This work feels contrived and derivative as well as necessary and original—that is part of its charm. Merrifield’s insights—personal, social, natural, philosophical—seem to have been well-earned on the battlefield of life. His analyses of Bresson’s “Balthazar,” Spinoza’s “Ethics,” and some of the great works of literature that feature and valorize the donkey are astute and support the largely autobiographical narrative. His insight that a donkey does not so much accept burdens as bears them is stunning and worthy of contemplation, possibly emulation.
Finding tranquility in a chaotic world is Merrifield's subtitle to <b>The Wisdom of Donkeys</b> and that is exactly what Merrifield was doing following a personal undefined crisis. Merrifield a native of Liverpool, England had wanted two things in his life to live in New York City and immerse himself in academia. He had both of those, a PhD in Geography, an urban Marxist theorist an active author and yet during a crisis of faith he walked away and found succor from the donkeys of Auvergne, France.
Merrifield had a moment of insight in Morocco watching the donkeys in Marrakesh and saw a vision for his next book, an account about donkeys. He journeyed to Egypt where donkeys originated and spent a day helping a donkey vet. Visited the famous Sidmouth Donkey Sanctuary in England. Finally he settled in France and embarked on a foot journey with Gribouille, a chocolate brown donkey. As he strolls he reviews the arts literature about donkeys from Aesop to Dostoyevsky, Cervatanes to Sexton. I love animals but I was amazed at all one can learn about donkeys.
Here is a glimpse of some Egyptian history: <i>For the ancient Egyptians, donkeys plowed the desert land and helped brew beer, transporting the barley in the fermenting process--even lugging around assorted kings and queens like Queen Hetepheres: wooden carrying-chairs, a sort of early saddle, were adapted and strapped to the back of donkeys, examples of which you can now find in Boston's Museum of fine Arts. And although Egyptians brutalized their little donkeys, they also thought donkeys possessed sacred gifts: donkey milk was considered a luxury drink, as well as the secret to eternal youth. Cleopatra, who reigned between 51 and 30 BC, kept a stable of three hundred donkeys; each day she bathed in donkey milk believe it the key to skn health and a recipe in age prevention. She was right: donkey milk is full of fatty acids and vitamins A, E, and F, and it has natural dermatological qualities and rejuvenescent powers, effect for dry, wrinkled skin.</i>.
<b>The Wisdom of Donkeys</b> is rich in information about donkeys and occasionally gives the reader a glimpse of his experiences walking through France as when his walking companion, Gribouille at first refused to cross a bridge and how he eventually crossed. We meet youths on bicycles, innkeepers and a variety of horses, goats and sheep along the way. But if one is really interested in a travel journal this is not really the book for you. I did find myself in the relaxed reflective mood that one gets in a slow walk through the countryside appreciating the lush green fields which surround.
This is a hard book to categorize, a review of the literature, a psychological study of donkeys, a bit of philosophy and a bit of a memoir. I quite enjoyed reading it, but cannot recommend it for all.
I really enjoyed this, it was very relaxing and gave me some insights into my adopted BLM Donkey's mind. This was a great book just for escaping the world for a bit. The author seemed to get lost a bit and repeat things, but in the overall scheme it was ok. It actually reinforced some of the themes and conveyed a sense of discovery on his adventure. I've recommended this friends, even those without a donkey of their own.
I love this book, and Merrifield really does 'get it' with the donkey. He sees them in a wonderful way, a sense of who or what they are ,the basic essence of these marvelous creatures of God. These critters , `who have been ill treated for centuries, and still are in this day and age. I want to say that anyone interested, please help and support the donkeys in need, in the USA and worldwide. We have a huge problem here in the USA, between Bureau of land Management and the Donkeys/burros, yes I know with horses as well, in need of homes,and support. Especially in the mid west + southwest. Help if you can. BUY THIS BOOK, I am certain you will love it, and forever remember the donkey as the Prince/Princess' of all creatures great and small. Merriefield is the best, he cares and is at one with a donkey, well as close as they will let us (the donkey) get, his loyal companion , Gribouille. You must read the story .
Reading this book was a joy. I’ve read the works of Auden, St. Francis, Kafka and the like, but have finally found the Truth in a donkey named Gribouille. The author deftly weaves the story of his journey with his faithful companion through related stories from history, the Bible, modern times and great literature. Some are sad, some happy, but all with a message about life.