Monkey | Chapter 3
Journey to the West Retold
In this episode, Monkey ransoms one of the four dragons of creation and gets kidnapped and dragged down into the underworld.
The old patriarch was right: Monkey was going to get himself into trouble. Here’s how he did it.
Monkey, having returned from killing the demon king, decided it would be a good idea to drill his monkeys and turn them into an army. At first it was just for fun. He made spears from bamboo; shields from bark; and swords from branches, as well as catapults, cudgels and rakes. The little monkeys marched up and down and learned to advance and retreat. Eventually Monkey took a
roll call and discovered that he had over 40,000 soldiers under his command.
Thinking out loud, Monkey voiced his concern that another king or an emperor might become frightened by the size of his new army. He decided that wooden weapons were not enough. But where could he find real ones?
Four wise old monkeys came to Monkey and informed him that beyond the Eastern Sea lay another kingdom with a large capitol city. Surely their king would have some arms to sell. Monkey was delighted with this idea. He could swap some of his treasure for the weapons or better still he might simply take them by magic!
Stepping onto his cloud trapeze, Monkey flew across the Eastern Sea and landed near the capitol of the neighbouring kingdom. He drew a magic diagram on the ground. Stepping into the diagram, he inhaled deeply and blew out his breath. The sand and the rocks flew up in a storm and rained down upon the city. The king and all his subjects were forced to stay inside their houses.
Monkey quickly found the king’s armoury, but there was too much there for him to carry away by himself. Casting a handful of his hairs on the ground he shouted: “Change”! As before, the hairs turned into little monkeys who helped him carry the contents of the armoury back to the Water Curtain Cave.
With real weapons Monkey now had a proper army. The birds and beasts of the forest, as well as the demons, all came and paid their respects to King Monkey. Yet Monkey himself was not satisfied. He was no longer satisfied with the demon king’s sword he had won and felt he should have something better. Once again, the four wise old monkeys came to his aid:
“The water that flows under the iron bridge comes from the palace of the Dragon of the Eastern Sea. Surely this dragon king can provide you with a suitable weapon.”
Without hesitation Monkey jumped into the pool of water before him and swam all the way to the Eastern Sea. There he met two crab generals who escorted him to the dragon king’s palace.
“I’m your neighbour,” said Monkey. “And neighbours should help each other out. I’m looking for a weapon for an Immortal such as myself. I think you could help me.”
The Dragon King of the Eastern Sea was alarmed by this water-breathing monkey. He sent two senior prawns to bring a large sword from his armoury, but Monkey was not satisfied. Neither was he happy with the multi-pronged fork he was offered. Before long Monkey had rejected everything the king showed him. At last, the dragon king's wife came to her husband’s rescue:
“Offer him the black iron bar with golden clasps; the one that was used to pound the Milky Way at the dawn of creation. If he can lift that, then surely he should have it.”
When Monkey was shown the iron bar, he picked it up with one hand and twirled it about:
“It’s a bit too long; also a bit too thick,” he complained.
At this the iron bar immediately shrank and became thinner. Monkey was delighted:
“I’ll take it. Now just one more thing: I’ll need some clothes to go with it.
What do you have?”
The dragon king rolled his eyes and sighed.
“I have nothing suitable.”
But Monkey would have none of it. He pleaded with the dragon king and threatened him until the king appealed to his brothers in the other three great oceans:
“Let’s give him what he wants. Then we can complain to Heaven. He’s an Immortal and has great powers. That iron rod means death if it touches us.”
The dragon kings of the other three oceans agreed. In addition to the iron rod Monkey was given a new pair of cloud-stepping shoes, a suit of golden chain mail and a gold helmet with a beautiful feather plume in the shape of a phoenix. Monkey returned home with his new toys and there was much feasting!
After imbibing a lot of wine, Monkey fell asleep under a tree and had a dream. Two officials approached him with a document. It had his name on it and they demanded that Monkey come with them. They tied up his dream body with a piece of rope and carried him away. When Monkey realized that they were heading toward the Underworld he began to protest. He was an Immortal! They must have made a mistake. But the officials would not let him go. There was no mistake: his time was up. Monkey reacted with fury. He took the iron bar from behind his ear and magically extended it to fullsize. Then he smashed the two officials into pulp.
The enraged Monkey ran into the Citadel waving the iron bar from left to right. All fled before him. The Ten Judges of the Dead, hearing the commotion, came out to see what was happening. Monkey remonstrated with them; how could he, an Immortal, be subject to death? The judges replied that there must have been a mistake. It did happen from time to time. There could be two people with the same name and the wrong person was taken. Monkey insisted on seeing the official records for the lifespans of all beings. When he found his own name, he erased it along with the names of all his monkey friends.
After Monkey had returned to Water Curtain Cave, the Ten Judges decided to go to Heaven and complain. By the time they arrived they found the Dragon King of the Eastern Sea already there. He too was complaining about this pseudo-Immortal called Monkey and the trouble that he had caused. The Ten Judges of the Dead listed their own grievances and both parties demanded that the Emperor take action.
The Emperor thought carefully and then turned to the planet Venus:
“What should we do?”
“We should take a lenient view, Your Majesty,” replied Venus. ”He was washed by the rain and dried by the winds. It’s no surprise that he's become an Immortal. I suggest we recall him to Heaven and give him an official position so we can keep an eye on him.”
The Emperor thought this an excellent idea and sent Venus to summon Monkey.
When Venus handed Monkey the Emperor's note, he was very pleased. He had always wanted to visit Heaven was delighted to hear about his official position. Before Monkey left, he spoke to the four wise old monkeys. They were to look after everyone while he checked out Heaven. If it worked out well, he would soon call for them all to join him.
And if you want to know what official position Monkey was given in Heaven you will have to wait for the next chapter.
The Stories of Monkey
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