A monkey king risks his life to save his simian clan in this adapted version of a Jataka tale.
Viswanath adds characters and details to the ancient original but subtracts some violence. Ignoring his king Kapi’s instruction to keep mangoes from falling into the river, Korung, “a mean and unhappy monkey,” lets one of the sweet fruits float off to be discovered by the king of Benares. That king leads a party upriver to locate the mango tree—and when he orders his archers to shoot the noisy monkeys in its branches, Kapi makes a bridge of his own body to allow his people to escape. Korung maliciously jumps on Kapi’s back, but the admiring king of Benares has the injured hero nursed back to health. In the end, remorseful Korung is forgiven, and the two wise kings go off to rule their respective kingdoms long and well. Reflecting several local traditions (identified in an appended note), Krishnaswamy mixes brightly colored figures and white-on-black silhouettes in her painted illustrations. Though stylized, they are anything but static; the monkeys, drawn with human limbs and proportions, not only display wide eyes and lively postures and expressions, but range in color from green to purple to black.
Monkey is often cast as a trickster in Asian folklore: Here he comes off as both wise and courageous. (afterword) (Picture book/folk tale. 6-8)