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Why The Monkey Is Wise Post by :sjp345 Category :Short Stories Author :Dean S. Fansler Date :November 2011 Read :3331

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Why The Monkey Is Wise

Narrated by Francisco M. Africa.

Once upon a time there lived a poor man who had seven sons. These young men, all except the youngest, helped their aged father with the work; but the family became poorer and poorer. One day, when they had exhausted all their means of support, the father called his sons before him. To every son he assigned a certain kind of work, so that there might be cooperation, and hence efficiency, in the labors of the humble family. To the youngest son was assigned the task of gathering sticks in the forest for fuel.

Not long afterwards a pestilence broke out in the little town where the old man lived, and all his sons but the youngest died. The father was left to starve on his bed, for his only living son was so ungrateful as not to give any help to his father in his last years. When the old man was about to breathe his last, he called his son to give him his final benediction; but the ungrateful boy, instead of going to his dying father, ran away into the woods, and the old man passed away without anybody to care for him.

But God punished the unfilial son; he cursed him; and the boy lost his power of speech, and was condemned to live in the forests ever after as a monkey. Thus, although monkeys cannot talk, they are wise because they are descended from a human being.


I know of no analogues of this story, but will cite two other Filipino myths accounting for the origin of monkeys. The first was narrated by Antonio Maceda, a Tagalog from Pagsanjan, who heard it from his grandfather. The story follows.

Origin of the Monkey.

A long time ago the world, which was divided into earth and heaven, was very lonesome, for Bathala was the only living being in it. He lived in heaven. One day Bathala felt so lonely, that the thought of creating some living beings for his companions came into his mind. He had never thought of this before, although with his infinite power he could do anything he pleased. So he came down to earth to get some clay; but he found the ground very dry, for there was no such thing as rain on the earth. Immediately he said, "Let there be rain!" and the rain fell down. Then, with a large load of slippery clay, Bathala returned to heaven and began the work of creation. He created men, birds, plants, mountains, and rivers (sic!). While he was in the act of creating men, however, an accident occurred. As he was moulding a piece of clay into the shape of a man, the mould slipped from his left hand. Bathala was quick enough to grasp the back of this lifeless mass of clay; but the clay was so soft that it stretched out into a long rope, and the mould fell into a tree. In his anger, Bathala said, "I curse thee! Thou shalt have life, but thou shalt inhabit trees. The part of thy body that has been stretched out into a rope shall become thy tail."

The lifeless mould was at once changed into a monkey, the great-grandfather of all the monkeys.

The following story was written down by Sotero Albano, an Ilocano from Dingras, Ilocos Norte:--

The First Monkey.

Long years ago there lived in a thick forest a young girl under the care of the goddess of weaving. Here she lived happily and without care, for everything that she wanted to eat was provided for her by her patroness.

One day the goddess said to the girl, "Take this cotton, clean it, and make out of it a dress for yourself." Now, the girl knew nothing about making cloth and weaving it: so she said to the goddess, "When the cotton is cleaned, is it ready for use?"

"No," answered her guardian; "after it is cleaned, it must be beaten." "Well, after it is beaten, is it ready for use?" said the lazy girl.

The goddess said that before it could be used, it would have to be spun.

"Well, after it is spun," persisted the saucy maiden, "is it ready for use?"

"No; it must next be woven into cloth, cut, and sewed," answered the patient goddess.

"Oh!" said the girl, "it will take a long time and much hard work to make clothes that way. This leather hide, which you have given me to beat the cotton on, will make me better clothing, because it will wear longer." So she covered herself with the leather. The goddess was so angry at the girl for her laziness, that she determined that the leather should not only be her dress, but also become her very skin. Then the goddess took the stick for beating the cotton, and, thrusting it between the maiden's buttocks, said to her, "This stick will become a part of your body, and you will use it for climbing-purposes. As a penalty for your laziness, henceforth you shall live in trees in the forest, and there you will find your food."

Thus originated the first monkey with a coat of leather and a tail.

Obviously connected with this Ilocano story are three Tinguian myths recorded by Cole, who abstracts them thus:--

(No. 65.) A lazy man, who is planting corn, constantly leans on his planting-stick. It becomes a tail, and he turns into a monkey.

(No. 66.) A boy is too lazy to strip sugarcane for himself. His mother, in anger, tells him to stick it up his anus. He does so, and becomes a monkey.

(No. 67.) A lazy girl pretends she does not know how to spin. Her companions, in disgust, tell her to stick the spinning-stick up her anus. She does so, and at once changes into a monkey.

Compare also a Bagobo story collected by Miss Benedict (JAFL 26 : 21), where a ladle becomes a monkey's tail; also an African saga in Dähnhardt (3 : 488).

The Filipinos have other explanatory myths which credit Lucifer with the creation of monkeys and snakes.

(The end)
Dean S. Fansler's short story: Why The Monkey Is Wise

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