The way the Donkeys have told the story, it all started with the Wasps. The Donkeys were peacefully grazing on the hillside when one day a Wasp flew straight into his ear. The Donkey, of course, became furious and insisted that this act of naked aggression would not stand and demanded to meet the swarm Wasps in the battlefield against his Donkey troops.
To hear the Wasps tell it, the Donkeys came into their fields, trampled the plants that attracted their food sources, and polluted the ground with their waste. And while it was one extremist faction of Wasps who made a deliberate and symbolic attack, the Donkey nation immediately declared war on all Wasps promising a long and protracted war in the name of national security.
The Donkeys went to Animal Counsel and explained their situation. While the Lions and other animals agreed in principle with the Donkeys they preferred to help only with intelligence and strategy. With the assistance of other predatory animals, the Donkeys were outfitted with battle suits made from the hides of other animals that would be draped over their heads and bodies. The leather would protect the Donkeys eyes and ears from being stung, and most of their haunches, but their undersides were still exposed.
The Wasps knew they were at a deficit in terms of size and sheer power, but at the battle was to take place in their land they at least had the element of knowing the territory. The commanders could hide in their mud cave homes and they could easily evade detection by blending in with the surrounding environment. And while the Donkeys were cumbersome the Wasps were agile and could fly off to safety and return almost without notice.
In the initial battle the Donkeys gained the upper hand, smashing dozens of Wasps at a single blow with each hoof. The Wasps were unable to penetrate their leathery armor and unable to attack their eyes and ears and it appeared the battle would be short. The the Wasps discovered the Donkey’s soft spots and began biting and stinging their bellies. The Donkey’s attempted to crush them by sitting on them or by rolling over them but they continued to be stung in the process. It soon became more and more difficult to know which side was winning and it looked like the battle would continue for eternity until the commanding Wasp managed to get a word in to the commanding Donkey.
“You send you troops to our homes to attack us for defending what is ours, but you would do the same if we came to your land. Perhaps because you are so large you have forgotten that there are smaller creatures that are quite happy in their own ways, that just want to live in peace. If you can admit that much, and promise to make good faith restitution for your past actions, we can stop this battle and return home.”
The Donkey commander refused to accept that they could possibly have been in the wrong, and that the Wasps were the ones who provoked the attack. Further, the Donkey insisted that over time their nation had proven to be right in all that it did, and there was no reason for them to ever submit to any demands made on them by smaller creatures, and certainly not by the Wasps.
They continue fighting to this day.
Today begins the first (or last rather, from this particular section, as I am working backwards) of tales collected by the Brothers Grimm as translated by Jack Zipes. This is number 262 originally published as “The War of the Wasps and the Donkey” by Wilhelm Grimm in 1853. I always surprises me how often current events can be read into fables and fairy tales, and yet part of what I think gives these tales staying power is the fact that they speak to a certain level of universal narratives. War, larger versus smaller, these things never seem to change.