Folktales for Kids - The Mischievous Monkey

 The Mischievous Monkey

In the forests of eastern Bhutan, there lived a monkey which was a constant source of trouble to the poor farmers. 'Tamasive', which in Bhutanese means 'naughty' was the name they gave him. Tamasive was always up to tricks. He would run off with the basket containing the farmer's food, scatter the seeds that were waiting to be sown and pinch the babies while their mothers were busy in the fields. There was no end to the mischief he made. One afternoon, at the beginning of the summer, while Tamasive was foraging around for something to eat, he came across an old man and an old woman who was working in a small field. Tamasive watched them from a distance, then after a while, he drew close and ventured to ask, "Pray, what are you two doing?" "That's a silly question," answered the old man. "Can't you see we are planting kewa ngam?" 

Kewa ngam is the Bhutanese name for sweet potato. People outside Bhutan have probably never heard of this name. But Tamasive was a Bhutanese monkey, and Kewa ngam happened to be one of his favorite delicacies. "That is not the way to plant those things," Tamasive suddenly observed. "What do you know about planting?" the old man, surprised at the monkey's remark, asked. Unfortunately, the old couple had never heard of Tamasive and his tricks. If they had, they would have been a little warier of him. "I know a lot," replied Tamasive. "There is a farmer in southern Bhutan who has a special way of planting, and he always has the best crop in the district." The old man was impressed. "Well, will you please tell me how it is done?" "Cook each piece of potato and then peel it and wrap it in fresh green leaves and then put it in the ground." The old man explained to his wife what Tamasive had just said. "Nonsense," reacted the old woman, "who has ever heard of anything being cooked before it is planted? This monkey is up to some trick!" "The trouble with you," grumbled the old man, "is that you never want to try anything new. Here is this farmer in southern Bhutan who has become rich by doing what I've just told you, and you don't listen to me!" He kept on chattering until the old woman relented. "All right," she said. "I am prepared to try anything once. You go and collect some fresh green leaves while I cook these."

So the old woman lit a fire in one corner of the field and put some water to boil in a pot. By the time the old man returned with the leaves the sweet potatoes had been cooked. Meanwhile, the monkey sat watching with satisfaction while his instructions were being carried out. Nobody noticed that he licked his lips. "Now," he told the old man when the sweet potatoes were ready and were cooling under a tree, "Peel them and let the good woman wrap each one separately in those green leaves." When all the sweet potatoes had been peeled and wrapped and lay ready to be planted, Tamasive began directing the old couple further. "Not too deep in the ground," he warned, "or they will rot. Another thing you must remember to mark each spot where the potatoes have been planted with a small piece of stick. In this way, you will have no difficulty in finding where they are when your crop has sprouted." "This monkey seems to know what he is talking about, don't you agree?" asked the old man. "Time alone will tell," replied his wife skeptically.

The old man grunted and went about his work planting the sweet potatoes according to the monkey's instructions. His wife plodded along behind him, wedging a small piece of stick to mark each spot. When they had covered about half the field the old woman happened to turn around and discovered that the monkey who had been following them, was enjoying a tasty meal. Most of the sweet potatoes they had planted had been dug up and eaten and the sticks and leaves lay scattered all over the field. "Look at that monkey," she screamed at her husband, "he has eaten all the potatoes we have planted." The old man was furious He chased Tamasive but the monkey was too quick for him. He ran to the nearest tree, which happened to be a guava tree, and there he sat, eating juicy ripe guava while he watched the old couple. The old woman waved her hand and shouted angrily, glaring up at him. The old man began to climb the tree. The higher Tamasive went the higher the old man climbed, until finally when Tamasive was almost on the topmost branch, the old man managed to catch hold of his leg and began to pull him down.

Tamasive began to cry, he knew the old man would not spare him once he had him on the ground. "Let me go," he begged. "I promise not to give you any more trouble. If you let me go I will work for you." "You cannot rely on the word of a monkey," grumbled the old woman. "He has caused us enough loss as it is." But the old man thought it was a good idea to put the mischievous monkey to work. They needed someone to keep an eye on the grain that was lying in the loft, the mice were forever attacking it. So they locked Tamasive in the loft with the grain, and they were back to planting their sweet potatoes in their old way. A few days later the old woman said, "I wonder what tricks that monkey is up to now. Old man, you had better go and see." The old man climbed reluctantly into the loft. He was astonished to find a grotesquely fat monkey sitting amongst what was left of the grain. "All our grain! You've eaten all our grain!" the old man shouted. "What will we eat this winter?" He picked up a sack and pushed the monkey, unceremoniously, head first, into it.

"Wife," he cried, as he carried the sack into the field where she was working. "I have that wicked monkey here in a sack. He has finished all our grain, so I've decided to kill him." "A good idea," agreed his wife, "He must be fat after eating all that grain. So we'll cook him and sell his flesh to those who eat monkey flesh." "We'll do that. Go and fetch the axe and sickle. We'll take him down to the spring where we can wash him after we have killed him!" By this time Tamasive was really frightened. He began to struggle and shout until the old man put the sack on the ground and asked him what was wrong. "If you want to kill me, old man. you will have to take me down to a place where there is plenty of water so that you can clean me up properly!" "What place would you suggest?" asked the old man. "Down by the river," came the reply. The river was quite a distance from their field. Nevertheless, the old man with the monkey inside the sack slung over his back, followed by the old woman, went along towards the river. It was a warm day, so the couple was tired by the time they reached the river. The old man threw the sack on the riverbank and lay down beside it while the old woman went to the river to drink some water. No sooner was the old woman's back turned than Tamasive jumped out of the sack and began to run. The old man ran after him, but Tamasive was much too smart for the old man. When he was near enough the monkey picked up some sand from the bank of the river and threw it in his eyes.

Then he ran and darted swiftly up a tree. Hearing the old man's cries, his wife came rushing back. "What's the matter?" she asked. "I can't see," he replied, "that monkey threw sand in my eyes. Where is he?" "He has climbed that tree," she said, pointing to the tree where the monkey sat. The old man groped his way towards the tree, and as he began to climb it, the old woman took the sack and held it open near the foot of the tree. "Throw that monkey down," shouted his wife, "this time I will see he does not escape." But when Tamasive saw the old man climbing the tree, he shook the tree and jumped to the ground, and ran into the forest. The old man, half-blinded by the sand in his eyes, tumbled from the tree and fell into the sack. The old woman whose eyesight was hardly better quickly tied the mouth of the sack with a bit of rope, then taking a thick stick she began to beat upon it. "Help!" shouted the voice from the sack. "This is your husband and not the monkey!" "You may not be the monkey," she retorted, "but you are most certainly responsible for all the trouble!" Of course, she stopped beating! No one really knows what happened to Tamasive. He was never seen again in eastern Bhutan. Perhaps he had grown too fat to do any more mischief.

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