The Old Woman and the Monkeys

An old woman lived in an old shack near Shing Mun. She grew a kind of banana called plaintains, which the local monkeys loved. While she napped, they would jump over her fence and eat them. Their hooting usually woke her up.

19. The Woman and the MonkeysBut one hot day, the old tai tai slept so soundly, she didn’t hear them. When she finally awoke, she waved a brush and shouted, “Shoo!”

But only three plantains remained. The old woman hobbled over to her plantain palm and picked them up. “I’m ruined!” she cried. “I’ve a plantain for breakfast, one for lunch, one for dinner, then tomorrow I starve.”

Her house was near a market and her wails alerted a trader. “Lao tai tai, why do you cry so?” he asked. When he heard her story, he gave her some mats. “Place them on your stairs tonight,” he said.

“Why should I do that?” cried the woman, as the trader went on his way.

Her cries alerted a haberdasher. When she heard about the monkeys, she gave the old woman some pins. “Scatter them in your mosquito net tonight,” she said.

“But why?” wailed the woman.

Her wails alerted a spice man. He gave the old woman some chillies, saying, “Rub your plaintains with chillis and sleep with them.”

The old woman thought the three people were quite mad. But before she slept, she did exactly what they had told her.

That night, as expected, the monkeys stole through her window.

Ow! hooted a monkey who slipped and fell on the stair mats.

Oooww! hooted a monkey when the pins pricked his paws.

Only one monkey was left. He grabbed a plantain and bit it. Yuuuk! He spat it out, his mouth on fire with the chillies.

The monkeys never bothered the old woman again.

This story is a Hong Kong version of a Chinese folk tale called The Old Lady and the Monkeys, published in the collection 明清童話明清童話by 北新書局北新书in 1933.

Illustrated by Bianca Lesaca

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