College Essay Examples

Culture and Literature

The Iron Hans fairytale by the Grimm brothers is the male variation of Cinderella\Donkey skin fairytales. Iron Hans, a fairytale, tells of a king who had his palace near a forest. He sent hunters into the forest on different occasions and never returned until one day, an unknown hunter requested to go to the forest. This hunter discovered a wild man who was causing the disappearance of the others and bound. The king placed him in a cage, but one day his son, the prince, in a bid to get his ball that went into the cage, was forced to open for the wild man.  Fearing to be punished by his father, the prince sought what to do, and with the help of the wild man, he fled into the forests, never to be seen by his parents again. After failing to guard the gold well, he was forced to find a job, but the wild man promised to help him. He disguised himself and wore a cap to hide his golden hair until one day when the princess of the kingdom where he worked saw him and wanted to marry him. His happy ending was marriage to the princess.

In the Donkey skin tale, the king and his wife have only one daughter. The king’s wife gets sick and, before dying, requests the king to remarry a more beautiful woman, which leads to an incest attempt by the king as he could not get a better woman except his daughter. The princess facing the threat of committing incest, with the help of her godmother, demands three dresses representing the seasons and the skin of her prized fathers’ donkey. She uses the skin to disguise herself and flees to a far kingdom. She does odd jobs until one day, the prince of the kingdom sees her putting on her attractive clothes and asks for her hand in marriage. Donkey skin and Iron Hans are similar in the use of the motif of threat, escaping, and disguise but also distinct in the portrayal of gender roles and ultimate moral lessons. 


The motif in the Iron Hans and Donkey skin forms another similarity between the fairytales. In both the tales, the motif that forms the entire context revolves around the threat from someone, escaping from the father, and disguise. In the “Donkey skin” Fairytale, the protagonist, the princess, faces the threat of committing incest if she agrees to marry her father. With the help of her godmother, she flees from her father, disguising herself in the donkey skin she had demanded from her father. While in the Iron Hans fairytale, the prince faces the threat of being beaten by his father or freeing the wild man. With the help of the world, man, also referred to as Iron Hans, the prince flees into the forest. After failing to guard the well, he disguises himself and looks for an ordinary job by wearing a cap and hiding his golden hair.

The use of symbolism in an illustration of gender in the two fairytales is distinct. The depiction of men in Iron Hans having iron clothing and the prince’s power shows the masculinity. Throughout the iron Hans tale, the theme of hunting and war shows that men were trained to hunt and be warriors in the cultural setting when the tales were written. On the other hand, the use of the donkey skin by the princess shows degradation, and the roles she plays indicate the positioning of women in society at the time. The theme of incest and marriage in Donkey skin tale illustrates that women’s roles were confined to being mothers and marriage. There is a clear distinction in the roles played by the characters in the fairytales. But likewise, there is the use of enchantment in the fairytales. In Donkey skin the godmother uses enchantments and in Iron Hans the wild man is enchanted, which only breaks when the prince helps him.

The psychological effect of the characterization in both the fairytales has the power not only on children but also adults. They bring out the themes of evil and good but have different moral lessons. The tales appeal to a wide audience and instill social virtues in children such as patience, obedience, reconciliation, and honesty. They both show that even though weak, it is good to do the right thing. In both Donkey skin and Iron Hans, the prince and the princess reconcile with their fathers as they are invited to the marriage ceremony.

 However, the moral lesson in Donkey skin is that it is better to face hardship and challenges than to do evil or wrong; good virtues will always be rewarded. The princess fled from committing incest with his father and worked in poor conditions but later recognized and married the prince. On the other hand, Iron Hans’ moral lesson always does good to people expecting nothing in return, and it will be significantly rewarded. The prince helped the iron man with a clean heart, leading to the breaking of his enchantment. He later rewarded him with all his riches.



Perrault, Charles. Donkey Skin. Lindhardt og Ringhof, 2021.

Bricker, Mary A. “Literary and Visual Expression of Dual Descent in Iron Hans.” PsyArt 21 (2017).

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By Hanna Robinson

Hanna has won numerous writing awards. She specializes in academic writing, copywriting, business plans and resumes. After graduating from the Comosun College's journalism program, she went on to work at community newspapers throughout Atlantic Canada, before embarking on her freelancing journey.

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