cius Apuleius. aka The Golden Ass.
Very odd book. Roman novel, by one Lucius Apuleius.
The story commences with our intrepid hero riding through his maternal homeland of Thessaly, in the Balkans. Stopping for a rest he is passed by a couple of travellers, who he decides to catch up with to hear some tall tales. One is a cheesemonger called Aristonomus, who is saying outlandish things which the other is disbelieving. He tells his story to our hero.
The story is that he was cheesemongering around Thessaly when he met an old friend, now begging and destitute, and long thought lost by his wife and children back home, one Socrates. Socrates tells Aristonomus that he has had a terrible time, being robbed of his merchandise and then trading all his remaining goods, basically the clothes on his back, for lodging with a lascivious old witch. Literally a witch, who holds the locals in terror and is rather reluctant to give up her concubine. So, Aristo takes Socrates back to his hotel room for a rest, and they will leave in the morning.
In the middle of the night, the witches bust in magically, the witch and her assistant, then brutally murder poor old Socrates and collect his blood for later and unspecified use. The magic bashing the door down has left Aristo trapped under his upturned bed, or rather hiding, but they spot him and decide to leave him alive when they go, although not before sitting on him and drenching him in their piss. As you do. Then they leave, and magic the door back in place. Leaving Aristo in the room alone with a brutally murdered corpse. Having heard of miscarriages of justice, Aristo wakes the landlord and makes a quick getaway.
Or, such is the plan. Alas, the landlord is unhappy to be awoken and swears and accuses our cheesemonger of wanting to escape the scene of some terrible crime he may have committed. So, for Aristomenus it's back to bed, the bed he declares the only witness to his innocence, and he attempts suicide by hanging. But the rope breaks, throwing him onto Socrates as the landlord barges in, it now being morning. Luckily Socrates is now alive again, and not too happy to awaken to a man on top of him covered in foul-stinking piss.
So, away they go out of town, Aristonemus believing the murder to have been a wine-fuelled hallucination and Socrates revealing he had the same "dream". Scary it was, so much so he needs some breakfast. Then he needs a drink. Putting his head close to the water he dies, the sponge the witches put on the wound having been charmed not to cross running water. Stays dead this time. The cheesemonger, having recovered from his suicidal ideations, makes off to Aetolia where he starts a new life, with a new wife and so on. Keeps cheesemonger in Thessaly, though, but apparently no-one notices.
So ends the cheesemonger's tale, which Apuleius believes.
Our hero has now reached his destination, in the heart of the lands of sorcery, and makes it to his host's abode, his host turning out to be a miser. So he goes to buy supper in the market and runs into an old friend, now running the market, who says he's paid too much for his fish, so takes him back to the stall and lectures the old fishmonger about how to treat strangers, then has the fish he sold Lucius for the inflated price trampled by a soldier, leaving without getting Lucius his money back or any more fish. Thanks a lot, pal. Then he runs into his cousin and aunt, small place, the roman empire, who warns him to stay away from his host's wife. As you might expect, she's a lascivious witch, who ensnares young men. So he takes up his aunt's offer of lodging, making polite excuses to his former host. Oh no, wait, he doesn't, he decides it's cool and that he wants to be a witch. More than that, he decides the way to become a witch is to reject the witch and seduce her maid. Thinking back to the tale of murder and violent urination, this doesn't seem wise.
Luckily, our locquacious latin lothario has a way with the witches. Follows ancient eroticism. On one occasion he is forced to leave her nightly embraces so as to visit his relatives, where he hear more tales of witchcraft and gets heavily drunk. Walking home he defends his host's home by killing, as he thinks, three thieves at the door. And finds himself before the beak on a murder wrap. At length the bodies are revealed in open court... to be goat skins. Drunker than he thought. Although his lover had actually been sent to get hair, a well known piece of sympathetic magic, to entrance a Boeotian lad for her mistress, but being caught and chased off with threats of a witch trial by the barber, she grabbed some goat hair for the mistress instead, from skins being stripped. And when the magic happens the skins come alive and assail the magicians' doors. Until our interpid drunkard arrives.
So, he gets laughed out of court because of his lover's actions, for which she is most repentant. So he gets her to show him some magic, and they spy through the cracks of the door that the witch herself can turn into an owl with a special ointment. Our hero would like to be an owl, exactly why is not specified, his only speculation as to what it might be like being that he needs to evade houses as humans would crucify owls for bringing bad luck. Lover-girl is hesitant, in that he might have decided to dump her and plan to fly off never to be seen again, why is an unlikely turn of events as only she knew how to anthopomorphise him once more. Won't want to be... owlpomorphised... for ever, after all. Anyway, he "accidentally" ends up with the wrong ointment and rubs it all over himself to become a donkey. We all make mistakes. So he gets shoved in the stables until the girlfriend can figure oyt how to fix it. Gets bullied by his own horse. Gets stolen by thieves, spends the next few years with a series of bizarre adventures doing donkey-work for a criminal gang, the Roman army, some aristocrats, a shepherd and eventually the circus, who pimp him to a perverted aristocratic lady who wishes to have sex with a donkey. Does a runner from the circus after that, where he had been impressing with his almost human intelligence, finds god(dess, Isis, ) and becomes a monk in thanks for her having humanificated him. Incidentally, one of his previous owners was a gang of Isis-monks who went around begging, robbing and conning people.
And that is how you get a dick like a donkey.
Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that all was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, and make it possible. -- Lawrence of Arabia