Donkey skin and other unnatural love tales.


Do you know the fairytale of donkey skin?


Many of you probably know the iconography of the protagonist, the beautiful daughter of the King covered with the skin of a donkey but maybe you do not know that in this fairy tale, written by Perrault around the end of 1600, there is talk of incest and disguise.

Donkey skin summary

I'll give you a quick summary of the fairy tale.


  1. A happy King loses his Queen who, dying, obtains the promise that he would remarry only a woman more beautiful than her.
  2. In the whole Kingdom the most beautiful is the daughter of the King and Queen.
  3. The King matures the insane purpose of marrying his daughter.
  4. The princess, recommended by the Fairy Godmother,  asks the King for three clothes; one from Heaven, one from the Moon, one from the Sun. The King gets them.
  5. The Princess asks for the skin of the magic donkey whose droppings are gold coins, confident that the King will not consent. The King brings her donkey's skin.
  6. The Princess escapes disguised with the donkey's skin and ends up working in the kitchen as a servant in another kingdom where they scoff at her and call her Donkey Skin.
  7. After various vicissitudes the Prince of the Kingdom notices her and marries her through the trial of the ring he found in a cake made by Donkey skin for him (taking up the theme of Cinderella).

What do Doralice, The bear, Allerleirauh and Donkey skin have in common?


 As often happens, fairy tales were used to tell or stimulate discussion and reflection on actual events and problems existing in the society. Actually Perrault wrinting this fairy tale was inspired by two previous Italian authors: Giambattista Basile who around 1634 wrote the Bear (included in the collection Il Cunto de li cunti) which looks very much like Donkey skin, except for there is not the killing of the animal but the Princess turns into a bear with magic, as if the bear was her alter ego. (This reminds me of the double female identity of the nine-tailed Fox, I talked about it HERE)


The other ItalianPerrault's precursor was Giovanni Francesco Straparola, who, around 1500 wrote Doralice (and many other fairy tales that have become classic) a fairy tale that has incest as its theme. I recommend reading this dark tale where there is even multiple murder, it was written over 500 years ago but it is still very compelling.


 The Grimm brothers, in 1800, took up the theme of Donkey skin and proposed it again with small variations with the title Allerleirauh.

The theme of incest, disguise and femininity


In Donkey skin the important themes are incest and the so-called Elettra complex which would be the competition of the female daughter with the mother to conquer paternal love, although to me this interpretation seems a bit forced in the case of this fairy tale.


As for incest, think that in the courts of Europe, especially in that of France, love between relatives was on the agenda. For example Louis XIV and his first cousin Maria Teresa of Spain were married. However the examples among aristocrats are manifold. This was mainly due to economic and political reasons.

In the fairy tale, the princess becomes unrecognizable and repugnant by wearing the skin of a donkey, not just any donkey, but a magical and precious donkey. Hiding in that skin was thought to symbolize the transformation and the search for protection of one's own femininity protected by the innocence of the animal world or even the denunciation, with that skin, of the animalistic act to which she had escaped.

Schizzo progetto bambola Pelle d'asino
Schizzo progetto bambola Pelle d'asino

And finally a doll inspired by Donkey skin

However Donkey, despite being a fairy tale that can be read with the simplicity of a classic fairy tale, raises many questions and suggestions. I am making a doll inspired by this magnificent fairy tale, follow me on social media to see the various steps as I make her.

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Commenti: 2
  • #1

    Katy Poenaru (giovedì, 11 giugno 2020 18:41)

    Beautiful and inciting post!

  • #2

    Gioconda (venerdì, 12 giugno 2020 12:00)

    Thank you my dear Katy, happy you liked it

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