Pesca Nekono – Balázs Zágoni: The Donkey and the Penguin

Beyond the Seas, International Fairytale Project in Hungary
El Proyecto Internacional de Cuentos Allende Los Mares, Hungría

Translated by Emma Majoros
Text revision made by Luca Szabó

One day the donkey decided to run away and become rich and find a new friend.

He headed south, and he roamed through mountains and valleys. After months of wandering, finally a mule came across his way.

“Good day Mule! Where are you heading?”
“I came from the southern corner. I’m looking for wisdom.”
“Have you found it yet?”
“No, I haven’t, but I have a feeling that I’m going the right way. Where are you heading?”
“I’m wandering to find wealth and at least one friend. Say, are you my friend?”
“No, I’m not your friend, but if you want me to be, come visit me at my home, the foothills of Andes. You are welcome anytime.”

And with that said, he continued his journey.

“Wait for me Mule! Can you give me advice about where I should be heading?”
“Go straight ahead. By tomorrow you will come across a river. To go through, use your head and your feet.”

The Mule left. The Donkey ambled on, heading south, and finally, in the morning, he saw a huge river. The river was deep, and had strong currents. Huge rocks were peeking out of the water, and the Donkey thought, he could jump from one rock to the other to get to the other side. He remembered what the mule told him: Use your head, and your feet.
Well, I don’t need much brain to figure this out – he thought.
He was just going to jump, when he heard a scream.

Illustration made by Pesca Nekono, Japanese artist

Illustration made by Pesca Nekono, Japanese artist

“Stop!”

He looked back, and saw a penguin. He was standing in a boat, with a long pole-ax in his hand.

“Stop, it’s dangerous!” he screamed again, and he drifted towards the donkey. “You weren’t going to go through this river on hoof, were you?”

The donkey felt ashamed of himself, as if he was going to do something foolish.

“Why would you go across in the first place?”
“I’m looking for wealth and a friend.”
“I see. And who told you that you can come across this river?”
“A mule told me that yesterday.”
“And was he friend or foe?”
“Weeeell, he wasn’t exactly my friend…”
“Then he must have been your enemy. Look at the rocks. Closely. What do you see?”

The donkey stared at the rocks, but did not see anything but moss and algae on all of them.

“Look at that last rock. The oblong one. It looks like a rock, but it’s not! It is an alligator floating on top of the water, so still that you can’t even see it. He’s waiting for someone to stand on his nose, then he will open his eyes, and he will slowly open his huge ugly jaw, and finally he will eat the poor thing! Many were unlucky here, they didn’t listen to me.”

A sudden chill ran through the donkey’s back.

“Wow! I didn’t know that! That’s not what the mule said. Maybe because he wasn’t my friend. But you are my friend, right?”
“Of course I’m your friend!”
“Finally I have a friend!”
Now all I need to find is wealth, thought the donkey.
“In fact, I am such a good friend, that I’ll take you to the other side of the river on my boat,” said the penguin.
The donkey was really happy to hear this, so he jumped right into the boat.
“However, friends share everything. And I’m risking my life here just for you. So, what can you give me in return?”
The donkey got embarrassed. He was safely brought to shore by his friend, and he didn’t have anything to show his gratitude with.
“Oh, Penguin, I don’t have a dime! But you know what? If I find wealth on the other side, you can have half of it.”
“Well, OK,” sighed the penguin. He grabbed his pole-ax, and he drifted between the rocks towards the other side. The donkey stood motionless. He couldn’t take his eyes off that last rock. It looked just like a rock! If the penguin hadn’t been there to warn him, the alligator would surely have eaten him too!
When they arrived on the other side, the donkey got out of the boat and said goodbye. The penguin slowly drifted back. The donkey decided to relax a bit, but a little further from the alligator. While he was sitting there, a frog jumped out of the water right on top of the nose of the alligator. But the rock didn’t move.

“What a sly little alligator. He’s waiting for a bigger bite,” said the donkey.

Then a cattle herd came by, and started jumping from one rock to another.

“Stop! “ the donkey screamed. But it was too late. They all stomped on the alligator’s head one-by-one. But the alligator didn’t move. The donkey got mad, and slowly stepped on the shore. First he carefully touched the alligator with his hoof, then he even kicked him a little bit. But the flesh eating lizard was motionless and cold. Just like a rock. Because that’s what it was: a rock.
The donkey thought about what the mule said. And he didn’t use his feet OR his head. Maybe he wasn’t his friend yet, but he was a way better friend than the penguin. Because the penguin said that he was his friend, even though he wasn’t.
He concluded that he would first try and find a true friend, and wealth could wait. So he jumped on the rock, and as he headed towards the Andes, he said to the penguin:

“Unfortunately, the alligator ate everything I found. So I’ve decided I would try and find a friend first.”

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