History of the Winged Monkeys
The Winged Monkeys are one of the most memorable creatures in MGM’s 1939 film, The Wizard of Oz. While this has contributed nightmare fuel to more than one generation, the silent monkeys of that film bear little character resemblance to the nuanced race of creatures in the original novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
The Winged Monkeys play a much more important role in the history of Oz than you have been led to believe. In many respects, the Winged Monkeys brought the Hidden History of Oz to light.
Dorothy destroyed the Wicked Witch of the West. She found the Golden Cap in a cupboard. They headed back toward the Emerald City but got lost. Dorothy recited the incantation written on the inside of the Golden Cap.
Obeying the enchantment, the Winged Monkeys appeared and informed Dorothy that she now had three opportunities to command them. She asked them to convey their group to Emerald City.
As When the Winged Monkeys carried Dorothy and her friends back to the Emerald City, the king told their story.
“Once,” began the leader, “we were a free people, living happily in the great forest, flying from tree to tree, eating nuts and fruit, and doing just as we pleased without calling anybody master … This was many years ago, long before Oz came out of the clouds to rule over this land.
“My grandfather was at that time the King of the Winged Monkeys which lived in the forest near Gayelette’s palace, and the old fellow loved a joke better than a good dinner.
Nothing is ever as simple as our grandparents had it. To hear their stories, everything was either sunshine and lollipops or five miles to school in the snow, uphill both ways. Strangely enough, the complications of life tend to be forgotten in the romanticizing of previous ages.
The Monkey King continues,
One day, just before the wedding, my grandfather was flying out with his band when he saw Quelala walking beside the river. He was dressed in a rich costume of pink silk and purple velvet, and my grandfather thought he would see what he could do. At his word the band flew down and seized Quelala, carried him in their arms until they were over the middle of the river, and then dropped him into the water.
“‘Swim out, my fine fellow,’ cried my grandfather, `and see if the water has spotted your clothes.’ Quelala was much too wise not to swim, and he was not in the least spoiled by all his good fortune. He laughed … But when Gayelette came running out to him she found his silks and velvet all ruined by the river.
“The princess was angry, and she knew, of course, who did it. She had all the Winged Monkeys brought before her, and she said at first that their wings should be tied and they should be treated as they had treated Quelala, and dropped in the river.
Threat of Extinction
Gayelette condemns the entire tribe of Winged Monkeys to death for their prank. In a justifiably desperate situation, the monkeys pleaded for their very existence.
But my grandfather pleaded hard, for he knew the Monkeys would drown in the river with their wings tied, and Quelala said a kind word for them also; so that Gayelette finally spared them, on condition that the Winged Monkeys should ever after do three times the bidding of the owner of the Golden Cap.
A Welcome Enslavement
Here enters the Golden Cap. It is a powerful symbol to the Winged Monkeys, but just how powerful is it? The Winged Monkeys are beholden thrice to the possessor of it, but what more is there?
This Cap had been made for a wedding present to Quelala, and it is said to have cost the princess half her kingdom. Of course my grandfather and all the other Monkeys at once agreed to the condition, and that is how it happens that we are three times the slaves of the owner of the Golden Cap, whosoever he may be.”
There is the story, straight from the monkey’s mouth, of how they came to be slaves to the possessor of the Golden Cap.
The Golden Cap
Here we learn that the Golden Cap was created for a wedding present and cost half of Gayelette’s kingdom. So the Golden Cap was not created to enslave the monkeys. It was created for another purpose. Here is another question, just how many possessors has the Golden Cap had?
“And what became of them?” asked Dorothy, who had been greatly interested in the story.
“Quelala being the first owner of the Golden Cap,” replied the Monkey, “he was the first to lay his wishes upon us. As his bride could not bear the sight of us, he called us all to him in the forest after he had married her and ordered us always to keep where she could never again set eyes on a Winged Monkey, which we were glad to do, for we were all afraid of her.
“This was all we ever had to do until the Golden Cap fell into the hands of the Wicked Witch of the West, who made us enslave the Winkies, and afterward drive Oz himself out of the Land of the West. Now the Golden Cap is yours, and three times you have the right to lay your wishes upon us.”
(all quotes from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, chapter 13, The Winged Monkeys)
The Golden Cap had two owners before Dorothy. That seems a little bit too easy to this writer. History is never that peaceful. Could the grandfather monkey have left out some details?
Note that the Monkey King tells Dorothy that his “grandfather” was the one who dumped Quelala in the river. How long does a monkey live? Some chimpanzees and gorillas have lifespans about as long as a human. Smaller monkeys have shorter lives. So it is very plausible that the established timeline of 48-60 years previous to Dorothy’s trip, the Winged Monkeys could have been brought down into slavery.
Silver and Gold
Considering that the Silver Shoes in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz contained a very powerful charm, it is interesting that Glinda the Good was more concerned about getting her hands on the Golden Cap than on the Silver Shoes. We’ll explore that concept in another post.
Here’s what we know – the Winged Monkeys were enslaved by Gayelette. They were bound by magic to serve the possessor of the Golden Cap and answer to three requests. Glinda freed them from their slavery after she obtained the Golden Cap from Glinda. She made good on her promise.
Discover this and much more in The Witch Queens of Oz, the astounding prequel to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. You will learn more than you ever thought possible about the history of Oz. Coming soon.