THE DEVIL'S DONKEY by Bill Brittain


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A good old-fashioned tale of witchcraft and transformation, set in Coven Tree, New England, where ""the mists seethe and writhe their way down from off the mountain, and the dogs start to howling, and the hair on the backs of cats stands straight up. . ."" on the night the Devil stalks the area, looking for souls to claim. The town is named for a witches' tree, guarded now by Old Magda, the last of the Coven Tree witches. The story is told by storekeeper Stew Meat (for Stewart Meade), whose orphaned teenage nephew, Dan'l, raised by Stew Meat since age nine, scoffs at the local traditions about the tree. But when Dan'l dares to cut its limbs for firewood, he learns to take the folklore seriously. For Old Magda casts a spell that will change Dan'l into a donkey the first time he says his favorite phrase, dang blast. There are temporary reprieves, effected by Stew Meat and then by pretty Jenny Bingham, whose farm donkey Dan is set to working; but it takes a confrontation with Magda's master Mr. Beel himself before Dan is freed for good. Brittain's telling makes the comfortably suspenseful most of all the changes, in a likely diversion for an audience or an individual reader.

Pub Date: March 4th, 1981
Publisher: Harper & Row