In Wu Che’eng-en’s MonkeyEnglish 121 MResponse #2February 9, 2004″I shall say good-bye to you, go down the mountain, wander like acloud to the corners of the sea, far away to the end of the world, till Ihave found… three kinds of Immortal. From them I will learn how to beyoung forever and escape the doom of death” (Che’eng-En, 13).
This quote was said by the Monkey King, who is the main character ofthe story. He is talking to his followers in their Cave of the WaterCurtain after realizing that one day, he will inevitably fall victim toYama, the King of Death. He becomes frightened and everyone around himweeps for their own mortality.
Another monkey speaks up of those who liveon the Earth who live immortally: Buddhas, Immortals and Sages. The MonkeyKing decides to find these immortals and learn the secrets of eternalyouth.I chose this quote to begin with because I believe it embodies thecentral theme of fantasy in Monkey. It speaks of immortality and awhimsical journey to the ends of the earth. In this quote, The Monkey Kingtells his followers of his plans to wander like a cloud. The quote alsodescribes Death as if it were something one could escape. All of thesethings are rooted strongly in fantastic ideas.In Chapter XIV of the story, the character of Tripitaka comes acrossan old woman carrying a brocaded coat and embroidered cap.
She teaches hima spell to help Tripitaka control his runaway disciple. She tells Tripitakathat if he simply place the cap and coat on his disciple and say the spell,Tripitaka will no longer have problems with him. The old woman claims thatthe disciple will “give no more trouble and never dare to leaveTripitaka” again (Ch’eng-En, 22). Then the old woman changed into a shaftof golden light and disappeared to the east. Tripitaka guessed then thatshe must be the Bodhisattva Kuan-yin in disguise.This scene in the story is obviously very fantastic. Magic is aclassic tool in fantasy literature.
From Medieval Merlin to The Wizard ofOz, magic has been an effective rhetorical device that captures itsaudience with alluring possibilities and dark enchantment. This is aperfect example of what magic can do for a story line. It also serves as asister strategy to “deus ex machina” in the fact that both can sometimesserve as an easy way out of a rock and a hard place.
When realisticsolutions cannot be found, magic and divine intervention are usefulexplanations for an author’s “cop-out.” However, easy way out or not, thisscene and its magic successfully carry on the theme of Fantasy in thestory.In Chapter XVI, the character of Hog undergoes a drastic change. Hisappearance begins to morph dramatically and fantasy takes over. His nose”began to turn into a regular snout, his ears became larger and larger, andgreat bristles began to grow at the back of his neck” (Che’eng-En, 31).
This transformation from man to beast is another classic example of fantasyin fiction. For example, in Greek mythology, the God Zeus turns one of hismortal lovers, Iio, into a white cow to protect her from Hera. There aremany other examples of this strategy to emphasize fantasy in fiction.However, this particular one found in Monkey is a sufficient one.There are many other examples that support the theme of fantasy inMonkey.
The entire work is even considered a romance piece because of itsdeep roots in the genre of fantasy. Some say fantasy is childish. However,Wu Ch’eng-En successfully creates a story where fantasy blends with legendbeautifully.