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Monkey Lives!

A Superhero Tale of China

Retold by Aaron Shepard

Reader’s Theater Edition #37 ~ Team Version

Adapted for reader’s theater (or readers theatre) by the author, from his mini-novel The Monkey King: A Superhero Tale of China, Skyhook Press, 2008

For more reader’s theater, visit Aaron Shepard’s RT Page at www.aaronshep.com.

Story copyright © 2005, 2008 Aaron Shepard. Script copyright © 2005 Aaron Shepard. Scripts in this series are free and may be copied, shared, and performed for any noncommercial purpose, except the texts may not be posted publicly without permission.

PREVIEW: Monkey is taken off to the land of death—but not for long.

GENRE: Epics, fantasy
CULTURE: Chinese
THEME: Bureaucracy
READER AGES: 10 and up
LENGTH: 5 minutes

READER 1—Narrator
READER 2—Monkey
READER 3—Horse Face, Yama
READER 4—Ox Head, (Clerk)

NOTES: Monkey is the most popular figure in all Chinese literature, loved for centuries by young people and adults alike. His story is found in a classic sixteenth-century novel, The Journey to the West, as well as in countless later adaptations, from Chinese opera to comic books.

All special features are at www.aaronshep.com/extras.

NARRATOR:  If you think Superman or Spiderman has been around a long time, think about Monkey. He has been China’s favorite superhero for at least five centuries. He’s amazingly strong, he can fly, and he has a few tricks those other superheroes never heard of. And he’s always ready to do battle with demons, dragons—sometimes even the gods.

Monkey stars in The Journey to the West, an epic comic fantasy from the sixteenth century. The part retold here is about how Monkey is taken off to the land of death—but not for long!

* * *

NARRATOR:  On the surface of the Eastern Sea, not far from the Dragon King’s palace, Monkey landed lightly on a barren rock that jutted above the waves. Stretching himself out on it, he yawned and then studied the sky.

MONKEY:  Now that I’m an Immortal, I think I’ll fly up to Heaven and become a god as well. But that’s all after a good nap.

NARRATOR:  He closed his eyes and quickly drifted into sleep.

All at once Monkey felt himself jerked to his feet.

MONKEY:  Huh . . . ?!

NARRATOR:  Two men were clutching his elbows. One man had the face of a horse, the other had the head of an ox.

Horse Face held an official document, which he studied closely.

HORSE FACE:  (in a horse‑like voice) Is your name Monkey?

MONKEY:  (in a daze) That’s right.

OX HEAD:  (in an ox‑like voice) All right, get moving!

NARRATOR:  They started to drag him off. Stumbling once, Monkey happened to glance back. There he saw himself, still lying on the ground!

MONKEY:  (in confusion) What . . . ?!

NARRATOR:  They rounded the rock and started across a desolate plain. The sea was nowhere in sight.

MONKEY:  (still in a daze) Where is this? And how did I get here?

HORSE FACE:  (snorts; sarcastically, to OX HEAD) He wants to know how he got here!

OX HEAD:  (to MONKEY, derisively) You got here the same way as everyone!

NARRATOR:  After a while they came to the wall of a city. Above the gate was an iron placard with characters inlaid in gold.


MONKEY:  (in alarm, coming fully awake and starting to resist) Land of Darkness?! But that’s the realm of Yama, Lord of the Dead! I don’t belong here!

HORSE FACE:  (sarcastically) That’s what they all say!

MONKEY:  But I’m an Immortal! I’ve gone beyond death!

OX HEAD:  (derisively) Tell it to the judge!

MONKEY:  (indignantly) All right, I will!

NARRATOR:  Monkey snatched his staff from its hiding place in his ear.

MONKEY:  (to staff) Grow!

NARRATOR:  . . . and in half a moment he was swinging five feet of it.

HORSE FACE:  (in terror) We didn’t mean it!

NARRATOR:  . . . cried Horse Face, fleeing through the gate.

OX HEAD:  (in terror) Can’t you take a joke?

NARRATOR:  . . . said Ox Head, racing after.

Monkey followed them in, still swinging his staff. The demons of the city were terrified, and not one of them dared get in his way. By the time Monkey reached the Palace of Darkness, Lord Yama was waiting on the steps.

YAMA:  (nervously) Sir, what seems to be the trouble?

MONKEY:  (indignantly) The trouble? The trouble is you’ve brought me here!

YAMA:  (placatingly) But sir, I assure you, you will be judged fairly and punished—I mean, re‑educated—strictly according to your past deeds. Then when the evil you’ve done has been avenged—I mean, corrected—you’ll be returned to the Land of Light for a brand new life.

MONKEY:  I don’t want to be reborn! I don’t want to die in the first place! Don’t you realize I’m an Immortal?

YAMA:  (in consternation) An Immortal! There must be some mistake!

MONKEY:  Exactly! I demand to see the Register of Life and Death.

NARRATOR:  Yama led him into the Hall of Darkness, where a clerk dragged out several musty volumes. Monkey searched till he found his name.

MONKEY:  (demanding while holding up a hand for it) Writing brush!

NARRATOR:  . . . and the clerk gave him one dipped in ink. Monkey blotted his name from the register.

MONKEY:  That should do it.

YAMA:  (protesting) This is most irregular!

MONKEY:  Tell it to the judge!

NARRATOR:  He slammed the book shut and rushed out. Then he made his way back to the city wall, swinging his staff as he went.

Just outside the gate, Monkey tripped and fell rolling. When he opened his eyes, he was back on the rock in the Eastern Sea.

MONKEY:  Wonderful!

NARRATOR:  . . . cried Monkey as he jumped to his feet.

MONKEY:  Next stop, Heaven!

All special features are at www.aaronshep.com/extras.

Book cover: The Monkey King
Read the book!

The Monkey King
A Superhero Tale of China
Retold from The Journey to the West

By Aaron Shepard

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