Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Another Animal Bridegroom: ATU 431: The Donkey

As I have mentioned before, the Grimms provided many different types of Animal Bridegroom tales in their collection, many the best know representatives of tale types in the ATU 425-449 Animal Husband range. Several of these appear in Beauty and the Beast Tales From Around the World.

ATU 431: The Donkey is one such example. The description for the tale type is a synopsis of the Grimm tale, The Donkey. The tale is not widely distributed and is apparently sourced, according to Uther, from:

...a versified novella from southern Germany of ca. 1200, which was much read in courtly circles. The donkey with human sensibilities is traced to the ancient novelle of Psuedo-Lucian and Apuleius. Prose versions were popularized by the Grimms' text. Oral versions are often so much abbreviated that they are difficult to distinguish from Type 425A.
The tale is more recognizable in the Animal Bridegroom family because it contains many common elements, including the nightly changing from beast to human by removing the animal skin and the ultimate burning of the animal skin to end the enchantment. The beginning also starts with a childless couple wishing for a child, any child, and receiving a donkey child as a result.

And isn't it fascinating to see that some tales are old and kept a long life from ca. 1200 but still didn't gain the same popularity level of other tales. I have to admit, a donkey is less appealing or enticingly dangerous than many other animals. This tale even emphasizes more of this entertainment qualities--from playing musical instruments, etc.

The only representative of this tale in Beauty and the Beast Tales From Around the World is the Grimms' The Donkey. There are more variants, but few are available in English translation.

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