"Allerleirauh" (also published in English as "All Kinds of Fur', "Catskin", "The Many Furred Creature" and "Thousandfur") is a German fairy tale. It is included in Kinder- und Hausmärchen (Children's and Household Tales), the 1812 anthology of German folktales compiled by the Brothers Grimm.
The story's title character and protagonist is a princess whose own father decides that he wants to marry her. Not wanting to enter into an incestuous marriage, the princess says that she will only marry the king if he can supply her with certain gifts that she believes will be impossible to obtain. One of those gifts is a fur cloak made of the skins of a thousand different animals. When her father provides her with those gifts, the princess decides to run away. She puts on her fur cloak and disguises herself by smearing soot on her face and hands. She finds work in the kitchen of the castle of another king. She has to do all the least pleasant work in the kitchen and lives in misery for some time. When some dances are held at the castle, Allerleirauh manages to attend them, having taken off her fur cloak, cleaned the soot off her face and hands and out on a beautiful dress. She then attracts the attention of the king.
"Allerleirauh" strongly resembles the French fairy tale "Donkeyskin", the best known version of which was written by Charles Perrault and was first published in 1694. The Brothers Grimm acknowledged the strong similarities between the two stories in their original footnotes to "Allerleirauh". Folklorists have found tales with plots very similar to that of "Allerleirauh" in the oral traditions of England, Italy, Norway, Scotland and the United States as well. There are also obvious similarities between "Allerleirauh" and "Cinderella".
German films based on "Allerleirauh" were released in 1971, 2004 and 2012. The eleventh episode of the second season of the anime series Grimm's Fairy Tale Classics (Japanese: グリム名作劇場; Gurimu Meisaku Gekijō) is an adaptation of "Allerleirauh". The episode, known in English as "The Coat of Many Colors" and in Japanese as "Thousand Furs" (千びき皮), was first shown on TV Asahi in Japan on December 18, 1989. "Sapsparoow", the seventh episode of the British-American children's TV series Jim Henson's The StoryTeller, is an adaptation of "Allerleirauh", "Donkeyskin" and other similar folktales. It first aired on NBC in the United States on July 30, 1989.
There is a king who is married to a beautiful woman with golden hair. The queen falls fatally ill. On her deathbed, she makes her husband promise that he will only remarry if he can find another woman who is as beautiful as she is and who has golden hair like she does. For some time after his wife's death, the king has no thought of remarrying. Eventually his advisers convince him that the kingdom needs a queen. Messengers are sent out to find a suitable princess for the king to marry. None can be found who equals the late queen in beauty or who has golden hair.
The king's grown up daughter looks just like her late mother. Against the advice of his counselors, the king declares that he will marry his own daughter. Not wanting to marry her own father, the princess says that she will only marry a man who can give her three very special dresses and a very special fur cloak. The first dress has to be golden like the sun. The second dress has to be silvery like the moon. The third dress has to sparkle like the stars. The fur cloak has to be made of the skins of a thousand animals and must contain a piece of skin from every different kind of animal in the kingdom. The princess says this because she believes that her father will never be able to obtain the gifts she has requested. After the king provides her with all three dresses and the cloak made of a thousand different furs, the princess decides to run away. She takes a golden ring, a golden necklace and a golden brooch with her. She packs her three very special dresses in a nutshell. She puts on her fur cloak and disguises herself by rubbing soot on her hands and face. After walking all night, she falls asleep in a forest.
The following afternoon, the king who owns the forest is hunting there. Some of his huntsmen find the sleeping princess. They mistake her at first for a strange animal that they have never seen before. The princess tells the huntsmen that she is a poor orphan and asks them to take pity on her. The huntsmen name her Allerleirauh and take her back to the castle of the king that they serve. Allerleirauh is made an assistant to the cook and has to do all the dirtiest work in the kitchen. She lives in misery for some time.
One day, a dance is held at the castle. Allerleirauh asks the cook for permission to watch the dancing from a distance. The cook grants her permission but says that Allerleirauh must come back to the kitchen in half an hour. Allerleirauh washes the soot off her hands and face. She puts on her dress that is golden like the sun. She enters the ballroom and dances with the king. She then slips away quietly, dresses in her fur cloak once more and rubs soot on her hands and face again.
After the dance has ended, the king wants to eat some soup. Allerleirauh is told to prepare it. She puts her gold ring in the soup bowl. The king finds the gold ring. He demands to see the person who made the soup. Allerleirauh is brought before him. The king asks her, "Who are you?" and "How came you into my palace?" She replies that she is a poor orphan and an almost worthless servant. She denies any knowledge of the gold ring in the king's soup.
Some time later, another dance is held. As before, the cook gives Allerleirauh permission to watch the ball for half an hour. This time, Allerleirauh puts on her dress that is silvery like the moon. Once more, she dances with the king and then quietly slips away and makes herself look like a lowly servant once again.
Again, the king asks for some soup and Allerleirauh prepares it once more. This time, she puts her gold necklace into the soup bowl. When the king finds the necklace, he again demands to see the person who made the soup. Allerleirauh is brought before the king again. As before, she does not give the king any information about herself.
A third ball is held. The cook gives Allerleirauh permission to watch the dancers for half an hour once more. This time, Allerleirauh puts on her dress that sparkles like the stars. The king manages to get Allerleirauh to dance with him for longer than on the previous two occasions. Without Allerleirauh noticing, the king puts a gold ring on one of her fingers. When Allerleirauh leaves the ball, she does not have time to disguise herself properly. She puts on her fur cloak over the top of her beautiful dress. She fails to put any soot on the finger on which the king placed the ring.
Once again, the king asks for some soup which Allerleirauh makes for him. She puts her golden brooch in the soup bowl, When the king finds the brooch, he demands that Allerleirauh be brought before him once again. He sees the ring on her clean finger and grabs hold of her hand. Allerleirauh tries to run away. Her fur cloak slips off, revealing her beautiful dress and her golden hair. The king says to Allerleirauh, "You are my beloved bride and we will never more be parted from each other." They are married soon afterwards.
- ↑ "Catskin" is properly the name of an English fairy tale that is similar to "Allerleirauh", although not identical to it. A version of "Catskin" is included in More English Fairy Tales, the 1894 anthology compiled by the Australian-born folklorist Joseph Jacobs. In spite of the differences between the German and the English fairy tale, "Allerleirauh" is sometimes translated into English as "Catskin" or "Cat-skin". For example, it is called "Cat-skin" in the 1912 translation of Grimm's Household Tales by Edgar Taylor and Marian Edwardes.
- ↑ Most readers understand the story as concerning two different kings. The tale as presented by the Brothers Grimm is, however, somewhat ambiguous. The two kings are unnamed, both are simply referred to as "the king". No physical description is given of either of them. This has led some readers to conclude that there is only one king in the tale. This would mean that Allerleirauh is taken back to the same castle from which she had earlier escaped, becomes a servant in her former home and eventually marries her own father.
- ↑ The word "allerlei" means "all kinds of" in German. The word "rauh" is an obsolete spelling of "rau", the German word for "rough". The name suggests that the princess' cloak is made of furs that have not been properly prepared for wearing.
- Versions of "Allerleirauh" in German and English on Wikisource.
- Public domain audiobooks of "Allerleirauh" in German and English on YouTube.
- "The Cinderella No One Knows: The Grimm Brothers' Tale of Incest, Fur and Hidden Bodies", lecture on "Allerleirauh" given at the US Library of Congress by folklorist Margaret R. Yocom of George Mason University. Video on the official YouTube channel of the Library of Congress.