Once upon a time there was a donkey .. a lovely short story from: Vescovato


One day, a donkey decided he was going to make fortune. There he was, breaking off his halter and running around the meadow. The grass was high and full of charm, although there was no lack of thistles. Feeling happy with himself, he brayed loudly – so loudly, a lion who happened to be quite near, heard him and decided to come and see what this was all about. At the sight of the donkey, he was quite astonished ! never had he seen such an animal. After a few minutes, he did however approach him, and asked :

‘How does one call you ?’
‘Harpalionu ?’
‘You are so strong that you believe you are above lions ?’
‘In the whole wide world, there is not one living being comparable’
‘Well ! since you have such a tremendous force, I’m going to propose you a deal’
‘And what ?’
‘It’s about making a treaty, in order to conspire against all the other animals’
‘That’s fine with me’ said the donkey
And off they went, both of them through the fields. Now, it so happened they had to cross a river – in one jump, the lion reached the other side. The donkey, on the contrary, started to swim so awkwardly, that he almost drowned a thousand times ! In the end, he managed to reach it.
‘What !’ said the lion, so surprised to see such clumsiness – ‘you don’t know how to swim ?’
‘Me ! I swim better than a fish’
‘Well then why did you take so long in crossing over ?’
‘Ah ! that’s because I caught a huge fish with my tail, so so big, that the weight was bringing me down – I had to leave him, so that I could find you.’
The lion seemed pleased with the answer, and once again the two animals took to the road. Soon, a wall appeared in front of them. The lion leaped over it. But the unfortunate donkey, wasn’t quite so lucky .. first of all, he raised his front legs and with a supreme effort managed to climb up on to the wall. Of course, he could neither advance nor retreat.
‘So ! what are you doing ?’ shouted the lion
‘Can’t you see I am weighing myself ? I want to see if the front is as heavy as the back’
Finally, Harpalionu made it. And once he was on the ground, the lion said to his companion : ‘I think you are deceiving me, from what I see you have no strength’
‘You think so ? – well, let’s bet on who will tear this wall down the first’.
Straight away, the lion started to force the wall with his paws – but, he only ended up wounding himself. After a short while, he stopped.
‘I’m not able to get rid of it, let’s see if you’re any better’
The donkey rushed at it in such a way, that in a few minutes the wall was literally on the ground.
‘Well ! what do you say to that ? do you still believe you are stronger than me ?’
‘Up to now’ said the lion, ‘I always thought I was the strongest of all animals .. but, I see now I was mistaken, you are much more than I am’
‘And more’ said Harpalionu, ‘you don’t know what I am capable of’
‘What is so extraordinary about you then ?’
‘I eat thorns’
‘Thorns ?’
‘I’d be curious to see that !’
‘Look, see those ones swaying there ?’
‘I’m going to eat them’
And Harpalionu began to mow the beautiful thistles as never was seen before !
In awe seeing this, the lion said to his friend :
‘Truly, you are an extraordinary animal, and so I am going to name you king of the lions’
‘I’m fine with that’ said the donkey.
The next day, a meeting with all the lions from the whole region took place – and Harpalionu was identified as king. In this new position, our brave donkey lived happily for many years, never arguing about the animals his faithful subjects killed. In the end, as illness never respects old age, Harpalionu was found by the lions one fine morning.
They buried him with great pomp, and for a long time afterwards the plains and the forests echoed with their dreadful screams of pain and grief …


Source: Vescovato U Viscuvatu – Casinca – Corse
J.B. Frédéric Ortoli, ‘Les Contes populaires de l’île de Corse’ 1883
Photo: Jean Paul Mozziconacci

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