On first impression Shrek is pretty scary. Donkey has good survival instincts (seeing as he tried to keep his mouth shut when the old crone tried to sell him, and after the fairy dust mishap he ran away as fast as he could). So why he didn't keep running after he bumped into Shrek, letting the knights and the ogre deal with each other?

Also, a few minutes later, Shrek tries to scare Donkey away by roaring, but Donkey is not impressed. How did Donkey know that Shrek was harmless? True, Shrek did not kill the leader of the knights, but that could have meant that the monster just ate and he was full and lazy. Why did Donkey decide to stay, risking the wrath of an annoyed ogre, and didn't even keep a safe distance from him at first?

The answer of @RoyalCanadianBandit reminded me that in similar circumstances -- encountering a female ogre at night -- he assumed the worst: that the ogre, as it is in her nature, ate the princess:

Shrek! Shrek! Shrek!

No, it's okay. It's okay.

What did you do with the princess?

Donkey, I'm the princess. [...]It's me, in this body.

Oh, my God! You ate the princess. (to her stomach) Can you hear me?

He is mostly used as the comedy mule donkey so I am not sure, but it seems he was genuinely scared of Fiona in her ogre form. So why wasn't he scared of Shrek?

  • 2
    "Donkey was the secret evil genius of the Shrek franchise" sounds like a fan theory that needs to be written. Commented Jul 5, 2017 at 9:57
  • Donkey is impressed by the roaring, he just isn't frightened. "Man, that was definitely scary. And if that doesn't do the job, your breath will..." Commented Jul 5, 2017 at 9:57
  • Ogres eat people, not donkey. People eat donkeys. It's perfectly reasonable for donkey to be less afraid of ogres than of people.
    – user85615
    Commented Jul 5, 2017 at 11:44
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    @9ilsdx9rvj0lo Orges apparently eat everything, even their kids according to Shrek's stories.
    – user68762
    Commented Jul 5, 2017 at 17:04
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    I don't see him being genuinely scared of ogre Fiona. He isn't running away from her, and he isn't begging for his life. He's demanding that she tell him what she's done when the princess, and he's trying to talk to the princess he thinks is inside the ogre's stomach. He isn't scared of the ogre, he's scared for the princess.
    – Misha R
    Commented Jan 22, 2020 at 15:41

5 Answers 5


Shrek saves Donkey from the guards, therefore Donkey is thankful and maybe he was impressed by the fighting.

Then Donkey tells Shrek that he doesn't have any friends

But, uh, I don't have any friends. And I'm not goin' out there by myself. Hey, wait a minute! I got a great idea! I'll stick with you. You're mean, green, fightin' machine. Together we'll scare the spit out of anybody that crosses us.


Donkey doesn't judge by appearances, because he himself is an outcast who is scorned for what he looks like. When Donkey first meets Shrek, he says:

You don't know what it's like to be considered a freak! [Pause] Well, maybe you do. But that's why we gotta stick together!

When Fiona undergoes her transformation, he is surprised, but not frightened or disgusted:

Princess? You look... uh, different.

Donkey is also quite perceptive. As he says to Shrek:

I'm an animal, and I got instincts.

So because he isn't put off by Shrek's appearance, he is perceptive enough to recognise that the ogre doesn't really mean him harm.

  • 3
    "Donkey doesnt judge by appearences" -But he did think that the female orge ate the princess...
    – user68762
    Commented Jul 5, 2017 at 17:31


Donkey is not afraid of Shrek because Shrek has not demonstrated any actual threat to Donkey, but has demonstrated actual safety to Donkey.

Additionally, having seen Shrek act actually scary, its obvious that Shrek's attempts to scare Donkey are half-hearted at best.

Otoh, with Fiona, Donkey's first piece of evidence is visual. The human visage known as Fiona is gone from a place where she should be, and in her place, is an ogre. In the absence of shapechanging magic, the logical presumptions for this are similar to what Donkey actually assumes.

  • Donkey doesn't "see essences", so I'm not sure what you're asking here.
    – godskook
    Commented Jul 11, 2017 at 15:46

Because it's not in his character. And I mean, literally.

Shrek is an Ogre Character, and only Characters Scared By Ogres are scared by ogres 'cause, well...it's their character. Peasant are scared by Shrek because they are peasant, they exists in the world of Shrek for being peasant. Donkey is not a fairy tale character that should be scared by an ogre, so it is not.

And, to be perfectly clear: I'm speaking in universe.

  • And, just adding this as a comment, but judging by your question you seems to have totally missed everything in the movie.
    – motoDrizzt
    Commented Jul 5, 2017 at 14:34
  • i sense a circular reasoning here, but take +1 for the effort :)
    – user68762
    Commented Jul 5, 2017 at 16:23

Well, I could guess he did the same thing with an ogre he did with a dragon - sweet talked him into being of help. But his reactions are very different, so I'd go with both instinct (an animal feels when something presents a threat to it) and observation (Shrek didn't actually scare anybody, he was chilled out, it's just how humans reacted to "a beast they've heard about" - also Shrek was using intelligent humor, so Donkey could assume Shrek is not a beast but an intelligent being).

I wouldn't call Donkey "a genius". It's not like he deduced it and chose to act that way. It's just that he senses real intentions. It's like someone who doesn't understand complex social interactions, or sarcasm, or allusions, but they see directly the mechanisms/emotions that are underneath.

  • I tried to clarify a couple of times I think you were referring to Shrek, but the previous "he" was Donkey. You can edit it back if I messed up.
    – DavidW
    Commented Jan 22, 2020 at 1:54

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