Myth – Singapore

“The myth about the monkey and the crocodile is my favourite, I learned it from my grandmother. There was a monkey that lived in a tree above a river and ate a delicious fruit. Then a crocodile came and the monkey threw down some fruits for him to try because they were so delicious. The crocodile agreed and asked the monkey for some more. The monkey threw down a few more fruits which the crocodile brought back for his family to try. However they complained and demanded that he bring the monkey to eat instead, they wanted his heart. The crocodile, feeling very guilty, agreed. He persuaded the monkey the next day to come down from the tree and jump on his back. As the crocodile brought the monkey on his back, he was overwhelmed with guilt and told the monkey what his family had planned. The monkey then said “Oh you want my heart! You should have said so I left it in the tree!” The crocodile brought the monkey back to the tree where he went back up and never came down again.”

My informant found this tale meaningful in that it teaches a moral, and discourages deceitful behaviour.  She told me this story when I was very young, and the fact that the characters are animals makes it very interesting to children. The wit and humour in the plot would clarify that this is often told for entertainment purposes, even though the plot is clearly teaching the concept of honesty and deceit. Growing up, I found this story very fascinating, and the fact that the villainous character in this case is the predator, made it easier for me to relate to the story in that as a child you obviously would prefer for the monkey to be saved than to be eaten by the crocodile. I had heard this story several times from different people and knew that it was a piece of common Indian folklore even though I had learned this story in Singapore. In discovering the publication, what surprised me was the consistency of the verbally recounted story with the plot of the published story. I also found it interesting that the publication notes the story originated in Tamil, which is the language that my informant, my aunty, speaks as a Singaporean Indian.


Ramanujan, A.K. Folktales from India. 1991. The Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library. Page 53.