Fuse #8

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Monkey King Mana

As much as I loved today's Review of the Day, I still contest that American Born Chinese is the smartest graphic novel put out for kids this year. There's a fascinating article by its author Gene Yang on the First Second blog in which he discusses how he changed the original Monkey King fable from an essentially Buddhist tale to a Christian one. I was unaware of this switch, though I've certainly read enough Monkey King stories in my day. His justification to a Buddhist friend was especially interesting to me.

I’ve read that many scholars believe the Monkey King himself was derived from Hanuman, a Hindu monkey-god. The original author (or authors – no one really knows for sure) of The Journey to the West took the Hindu source material (perhaps without knowing it) and used it for his (or their) own religious purposes. Furthermore, coincidence or not, this trickster monkey deity is echoed in religions and mythologies all over the world.

So in a very real sense, the Monkey King is universal. He’s been around a long, long time, and I think he’s sturdy enough to follow us wherever we go, to embody whatever philosophies and beliefs we arrive at.
Food for thought in any case. I'd be interested in any opinions of anyone else who has read American Born Chinese.

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