Once upon a time, there was a good King who had the most beautiful wife in the world, with golden hair and a radiant, friendly face. They had a child, but the Queen became very ill afterward. On her deathbed, she asked the King, crying, to promise her that he would remarry after her death. His future wife must be at least as beautiful as she was.
The Queen meant well, her daughter would at least grow up with a mother. Of course, the King, who loved his wife deeply, wanted to promise her this. The Counselors searched for a new Queen who was just as beautiful for a while. But to their regret, they could not find a single woman in the whole world who could match the beauty of the old Queen.
The King had a daughter with just as beautiful golden hair as her mother. He did not see his daughter often because he was very sad and busy searching for a new wife. One day, he met her in the rose garden and chatted with her. He had never been so close to his own daughter, who had become a young woman in the meantime. She looked like her mother and, of course, like the king himself! The King fell in love with her. He wanted to marry her, but the Counselors were shocked and said that God had forbidden it. The King paid no attention to that. The daughter was upset by this plan, but she did not want to hurt her father.
Fortunately, she had a Protective Fairy. The Fairy told the girl that her father would have to make three mantles to marry her. It was almost impossible to make these three mantles. The first one should shine as brightly as the stars. But the King managed to make one.
Becoming frightened, on the advice of the fairy, his daughter then gave the command to make one that shone as brightly as the moon. Again, crazy with love, the King had all the servants work to design this mantle. He succeeded again. When the girl touched the silvery garment, she felt the soft light fabric that also looked like mother-of-pearl.
In a state of despair, she then asked for a mantle that shone and was as beautiful and warm as the sun. Her Protective Fairy thought that the King would never be able to do this. But three days later, a beautiful mantle was ready. The Princess had to squint to look at the sparkling garment. It looked like rays of sunshine shining from it.
Desperate, the girl went to the Fairy. The Fairy had a good plan. They would ask the King for a mantle of Donkey Fur. The King had a donkey he loved very much. The animal ate from a golden dish studded with diamonds and drank from a crystal fountain. The King had had him since he was little. The little animal had saved him and helped him many times in the war. Now, the King would have to kill his faithful quadruped so that his daughter could wear a Donkey Fur mantle. The King hesitated. Yet, he had his loyal pet slaughtered to make a fur coat.
When the King announced that he would now finally marry her, his daughter decided to run away. The Fairy gave the poor girl a gold ring, a gold spinning wheel, and a gold spindle. The good Fairy said, “When you need to make something, do something, or need success, use one of these three things. Now go, but be careful, my child!”
She also conjured up three cloaks that she put in a small nutshell and gave to the girl. She made the girl wear the Cloak of Donkeyskin, which made the Princess look like a farm girl. She also had to smear her face and hands with soot.
The Princess left the palace and found herself in a large forest, where she fell asleep in a hollow tree. Another King, from the neighboring kingdom, went hunting and his dogs spotted the girl. The King was told by the hunters that there was an animal lying there, like they had never seen before. It looked like a donkey, but slimmer and smaller. The “animal” was sleeping and moving like a human. The curious young King had the “animal” caught alive. The hunters then called her Donkeyskin. They found her dirty and strange.
The Princess did not want to be unmasked and went to work in the kitchen of an inn. She hardly spoke. The poor girl had to sweep ashes in the kitchen and do other dirty work. In return, she could sleep in a small windowless room and got some scraps of food. The inn was located near the palace and every morning soup was brought from the inn to the palace. The Princess did as she was asked and brought the soup. But she was always afraid of being discovered. This made her very unhappy. When the girl cried, her tears fell into the wounds and bruises she had on her hands from the hard work. But Donkeyskin never complained.
One day, a royal ball was held. Donkeyskin asked the cook if she could take a look. With her oil lamp, she went to the small room, washed the soot from her face and hands, and took off the Fur cloak. Her beauty reappeared. She opened the nutshell and put on the Star cloak. When she appeared, everyone thought she was a princess. Donkeyskin felt like she used to be. The King danced with her and had never seen such a beautiful girl. It turned out that this young King was also funny and friendly. But when the dance was over, she left again and no one knew where.
The King wanted to see the girl again and went looking for her. The guards also did not know where she had gone. Donkeyskin had put on her Fur cloak again, covered her hands and face with soot, and had gone back to work diligently in the kitchen.
The cook wanted her to make bread soup first before sweeping the ashes. She had never made soup, so she used the gold ring as help. She accidentally dropped it in the soup. The King found the gold ring and asked the cook who had made the soup. The cook replied that he had done it. The King did not believe it. The soup was so much tastier than usual, and the cook confessed that Donkeyskin had cooked the soup.
Donkeyskin was brought to the King, and she told him that she had no father and mother anymore. She said she was not good at anything and knew nothing about a gold ring. She felt terribly guilty towards her father.
When there was another ball, Donkeyskin went to look again. This time she put on the Silver Moon cloak and danced again with the King. After the dance, she disappeared again and put on the ugly Fur cloak again. She took the golden spinning wheel and made bread soup again. This time the King found the spinning wheel in the soup. He had Donkeyskin brought to him again. She declared that she knew nothing about a spinning wheel and that she deserved to be kicked with a boot.
When the third ball was celebrated, Donkeyskin wanted to go again, but the cook called her a witch because she could suddenly make the best soup. “Until now, I made the best soup! Sweeping ashes is good enough for someone like you! From now on, that’s the only kind of task you’ll do! Understood?”
The girl promised never to cook soup again. After this promise, he let her go to the party. Donkeyskin was so happy that she now put on the Sun Mantle. The King danced with her and secretly slid the ring onto her finger. He wanted to hold her, but she broke free and ran away. But she didn’t have time to take off the Sun Mantle.
She threw the ugly Fur Mantle over it and quickly smeared herself with soot. As agreed, the cook made the soup, but the girl brought the soup to the King. She accidentally dropped the golden spindle in the bowl. The King saw Donkeyskin approaching. Then he discovered the ring on her finger. He stroked her hand and suddenly saw a ray of sunshine under the mantle. He let the garment slide off her shoulders.
Now the Princess could no longer hide. She wiped the soot and ashes off herself and was breathtakingly beautiful. The King immediately asked her to marry him. Even the cook was happy! From that moment on, the King and his newly engaged paid all the servants more money. Donkeyskin knew what it was like to work hard for little money.
However, the Princess was homesick. She missed the palace. She missed the roses and green meadows. She even missed her peculiar father. She sent a few hunters to the neighboring kingdom. The unhappy King was still looking for a wife. Donkeyskin felt guilty. Guilty about the donkey, guilty about everything. She prayed to God and hoped her father would find a wife. Finally, she gathered all her courage and went with her future husband to her old home.
Donkeyskin was afraid to face her father, but he was not angry and greeted her warmly. “It’s no problem that you don’t marry me. I see that I was wrong. You are happy and that’s what matters.”
From that moment on, the two kingdoms lived in peace and formed one large country. But the Protector Fairy wanted to do something else. She couldn’t bring the old queen back to life, but she could help find a new wife for the King.
Eight months later, Donkeyskin married her sweet fiancé and her father married a beautiful woman: Queen Dorina. And… they all lived happily ever after!