Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Short Retellings of Donkeyskin

"Thousandfurs," by Doug Allyn (in Once Upon a Crime, ed. Ed Gorman): When mob-boss King's wife dies, he starts losing his sanity. In hopes of salvaging his career in crime, King's second-in-command hurries to find a look-alike to appease his boss. But the actress just happens to be the daughter of King...
-This was an interesting retelling of Allerleirauh which placed the characters in modern-day Detroit and made the King into a mob-boss. The concept of the coat of a thousand furs had an interesting twist. :)

"Donkeyskin," by Terri Windling (in The Armless Maiden and Other Tales for Childhood's Survivors, ed. Terri Windling): In this striking poem, Windling mixes gritty modern-day reality with fairy tale imaginings. A girl runs away from her abusive father and becomes a waitress at a truck-stop. There, she hides behind a tough skin, waiting for her prince.
-One of my favorite short retellings

"Allerleirauh," by Jane Yolen  (in The Armless Maiden and Other Tales for Childhood's Survivors, ed. Terri Windling): In this fairy tale retelling of Allerleirauh, a motherless princess would like nothing better to win the love of her father - but he blames her for the loss of his queen. But...what happened to the fairy tale ending?

"Suit of Leather," by Barbara Wilson (in Salt Water and Other Stories): Carter grew up a sheltered heiress, but when her father attempts to sexually molest her, she runs away to the streets. She buys a suit of leather, which makes her feel tough and protected from the world around her. It makes her feel attractive and it hides her identity of "runaway heiress" well. She finds a dishwashing job (and a room off the kitchen to shelter her) in a gay restaurant. There, everyone decides she's butch because of her suit of leather, but she is secretly attracted to Nat - a woman who is interested in a more softly-clad type. Carter must climb out of her protective leather suit in order to get Nat's attention. 
-This was a very well-written story, and possibly one of the most memorable. But I personally found the adult content a bit off-putting. 

"The Tale of the Skin," a short story by Emma Donoghue (in Kissing the Witch: Old Tales in New Skins, by Emma Donoghue): This is an almost canonical retelling of Donkeyskin, except that it has a cynical twist at the end.  

"Tattercoats," by Midori Snyder (in Black Thorn, White Rose, ed. Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling): On her wedding night, a princess inherited three walnuts which housed her mother's golden ring, spindle, and reel; her mother's dresses the color of the sun, the moon, and the weather; and a raggedy old coat. At first, the princess thinks the raggedy old coat is useless and ugly - but her mother explained that the coat helped her to better know herself. Years later, the passion of the princess' marriage is fading, and she finally decides to make use of her mother's gifts.
-This is an interesting sequel to Allerleirauh, but it has adult content.

"The Color Master," by Aimee Bender (in My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me, ed. Kate Bernheimer): When the Color Master falls ill, an apprentice must fulfill an impossible request for three dresses for the princess - one the color of the moon, the next the color of the sun, and the third the color of the sky. The apprentice must put all of her passion and anger into the dresses in order to provide courage to the troubled princess.
-This is a retelling of Donkeyskin from the point of view of the dressmakers. A very imaginative story, with colors like poetry. :)

"Dancing in the Ashes," by Richard E. Friesen (in Once Upon a Galaxy, ed. Will McCarthy and and Martin H. Greenburg): In order to escape her emotionally abusive father, Ally uses her mother's time machine to travel into the Middle Ages. There, she discovers that not everything is as romantic as she expected. There is filth and stench everywhere, not enough food, not enough water, and a social hierarchy that she'd never dreamed of. Will she be able to find her handsome prince in this world? Or can she find a way back to her own?
-This is a retelling of Donkeyskin/Cinderella that was written by Friesen as an example to modern readers that our fascination with the Middle Ages wouldn't last very long if we actually tried living there.

"Moss Gown," by William H. Hook: When Candice's father decides to split his lands among his daughters, he puts them to the test by asking each how much she loves him. Candice's sisters flatter her father with fancy words but no sincere affection. Candice answers that she loves her father like "meat loves salt." Candice's father doesn't understand the simple elegance of Candice's answer, and he gives all his land to the two older sisters, who banish her. While running through the forest, she meets a witch who gives her a magical gown made of moss. She finds a job in the kitchen of a rich man's house, and attends his balls dressed in her gown of moss (which becomes a beautiful dress at night). They fall into insta-love, and the young master yearns to meet the young lady again. Candice learns that the young master is able to lover her despite her tattered clothing. They get married, and the father (now blind and abandoned on the streets by his older daughters) shows in the area - begging for food. Candice throws a feast cooked entirely without salt, and this is when her father discovers how much meat loves salt. 
-This children's picture book has elements of Cinderella, Donkeyskin, and King Lear. A cute story, especially for little girls.

"Princess Furball," by Charlotte Huck: When a king promises his daughter in marriage to an ogre, she tries to postpone the wedding by requesting four impossible gifts - three unearthly dresses and one fur coat made from the fur of all the animals in the kingdom. But when these gifts are quickly provided, she runs away and becomes a servant in the kitchen of another palace. She attends three balls dressed in her beautiful gowns, and the prince falls in love with her. 


  1. Retellings can be interesting and shed new light on to old tales.

    Moss Gown sounds like a terrific take on King Lear. The structure of the take sounds exactly the same with a few very creative sounding variations. I assume that the ending is not as dark as the original :)


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