A fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm
Once upon a time there lived a king and a queen, who were rich,
and had everything they wanted, but no children. The queen
lamented over this day and night, and said, "I am like a field
on which nothing grows." At last God gave her her wish, but when
the child came into the world, it did not look like a human child,
but was a little donkey. When the mother saw that, her lamentations
and outcries began in real earnest. She said she would
far rather have had no child at all than have a donkey, and that
they were to throw it into the water that the fishes might devour
it. But the king said, "No, since God has sent him he shall be my
son and heir, and after my death sit on the royal throne, and
wear the kingly crown." The donkey, therefore, was brought up
and grew bigger, and his ears grew up high and straight. And he
was of a merry disposition, jumped about, played and took especial
pleasure in music, so that he went to a celebrated musician and
said, "Teach me your art, that I may play the lute as well as you do."
"Ah, dear little master," answered the musician, "that would come
very hard to you, your fingers are not quite suited to it, and
are far too big. I am afraid the strings would not last." But
no excuses were of any use. The donkey was determined to play the
lute. And since he was persevering and industrious, he at last
learnt to do it as well as the master himself.
The young lordling
once went out walking full of thought and came to a well. He
looked into it and in the mirror-clear water saw his donkey's
form. He was so distressed about it, that he went out into the
wide world and only took with him one faithful companion. They
travelled up and down, and at last they came into a kingdom where
and old king reigned who had
a single but wonderfully beautiful daughter. The donkey said,
"Here we shall stay," knocked at the gate, and cried, "a guest is
without. Open, that he may enter." When the gate was not opened,
he sat down, took his lute and played it in the most delightful
manner with his two fore-feet.
Then the door-keeper opened his
eyes, and gaped, and ran to the king and said, "Outside by the
gate sits a young donkey which plays the lute as well as an
"Then let the musician come to me," said the
king. But when a donkey came in, everyone began to laugh at the
lute-player. And when the donkey was asked to sit down and eat
with the servants, he was unwilling, and said, "I am no common
am a noble one."
Then they said, "If that is what you are, seat
yourself with the soldiers."
"No," said he, "I shall sit by the king."
The king smiled, and said good-humouredly, "Yes, it will be as
you will, little ass, come here to me." Then he asked, "Little ass,
how does my daughter please you?" The donkey turned his head
towards her, looked at her, nodded and said, "I like her above
measure, I have never yet seen anyone so beautiful as she is."
"Well, then, you will sit next her too," said the king.
exactly what I wish," said the donkey, and he placed himself by her
side, ate and drank, and knew how to behave himself daintily
When the noble beast had stayed a long time at the
king's court, he thought, "What good does all this do me? I
shall still have to go home again," let his head hang sadly,
and went to the king and asked for his dismissal. But the king
had grown fond of him, and said, "Little ass, what ails you? You
look as sour as a jug of vinegar. I shall give you what you want.
Do you want gold?"
"No," said the donkey, and shook his head.
"Do you want jewels and rich dress?"
"Do you wish for half my
Then said the king, "If I did but know what
would make you content. Will you have my pretty daughter to wife?"
"Ah, yes," said the ass, "I should indeed like her," and all at once
he became quite merry and full of happiness, for that was exactly
what he was wishing for. So a great and splendid wedding was
In the evening, when the bride and bridegroom were led
into their bed-room, the king wanted to know if the ass would
behave well, and ordered a servant to hide himself there. When
they were both within, the bridegroom bolted the door, looked
around, and as he believed that they were quite alone, he suddenly
threw off his ass's skin, and stood there in the form of a handsome
royal youth. "Now," said he, "you see who I am, and see also that
I am not unworthy of you." Then the bride was glad, and kissed
him, and loved him dearly. When morning came, he jumped up, put
his animal's skin on again, and no one could have guessed
what kind of a form was hidden beneath it.
Soon came the old king.
"Ah," cried he, "so the little ass is already up. But surely you are
sad," said he to his daughter, "that you have not got a proper
man for your husband?"
"Oh, no, dear father, I love him as well as
if he were the handsomest in the world, and I shall keep him as long
as I live."
The king was surprised, but the servant who had
concealed himself came and revealed everything to him. The king
said, "That cannot be true."
"Then watch yourself the next night,
and you will see it with your own eyes, and hark you, lord king,
if you were to take his skin away and throw it in the fire, he
would be forced to show himself in his true shape."
"Your advice is
good," said the king, and at night when they were asleep, he stole
in, and when he got to the bed he saw by the light of the moon
a noble-looking youth lying there, and the skin lay stretched on
the ground. So he took it away, and had a great fire lighted
outside, and threw the skin into it, and remained by it himself
until it was all burnt to ashes. But since he was anxious to know
how the robbed man would behave himself, he stayed awake the whole
night and watched. When the youth had slept his fill, he got
up by the first light of morning, and wanted to put on the
ass's skin, but it was not to be found. At this he was alarmed,
and, full of grief and anxiety, said, "Now I shall have to contrive
to escape." But when he went out, there stood the king, who said,
"My son, whither away in such haste? What have you in mind? Stay
here, you are such a handsome man, you will not go away from me.
I shall now give you half of my kingdom, and after my death you shall
have the whole of it."
"Then I hope that what begins so well may
end well, and I shall stay with you," said the youth. And the old
man gave him half of the kingdom, and in a year's time, when he died,
the youth had the whole, and after the death of his father he had
another kingdom as well, and lived in all magnificence.