Tag Archives: monkey

Even Monkeys Can Fall from Trees

Original Phrase: 원숭이도 나무에서 떨어진다
Translation: Even monkeys can fall from trees.

K is a Korean American whose parents are of Korean ancestry. He is currently in college. He says that he had heard this proverb from his parents. This piece is memorable to him because he tries to take this message to heart when it comes to doing anything.

Context: This proverb came up in a discussion about proverbs. There was a back and forth between interesting proverbs and what they meant before this piece came up.

This proverb is very similar to other childhood proverbs in that it uses animals to teach children an important lesson in life. This lesson is that even the best, most specialized people can still fail. So do not be over confident. This is because monkeys are typically seen as adapted to living in trees. They spend all their time swinging from tree to tree, often looking like there isn’t a care in the world. In reality, however, these monkeys will still miss and fall from the tree. This message is pretty important to children as it teaches them to be humble about their skills. If you become arrogant and comfortable with your skills without being sufficiently cautious, you can still fail.

Indian Tale – The Greedy Monkeys

Main Piece

Informant: “There’s a story of two greedy monkeys who find a piece of roti, basically an Indian tortilla, in the forest and they are fighting over who is going to break it in half because they each think the other will give himself the bigger piece. A snake comes by and hears them fighting and devises a plan. He offers to break it for them. He does and offers them the two halves, but each monkey thinks one piece is bigger, because the snake made one purposely bigger, so the snake takes a bite out of the bigger one, now making the other half bigger and offers it back up to them. Same situation keeps happening until the roti is finished and the snake just slithers away and the monkeys are left with nothing. Basically it’s a story about how if you’re greedy you’ll end up with nothing.”

Background

My informant is a practicing lawyer in Los Angeles, California. She is of Indian descent, and her knowledge of Indian folklore comes from her father. 

Context

Informant: “I can’t remember how old I was when I heard this but I was a kid. Usually stories like this are told to kids to teach them a lesson and teach them not to be greedy.”

My Thoughts

I had not heard of this story before, but I did know that greed is a widely recognized sin in Indian cultures. According to Hindupedia (cited below), greed causes fights amongst family members, a loss of wealth, and a loss of close friends. In Indian cultures, greed is also the driving force behind most crimes, whether it is theft or cheating. In an Indian story titled “How a Greedy Miser became a great Saint,” a young man refuses to spend money on finding cures for his father’s sickness, which results in his father’s death. By the end of the story, the young man acknowledges his greed and becomes charitable.

It is interesting to note that the two characters that suffered in the hands of the snake are monkeys. Monkeys are a very important part of Indian culture. Monkeys are said to be the living avatars of the god of power, Hanuman, who was half-man and half-monkey. The snake is vilified as he is deceiving a respected deity. 

Source:

Hindupedia. “Ideals and Values/Lobha (Greed) The Third Inner Enemy.” Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia, www.hindupedia.com/en/Ideals_and_Values/Lobha_(Greed)_The_Third_Inner_Enemy#We_do_wrong_things. Accessed 24 Apr. 2021.

Monkey and Baboon Limerick

Context:

Informant SG was a current undergraduate student at the Univerity of Southern California at the time of this collection. I met with SG on a Zoom call to exchange family folklore.

“My grandfather has like a gross limerick that he likes to say to shock and amuse. The context you’d say it in would be like as a non-sequitur specifically meant to disrupt the conversation.”


Text:

“Monkey and baboon sitting in the grass. The Monkey stuck a finger up the baboon’s ass. Said the baboon, Damn your soul! Get your finger out of my asshole!”


Analysis:

When speaking with SG, that their “grandfather is fun at parties.” The performance of this particular folk speech would likely result in immediate shock or laughter. As absurd as it might sound in context, I am inclined to think that this piece of folk speech speaks to the values of SG’s grandfather and anyone else who repeats it. In using a non-sequitur folk saying such as this, it can be assumed that the speaker sees value and maybe even finds joy in spontaneity and laughter more than in formal conversations. If the performance were to be delivered properly, it is possible that the speaker might actually be utilizing this folk speech to promote and accelerate their relationship with listeners. By establishing themselves as a light-hearted, spontaneous individual, this work to convince listeners to rely on them for a laugh or to keep conversations going/interesting.

The Crab and the Monkey

Informant: I got one. It’s a folktale from when I was younger.

 

Interviewer: Is it like, a Brazilian or a Japanese tale?

 

Informant: It’s Japanese… I don’t remember who told me the tale, it’s very common knowledge in Japan. It might’ve been in daycare. Does it matter?

 

Interviewer: Not really. What is it about?

 

Informant: Ok, so this is about a monkey and a crab. The crab has an onigiri and the monkey has a persimmon seed… onigiri is like, a rice ball. The monkey wants the crab’s onigiri, so he tells the crab to trade it for his persimmon seed. The crab doesn’t want to at first, but the monkey says that the seed is worth more, since if he plants it, it will grow into a persimmon tree. So they trade and then the crab goes back home and plants the seed… and the crab threatens the **** out of the seed by telling it that if it… if it doesn’t grow fruits it’s gonna cut it up with its pincers.

 

Interviewer: That’s not very nice (laughs).

 

Informant: No, but then the seed grows into a tall tree and gives fruits, so I guess it worked. Anyways, the monkey then goes to the crab’s house and climbs the tree and starts eating the fruit. The crab comes out and asks the monkey to pass him some fruit, but the monkey throws the unripe stinky fruit at ‘em and it ******* kills him, and the shock makes the crab give birth…

 

Interviewer: …Is that it?

 

Informant: No… It’s like halfway done, I’m trying to remember the rest… Ok so the kid crab is pissed that the monkey killed the mom crab, and wants revenge on the monkey. So he goes out and makes friends with like, other bullied guys like the chestnut, the bee… the rock mortar… thing, and cow poop. Then they break and enter the monkey’s house and hide… The chestnut hides in the hearth, the bee hides in a water pail, the mortar hides on the roof, and the cow poop hides on the floor, close to the entrance.

 

Interviewer: Is this like, a real folktale?

 

Informant: I swear, I can’t make this **** up.

 

Interviewer: Ok, ok. What happens next?

 

Informant: Ok so later, the monkey comes home and decides to sit by the fire. The chestnut tackles him and sets the monkey on fire. Monkey is inflicted with burn, so he runs to the water pail to put it out, but the bee comes out and stings the **** out of him, so the monkey tries to run out of the house and slips on the cow poop, and then the mortar jumps off the roof and onto the monkey and it ******* kills him… the end.

 

Interviewer: What? That’s it? … What even is the moral of the story?

 

Bystander: I think it’s about not scamming people or you’ll die. But what happened to the kid crab, what did it do?

 

Informant: Baby crab didn’t do ****. But yeah, that’s it, monkey died because he killed crab.

 

Context

During one of my club’s meetings, I told the members about the collection project and the members started discussing about various folktales and other stories. This was amongst the ones that stood out.

 

Analysis

To be completely honest I was dumbfounded that such a weird story was told to children, but upon further investigation it turns out that, it is in fact, a popular Japanese folktale. From what I gather, it teaches children to not scam or betray people, because it’ll come back to you in some shape or form.

 

Different Versions and Literary Works

The folktale has many different versions, usually changing the baby crab’s allies or the way that the monkey is attacked in its home. In one version, the monkey gets his butt snipped bald by the crab, which explains why some monkeys have bare bums.

Versions of this folktale can be found in Andrew Lang’s The Crimson Fairy Book (http://www.online-literature.com/andrew_lang/crimson_fairy/30/)

 

Or Japanese Fairy Tales by Yei Theodora Ozaki

(http://www.gutenberg.org/files/4018/4018-h/4018-h.htm)

The Monkey and the Wedge

“So this is a classic Panchatantra story my mother would read to me as a kid.  So one day, a worker was cutting a big log in half, but when lunchtime came and he wasn’t finished cutting the log in half, he put a wedge between the two sides of the log so that it wouldn’t close up.  But then a monkey came down to the log to play, and once he got curious about the wedge, he pulled the wedge out of the log while he was between the two sides of the log that the worker was cutting, and now, with the wedge gone, the log closed up and crushed the monkey.  It’s kind of a dark story, because I think that would kill the monkey, but I don’t ever remember him dying in the story when I was growing up, so I don’t know what’s true and what isn’t.”

ANALYSIS:

This is a really interesting story because the informant is right: the log closing up would definitely kill the monkey, but because the informant was a child when his mother read it to him before bed, his mother most likely left out that part, as it would be hard for a child to fall asleep after hearing that.  I think this speaks to the inherent nature of folklore, that it has multiplicity and variation.  Folklore can go through countless adjustments as time wears on, and a mother adjusting a story for their child so it’s more kid-friendly is just one of the many ways folklore could undergo change.