Monday, July 29, 2013

The Golden Ass (Donkey Transformation)

Here's a treat for my readers--the granddaddy of all transformation stories! The Golden Ass (aka The Metamorphoses of Apuleius) is a novel from Roman times, written by Apuleius, namesake of yours truly. Dating from the second century A.D., it concerns a young man named Lucius, the victim of a spell gone wrong: instead of turning into a bird, he becomes a donkey and has many picaresque adventures. After eating a crown of roses, he turns back into a human.

Apuleius derived his story from a now lost work, possibly written the Greco-Roman satirist Lucian. Another very similar work was also derived from this source. Called Lucius, or The Ass, it offers the first version of the donkey transformation:

So Palestra stole softly into the room and fetched me the bottle. I tore off my clothes and rubbed the stuff all over me--but the result was not at all what I intended. A tail shot out behind me, my fingers and toes disappeared and were replaced by four great nails, exactly like hooves, my hands and feet lost all resemblance to human ones, my ears grew long and pointed, and my face swelled up to a monstrous size. I turned around to look at myself, and found that I was nothing more or less than a donkey.

Apuleius closely followed this description, but added an amusing detail:

I hastily tore off all my clothes, dipped my hands eagerly into the box, drew out a good quantity of ointment, and rubbed all my limbs with it. I then flapped my arms up and down, imitating the movements of a bird. But no down and no signs of feathers appeared. Instead, the hair on my body was becoming coarse bristles, and my tender skin was hardening into hide. There were no longer five fingers at the extremities of my hands, for each was compressed into one hoof. From the base of my spine protruded an enormous tail. My face became misshapen, my mouth widened, my nostrils flared open, my lips became pendulous, and my ears huge and bristly. The sole consolation I could see in this wretched transformation was the swelling of my penis...

Incidentally, the above translation is from the Oxford World's Classics edition, which I recommend to anyone who wishes to read this still-amusing novel for themselves. The influence of The Golden Ass is hard to underestimate--it likely inspired the donkey transformation scene in Carlo Collodi's Pinnocchio, leading to Walt Disney's classic adaptation, which features the most famous donkey transformation of them all.

But we're here to discuss a comic adaptation of The Golden Ass by the great erotic artist Milo Manara. Le metamorfosi o l'asino d'oro is an abridged but faithful retelling of Apuleius, and I'm happy to offer my readers several scans in English. However, since this is a Manara comic, keep in mind that these pictures are not safe for work.

It's hard to see how a film would do better than this. Manara's excellent draftsmanship vividly conveys the bristly hair growth and grotesque, rubbery facial contortions of the original transformation. And he doesn't forget to do justice to the "sole consolation" of being a donkey!

Here we see Lucius return to his studly human form:

Wasn't that fantastic? I love it when I can cover two thousand years of transformations in one post. Many thanks to Lucian, Milo, and good old Apuleius!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Lusty and lovely art with the great story, something many a man can relate to wishing he were more and in the case of Lucious, he gained much, too much more!