Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Obscure Fairy Tale: the one with the bricklebrit donkey

As I said in my last entry, I read a lot of obscure fairy tales while I was researching INTO THE WILD. Many of them are fantastically random, and I think they deserve their day in the sun. So I'm starting a recurring segment here in this blog: the Obscure Fairy Tale. Our first entry is... drum roll, please...

The Wishing-Table, the Gold-Donkey, and the Cudgel-in-the-Sack (from the Brothers Grimm)

A tailor has 3 sons and a goat. He asks his sons to feed the goat. After each son takes his turn guiding the goat to sumptuous grasses, the goat lies to the tailor and says he was fed nothing but rocks and weeds. So the tailor kicks his sons out of his house.

Okay, I have to comment here. The Thing I Love About This Story #1: the random talking goat. There's no explanation for why the goat talks. No one is fazed by it. It has zero bearing on the rest of the tale. It's purely there as the set-up to the sons leaving home so they can find something magical. Um, hello, talking goat, right here.

Each son apprentices himself to a craftsman, and at the end of their apprenticeships, they each receive a magical item.

Thing I Love #2: the magical item as a job performance bonus. The equivalent would be: you spend a summer waiting tables at a seafood restaurant, and at the end of the summer, the owner gives you a magical golden fish that grants three wishes. Sweet.

The eldest son receives a magic table. When you say: "Table, set thyself!", the table produces a lavish feast.

Thing I Love #3: it's a table. Kid has to lug around a table. In some variants, he gets a tablecloth that you spread out. At least that's portable. But a table?


On his way home, he stops at an inn and uses the table to feed all the guests. During the night, the greedy innkeeper secretly swaps the table for an ordinary one. When the boy reaches home, he tells his dad to summon all the relatives for a feast, but the table fails. Much embarrassment ensues.

The middle son gets a magic donkey. When you shout the word: "Bricklebrit!", it spews gold pieces out of...

And I quote:


... its front and back.

Yes, folks. Thing I Love #4: the Bricklebrit Donkey. You shout a word, and gold comes flying out its butt. Fairy tales don't get much better than that.

On his way home, he too stops at the inn. The innkeeper steals the magic donkey, and the second son is similarly embarrassed.

The third son is given a magic stick in a sack. When you shout: "Cudgel, out of the sack!", the stick hops out of the sack and beats up your enemy.

When this son arrives at the inn, he announces to all the guests that he has a treasure in his sack. When the innkeeper attempts to steal it, the son shouts, "Cudgel, out of the sack!" and the stick beats the innkeeper until the innkeeper agrees to return the magic table and donkey.

Thing I Love #5: the plot hole large enough to drive a semi through. How does the third son know that the innkeeper stole the other magic items? He hasn't gone home yet. How does he know to set a trap? How does he even know the other items exist? Were the brothers text-messaging each other?

The third son returns home, they invite over all the relatives, they have a big party, and everyone goes home very rich.

Meanwhile, the tailor discovers that the goat lied to him, so he shaves him bald and kicks him out of the house. Embarrassed at his baldness, the goat hides in a fox hole. The fox mistakes him for a monster, and a bee offers to help drive the monster out. So the bee stings the bald goat. The goat cries "Ma-ma!", runs out of the cave, and is never heard from again.

Thing I Love #6: shaves him bald? Excuse me? And where did the fox and bee come from? Did someone switch the channel to Aesop's fables?

And that, my friends, is the story of the table, the donkey, and the cudgel in a sack. The Disney movie version should be out any day now...


32 Comments:

At 11:00 PM, Anonymous sophie said...

I actually love reading those fairytales (olive, pink, ect.) for that exact reason: the randomness. My friends think I'm crazy, especially because the last time (before me) that someone took out the pink fairy book from my school library was in 1982. yeah. but it's certainly lovely to see that I'm not the only one who enjoys this!

 
At 12:29 AM, Blogger Sarah Beth Durst said...

Hi, Sophie. Yeah, I love the randomness. And I love how blase fairy-tale characters always are in the face of extreme weirdness.

 
At 8:46 AM, Blogger Anke said...

Egh, I think you got a shortened version...

I checked my Grimms Märchen, and it said the third brother's apprenticeship lasted longest, and he knew about the problems the items and theft because his brothers had sent him letters before it was finished. :)

 
At 1:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is a fairy tale titled "Donkey Skin" in which a donkey also spits out gold... Sometime it is said from its rear end, sometimes from its ears... Anyhow, it's always at night. Thought you'd like to know.

By the way, anybody knows where the talking Donkey comes from in Shrek?

 
At 12:40 AM, Blogger Sarah Beth Durst said...

Anke: That makes a LOT more sense. Thanks!

Anonymous: Ooh, I'll have to look that one up. Wonder why the gold only happens at night...

I'd love to know if the Shrek donkey comes from any particular tale. I know a whole slew of talking horse stories, but not talking donkeys...

 
At 11:15 AM, Blogger Chris MCL said...

The Donkey in Shrek comes from the original kid's book that the movie is very VERY loosely based on. It was written in verse, and I think "donkey" rhymed with something better than "horse."

 
At 11:57 AM, Blogger Sarah Beth Durst said...

Interesting. Thanks, Chris! Now I have to get my hands on that book to see what he rhymed "donkey" with...

 
At 7:46 PM, Anonymous h. said...

The talking goat was obviously the magical item the father was gifted with after his apprenticeship. What else would you give a tailor when he was fully trained? Magical needles? NO! Every tailor needs a talking goat. I think it makes complete sense.

 
At 8:39 PM, Blogger Sarah Beth Durst said...

H: I like that. So the talking goat is kind of graduation present. I wonder if the tailor wanted a car instead...

 
At 8:16 PM, Anonymous Anna said...

I love all of your comments! It's one thing to read a weird fairy tale that makes you laugh, but it's a way more fun to read a weird fairy tale AND comments that make you laugh ten times as much! =]

 
At 11:13 PM, Blogger Sarah Beth Durst said...

Anna: Thanks so much!! They're really fun to write.

 
At 2:17 PM, Blogger DaviMack said...

These tales certainly beat the Victorian moral tales, or the ones which are obviously about 'the other is evil' ... yeah, crazy beats moralizing / slandering every time. :) Thanks!

 
At 11:55 PM, Blogger Sarah Beth Durst said...

DaviMack: Totally agree. I'm a fan of stories where the moral is "own more magic animals."

 
At 9:47 PM, Blogger AnnaDee said...

i read that one in a book of italian folktales (italo calvinos.) called 'ari, ari, donkey, donkey, money, money.'
keep it up with the comentary fairy-tales, i love it!

 
At 9:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, I have to show these to my english teacher. She'd love them!

 
At 9:11 AM, Blogger Sarah Beth Durst said...

Anonymous: Thanks! I hope she enjoys them!

 
At 9:52 AM, Blogger KP said...

The Disney movie version should be out any day now...

Almost!

http://www.amazon.com/Donald-Magic-Disneys-Wonderful-Reading/dp/0394825640

 
At 10:03 AM, Blogger Sarah Beth Durst said...

KP: I hadn't heard of that. Must watch. Thanks for the link!

 
At 8:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The version of that I've seen (I think it was in an illustrated children's book that my piano teacher had when I was little) the first two brothers somehow realize that it was the innkeeper's doing and intercept the third brother on his way home. The three then make a plot, and the third brother lures the innkeeper into it by mentioning that his stick has magical powers.

 
At 9:29 PM, Blogger Sarah Beth Durst said...

Anonymous: That makes a whole lot more sense!

 
At 11:02 AM, Anonymous danielle said...

I heard astory similar to this called The North Wind.

 
At 8:41 AM, Blogger Sarah Beth Durst said...

Danielle: Yeah, this story has some really classic elements. It's the only version I know, though, with the donkey. Love that donkey.

 
At 7:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I need a Riddle ASAP! i know this sounds extreamly werid but i need a riddle. Dont ask why just give me something!! thanks!









































[url=http://www.thedaytheearthstoodstill.org/]the day the earth stood still[/url]

 
At 11:28 AM, OpenID conuly said...

I read a version of this just lately, in picture book format, "Tim O'Toole and the Wee Folk", where Tim gets all three rewards, one at a time, so he knows the innkeep stole the others because he's the dolt that LET the innkeep steal the others.

 
At 10:05 AM, Anonymous Viagra Online said...

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At 8:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow.. interesting definitely have to read that again

 
At 9:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I actually have a Disney children's book version from my childhood (late 70s/early 80s), Donald and the Magic Stick.... his nephews are filling the sons' roles. It doesn't sound like it varies too much from the original version, although gold only comes out of the donkey's ears :) My 2 year old daughter LOVES it right now, so I get the privilege of reading it nightly.

 
At 10:11 AM, Blogger Hannah Zimmerman said...

Do you think that the people who wrote these just woke up from a really weird dream and wrote it down. I feel like some my stranger dreams resemble these, it's kind of scary.

 
At 12:49 AM, Blogger Eli Blake said...

I love the Grimms! I used to love reading them to my kids (though they are now in college.) I don't remember the part about gold coming out of the back end of the donkey too, though. Very valuable manure in that case!

 
At 12:27 PM, Blogger Gary said...

In the German version, at least one of the older brothers writes a letter to the youngest brother telling him of their misfortunes with the innkeeper. The youngest brother goes to the inn with his magic bat to settle the score...and to get his brothers' magic table and donkey back. The innkeeper tries to steal the magic bat while the tailor's son is sleeping. The magic bat beats the innkeeper so mercilessly that he agrees to give back the stolen items.

The youngest son brings the magic table, the gold-spewing donkey, and the magic bat to his father's home, calling his brothers to join him, inviting all the relatives and friends. They live happily ever after stuffing themselves from the food and wine on the magic table, spending gold like it was coming out of a donkey's ass, and beating the shit out of anyone who messed with them with their magic bat.

 
At 2:34 AM, Blogger I Am Bill Stevens! said...

I read this story some 50 odd years ago. The title was "The table, the ass and the cudgel" The reason the sons were appointed the task of feeding the goat was because the tailor had fallen on bad times. The goat supplied the family with milk and cheese.The father found work in town which was quite a distance from the woods in which most of Grimms characters lived.
The town was half a days walk from the woods and the dad was coming home very late in the evening.

Every night the father would go to wherever they housed the goat to see if he had enough to eat.
After spending the day feeding each son in turn asked the goat if he had enough to eat. To which the goat answered "I am so full I can no longer pull another blade of grass bah!bah!!

When the father checked on the goat he asked the same question his sons asked and the goat's answer was always the same "Full!! How can I be full? There was nothing to pull though I looked all about me bah!! bah!!

When I read the story, the youngest son of whom the father was fondest came home and listened to his brothers tales of the crooked innkeeper. And he told his father to invite all the relatives over for a feast that would take place in 2 days. He then trekked back to the inn and gave the innkeeper a sound thrashing.

Someone has obviously taken editorial license with the Grimm's collection because there are at least 3 versions of this story and at least 2 lyric rhyme versions of the goat's answer to the sons query of whether or not the goat was full.

 
At 5:58 AM, Blogger I Am Bill Stevens! said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 

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