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Desperately Seeking Donkey


By Joanbanjo CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

A long time ago, I heard a sermon, and the preacher told this story:

Once there was a little donkey who was owned by a Trader-Man. The two of them moved across the countryside, farm to farm, tiny town to tiny town. She carried all the goods he had for trading on her back. Seed corn and horse shoes, iron pots and bolts of cloth. It was all bundled into a mountainous pack stacked so high the top of it rose up taller than the Trader-Man’s tall hat.
One day, she meets a saddle horse at a crossroads. The horse eyes all those sacks and bags and boxes, the heavy tools hanging and clanking down her sides.
The horse says, “Ugh, poor thing! How can you carry all that weight, every day?”
And the donkey says, “What weight?”

That is how I remember it, so it isn’t exact. Maybe the donkey belongs to a miner and has to carry heavy ore? Maybe it is two donkeys and one pulls a cart and one has a load? That’s the best I can reconstruct it.

I do not think the preacher made this story up. He heard it somewhere or read it somewhere. I have endlessly Googled around trying to find it, using search terms in any variation I can think of, like, maybe it was a MULE, maybe it was TWO HORSES.

I want the narrator of the new book to know this story, but I really need the provenance so she can reference it properly.

Have you ever heard or read this before? Is it familiar? Is it a folk tale? A piece of a novel or a children’s book? Is it from a book of sermon anecdotes? The closest thing Google can find is that Aesop’s fable, and it is not that Aesop’s fable about the horse and the mule, which has an entirely different moral.

Help me out?

I’m worried this is another one of those SHAKESPEARE OR THE BIBLE situations, remember when I humiliatingly botched THIS “literary” reference?

I can’t have another one of those happen, where I think the Donkey story is from Fordice’s Sermons, and one of you will be, all, DUH dummy, that’s an Adam Sandler song. The next verse is about boinking.

I know if we get enough heads in on this, we will find the story’s origin. No matter how obscure, SOMEONE KNOWS.

Example—we recently went to one of my FAVORITE big celebration restaurants in the world. Cakes and Ale.

They brought us the new dessert menu. Across the top of the desserts, in a kicky little font, it said:

You like it. It likes you.

Scott and I kinda FREAKED. This is a line from a Stephen King novella about a terrible, horrifying serial raping skull crushing lady-murderer. We heard the novella on Audio, read PERFECTLY by—I want to say Mare Winningham?

Anyway, the way she SAYS that line— You like it. It likes you.

UGH UGH! SO CREEEEEPY! Now, whenever Scott and I see something really WRONGFUL, like, a person comes into the gas station that we think is about to go all ROBBER GUN SPREE MURDER on it, or ANY sitch that makes us hinky or creeped out—a too dark alley walk to the car— or if we are worried that a situation is about to go bad, we whisper to each other, ”You like it. It likes you.”

That sentence has become our personal CODE for the idea of bad wrongful wonkiness about to go SUPER sour, and if one of us says it, we evac. Immediately.

And there it was on our dessert menu.

I called over William, a friend who works there, and was all, like, “Don’t you think this dessert menu is a little too rapey/murdery? A literary quote that invokes stacks of violated female corpses doesn’t PAIR well with artisanal vanilla bean shortbread crisps in a fluff of raspberry sorbet.”

No one at the restaurant thought anyone would recognize the quote. They just thought it made the desserts sound friendly. Who wouldn’t like a dessert that likes you back?

Note: We split a WONDERFUL Hazelnut cake with ganache, vanilla sauce, and nougatine, and OMG we DID like it, and clearly it DID like us back because it was so kindly and delightfully gracious to our taste buds. But my point is, you may think your quote is all obscure, but SOMEONE will remember the provenance. Words stick. King’s words STUCK because the story is so deeply terrifying, but even words from, say, ELF stick, if they are compelling. “What weight?” in that context is compelling.

If we spread this request around enough, SOMEONE will know where that donkey story originated. Help?

15 comments to Desperately Seeking Donkey

  • Klint Demetrio

    If you can’t find an acceptable level of provenance in an acceptable time, perhaps you can have the narrator do what you just did and reference / or refer to ‘hearing about the story’ like you just did. Or the narrator remembers someone ( optional mention that it was an author ) seeking to find the closest origin of the story. 😀 Anyway best wishes I’ll share on my FB newsfeed. Hopefully something will be found / g’luck with the search. 🙂

  • I love research, so of course I am Googling now. I haven’t found the answer, but I did find another reference to it on this blog:

  • That exact story doesn’t come to mind, nor does it pop up on a quick search of story-lovers.com so I’ve shared the question with storytelling friends. It sounds like an Aesop fable, and of course, your minister or his source, in the truest use of the oral tradition, may have changed a story to fit his lesson. My first thought, seeing donkey, was the story of the boy and grandfather taking a donkey to market and being criticized no matter who did or didn’t ride . . .
    Your “it likes you” quote seemed familiar, too, but not from a horror story — Google confirmed it was used by 7-up in ads.
    My own favorite line from a movie, which we kids inflicted on our poor mother, was “I have the nicest mommy. I have the sweetest mommy . . .” accompanied by a gentle petting of her arm — from _The Bad Seed_ total creepiness! She’d shudder and command us to “stop that right now and get out of here.”
    If you can’t find an exact source, take Chuck Larkin’s advice for tall tales*. Make it first-person relevant to whoever relates it, as something his minister, grandparent, whatever always told him. Then no matter where it originally came from, the character’s retelling is authentic to his/her experience . . . and everybody’s family versions have variations.
    *This is why when I tell “The Vanishing Hitchhiker” I tell of picking up a little girl on a dark road . . . because I’d not be picking up scary grownups . . .
    Good luck in your search.

  • Sandi — YES YES THAT IS THE STORY. SOmeone else has heard it, exactly as I did. And I am not crazy. I wish I remembered who preached the sermon but I do not. NO one at my current church….I heard it YEARS ago. I just remember the story.

    Yes it is LIKE that Aesop’s fable, but not really. Thematically it is not the same at all. But it does have a horse and a donkey.

  • Lindsay

    I keep thinking that this is a Jewish parable, or from the Midrash, but I can’t find it.

  • Well, I never went to church so I’m certainly not familiar with the story. But various Google searches of things like “sermon about a donkey” and “sermon about a donkey and a horse crossroads” make me wonder if the Pastor who gave the sermon in question simply put a more interesting and personal spin on a (what appears to be) a common sermon called “View from a Donkey” or “A Donkey in Gods Plan.”

    Maybe check out http://www.sermoncentral.com/sermons/sermons-about-donkey.asp if you haven’t already?

    Do you happen to remember where you were when you heard it?

  • Kim

    “You like it. It likes you.” ~ *shudder*!!!! However, my research shows that this line was actually an advertising campaign for 7*Up in the ’30’s. Check the Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/7_Up

    Haven’t heard the donkey story, though.

  • Yes in the Stephen King story, the narrator SEES an old billboard that says that slogan!
    BUT the dessert menu people –like me—did not realize that was a real ad campaign. They got it from the story. I ASKED!

  • Nora Edward

    This is the earliest reference to a similar story that I could fine. There are different versions and variations, but it could be the actual origin. Hope it helps with your search.


  • Katie in Cali

    I asked my pastor friend, and did some googling. Be very careful what you see, you CAN’T unsee it.

  • Nora Edward

    I realize I completely missed the point of the story.This is a fat ass joke, isn’t it? Duh.

  • Ruth

    On the subject of quotations inappropriately pulled from context: England is going to put Jane Austen on their 10-pound note with the following quote: “I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!”

    I’m sure I’m not the only FTK regular who immediately recognized this as something Miss Bingley says in “Pride and Prejudice” when she’s trying to attract Mr. Darcy’s attention; she of course isn’t the least bit interested in reading.

    So many good choices, and they had to pick that line. ::rolleyes::

  • Brigitte

    Found 2 similar stories (http://www.shotsacrossthebow.com/index.php/site/comments/chapter_1_a_tale_of_two_donkeys/
    but no origins to it.
    Both those versions had miners/frontiersmen, though, so maybe it’s an old west folktale?

  • Anita

    I wasn’t familiar with the donkey story, but I know about CAKES AND ALE. That line is way creepy…I won’t forget it.

    I’m behind , are you not doing your own narration??