The Donkey's Crusade

Style: Good

Attitude: Unobjectionable

Author: Jean Morris

Age Range: Pre Teens+

Period: 13th C

Genres:  AdventureAnimalFantasyHistorical


Thomas is 17-year-old child of a family most of whose members are of the Guild of Travellers, undertaking to guide people around the Middle and Far East. He accepts a contract to guide a Frankish pilgrim to the legendary kingdom of Prester John, with a view to forming an alliance against the infidel who besiege the Holy Land. They buy a donkey and set out, picking up a street urchin along the way. They travel further and further East, trying to find news of Prester John, finally settling down in Trebizond.


One is not quite sure how seriously to take this book. At the outset, it is in the mould of the historical novel with a young protagonist. After a while, the eponymous donkey starts to talk to Thomas, and one isn't sure whether it's really the donkey, or Thomas guiding himself. Later, we encounter incorporeal sand spirits who give Thomas advice, and anachronistic songs. It all adds to the flavour of the book, but changes ones appreciation of it from a semi-serious historical to a semi-historical light fantasy.The joint issues of religion and politics play some part in the plot, as they do in any story set around the time of the crusades. The point of the story seems to be that everyone's different and that being a donkey is the only important thing: “Thomas understood what it was to be a donkey. It was no light matter. His business in life was to carry anyone, whatever his mistakes, fears or mischiefs, and he took a pride in doing it well.”

Tuesday 1st January 2002