The Monkey Boy


There was once a man who had six sons and two daughters and he died leaving his wife pregnant of a ninth child.

And when the child was born it proved to be a monkey.

The villagers and relations advised the mother to make away with it, but she refused saying “Chando knows why he has given me such a child, but as he has done so I will rear it.”

All her relations said that if she chose to rear a monkey they would turn her out of the family. However she persisted that she would do so at all costs. So they sent her to live with her child in a hut outside the village, and the monkey boy grew up and learned to talk like a human being.

One day his elder brothers began to clear the jungle for cultivation and the monkey boy took a hatchet and went with them; he asked where he could clear land for himself and in fun they showed him the place where the jungle was thickest. So he went there and drove his hatchet into the trunk of a tree and then returned and watched his brothers working hard clearing the scrub, and when they had finished their work he went and fetched his hatchet and returned home with them. Every day he did the same—and one day his brothers asked why he spent all his time with them, but he said that he only came to them when he was tired of cutting down trees; they laughed at this and said that they would like to see his clearing, so he took them to the place and to their astonishment they saw a large clearing, bigger than they had been able to make for themselves. Then the brothers burnt the jungle they had cut down and began to plough the land.

But the monkey boy’s mother had no plough or cattle nor any seed rice; the only thing in the house was a pumpkin, so he took the seed out of the pumpkin and sowed it in his clearing. His brothers asked what he had sown and he told them—Rice.

The brothers ploughed and sowed and used to go daily to watch the growing crop, and one day they went to have a look at the monkey boy’s crop and they saw that it was pumpkins and not rice and they laughed at him. When their crop was ripe the brothers prepared to offer the first fruits and the monkey boy watched them that he might observe the same ceremonies as they. One day they brought home the first fruits and offered them to the bongas, and they invited the monkey boy and his mother to come to the feast which followed the offering.

They both went and enjoyed themselves; and two or three days later the monkey boy said that he would also have a feast of first fruits, so he told his mother to clear the courtyard and invited his brothers and he purified himself and went to his clearing and brought home the biggest pumpkin that had grown there; this he offered to the spirits; he sliced off the top of it as if it were the head of a fowl, and as he did so he saw that the inside was full of rice; he called his mother and they filled a winnowing fan with the rice and there was enough besides to nearly fill a basket; they were delighted at this windfall but kept the matter secret lest they should be robbed. The monkey boy told his mother to be sure and to cook enough rice so that his brothers and their wives might have as much as ever they could eat, and not merely a small helping such as they had given him, and if necessary he would go and fetch another pumpkin; so his mother boiled the rice. When the time fixed for the feast came, nothing was to be seen of the brothers because they did not expect that there would really be anything for them to eat; so the monkey boy went and fetched them, and when they came to the feast they were astonished to have as much rice as they could eat. When the crop was  quite ripe the monkey boy gathered all the pumpkins and got sufficient rice from them to last for the whole year. After this the brothers went out to buy horses, and the monkey boy went with them and as he had no money he took nothing but a coil of rope; his brothers were ashamed to have him with them and drove him away, so he went on ahead and got first to the place where the horse-dealer lived. The brothers arrived late in the evening and decided to make their purchases the following morning and ride their horses home, so they camped for the night. The monkey boy spent the night hiding on the rafters of the stable; and in the night the horses began to talk to each other and discussed which could gallop farthest, and one mare said “I can gallop twelve kos on the ground and then twelve kos in the air.” When the monkey boy heard this he got down and lamed the mare by running a splinter into her hoof. The next morning the brothers bought the horses which pleased them and rode off. Then the monkey boy went to the horse-dealer and asked why the mare was lame and advised him to apply remedies. But the dealer said that that was useless: when horses got ill they always died; then the monkey boy asked if he would sell the mare and offered to give the coil of rope in exchange; the dealer, thinking that the animal was useless, agreed, so the monkey boy led it away, but when he was out of sight he took out the splinter and the lameness at once ceased. Then he mounted the mare and rode after his brothers, and when he had nearly overtaken them he rose into the air and flew past his brothers and arrived first at home. There he tied up the mare outside his house and went and bathed and had his dinner and waited for his brothers.

They did not arrive for a full hour afterwards and when they saw the monkey boy and his mount they wanted to know how he had got home first. He boasted of how swift his mare was and so they arranged to have a race and match their horses against his. The race took place two or three days later and the monkey boy’s mare easily beat all the other horses, she galloped twelve kos on the ground and twelve kos in the air. Then they wanted to change their horses for his, but he said they had had first choice and he was not going to change.

In two or three years the monkey boy became rich and then he announced that he wanted to marry; this puzzled his mother for she thought that no human girl would marry him while a monkey would not be able to talk; so she told him that he must find a bride for himself. One day he set off to look for a wife and came to a tank in which some girls were bathing, and he took up the cloth belonging to one of them and ran up a tree with it, and when the girl missed it and saw it hanging down from the tree she borrowed a cloth from her friends and went and asked the monkey boy for her own; he told her that she could only have it back if she consented to marry him; she was surprised to find that he could talk and as he conversed she was bewitched by him and let him pull her up into the tree by her hair, and she called out to her friends to go home and leave her where she was. Then he took her on his back and ran off home with her.

The girl’s father and relations turned out with bows and arrows to look for the monkey who had carried her off but he had gone so far away that they never found him. When the monkey boy appeared with his bride all the villagers were astonished that he had found anyone to marry him, but everything was made ready for the marriage as quickly as possible and all the relations were invited and the wedding took place and the monkey boy and his wife lived happily ever after

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