Monkey | Chapter 4

Journey to the West Retold

Neither the Jade Emperor of heaven, the planet Venus or multi limbed transforming warriors can get this precocious monkey under control.

Little Monkeys Carrying Weapons by Roberta Mansell


Roberta Mansell

Monkey, impatient as ever, rushed ahead of the planet Venus and soon arrived at the Heavenly Gates. Two guardian deities bristling with swords and spears refused to let him pass. Planet Venus came up behind him panting.

“Why won’t these rascals let me in?” demanded Monkey.

Venus explained that they were merely doing their job.

“Don’t worry Monkey,” smiled Venus.  “Once your official status is confirmed they’ll let you come and go as you please.”

Venus and Monkey entered Heaven and were shown into the court of the Jade Emperor. Venus prostrated himself before the throne but Monkey just stood there looking around nonchalantly.

From behind the imperial screen came the Emperor’s voice. “Has Venus brought an Immortal to Heaven?” Monkey waved his arms in the direction of the disembodied voice:

 “I'm over here!” he shouted.

The court officials where outraged by Monkey’s impudence and demanded that he be put to death immediately. But the Jade Emperor was inclined to indulge him. Monkey had just arrived from earth and didn’t know their ways. Once the Jade Emperor had shown leniency the court officials all clapped their hands in approval. Monkey joined in shouting “Bravo!”

Monkey was given a new position: Supervisor of the Imperial Stables. He was most pleased with this heavenly title.

There were many stables in Heaven and Monkey had many people underneath him to supervise. The horses were highly strung and difficult but he managed to handle them and they were soon eating out of his hand. Ten days passed and the stable boys decided to give a feast in his honour. After much wine and merriment Monkey was curious to learn what kind of status his new position commanded in Heaven.

“Oh Monkey!” said the stable boys “Your position has no status at all.”

“Is that because my status is too high?”

“No!” they laughed. “Because it’s too low!”

Monkey let out a howl and kicked over the banqueting table. He grabbed his armour and staff, jumped onto his cloud trapeze, and quickly swung back to earth. His monkey friends were delighted to see him. He had been away far too long. Monkey was surprised to hear this.

“It’s not been more than ten days since I left!”

But Monkey’s subjects informed him that for each day he had been in Heaven, one year had passed down on earth. He had been away for over ten years. And then they held a great feast in honour of his return.

A short time later a messenger arrived with two demons in tow. They were shown into the throne room where they bowed deeply before King Monkey, offering him a beautifully woven red and yellow carpet as a token of their respect.  They asked if they could join his army and Monkey immediately granted their request.

The demons wanted to know the status of the king’s position in Heaven. King Monkey was ashamed to say his position had given him no status at all. The two demons sympathized. The Jade Emperor had made a great mistake in not realizing the extent of Monkey’s great magical powers. Surely his true title should be Great Sage: Equal of Heaven.

Monkey was delighted by the demons’ flattery and commanded that banners be raised with this new title inscribed upon them. He informed his subjects that henceforth they were to refer to him only as Great Sage: Equal of Heaven.

Back in Heaven the Jade Emperor was informed that Monkey  - disgusted with his lowly status - had run away. The Emperor called the general of all his armies and commanded him to arrest Monkey. The General gave the job to a soldier called ‘Mighty Magic Spirit’. He was to provoke Monkey into battle, tie him up and bring him back to Heaven.

When Mighty Magic Spirit arrived at Water Curtain Cave, Monkey came out to face him, twirling his iron cudgel.  He wore his favourite helmet with the phoenix plume, his gold chain mail and his cloud-stepping shoes.  Mighty Magic Spirit swung his axe into Monkey’s iron cudgel and didn’t that send sparks flying!

Back and forth they fought until King Monkey gave a terrifying blow to Mighty Magic Spirit’s head. He parried the blow but as Monkey’s cudgel bore down on the spirit’s axe it burst into pieces and he had to run for his life.

The General was furious with Mighty Magic Spirit and was all set to have his head cut off when his son Nartha urged restraint. Monkey had great magical powers.  It would be wiser for the General send Nartha to bring him back.

Nartha arrived at Water Curtain Cave and witnessed all the banners declaring Monkey to be the Great Sage: Equal of Heaven. He commanded Monkey to come with him immediately. Monkey saw Nartha eyeing the banners and said he was prepared to come in peace if the Emperor consented to give him his rightful title.

Nartha stamped his foot and shouted: “Change!” Instantly he grew two heads and six arms. Every hand bristled with swords. Monkey did likewise and in this grotesque fashion they set about fighting one other.

Nartha magically produced more and more weapons until there were hundreds and thousands of them. King Monkey did the same. The fighting lasted for thirty bouts. Sparks flew and the mountains shook. King Monkey finally landed a devastating blow on Nartha's shoulder. The pain was so excruciating that Nartha had to admit defeat and run back to his father.

The General decided it would be prudent to ask the Jade Emperor for reinforcements. He returned to Heaven and informed him that Monkey could not be defeated by either Mighty Magic Spirit or his son Nartha and the impudent animal was now calling himself Great Sage: Equal of Heaven. The Emperor fumed. He was ready to send his entire army to capture this meddlesome monkey and have him executed.

Once again it was the planet Venus who stepped forward and advised mercy. Why not let him have this title? It would not have to come with any salary or status and Monkey would be back under the Emperor’s control.  Venus was confident that Monkey would forget his bad manners and peace would be re-established on earth and in Heaven. The Emperor agreed and immediately dispatched Venus to deliver the message.

When Venus told Monkey that the Jade Emperor was willing to grant him his special title he was overcome with joy. He wanted to celebrate with a feast in the planet’s honour, but Venus said there was no time for they must return immediately.

Once Monkey was safely returned to Heaven, the Emperor instructed his imperial carpenters to build him new living quarters.  His new apartment had a lovely office overlooking the peach gardens and there Great Sage: Equal of Heaven settled down in perfect freedom and contentment.

And if you want to know what happened in the end you must be patient and wait for the next chapter.

From the series

The Stories of Monkey

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