The Grey Fairy Book
Large Print Edition
By Andrew Lang
Echo Library (2005), 524 pages
Genre: Classics - Children's Fiction
Reviewed by Israel Drazin - November 14, 2010
Andrew Lang (1844-1912) wrote twelve books of fairy tales that he differentiated one from the other by color; for example, this one is grey, another is green, another pink, another is blue, and others yellow, brown, and lilac. This book contains dozens of tales from Africa, Germany, France, Greece, and other countries. The tales contain the usual delightful spicy ingredients that children expect to find in fairy tales: rich kings, handsome princes, beautiful princesses, people trying to hurt another person who is usually a pretty girl, magic, rings, help from fairies, and unusually long lives. Donkey Skin is an example.
A king had a donkey that produced gold every night from its ears. When his wife lay dying, she urged him to marry again, but only a woman who was more beautiful than her. The king searched everywhere and could find no such beauty. Finally, he looked at the picture of his adopted daughter and saw that she fit his requirements. The girl did not want to marry her adopted father and went to her fairy godmother for help.
The fairy suggested that she tell the king that she will consider his proposal after he gives her a dress that has the color of the sky. The fairy was sure that the king could not do so. But he did. The girl asked for help again. The fairy told her to request a dress the color of moonbeams. When the king was able to produce it, the fairy suggested one that had the color of sunshine. The king did this as well. Then, as a last resort, the fairy godmother suggested that the king make her a dress out of his donkey’s skin. Surely he would refuse to do so. But he did. So the girl dressed herself in the donkey dress and ran from the palace. After some adventures, she found herself a job on a farm. People laughed at her because of her donkey dress and called her "Donkey Skin."
A prince came by, saw her, and fell in love with her. He told his father, a king, to get her to bake him a cake. She did, and her ring fell into the cake. The prince said he will marry the girl whose finger fit the ring. All the girls of the kingdom tried and failed until "Donkey Skin" put it on. They were married, became king and queen, and lived happily for another hundred years.
Dr. Israel Drazin is the author of sixteen books, including a series of five volumes on the Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Bible, which he co-authors with Dr. Stanley M. Wagner, and a series of four books on the twelfth century philosopher Moses Maimonides, the latest being Maimonides: Reason Above All, published by Gefen Publishing House, www.gefenpublishing.com. The Orthodox Union (OU) publishes Wagner and Drazin's latest book Let's Study Onkelos on www.ou.org/torah.