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. Andrew Lang included it, somewhat euphemized, in The Grey Fairy Book. It is classed among folktales of Aarne-Thompson type 510B, unnatural love.
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.
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, a ring of hers fell in 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. 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.
In the 21st century, Donkeyskin can be viewed differently. For centuries woman have been put in situations where being who they are isn’t enough. Throughout time women have been affected by the reality of making themselves perfect for men, for example in Perrault, he mentions women cutting their fingers in order to be able to fit the ring of the prince.
The philosopher Confucian believes that a good wife was only considered good if they served only their husband, procreated, and showed no interest but to subjugate herself to her husbands family if anything were to happen to him, “A good wife should have no desire other than to serve her husband, no ambition other than to produce a son, and no interest beyond subjugating herself to her husbandʼs family—meaning, among other things, she must never remarry if widowed” .
During the Victorian Era, women’s lives were being cut short because of all the negative injuries restrictive corset causes, for example, reduction of blood flow, collapsed lungs, difficulty breathing, and much more. Women that cut their fingers in Donkeyskin can be interpreted as having plastic surgery just to be the bride of the prince, cosmetic surgery is a form of women making themselves look like what they believe is perfect. Perrault teaches that you don’t have to go through pain in order to be seen, or valued by someone, beauty doesn’t necessarily mean you have to cut your fingers in order to fit into a ring, there are other forms of showing your devotions to your husband other than making your feet smaller or cutting your finger into a thinner size.
Retellings and adaptations
- Peau d'âne (Donkey Skin) (1970), a French film directed by Jacques Demy and starring Jean Marais and Catherine Deneuve
- Donkey Skin (1976), a translation by Angela Carter for The Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault
- The Donkey's Hide (1982), a Soviet film adaptation.
- Sapsorrow (1988), an episode of Jim Henson's TV series The Storyteller
- Deerskin (1993), a novel by Robin McKinley
- Donkeyskin (1995), a short story by Terri Windling
- Donkeyskin (1995), a poem by Midori Snyder
- The Tale of the Skin (1997), a short story by Emma Donoghue
- Pelzmantel: A Medieval Tale (2003), a novel by K. A. Laity
- Unnatural Issue (2011), a novel by Mercedes Lackey
- The Color Master (2013), a post-modern fairy tale by Aimee Bender detailing the struggle of the dressmakers.
- Riverbed (2017), a short story by Deirdre Sullivan
- "Donkeyskin" or "Faith" is a character in Telltale's game series The Wolf Among Us
- The Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs
- The Wishing-Table, the Gold-Ass, and the Cudgel in the Sack
- Perrault, Charles. "Donkeyskin". University of Pittsburgh. Retrieved 7 June 2011.
- Lang, Andrew (ed.). "Donkeyskin". The Grey Fairy Book. SurLaLune Fairy Tales. Retrieved 7 June 2011.
- 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
- Tatar, Maria (1999). The Classic Fairy Tales. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 160. ISBN 978-0393972771.
- Foreman, Amanda. "Why Footbinding Persisted in China for a Millennium". Smithsonian. Retrieved 2019-05-14.
- Erkal, Melis (Fall, 2017). "The Cultural History of the Corset and Gendered Body in Social and Literary Landscapes" (PDF). European Journal of Language and Literature Studies. 3: 109–118. line feed character in
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- Snyder, Midori. "Donkeyskin". Endicott Studio.