In this adaptation of the Princess Donkeyskin, the horrific threat of incest -- forced marriage to her father -- is replaced by betrothal to a wealthy ogre (in the illustrations merely an ugly older man). I can understand why Huck was reluctant to address this topic with young readers, but without it the tale feels off kilter.
The threatening sense of horror and unease remains, perhaps more intense for being ungrounded in a specific danger. Reading it feels like visiting a home and knowing that something is wrong between the family members, but not having any evidence to point to.
The illustrations, although good, do not help resolve questions left by the text. Is there magic? The text doesn't mention any and the sun, moon, and star dresses are shown being manufactured by normal men, on looms. But then how could they all fit in a nutshell? What is so special about the tiny golden keepsakes left by the princess' mother? Was the mother an enchantress? Is the princess using magic? When the princess hides in her coat of a thousand furs the men who discover her don't seem to recognize her as human, although her face looks totally normal in the pictures. If they don't think she is human why do they bother to drag her to the castle in chains, only to do nothing with her but send her to work in the kitchen. Is she being enslaved? She says she can't leave but seems able to wander around freely. Why does she put her golden objects in the prince's soup? When she gets his attention she looks as if she is recoiling in fear.
That near-last panel where the prince seizes her hand as she cringes away in dismay is disturbing, although not as disturbing as the scenes where the hunters slaughter a thousand animals
. Do we really need to see the dogs ripping at their bellies and the limp corpses? And if we are meant to be repulsed by that why is there no hint of blame towards the princess, who is after all the one who stupidly asked for such a coat?
I would've just married the ogre. At least he was rich.