Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Jerusalem Donkey Legend

While visiting a local news site, I was confronted by a large advertisement for something called “The Jerusalem Donkey Legend.” Always eager to hear a good burro-themed folktale involving the Holy Land, I followed the link and found myself at the official website. The homepage features what appears to be a slideshow of senior portraits and among the nine photos there is only one that includes an actual donkey. The text of the page offers only the most cryptic description:

The legend tells us that the donkey that carried Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday also followed him to Calvary, for the donkey loved the Lord. Appalled by the sight of Jesus on the cross, the donkey turned away but could not leave. The shadow of the cross fell upon his shoulders and back, forever marking him and all of his descendants. THE JERUSALEM DONKEY LEGEND is the first book in the Achsah Legacy ... a series about an ancient family whose Biblical roots date back to Caleb, one of the spies sent into Canaan by Moses.

I was able to ascertain from a link at the bottom of the page that the banner and site are advertising a novel by Anne Churchill. Eager to find out more I clicked “Synopsis” at the top of the page and was presented with the option of viewing a video entitled The Jerusalem Donkey Legend-Christmas Video. While I assuming this would be the author explaining their creative process in front of a holiday backdrop, I was instead treated to 60 seconds of equestrian-themed imagery accompanied only by an instrumental. What follows are screenshots of the video, unaltered and chronologically presented as they appear:
As you can see, the first few frames feature a young woman accompanied by a donkey. Given her attire, the barren landscape, and the video’s reference to Christmas I assume she represents Mary, the mother of Jesus.
A few frames later a blonde women is shown with a horse. While still a rural setting, she appears to be residing in the modern era (as evidenced by the modern fencing in the background).
The next frame features two young men standing on a sidewalk as they pet Mary’s donkey from the video’s opening scene. We are left with the impression that said donkey has traversed the space/time continuum and wandered into an upper-middle class suburban neighborhood 2,000 years after the time of Christ. 

Now we see Mary, the blonde, and three other youth sitting on a wooden box in a field. Mary has traded her demure cloak for cutoff shorts and cowboy boots to further assimilate to her new surroundings. The donkey may or may not be trapped in the box.
Now we see a man with a black hat and dark sunglasses peering over a fence. We are led to believe he is staring at the comely youth and both his dress and demeanor suggests nefarious intent. This is his only appearance in the video so he was likely picked up a short time later on an outstanding warrant.
A few frames later we see a young man from the party who has become separated from his shirt. His face (like mine) displays both astonishment and confusion.
A few frames later, we see Mary flirting with a different young man at what appears to be a burro car-wash. They seem blissfully unaware of the mystery man’s surveillance or their friend’s wardrobe malfunction.
Inexplicably, we are now presented with a pair of photos documenting what appears to be a SWAT team preparing for a raid on a cabin.

The next photo indicates that Mary has been taken hostage by party or parties unknown and its juxtaposition with the SWAT team pictures leads me to believe that they are attempting to rescue her. The red bandana she is gagged with might be an indication that the West Coast Bloods were involved in her abduction.
We are now presented with another shirtless young man who is sporting a slingshot and a head-wound. While we cannot confirm what he is aiming at, it seems safe to assume he is antagonizing the SWAT team with pebbles. Tellingly, he does not re-appear in the video.
 Having presumably just been freed from bondage, Mary now appears to have traveled back in time and is being held prisoner by the Third Reich. This may be the worst Christmas ever.

Not to worry though, Mary has returned to the present and been reunited with her cut-off shorts and donkey. She appears no worse for the wear.

Not having read the novel, I cannot comment on its content or literary merit, but the synopsis video is a doozy. While some might point to the historical incongruity as a sticking point, I thought the most intriguing aspect to the story was the idea that a donkey was capable of being “appalled.”  You take a real risk as a writer when you assign feelings of human disgust to a mule. I was also disappointed at the absence of Joseph. As a husband and father, I can tell you that I would be none too pleased to find the mother of my children gallivanting around in daisy dukes and flirting with every muscle-tank shirt with a social security number.

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