When first reflecting on “Cinderella” and “Donkeyskin”, I would have agreed with Tatar when she writes,
The two narratives encoded in the tale-type index seem virtually unrelated at first glance. The plots of “Cinderella” stories are driven by the anxious jealousy of biological mothers and stepmothers who subject the heroine to one ordeal of domestic drudgery after another; the plots of “Catskin” tales are fueled by the sexual desire of fathers, whose unseemly behavior drives their daughters from home (Tatar 102).
The two stories seem to have different overarching themes. In “Cinderella”, she must triumph over servitude and her cruel stepmother, while in “Donkeyskin” the daughter must triumph over her incestuous father and his desires. However, there are many parallels between the two stories that can be observed and that suggest the two stories can be studied together. “Cinderella” is like the toned down children’s version of “Donkeyskin”. There are countless versions of both tales, but “Cinderella” has definitely been told more frequently than “Donkeyskin”, most likely due to the theme of incest in “Donkeyskin”.
Although these two stories have evolved and changed over many years, several ideas have remained the same. Both tales focus on the idea of good ultimately overcoming evil because both Cinderella and Donkeyskin are girls being forced to comply with a higher authority figure (a stepmother and a father) but they choose to rise above the oppression to find happiness. Cinderella wins the handsome prince’s heart and is no longer under her stepmother’s command, while Donkeyskin runs away from her father and falls in love with a foreign prince. Donkeyskin’s father even attends the wedding once he comes to his senses and realizes the madness of his wish to marry his daughter. In both stories, the girls must disguise their true selves and work as servants. Both Cinderella and Donkeyskin have mothers that are dead, and their fathers play different roles. In both the Grimms’ version and Charles Perrault’s version of “Cinderella”, the father has no control over the stepmother, and therefore cannot fight for Cinderella. In “Donkeyskin”, the father holds all the power and is determined to do whatever it takes to marry his own daughter. Also, both Cinderella and Donkeyskin must prove to be the right woman by either trying on a glass slipper or a ring, both of which fell into the hands of their respective princes at one point in the story. I liked how both Perrault’s “Cinderella” and “Donkeyskin” directly stated the moral of the tale and what Perrault intended for the reader to learn from the story. He writes, “…this story [“Donkeyskin”] teaches children that it is better to expose yourself to harsh adversity than to neglect your duty. Virtue may sometimes seem ill-fated, but it is always crowned with success” (Perrault 116). Likewise, one version of “Donkeyskin” that I read is the Italian version called “The She-Bear, which ends with the moral, “Those who do good may expect good in return” (http://www.pitt.edu/%7Edash/type0510b.html#basile).
Ultimately, I agree with Tatar that “Cinderella” and “Donkeyskin” should be studied together because there are enough similarities to relate the two, but there are also subtle differences to offer good comparisons between the two stories.