Once there was an old man and woman who were very rich but very stingy. Like many rich Hong Kong people, they had a domestic helper, who they worked to the bone. The helper would have to go to the market three times a day, as well as cook, wash, iron and clean. She even had to massage the old woman's feet for two hours after dinner.
The helper worked very hard and always tried her best to please but the old man and woman were never satisfied. They only gave her scraps to eat. Dinner, for example, was the few rice kernels stuck on the rice cooker she scrubbed clean every night.
Fortunately, the gods noticed how badly the helper was being treated and sent someone down from heaven to intervene. The girl was eating her rice one night when the doorbell rang. "Please give me something to eat or I will die," said a beggar.
The kind-hearted helper gave the beggar the few rice kernals on her plate.
"Thank you," said the beggar. "To reward you, here is a cloth. Wash your face with it twice a day."
The helper did just that.
Day by day, the cloth worked its magic and the helper grew prettier and prettier.
It goes without saying that the old woman was very jealous. She asked the helper her secret and when the girl told her, she seized the cloth, saying, "I'll have that."
The helper protested but to no avail.
That afternoon, the couple used the cloth to wash their faces.
"What's that?" said the old woman, looking in the mirror.
"Oh no!" said the old man, rubbing his face.
Their bodies were sprouting long black hairs. They looked just like...well, you know.
That night, they caught the first plane to the jungle.
This story is a Hong Kong version of a Chinese folk tale called How the Miser Turned into a Monkey, published in the collection 明清童話明清童話by 北新書局北新书in 1933.
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