English 121 M
February 9, 2004
Evidence of The Fantasy Theme
In Wu Che'eng-en's Monkey
"I shall say good-bye to you, go down the mountain, wander like a
cloud to the corners of the sea, far away to the end of the world, till I
have found... three kinds of Immortal. From them I will learn how to be
young forever and escape the doom of death" (Che'eng-En, 13).
This quote was said by the Monkey King, who is the main character of
the story. He is talking to his followers in their Cave of the Water
Curtain after realizing that one day, he will inevitably fall victim to
Yama, the King of Death. He becomes frightened and everyone around him
weeps for their own mortality. Another monkey speaks up of those who live
on the Earth who live immortally: Buddhas, Immortals and Sages.
King decides to find these immortals and learn the secrets of eternal
youth.I chose this quote to begin with because I believe it embodies the
central theme of fantasy in Monkey. It speaks of immortality and a
whimsical journey to the ends of the earth. In this quote, The Monkey King
tells his followers of his plans to wander like a cloud. The quote also
describes Death as if it were something one could escape. All of these
things are rooted strongly in fantastic ideas.
In Chapter XIV of the story, the character of Tripitaka comes across
an old woman carrying a brocaded coat and embroidered cap. She teaches him
a spell to help Tripitaka control his runaway disciple. She tells Tripitaka
that 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 that
the disciple will "give no more trouble and never dare to leave
Tripitaka" again (Ch'eng-En, 22). Then the old woman changed into a shaft
of golden light and disappeared to the east. Tripitaka guessed then that
she must be the Bodhisattva Kuan-yin in disguise.
This scene in the story is obviously very fantastic. Magic is a
classic tool in fantasy literature. From Medieval Merlin to The Wizard of
Oz, magic has been an effective rhetorical device that captures its
audience with alluring possibilities and dark enchantment. This is a
perfect example of what magic can do for a story line.
It also serves as a
sister strategy to "deus ex machina" in the fact that both can sometimes
serve as an easy way out of a rock and a hard place. When realistic
solutions cannot be found, magic and divine intervention are useful
explanations for an author's "cop-out." However, easy way out or not, this
scene and its magic successfully carry on the theme of Fantasy in the
story.In Chapter XVI, the character of Hog undergoes a drastic change.
appearance begins to morph dramatically and fantasy takes over. His nose
"began to turn into a regular snout, his ears became larger and larger, and
great 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 fantasy
in fiction. For example, in Greek mythology, the God Zeus turns one of his
mortal lovers, Iio, into a white cow to protect her from Hera.
many 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 in
Monkey. The entire work is even considered a romance piece because of its
deep roots in the genre of fantasy. Some say fantasy is childish.
Wu Ch'eng-En successfully creates a story where fantasy blends with legend