Saturday, June 13, 2015

Oh my goodness, my oh my! Monkeys that can fly!

Well, the second unique creatures in Oz we ran into were the famous Winged Monkeys. Or Flying Monkeys. Whichever you want to call them. They wound up with alternate names over the years. Some credit MGM's The Wizard of Oz with the latter, except that the monkeys are never referred to in dialogue as "winged" or "flying." (It was visual. You saw the wings, you got the point.) And then they got parodied in all sorts of media throughout the years.

One such parody provided the title of this entry: an episode of Eek! The Cat had a strange musical fantasy episode that featured a flying dog character that was referred to as a monkey. At one point, Eek! sings "Oh my goodness, my oh my! Monkeys that can fly!" Or something like that. I saw it once years ago.

When we first meet the Winged Monkeys in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, they appear to be another one of the malicious forces of the Wicked Witch of the West. But were they? She uses them as her final hand in trying to stop Dorothy and her friends from reaching her. So, were the wolves, crows and bees who met their fates at the hands of Dorothy's friends possibly also not evil? Uh-oh...

The Wicked Witch has to use the Golden Cap to summon the Winged Monkeys, but its origins are not explained until later. We are only told that she's used it twice already and she's only used it now because it's the final card in her hand. Furthermore, she must use a charm and strange gestures while using the cap.

The Winged Monkeys who attend to the business they're summoned to appear to be adult, and we are not told that they are male and female, so perhaps when the Winged Monkeys are summoned, it only summons adult males to do the possibly dangerous work.

We are told that the Wicked Witch of the West used the Cap to command the Winged Monkeys three times: once to enslave the people of Winkie Country, and again to drive the Wizard out of the western country. The final time was to kill Dorothy and her friends, except the Lion, who the Witch wanted brought to her. The monkeys tore apart the Scarecrow and battered the Tin Woodman on sharp rocks. They could not harm Dorothy thanks to the Good Witch of the North's kiss, so they brought her and Toto to the Witch.

Perhaps the Winged Monkeys thought they could enjoy some semblance of freedom as they likely thought the Wicked Witch would never give the Golden Cap away, and they likely weren't expecting Dorothy to actually kill her. So with the Wicked Witch's command over them exhausted, they'd never have to answer to anyone else again!

Well, that actually wasn't the case. Dorothy did kill the Witch and happened to take the Golden Cap with her. Somehow, the Queen of the Field Mice was familiar with the Golden Cap and advised Dorothy to use it to get to the Emerald City quickly. The Monkeys willingly answered Dorothy's command and on the way, the king told Dorothy of the history of the Golden Cap: in his grandfather's time, the Winged Monkeys threw the fiance of the sorceress Gayelette into a river on his wedding day, ruining his clothes. Gayelette was so enraged that she almost had the Winged Monkeys killed, but when the King pleaded with her, she agreed to make them have to answer the summons of the owner of a Golden Cap three times per owner.

What the King didn't say is how the Wicked Witch of the West got the Golden Cap. Pretty much all fan theories say that she stole it.

Dorothy would summon the Winged Monkeys twice more: once when she asked them to carry her to Kansas (which they could not do), and again to get them over the hill of the Hammerheads as she and her friends journeyed to Glinda. (Some adaptations have the monkeys carry them the rest of the way, others mix Dorothy's last two commands and have them carry her to Glinda from the Emerald City.) Glinda had Dorothy give her the Golden Cap in return for information on how to get home, promising to have them send her friends to their new homes and then give the Golden Cap to the Monkeys to assure their freedom.

In The Marvelous Land of Oz, the Scarecrow says that Glinda commands the services of the Winged Monkeys, so either Glinda had a trick up her sleeve or they pledged their services to her in return for giving them their freedom. Most fans would like to think the latter.

The Winged Monkeys don't turn up again the Famous Forty Oz books, but they have in some fan works. The Marvelous Monkeys of Oz and their sequels have the Winged Monkeys with an actual kingdom, while Dennis Anfuso's The Winged Monkeys of Oz just has them live in the northern forests.


Nathan said...

David Hulan's "The Gauds of Oz" addressed the issue of how the Wicked Witch obtained the Golden Cap, with Gayelette trading it back to the jeweler who made it, and the Witch trading a rare gem to the jeweler.

Eric said...

I think it was brought up in the Russian "Magic Land" books that Dorothy and her friends could have used the Cap more than three times. All it would need would be for the Scarecrow to then use it, and the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion, for a total of twelve time!