Fairytales have been criticized for their misogynistic views, teaching readers to distrust the ugly hag offering an apple and to idolize the beauty of the innocent princess. On the surface, Charles Perault attempts to break this stereotype in his story “Donkeyskin” by creating the notion of finding beauty even in the most hideous of things. He explicitly states it is better to “expose yourself to harsh adversity than to neglect your duty” (116). Perault believes those who work hard – even if hideous – will be rewarded and successful in the end, like the heroine, Donkeyskin. However, evidence show that the story of “Donkeyskin” devalues Perault’s view of diligence, by also suggesting that materialism and beauty lead to true happiness. In fact, “Donkeyskin” actually affirms the characters’ superficiality and material obsessed culture in his story.
“Donkeyskin” opens with an extravagant description of the king’s wealth and kingdom. When the queen dies, she forces her husband to promise to never remarry unless his new wife is even more beautiful, smarter and virtuous than her. After weeks of grieving, the king states that he can no longer stand the pain of being alone and wishes to remarry. On the contrary, the only other woman in the kingdom who lives up to his deceased wife’s standards is their very own daughter, the princess. Horrified by this arrangement, the princess seeks advice from her fairy godmother who tells her to make a list of demands that must be fulfilled before they wed: a dress the color of the sky, a dress the color of the moon, a dress as bright as the sun, and the hide of his beloved donkey. The king fulfills all the princess’s desires, much to her dismay, and she flees from home disguised under the hideous donkey hide. She finally finds refuge in a royal farm, but is taunted and ridiculed because of her foul appearance. Now known as Donkeyskin to the rest of the kingdom, she would dress up in her beautiful gowns and...
Cited: Perault, Charles. “Donkeyskin.” The Classic Fairy Tales. Ed. Maria Tatar. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1999. 110-116.
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