientiarum Fennica. pp. 295–296. ISBN 978-951-41-0963-8.
  6. ^ Thompson, Stith (1977). The Folktale. University of California Press. p. 128. ISBN 0-520-03537-2.
  7. ^ Deker, Ton. "Assepoester". In: Van Aladdin tot Zwaan kleef aan. Lexicon van sprookjes: ontstaan, ontwikkeling, variaties. 1ste druk. Ton Dekker & Jurjen van der Kooi & Theo Meder. Kritak: Sun. 1997. p. 53.
  8. ^ Bottigheimer, Ruth (2008). "Before Contes du temps passé (1697): Charles Perrault's 'Griselidis' (1691), 'Souhaits Ridicules' (1693) and 'Peau d'asne' (1694)". In: The Romanic Review, vol. 99, numbers 3–4, pp. 180–186.
  9. ^ "The heroine assumes a peculiar disguise. [...] The story then proceeds much like Cinderella: ... the thrice repeated flight from the prince and the elaborate recognition ...". Thompson, Stith (1977). The Folktale. University of California Press. p. 128. ISBN 0-520-03537-2.
  10. ^ Deker, Ton. "Assepoester". In: Van Aladdin tot Zwaan kleef aan. Lexicon van sprookjes: ontstaan, ontwikkeling, variaties. 1ste druk. Ton Dekker & Jurjen van der Kooi & Theo Meder. Kritak: Sun. 1997. p. 53.
  11. ^ Hahn, Johann Georg von. Griechische und Albanesische Märchen 1-2. München/Berlin: Georg Müller, 1918 [1864]. pp. 151-154.
  12. ^ Hahn, Johann Georg von. Griechische und Albanesische Märchen 1-2. München/Berlin: Georg Müller, 1918 [1864]. pp. 364-366.
  13. ^ Barag, Lev. "Сравнительный указатель сюжетов. Восточнославянская сказка". Leningrad: НАУКА, 1979. pp. 145-146.
  14. ^ "Contos Maravilhosos: Adversários Sobrenaturais (300–99)" (in Portuguese). pp. 116–120. Archived from the original on September 25, 2022.
  15. ^ Correia, Paulo Jorge. CONTOS TRADICIONAIS PORTUGUESES (com as versões análogas dos países lusófonos). IELT (Instituto de Estudos de Literatura e Tradição), Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas, Universidade NOVA de Lisboa, 2021. pp. 100-101. ISBN 978-989-8968-08-1.
  16. ^ Pitrè, Giuseppe. "Pilusedda (Pilusedda)". In: Catarina the Wise and Other Wondrous Sicilian Folk and Fairy Tales Edited by Jack Zipes. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017. pp. 46-51, 265-266.
  17. ^ Roberts, Leonard W. South from Hell-fer-Sartin. Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky Press, 1988 [1955]. pp. 70-72, 228-229. ISBN 0-8131-1637-6.
  18. ^ Snyder, Midori. "Donkeyskin". Endicott Studio. Archived from the original on 2006-11-11.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]