“In the Worlds before Monkey,
Primal chaos reigned,
Heaven sought order.
But the Phoenix can fly only when its feathers are grown.
The four worlds formed again and yet again,
As endless aeons wheeled and passed.
Time and the pure essences of Heaven,
The moisture of the Earth,
And the powers of the Sun and the Moon
All worked upon a certain rock – old as Creation,
And it magically became fertile.
That first egg was named Thought,
Tathagata Buddha, the Father Buddha,
Said, ‘With our thoughts we make the world.’
Elemental forces caused the egg to hatch,
from it then came a stone Monkey.
The nature of Monkey was irrepressible!”
Opening Monologue – Monkey TV Series – NTV/KHK
Another of my childhood influences was the TV Series Monkey. Many a lunch hour was spent running around the playground pretending to be zooming here an there on my own cloud taking me to the fight. Between the fantastical elements, the highly acrobatic and artistic fight scenes and the awful English overdubbing the show was fertile fodder for the imagination of many a 9 year old boy.
The series itself was based upon the 16th Century Chinese novel Journey to the West by Wu Cheng’en. The English voice over artists include Andrew Sachs (Manuel from Fawlty Towers) who voiced Horse and Myriam Margolyes (Professor Sprout in the harry Potter movies) who voiced most of the female roles in the series.
The story revolves around Monkey “born from an egg on a mountain top“. The egg is a stone egg and thus he is a stone monkey who becomes king of a monkey tribe, who, the title song goes on to tell us was “the punkiest monkey that ever popped“. monkey was also the self-proclaimed “Great Sage, Equal of Heaven“. Monkey is asked to join the heavenly host, largely in order to quiet his antics on earth and rises, through his complaining to “Keeper of the Peach Garden of Immortality“. Monkey wastes no time in eating many of the peaches, which have taken millennia to ripen, becomes immortal and runs amok. For his transgressions Monkey is imprisoned for 500 years under a mountain in order to learn patience.
Eventually Monkey is released by the monk Tripitaka, who has been tasked to undertake a pilgrimage from China to India to fetch holy scriptures. The pair soon recruit two former members of the Heavenly Host who were cast out and turned from angels to monsters, as a result of Monkey’s transgressions.
The pilgrims face many perils and antagonists both human and supernatural. Monkey, Sandy, and Pigsy are often called upon to battle demons, monsters, and bandits, despite Tripitaka’s constant call for peace.
Despite all the battling demons and fighting the episodes each end with a moral lesson explained in the voice-over at the end of each episode.