The Fool and the Donkey

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The Fool and the Donkey

An Iranian folk tale retold by David Heathfield


One morning, the fool woke up and he thought, ‘There is one thing I need, I need a donkey.’

So he left his home and walked until he came to the town. He came to the donkey stall. There were many donkeys. Some were big and some were small. Some had long ears and some very short. But among them there was one donkey that had long, floppy, silky ears.

‘This is the donkey for me.’

The fool paid the donkey stall holder and he led that donkey tied by a rope away from the stall and through the streets of the town, and there were two boys.

‘We can trick that donkey from that fool.’

One boy went up and he took the rope from around the donkey’s neck and he put it around his own neck and followed the fool, who didn’t even notice.

The other boy led the donkey back to the stall to sell it.

On through the streets and on away from the town to his home went the fool. And when he got to his home he turned and… uhhh: ‘When I bought you, you were a donkey. But now you’ve turned into a boy.’

‘It’s true, I was a donkey when you bought me, but, you see, before that I was a boy. I was rude to my mother, and my mother said, ‘If you are ever rude to me again may you be turned by the devil into a donkey.’ And so it was. But now that you have bought me, I am a boy once more and I belong to you.’

Don't be rude‘You belong to me?’ said the fool. ‘I cannot own a boy. Go, go, but promise me this: when you go to your mother, do not be rude to her again.’

The fool slept that night, and when he woke in the morning he realised there was something he still needed… He still needed a donkey. He went away from his home, taking his last few coins, and walked until he came to the town; through the streets he came until he came to the donkey stall. And there were all those donkeys large and small, some with larger ears than others. And among the donkeys he noticed there was one donkey with long, floppy, silky ears. He knew that donkey. He went over to it and he lifted its ear and said: ‘You foolish boy, I said never be rude to your mother again!’