All about monkeys
The monkey tales have been favourite narratives down the centuries.
Children as well as adults have had fascinating relations between the
humans and the primates known as the monkey or vanara in the orient.
This has also resulted in some of the rituals connected with the monkey
legends. Humans have gone to the extent of venerating monkeys as gods.
One such example comes from the monkey named Hanuma who appears in the
myth and legend of India and featured as a demi god for his bravery in
the folklore of the Orient. A Chinese book titled as ‘The Monkey’ was
translated to English by the well-known poet and scholar Arthur Waley,
during the fifties. Most legends revolving in the word of mouth
traditions have seeped into religious and historical sources.
Thus, most legends and tales in the Orient have stemmed from the epic
poem called Mahabharatha. The greatness of monkeys is sensitively
featured in Jataka legends. Two examples come to my mind. They are Maha
Kapi Jataka and Maha Vanarinda Jataka, where the would be Buddha was
born as a noble monkey, the Bodhisatva, who had been instrumental in
saving the lives of his kith and kin from evil humans as well as devils.
Nalapana jataka features a monkey who had used a bamboo reed to draw
water from a pond infested by a devil who wanted to devour the monkeys,
who come to use the pond for their requirements.
All these factors flooded into my mind as I was reading the
translation of Dr Leel Gunasekara’s children’s book titled ‘Buhutige
Nedeyo’ in the original Sinhala which appeared in a children’s
newspaper, ‘Yahalu’(edited by Talangama Premadasa) some years ago, and
later turned to be a beautiful Sinhala book with illustrations.
This book is now published as ‘Buhuti’s Relations’ (Dayawansa
jayakody 2011) to mark the international children’s day in English. The
English translation is by Vipuli Gunasekara who lives in England.
I felt it as having added value in the experience of reading as the
narrative envelopes most of the subtle and humane teachings of the
Buddha, greatly in demand and in need today. The little monkey named
Buhuti, like a human child, comes to know of the worldly matters through
the wonderful world of socialization, to use a high-flown term, through
his parents who in turn teach him the environmental factors of living in
a world of differing ideas, ideologies and experiences. Buhuti is
trained to be calm and quiet at moments that it deserves and be patient
perhaps forgiving some of the in human activities of the humans. He is
trained to listen to good words that pacify the minds of the others. The
activities of the humans like the social links addressing each other
taking into account the ranks and Buhuti gradually perceives status as
significant common factors.
The household matters like the links that exist between the rats and
cats and why humans harass monkeys and other areas of interest are
brought to the forefront, as if a child listens a story from his/her
storyteller relations in the by gone days.
Pimma is the name of the father and the name of the mother is Sudee.
They are more like the humans who so protect their children from
disasters. Gunapala is the human who listens to the monkey family, or
the voice of the monkey representation, which is the strongest link
between the two groups.
All in all, Buhuti the little monkey gradually learns, like a human
child, that kindness and non violence may bring a better state of living
as against the inhuman evil state of living full of unhappiness. With
thirty small episodes, packed with ‘human- monkey’ narratives, the
author attempts to draw a picture of the factors connected with the
aspects of living in a better environment and the need to understand the
very value of existence wherever one lives.
The child and the adult who reads this flimsy work either in the
original or in the translation may find that the creative attempt on the
part of the original writer is pure and serene. The intention of writing
this work is clearly mentioned as promoting kindness to all to protect
the environment. The joy of living depends on the good understanding of
the environmental factors such as the protection of trees, fruits
flowers birds, beasts, water, air and other factors connected with the
marvel of living in harmony.
The little monkey realizes that even as a monkey he has to perceive
these basic factors instinctively and conversely a child, needless to
say, intelligently and in turn they have to be understood by his nearest
relationships in the sphere of humans who abound the areas of living. So
the narrative at its height shows that the monkey family leaves the
areas of humans as the latter caused by some troubles are forced to
leave the human habitat, but as time goes on, they have to return, as
the humans have felt sorry for their own misdeeds and pacified the
This ‘return of the monkeys’ is the high point in the narrative which
makes the reader feel that better understanding of two groups could
bring about better living conditions . Like the little monkey, a little
child also could learn about his environment via the pages of this book.
There is a sense of identification between the human and the monkey as
it is narrated.
The little monkey Buhuti is no other creature than the little son of
a human being whom we would prefer to grow up and live in a human frame
of mind. ‘Buhuti’s Relations’ is a book translated into simple English
as spoken in our own country.
There are a few flaws which could be eliminated in future prints,
which could help bridge a better relationship between the readership and
creativity of the local literary scene. I would rather prefer to have
used the title of the book as ‘Buhuti’s Relatives’ as the term
‘relatives’ has a better connotation than ‘relations’. Relatives may
mean ‘kinsmen’ but relations may mean just links.
Anyway, the translators differ from each other in their expressions.
This I feel is a good tribute to the child in Sri Lanka, as his/her
sphere of knowledge on the allied subjects like social sciences is
growing wider and wider as new subjects intersperse both at the school
level and at the other levels of gathering information in the process of
maturing . As a common reader, I felt that a child too can come to
understand matters around him or her by being more observant and
imaginative like the little monkey Buhuti.