I’ll be bringing you a little yuletide cheer this week by talking a little bit about Nestor the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey. Oh, wait. Did I say “cheer” because that is actually the opposite of what I meant to say. What I have dredged from my soup of far distant childhood memories is a Christmas special that I saw when I was maybe eight or nine that was SO DEPRESSING that I only saw it once, and it made me cry. It made me cry outrageously hard. This animation AGED ME far beyond my years and I will never forgive it.
I don’t even know how popular this one is. When I was little, I loved animated specials very much, so I would be sure to catch them whenever they were on. Not this one though. I am not sure if it is because I just avoided it magically, or if it was only shown one time because it inspired a wave of angry calls from parents. I can’t really even remember what upset me so much about it, except for one obvious part I will tell you about in a moment, as we watch it together, hand in hand.
So, let’s get this over with, my friends, my strangers. Let’s watch Nestor the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey – for the first time in decades. Let’s see if it will stir up more feelings, feelings I have spent a lifetime trying to silence. And for those of you who don’t feel like watching along with me, I’ll just summarize this son of a button for you as it goes along.
ACT I: 0:00 – 10:20
For Non-viewers: This is an animation from the same people who brought us such delightful classics as Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (Rudolph is even in it for a moment there), and that one about Jack Frost and Baby New Year or something. CLASSICS. So naturally this one seems like it should be pretty entertaining and cute, I think. The narrator of this animation turns out to be Santa’s Donkey and he is all going on about his ancestor, Nestor, the SADDEST BABY DONKEY TO EVER LIVE.
Nestor shares a similar story to Rudolph. He is different from everyone else and is therefore shunned, mocked, and tormented. He sheds giant animated tears and makes me frown deeply, oh gosh and his mom is so nice and kind and loving. :'[ Like Dumbo‘s mom, in some ways. Boo hoo.
The donkeys live way up north and are Pagans and live on this little farm. At the Solstice they have a celebration and everyone is like, “Nestor we actually love you sorry if we made you sad.” And he is like BEST DAY OF MY LIFE! and then the ROMANS show up, demanding donkeys for the Emperor. But not Nestor! NO. He is a FREAK and HOW DARE THE FARMER try to sell them a mutant donkey and in order to punish him they’ll just TAKE the donkeys and NOT pay that guy. This of course leads to Nestor getting thrown out of the farm into the freezing wilderness and his mom comes to save him.
Emotions Brought Forth: Well, at first I felt sorry for Nestor because no baby animal should have such bad self-esteem, and I was mad at the other farm animals for being so mean to a baby animal, a donkette. Then, my heart was gladdened by the reconciliation and his joy. HE COULDN’T SLEEP because he was SO HAPPY. Then the Romans came and HIT HIS MOM and rejected him and called him bad names and drove the others off and called them slaves and the jerk farmer got mad at him for his ears and so so so sad. Then the farmer BEATS THE HECK OUT OF HIM and throws him out into a blizzard. Nestor is left cold and crying for his Mama which means that her instincts take over and she kicks down her stall and rushes out to protect him. So I felt the welling up of emotion that comes from observing brave maternal care.
ACT II: 10:20 – until the end
Man I don’t want to spoil this delightful tale for you, just go back and watch it right now! I will wait right here.
Emotions: Immediately, it is revealed why I cried when I was a kid, having to contemplate the serious matters of loss and regret and consequences and depression and loneliness and forever and if this animation had ended right there with baby donkey suicide, it would have seemed like the most natural thing in the world.
I admit that I never cried as I watched it this time but I can totally remember why this turned me into a serious, depressed child. For reasons unknown, I empathized with Nestor and felt his sorrows. I became almost obsessed with the hardness of life and the sacrifices that parents give, how feeling sorry for yourself can lead down a spiraling path to things being worse than you ever expected. How death is forever and if you aren’t careful YOU will bring about not only your own anguish, but even possibly that of others. This was probably the show that made me have dreams that consisted of just tombstones with my parents’ names on them and I would wake up wailing.
Like any adult, I have been thinking about these sorts of things and experiencing crippling depressions frequently over my lifetime so watching this story again just seemed like a simple reminder of basic life facts. But when I was a child, this was my First Experience with thinking of these terrible things. So thanks, Nestor the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey. Thanks for ending my carefree childhood a little prematurely. Thanks for finishing what accidentally viewing Watership Down started when I was seven.