Nathan (vovat) wrote,

Monkey See, Monkey Fly

One group of unusual Ozian creatures that everyone knows about (because they appeared in the MGM movie, natch) is the tribe of Winged Monkeys. The movie shows them as slaves of the Wicked Witch of the West, but doesn't explain how they ended up in that sad position. Wicked has the Witch genetically engineering the Winged Monkeys herself, but the original book gives a quite different story. And unlike in the MGM film, L. Frank Baum's Monkeys could talk, and their king tells Dorothy the story of how they became slaves in the first place. Basically, when his grandfather was king, he and his subjects had ruined the wedding clothes of Quelala, who was to be married to the powerful sorceress Gayelette. While the groom didn't really mind, the sorceress went into bridezilla mode and ordered the Monkeys drowned for this trick. When they and Quelala pleaded with her, though, Gayelette instead made them slaves of the Golden Cap that she had bought with half her kingdom. Each holder of the Cap could command the services of the Monkeys three times. In some way (there are a few different explanations given in different apocryphal stories, with David Hulan's from "The Gauds of Oz" being my personal favorite), the Cap eventually fell into the hands of the Witch, who used it to enslave the Winkies, drive the Wizard of Oz out of her country, and capture or destroy Dorothy and her witch-hunting companions. They were unable to harm Dorothy herself, as she bore the kiss of the Good Witch of the North, but they did bring her to the Witch's castle. After Dorothy melted her oppressor, she used the Cap three times herself, and then gave it to Glinda. While Glinda says she'll give it to the King of the Winged Monkeys in order to free the tribe, later references suggest that she kept it, perhaps at the king's own request.

Aside from their ability to fly, it's not entirely clear how the Winged Monkeys are different from ordinary monkeys. They must be pretty big for monkeys if two of them can carry a child between them. I checked Wikipedia, and it looks like the biggest kind of monkey is the Mandrill, which can weigh about seventy-seven pounds. So maybe they're technically Winged Mandrills, but you'd probably have to ask Professor Wogglebug for the official word on this. Also, I have to wonder if their enslavement to the Golden Cap resulted in increased strength and abilities, as the idea that they could conquer the entire Winkie population seems a bit far-fetched otherwise. Then again, that could just be a result of the Winkies' being unprepared to fight back.

While the Monkeys don't play a significant part in any canonical Oz books other than the first, they do reappear in several later books. dennisanfuso makes them central characters in The Winged Monkeys of Oz. Emerald Wand (for which Winged Monkeys was actually a working title) has the Wicked Witch's niece getting her hands on the Golden Cap and commanding the Monkeys. And while I haven't yet read Chris Dulabone's Marvelous Monkeys or Peter Schulenburg's UnWinged Monkey, I understand that both of them also feature the flying primates.

To finish this post, here are two bits of trivia about the Monkeys in the MGM movie. The first is that the character Nikko, as mentioned in the end credits, is the film's name for their leader. This credit confused me as a kid, because this name isn't actually used in the movie itself. Also, the Golden Cap DOES make a brief appearance, as a deleted scene (I think it was deleted, anyway) had the Witch wanting to use the Cap to have the Monkeys retrieve Dorothy from the poppy field, and the completed film retains a shot of the Witch throwing the Cap away in frustration when the girl escapes. I'm not sure why the Witch would have needed the Cap at this point but not when ordering the simians later on, but there you go.

Tags: books, oz

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