In 1695, two years before he wrote Cendrillon (“Cinderella”), celebrated French author Charles Perrault wrote a tale called Peau d’Âne (“Donkey Skin”) that included elements of Cinderella. But Peau d’Âne was just a little strange.
Once there was a wealthy king who got his riches from a donkey that he owned. The donkey was special, in that it defecated gold. (Yeah, you read that right.) The king, however, was distraught over the death of his wife. He wanted to remarry, but could only find one woman he considered beautiful enough to take the place of his beloved wife. That woman was his daughter. (Yeah, you read that right.) The princess consulted her fairy godmother for advice on how to shun her father’s incestuous advances. The fairy godmother suggested she make impossible demands prior to the marriage. Demands that her father couldn’t possibly meet. So, the princess asked for a dress the color of the sky. The king provided the most beautiful dress that was the color of the sky. The princess then asked for dresses the color of the sun and the moon…. and, once again, the king came through. Then, with instruction from her fairy godmother, the princess requested the hide of the king’s gold-crapping donkey. Surprising both the princess and the fairy godmother, the king complied.
Backed into a corner, the princess again sought a solution from her fairy godmother. The fairy godmother told the princess to wrap herself in the donkey skin and flee the kingdom. Everyone would think it was a donkey and no one would recognize her. (Yeah, you read that right.) The fairy godmother packed the princess’s dress in a chest and sent it underground. She told the princess that the chest would follow her everywhere unnoticed. Whenever she wished to access its contents, she should touch the ground and the chest would appear.
So, wrapped in the donkey skin, the princess left the kingdom. After travelling through the woods, she came to another kingdom. A woman from a farm in the new kingdom offered the donkey-skin wrapped princess a job washing rags and tending to the geese. The princess accepted. On a holiday, when there was no work, the princess locked herself in her room, stripped off her donkey skin and dressed in one of her beautiful dresses. However, she was being watched through the keyhole of her door by the young, handsome prince of the new kingdom. (Yeah, you read that right.) The prince became sick with love for the beautiful princess. He claimed the only thing that could cure his illness was to eat a cake baked by the beautiful girl in the donkey skin.
The princess agreed to make a cake for the prince, but during the preparation, her ring fell off and into the batter. While eating the cake, the prince discovered the ring. He announced that he would marry the woman whose finger fit the ring. Anxious women came from all over the kingdom to try the ring. After dozens and dozens of candidates, the ring finally fit the finger of the girl in the donkey skin. The prince married the princess. Her father finally got over his infatuation for his daughter and married a widow (who was not a blood relative) and they all lived happily ever after. (Yeah, you knew that was coming.)
Wanna read a stranger fairy tale? Here’s the story of the Juniper Tree.