12 Chonguita

There was a king who had three sons, named Pedro, Diego, and Juan. One day the king ordered these three gentlemen to set out from the kingdom and seek their fortunes. The three brothers took different directions, but before they separated they agreed to meet in a certain place in the forest.

After walking for many days, Don Juan met an old man on the road. This old man gave Don Juan bread, and told him to go to a palace which was a mile away. “But as you enter the gate,” said the old man, “you must divide the bread which I have given you among the monkeys which are guarding the gate to the palace; otherwise you will not be able to enter.”

Don Juan took the bread; and when he reached the palace, he did as the old man had advised him. After entering the gate, he saw a big monkey. Frightened at the sight of the animal, Don Juan was about to tun away, when the animal called to him, and said, “Don Juan, I know that your purpose in coming here was to find your fortune; and at this very moment my daughter Chonguita will marry you.” The archbishop of the monkeys was called, and Don Juan and Chonguita were married without delay.

A few days afterwards Don Juan asked permission from his wife to go to the place where he and his brothers had agreed to meet. When Chonguita’s mother heard that Don Juan was going away, she said to him, “If you are going away, take Chonguita with you.” Although Don Juan was ashamed to go with Chonguita because she was a monkey, he was forced to take her, and they set out together. When Don Juan met his two brothers and their beautiful wives at the appointed place, he could not say a word. Don Diego, noticing the gloomy appearance of his brother, said, “What is the matter with you? Where is your wife, Don Juan?”

Don Juan sadly replied, “Here she is.”

“Where?” asked Don Pedro.

“Behind me,” replied Don Juan.

When Don Pedro and Don Diego saw the monkey, they were very much surprised. “Oh!” exclaimed Don Pedro, “what happened to you? Did you lose your head?”

Don Juan could say nothing to this question. At last, however, he broke out, “Let us go home! Our father must be waiting for us.” So saying, Don Juan turned around and began the journey. Don Pedro and Don Diego, together with their wives, followed Don Juan. Chonguita walked by her husband’s side.

When the return of the three brothers was announced to the king, the monarch hastened to meet them on the stairs. Upon learning that one of his sons had married a monkey, the king fainted; but after he had recovered his senses, he said to himself, “This misfortune is God’s will. I must therefore bear it with patience.” The king then assigned a house to each couple to live in.

But the more the king thought of it, the greater appeared to be the disgrace that his youngest son had brought on the family. So one day he called his three sons together, and said to them, “Tell your wives that I want each one of them to make me an embroidered coat. The one who falls to do this within three days will be put to death.” Now, the king issued this order in the hope that Chonguita would be put to death, because he thought that she would not be able to make the coat; but his hope was disappointed. On the third day his daughters-in-law presented to him the coats that they had made, and the one embroidered by Chonguita was the prettiest of all.

Still anxious to get rid of the monkey-wife, the king next ordered his daughters-in-law to embroider a cap for him in two days, under penalty of death in case of failure. The caps were all done on time.

At last, thinking of no other way by which he could accomplish his end, the king summoned his three daughters-in-law, and said, “The husband of the one who shall be able to draw the prettiest picture on the walls of my chamber within three days shall succeed me on the throne.” At the end of the three days the pictures were finished. When the king went to inspect them, he found that Chonguita’s was by far the prettiest, and so Don Juan was crowned king.

A great feast was held in the palace in honor of the new king. In the midst of the festivities Don Juan became very angry with his wife for insisting that he dance with her, and he hurled her against the wall. At this brutal action the hall suddenly became dark; but after a while it became bright again, and Chonguita had been transformed into a beautiful woman.


A Visayan variant of this story, though differing from it in many details, is the story of the “Three Brothers,” printed in JAFL 20 : 91–93.

A number of Indian Märchen seem to be related more or less closely to our story. Benfey cites one (1 : 261) which appears in the “Asiatic Journal” for 1833.

Some princes are to obtain their wives by this device: each is to shoot an arrow; and where the arrow strikes, there will each find his bride. The arrow of the youngest hits a tamarind-tree; he is married to it, but his bride turns out to be a female monkey. However, he lives happily with her, but she never appears at his father’s court. The sisters-in-law are curious to know what kind of wife he has. They persuade the father-in-law to give a least for all his sons’ wives. The prince is grieved over the fact that the secret will come out. Then his wife comforts him; she lays off her monkey covering, and appears as a marvellously beautiful maiden. She enjoins him to preserve the monkey-skin carefully, since otherwise great danger threatens her; but he, in order to keep her in her present beautiful human form, burns the hide while she is at the feast. She disappears instantly. The prince seeks her again, and at last discovers her in heaven as the queen of the monkeys. There he remains with her.

In a Simla tale, “The Story of Ghose” (Dracott, 40 f.), the animal is a squirrel, which is finally changed by the god Mahadeo into a human being, after the little creature has performed many services for her husband. Somewhat analogous, also, is Maive Stokes, “The Monkey Prince” (No. x, p. 41 ff.). Compare also the notes to our No. 19 and Benfey’s entire discussion of “The Enchanted Son of the Brahman” (1 : 254–269).

These forms are not close enough to our version, however, to justify our tracing it directly to any one of them. Both it and the Visayan variant are members of the European cycle of tales represented by Grimm’s “Three Feathers” (No. 63). The skeleton outline of this family group Bolte and Polívka construct as follows (2 : 37):—

A father wishes to test the skill of his three sons (or their wives), and requests that they produce extraordinary or costly articles. The despised youngest son wins the reward with the help of an enchanted princess in the form of a cat, rat, frog, lizard, monkey, or as a doll, or night-cap, or stocking. At last she regains her human form. The disenchantment is sometimes accomplished by a kiss, or by beheading, or by the hero’s enduring for three nights in silence the blows of spirits.

In only two of the variants cited by Bolte-Polívka (to Grimm, No. 63) is the animal wife a monkey,—Comparetti, No. 58, “Le Scimmie;” and Von Hahn, No. 67, “Die Aeffin.” Of these, only the Greek story resembles our tale; but here the similarities are so many, that I will summarize briefly the main points of Von Hahn’s version:—

An old king once called his three sons to him, and said, “My sons, I am old; I should like to have you married, so that I may celebrate your wedding with you before I die. Therefore each of you are to shoot an arrow into the air, and to follow its course, for there each will find what is appointed for him.” The eldest shot first: his arrow carried him to a king’s daughter, whom he married. The second obtained a prince’s daughter. But the arrow of the third stuck in a dung-hill. He dug a hole in it, and came to a marble slab, which, when raised, disclosed a flight of stairs leading down. Courageously he descended, and came to a cellar in which a lot of monkeys were sitting in a circle. The mother of the monkeys approached him, and asked him what he wanted. He answered, that, according to the flight of his arrow, he was destined to have a monkey-wife. “Choose one for yourself,” she said. “Here sit my maids; there, my daughters.” He selected one, and took her back to his father. His brothers, however, ridiculed him.

After a time the eldest son asked the king to divide up his kingdom, as he was already old and was likely to die. “I’ll give you three tasks,” said the king to his sons. “The one who performs them best shall be king.” The first count was to be won by the son whose house forty days thence was cleanest and most beautifully adorned. The youngest son was very sad when inspection-time approached. “Why so sad?” said his wife. He told her; and she said to him on the morning of the last day, “Go to my mother, and ask her for a hazel-nut and an almond.” He did so. When the time for inspection arrived, the monkey-wife cracked the hazel-nut and drew from it a diamond covering for the whole house. From the almond she drew a very [248]beautiful carpet for the king to walk on. Youngest son won the first count, naturally. The second task was to furnish the king with fresh fruits in the winter-time. The two oldest sons were unable to get any, but the youngest son got a fine supply from the monkeys’ garden under the dunghill. The third count was to be won by the son whose wife should be declared the most beautiful at a feast to be given ten days thence. The monkey-wife sent her husband again for an almond, a hazel-nut, two stallions, and five servants. When he returned with them, she cracked the almond and drew from it a magnificent dress for herself. From the hazelnut she drew her own beauty, and handsome equipment for her husband. When she was arrayed, she rode into the courtyard of the king, and tried to escape without being recognized; but the king was too quick for her: she was caught, and her husband was declared the final winner. He became king when his father died.

This Greek story can hardly have any immediate relationship with “Chonguita,” though it does appear in its first half to be connected with the 1833 Indian Märchen given above. Our story, it will be noticed, lacks the shooting of arrows, so characteristic of the European forms; it mentions the monkey-kingdom to which the youngest prince was directed by an old man, and where Chonguita is forced on him; it represents the king as requiring his daughters-in-law to perform difficult tasks because he wishes to find an excuse for putting to death the animal-wife. Moreover, the three tasks themselves are different, although the first two are reminiscent of some found in the Occidental versions. For the third I know of no folk-tale parallel. On the whole, I am prone to believe that our story was not imported from Europe, but that it belongs to an Oriental branch of the family.

The disenchantment of the monkey-wife by hurling her in anger against the wall is exactly like the disenchantment of the frog-prince in Grimm, No. 1. This conceit is most unusual, and, it might be added, unreasonable. Hence this identity of detail in two stories so far removed in every other way is particularly striking. I know of no further occurrences of the incident.

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