Donkey Skin

donkey skinThe lessons taught by many folktales are just as important today as they were hundreds of years ago. Donkey Skin deals with sexual in the form of . A powerful king wants to marry his daughter, as this is the only way he can keep a promise he made to his dying wife. Fortunately, the brave girl and her fairy godmother have other ideas. I find it interesting that the king’s actions are shown to be wrong, but there seems to be no problem with a handsome prince who thinks it is OK to women through key holes.

English Learner Vocabulary Help

The words and expressions in our Elementary level Simplified English story which are not in our 800 word list are: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , and .

There is also a word that is in our Elementary word list but has a meaning in the story which is different to the one most commonly used. The girl’s fairy godmother points to a large box and says: “Here is a magic chest.” The word here means a container for holding things or moving them from place to place.

General Comments on the Story

Donkey Skin (French: Peau d’Âne) was one of the first folktales written by Charles Perrault. It was published in 1695 and, like many stories of the time, was written in . Stories like this were designed to be listened to (often while being performed on stage) rather than read. Some years later, Donkey Skin was included along with a number of other stories in an of Perrault’s famous book Stories or Fairy s from Past Times with Morals… better known at the time as Mother Goose Tales.

We have mentioned before how some folktales have changed over time in order to make them more acceptable to the changing tastes of readers. This happened with two of the earliest English translations of Donkey Skin:

  • The first English translation of the story was by Robert Samber in his 1729 book Histories, or Tales of Past Time. I haven’t been able to find a copy of this on the Internet, but an ed version of the translation can be found in a 1926 book, The Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault. This story gets around the incest issue by telling us that the king became when he could not find a suitable woman to marry after his first wife died. He came to believe that he was young again, and that the princess was his dead wife at the time they first met.
  • In 1900, Scottish folktale collector Andrew Lang published the story in The Grey Fairy Book. This was at the end of the Victorian Period where (among the middle classes at least) acting according the moral values of the time was seen as important. Lang’s way of getting around the “i-word” was to describe the princess as having been adopted. Interestingly, Lamb also changed the description of the donkey to have gold fall from the animal’s ears rather than the other end of its body.

Incest of various kinds has been a common practice in many cultures, most notably among royalty to keep their blood lines . In almost all cases, this has been limited to second-degree (brother-sister) and third-degree (cousin-uncle-aunt) relationships. Parent-child incest is ly accepted, and in most countries today would be considered sexual abuse because of the position of power that parents hold in relation to their children. Consider then how the pressure to agree would be many times greater where the parent is also an all-powerful king. The girl in the story would have needed a lot of to say “NO” as she did.

The moral of the story according to Perrault is stated at the end and can be d as follows:

It is better to go through the greatest hardships than to do what is wrong. You may think that doing the right thing all the time can sometimes lead to problems, but people who do this always win out in the end.

However, there is also an important unstated lesson:

Life is not always fair.

The king, who planned to commit incest with his daughter and did not even offer an at the end, receives no ment at all. Sadly, this is often what happens with powerful people in the real world.

Similar Stories

There are many ways of ing folktales. If we look at Donkey Skin’s main story s we see a woman who is treated badly by her family; a magical helper; a life of hard, boring work; beautiful dresses; a handsome prince; and an item she uses to help the prince to find her. These are the elements of what are commonly called “Cinderella Tales”. There are hundreds of stories like this around the world, including two that we have featured before: Cap O’ Rushes and Tam and Cam.

If we assume that the main feature of the story is a father who wants to marry his daughter, there are at least 50 related English language folktales. Perhaps the most famous of these is “All Kinds of Fur” (German: Allerleirauh) by the Brothers Grimm. Another is “The She-Bear” from The Pentamerone, an Italian collection of folktales published in 1636. The Pentamerone is believed to be a source for a number of Perrault stories including “Cinderella”, “Puss in Boots” and “Sleeping Beauty”. You can read a translation of The Pentamerone here. The story Cap O’ Rushes referred to above is also included in this of folktales.

It could well be that the for some “father who wants to marry his daughter” folktales was a 7th century Christian . According to the legend, an Irish king made a promise to his dying wife that he would only remarry if he found someone as beautiful as she was. After looking around, he decided to marry his daughter Dympna. The girl, who was a deeply religious Christian, ran off to Belgium to escape him. However, the king followed her to Belgium and cut off her head. There was no magical helper to save Dympna while she was alive, but many s (especially s for madness and ) are said to have occurred at the place she died. Today she is Belgium’s of the insane.

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abuse(v: abuse, abuses, abused, abusing) 1. To treat (a person or animal) in a bad or harmful way. He physically abused his wife. 2. To use or treat (something) wrongly or in a way that causes damage. Alcohol abuse is bad for you. 3. To attack (someone) in words; to insult or speak roughly to. The fans were abusing the referee. 2000

paternal(adj: paternal) Of or relating to a father. He offered them some paternal [=fatherly] advice. 13000

(n: incest, noncount) Sexual intercourse between people who are too closely related to marry, as between a parent and child or brother and sister. 5000

spy on(phrasal verb: spy on) To watch (someone) secretly. He spies on his neighbors. Have you been spying on me? (เฝ้าดูอย่างลับ ๆ)

bright(adj: bright, brighter, brightest) 1. Producing a lot of light. The lighting in the theater was too bright. 2. Able to learn things quickly; clever, intelligent. He is a bright child. 3. Happy and lively; cheerful. He smiled brightly when he saw his friend. 4. Having a very strong color. A bright red car. 2000

dead(adj: dead) No longer alive or living; no longer having life. Her husband is dead. He died last year.
(adj: deadly, deadlier, deadliest) 1. Causing or able to cause death. Deadly weapons. A deadly poison. 2. Very great or effective. He was deadly serious. She shoots with deadly accuracy. 1000

delight(v: delight, delights, delighted, delighting) 1. To please greatly. I was delighted by the good news. 2. To have or take great pleasure from something. He delights in beating me at chess.
(n: delight pl delights) A strong feeling of happiness.
(adj: delightful) Causing delight. 2000

diamond(n: diamond pl diamonds) A very hard, usually colorless, precious stone; used especially in expensive jewelry. 4000

donkey(n: donkey pl donkeys) An animal that is like a small horse with large ears, commonly used for carrying things. 5000

enemy(n: enemy pl enemies) 1. Someone who hates another, or who attacks or tries to harm another. She is so good and kind that she has no enemies. 2. [usually singular] A group of people [such as an army or nation] against whom another group is fighting a war. He's one of the enemy. 3000

fairy godmother(n: fairy godmother pl fairy godmothers) (in stories) A woman with magic powers who saves a person from trouble.

fear(n: fear pl fears) A feeling of being scared or worried about something dangerous or unpleasant that could happen. Unable to walk the streets without fear of being robbed. Employees expressed fears that the company would go out of business.
(n: fear, noncount) A feeling of respect and wonder for something very powerful. Fear of God. 2000

fitness(adj: fit, fitter, fittest) 1. Physically healthy and strong. It is important for firemen to keep fit. 2. Proper or acceptable. This is not a fit topic for children. 3. Suitable or qualified for a specified purpose. This water is not fit for drinking. He is not fit for this job. 1000

fright(n: fright pl frights) A feeling of sudden fear. When you jumped out from behind the door it gave me such a fright!
(n: fright, noncount) Fear caused by sudden danger; sudden fear. I almost died of fright.
(v: frighten, frightens, frightened, frightening) To cause someone to feel fear. 2000

jewel(n: jewel pl jewels) A precious stone (such as a diamond, ruby, emerald, sapphire) that has been cut and polished.
(n: jewels, plural) An ornament or pieces of jewelry containing a precious stone or stones. She loved dressing up in her jewels.
(adj: jeweled or jewelled) Covered in jewels. 3000

moral(n: moral pl morals) The lesson to be learned from something that happens or from a story.
(adj: moral) Concerning what is right and wrong in human behavior. A moral person is always does what they believe to be the right thing to do. 2000

palace(n: palace pl palaces) A very large and beautiful house, especially one lived in by a member of a royal family such as a king, queen, sultan, etc. 4000
The picture on the left shows Buckingham Palace in London where the Queen of England lives.

shine(v: shine, shines, shone, shining) To (cause to) give out light; to direct such light towards someone or something. 3000

skin(n: skin pl skins) 1. (noncount) The natural outer layer of tissue that covers the body of a person or animal. She has pale/dark/fair skin. (ผิวหนัง) 2. A thin outer covering, as on a fruit. A banana-skin; onion-skins. (เปลือก) 3. The outer layer of an animal (often with its hair or feathers still attached) that has been removed from the body and is used to make things (such as clothes). 2000

ugly(adj: ugly, uglier, ugliest) Unpleasant to look at; not pretty or attractive. (น่าเกลียด) 4000

wand(n: wand pl wands) A long, thin stick used by a magician or during magic tricks, and in stories by fairies and witches. In the story, the witch waved her magic wand and the prince became a frog. 6000

wise(adj: wise, wiser, wisest) Having gained a lot of knowledge from books or experience or both and able to use it well. (ฉลาด)
(n: wisdom; noncount) 1. The knowledge gained from books or experience. 2. The quality or state of being wise. (ปัญญา; สติปัญญา) 2000

(n: chest pl chests) 1. The front part of the body between the neck and the stomach, containing the heart and the lungs. The pain is in my upper chest. (หน้าอก) 2. A container (such as a box or case) for holding things or moving them from place to place. A linen/tool/treasure chest. 2000
(n: chest of drawers) A piece of furniture that contains drawers for storing clothes.

human chest storage chest

verse(n: verse pl verses) 1. Writing in which words are arranged in a rhythmic pattern; poetry. Shakespeare often wrote in verse. (ร้อยกรอง) 2. A part of a poem or song; stanza. The second verse is sung the same way as the first. (ร้อยกรอง) 3. One of the parts of a chapter of the Christian Bible. (บรรทัดหนึ่งในบทกลอน) 2000

edition(n: edition pl editions) A particular version of a book; all the copies of a book that are printed or published at one time. 2000

tale(n: tale pl tales) 1. A story about real or imaginary events; an exciting or dramatic story that may not be completely true. (นิทาน) 2. An untrue story that is told to deceive someone; a lie. He told me he had a lot of money, but that was just a tale. (เรื่องโกหก) 3000

adapt(v: adapt, adapts, adapted, adapting) 1. To change behavior to make it easier to deal with a situation. She adapted quickly to college life. 2. To change (something) so that it is better suited for a purpose. I adapted the camera for underwater use. 3. To change (a movie, book, play, etc.) so that it can be shown in another form. 3000

insane(adj: insane) 1. Not sane, mad; having or showing severe mental illness. The murderer was found to be insane. 2. (informal) Very foolish. It was insane to think he would give you the money. 4000
Note: Nowadays, some people consider this word to be offensive. The phrase mentally ill is preferred.

strict(adj: strict, stricter, strictest) Being very firm with people; demanding that people obey rules or behave in a certain way, without change or failure. (เข้มงวด) 3000

pure(adj: pure, purer, purest) 1. Not mixed with anything, especially something dirty or less valuable. Pure gold/orange juice. 2. Morally good; free from sexual or evil thinking. Pure thoughts. A pure heart. 3. Complete; absolute. A pure accident. 4. [of sounds] Clear; keeping in tune. She sang in a high pure tone. 2000

rare(adj: rare, rarer, rarest) 1. Not done, seen, or happening etc very often; not common or usual. A rare animal/flower/occurrence. 2. [of meat] Only slightly cooked. I like my steak rare.
(adv: rarely) Not often. I rarely go to bed before midnight. 2000

courage(n: courage, noncount) The ability to do something that you know is difficult or dangerous; bravery. The soldier showed great courage in battle.
(adj: courageous) Having or showing courage. A courageous soldier. 3000

paraphrase(v: paraphrase, paraphrases, paraphrased, paraphrasing) To say something that someone else has said or written using different words. He paraphrased the quote. She frequently paraphrases famous authors in her lectures.
(n: paraphrase pl paraphrases) A statement that paraphrases. This is just a paraphrase of what he said, not an exact quote. 8000

apology(n: apology pl apologies) A statement saying that you are sorry for a fault or having done or said something wrong. Please accept my apology for not arriving on time.
(v: apologize, apologizes, apologized, apologizing) To say that one is sorry for a fault or having done or said something wrong. 2000

punish(v: punish, punishes, punished, punishing) To make someone suffer for a crime or for something done that is wrong.
(n: punishment pl punishments) The act or way of making someone suffer for a crime or for something done that is wrong. 3000

classify(v: classify, classifies, classified, classifying) To arrange (people or things) into groups based on ways that they are alike. Students will be learning about the ways scientists classify animals. 4000

element(n: element pl elements) 1. In chemistry, a basic substance made of atoms of only one kind which cannot be separated by chemical means into simpler substances. 2. A most basic part of something. The elements of grammar. 3. A small amount. An element of doubt/risk.. 4. Surroundings necessary for life. Water is a fish's natural element. 2000

category(n: category pl categories) A group of people or things that are similar in some way. She competed for the award in her age category.
(v: categorize, categorizes, categorized, categorizing) To put (things or people) into a category. 2000

inspiration(n: inspiration pl inspirations) 1. Something or someone that makes another person want to do or create something or that gives them an idea about what to do or create. His paintings take/draw their inspiration from nature. His children are his greatest inspiration. 2. A good idea. She had a sudden inspiration and decided that they would have the party outdoors. 3000

legend(n: legend pl legends) A story from the past that is believed by many people but cannot be proved to be true.
(adj: legendary) 1. Mentioned etc in legend. King Arthur is a legendary hero. 2. Very famous because of being very great, good etc. He was a legendary football player. 6000

miracle(n: miracle pl miracles) An unusual or wonderful event that cannot be explained and is believed to be caused by the power of God. 3000

cure(v: cure, cures, cured, curing) 1. To stop a disease and make someone healthy again. The infection was cured with antibiotics. 2. To make better or solve a problem. That medicine cured me. His wife cured him of his bad habits.
(n: cure pl cures) Something that cures a disease. They're trying to find a cure for cancer. 3000

epilepsy(n: epilepsy, noncount) A disorder of the nervous system that can cause people to suddenly become unconscious and to have violent, uncontrolled movements of the body. 8000

patron saint(n: patron saint pl patron saints) A saint who is believed to protect a particular place or type of person. St. David is the patron saint of Wales. St. Christopher is the patron saint of travelers.
(n: Saint or St. pl Saints) In some religions, a person who is officially recognized after their death as being very good or holy because of the way he or she lived. 3000

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