Legend – Chinese

Legend – China

“There’s this story of a Monkey King that pretty much everyone in China knows. He goes around doing all these mischievous acts like stealing. In one such instance, he goes to the realm of the Sea Dragon King and he steals a quarterstaff that he uses a lot in his later adventures. This staff is magical and can change to any size and when the Monkey King isn’t using it he shrinks it and puts it in his ear. The Monkey King also has lots of other magical abilities and such, like he can pull hairs off of his body and blow on them and they turn into monkeys that will do his bidding.

Eventually the gods get angry at him for being so mischievous and to punish him they take him and trap him under this huge rock, and no matter how hard he tries he can’t get out, mainly ‘cause it had a spell on it.

So he’s stuck there for a long time until this holy monk comes up and sees him stuck. The monk frees him under the condition that the Monkey King will escort him to this holy place that the monk is going to ‘cause he needed to deliver some sacred scrolls or something like that.

So the Monkey King had intended not to help the monk but just say that he will help him so he could get out from under that massive rock. But the monk anticipated this and stuck this holy circlet on the Monkey King so that whenever the monk said this specific word the circlet shrinks and crushes the Monkey King’s head. So the Monkey King was forced to obey the monk and escort him on this journey. What ensue are numerous adventures between the two companions.”

The Monkey King also known as Goku or Sun Wukong was Hanlong’s favorite childhood hero, and although he barely remembers the Monkey King’s adventures, it was a huge influence on his character while growing up. According to him, this is a well know legend in China and variations of the Monkey King’s adventures were in many forms of media at the time. Hanlong first came across this legendary figure sometime during first grade, mostly in story books that his mum bought him. He also learnt a few tales from his parents. Hanlong enjoys this legend because he found the Monkey King’s character very appealing and his adventures “cool”. However, Hanlong feels the media has blown this legendary figure out of proportion and has been overused. One example he draws upon is the famous cartoon ‘Dragonball Z’ in which the main character is called Son Goku, in direct correlation to the Monkey King. It angers him that the legendary figure has been changed so much that very few individuals know anything about the original legend.

I myself have come into contact with the Monkey King in the media. When I was in high school I watched a Japanese animation on television called ‘Saiyuki’ which was loosely based on the epic novel ‘Journey to the West’ which is a tale about the Monkey King and the monk that saved him. While it is great to see the legend in widespread media, one must realize that most adaptations are very loose and since this was my first impression of the Monkey King I had a skewed view until I spoke to Hanlong. This leads to one questioning the media’s responsibility to preserve the context of certain things. It’s great to use a legend as a reference, but not so much so that the original is forgotten.

Annotation: To read more about the Monkey King’s adventures please consider Journey to the West by Anthony C. Yu, 1980