Juan Wearing a Monkey’s Skin

This Filipino story was recorded in English based on a Kapampangan (Pampango, from the province of Pampanga) version in the early 20th century. There is also a Bicolano (Bikulano, from Bicol) version of this story.

Once upon a time there was a couple which was at first childless. The father was very anxious to have a son to inherit his property: so he went to the church daily, and prayed God to give him a child, but in vain. One day, in his great disappointment, the man exclaimed without thinking, “O great God! let me have a son, even if it is in the form of a monkey!” and only a few days later his wife gave birth to a monkey. The father was so much mortified that he wanted to kill his son; but finally his better reason prevailed, and he spared the child. He said to himself, “It is my fault, I know; but I uttered that invocation without thinking.” So, instead of putting the monkey to death, the couple just hid it from visitors; and whenever any one asked for the child, they merely answered, “Oh, he died long ago.”

The time came when the monkey grew to be old enough to marry. He went to his father, and said, “Give me your blessing, father, for I am going away to look for a wife.” The father was only too glad to be freed from this obnoxious son, so he immediately gave him his blessing. Before letting him go, however, the father said to the monkey, “You must never come back again to our house.”

“Very well, I will not,” said the monkey.

The monkey then left his father’s house, and went to find his fortune. One night he dreamed that there was a castle in the midst of the sea, and that in this castle dwelt a princess of unspeakable beauty. The princess had been put there so that no one might discover her existence. The monkey, who had been baptized two days after his birth and was named Juan, immediately repaired to the palace of the king. There he posted a letter which read as follows: “I, Juan, know that your Majesty has a daughter.”

Naturally the king was very angry to have his secret discovered. He immediately sent soldiers to look for Juan. Juan was soon found, and brought to the palace. The king said to him, “How do you know that I have a daughter? If you can bring her here, I will give her to you for a wife. If not, however, your head shall be cut off from your body.”

“O your Majesty!” said Juan, “I am sure that I can find her and bring her here. I am willing to lose my head if within three days I fail to fulfil my promise.” After he had said this, Juan withdrew, and sadly went out to look for the hidden princess.

As he was walking along the road, he heard the cry of a bird. He looked up, and saw a bird caught between two boughs so that it could not escape. The bird said to him, “O monkey, if you will but release me, I will give you all I have.”

“Oh, no!” said the monkey. “I am very hungry, and would much rather eat you.”

 “If you will but spare my life,” said the bird, “I will give you anything you want.”

“On one condition only will I set you free,” said the monkey. “You must procure for me the ring of the princess who lives in the midst of the sea.”

“Oh, that’s an easy thing to do,” said the bird. So the monkey climbed the tree and set the bird free.

The bird immediately flew to the island in the sea, where fortunately it found the princess refreshing herself in her garden. The princess was so charmed with the song of the bird, that she looked up, and said, “O little bird! if you will only promise to live with me, I will give you anything you want.”

“All right,” said the bird. “Give me your ring, and I will forever live with you.” The princess held up the ring; and the bird suddenly snatched it and flew away with it. It gave the ring to the monkey, who was, of course, delighted to get it.

Now the monkey jogged along the road until finally he saw three witches. He approached them, and said to them, “You are the very beings for whom I have spent the whole day looking. God has sent me here from heaven to punish you for your evil doings toward innocent persons. So I must eat you up.”

Now, witches are said to be afraid of ill-looking persons, although they themselves are the ugliest beings in all the world. So these three were terribly frightened by the monkey’s threat, and said, “O sir! spare our lives, and we will do anything for you !”

“Very well, I will spare you if you can execute my order. From this shore you must build a bridge which leads to the middle of the sea, where the castle of the princess is situated.”

“That shall be speedily done,” replied the witches; and they at once gathered leaves, which they put on their backs. Then they plunged into the water. Immediately after them a bridge was built. Thus the monkey was now able to go to the castle. Here he found the princess. She was very much surprised to see this evil-looking animal before her; but she was much more frightened when the monkey showed her the ring which the bird had given him, and claimed her for his wife. “It is the will of God that you should go with me,” said the monkey, after the princess had shown great repugnance towards him. “You either have to go with me or perish.” Thinking it was  useless to attempt to resist such a mighty foe, the princess finally yielded.

The monkey led her to the king’s palace, and presented her before her parents; but no sooner had the king and queen seen their daughter in the power of the beast, than they swooned. When they had recovered, they said simultaneously, “Go away at once, and never come back here again, you girl of infamous taste! Who are you? You are not the princess we left in the castle. You are of villain’s blood, and the very air which you exhale does suffocate us. So with no more ado depart at once!”

The princess implored her father to have pity, saying that it was the will of God that she should be the monkey’s wife. “Perhaps I have been enchanted by him, for I am powerless to oppose him.” But all her remonstrance was in vain. The king shut his ears against any deceitful or flattering words that might fall from the lips of his faithless and disobedient daughter. Seeing that the king was obstinate, the couple turned their backs on the palace, and decided to find a more hospitable home. So the monkey now took his wife to a neighboring mountain, and here they settled.

One day the monkey noticed that the princess was very sad and pale. He said to her, “Why are you so sad and unhappy, my darling? What is the matter?”

“Nothing. I am just sorry to have only a monkey for my husband. I become sad when I think of my past happiness.”

“I am not a monkey, my dear. I am a real man, born of human parents. Didn’t you know that I was baptized by the priest, and that my name is Juan?” As the princess would not believe him, the monkey went to a neighboring hut and there cast off his disguise (balit cayu). He at once returned to the princess. She was amazed to see a sparkling youth of not more than twenty years of age—nay, a prince—kneeling before her. “I can no longer keep you in ignorance,” he said. “I am your husband, Juan.”

“Oh, no! I cannot believe you. Don’t try to deceive me! My husband is a monkey; but, with all his defects, I still cling to him and love him. Please go away at once, lest my husband find you here! He will be jealous, and may kill us both.”

“Oh, no! my darling, I am your husband, Juan. I only disguised myself as a monkey.”

 But still the princess would not believe him. At last she said to him, “If you are my real husband, you must give me a proof of the fact.” So Juan [we shall hereafter call him by this name] took her to the place where he had cast off his monkey-skin. The princess was now convinced, and said to herself, “After all, I was not wrong in the belief I have entertained from the beginning,—that it was the will of God that I should marry this monkey, this man.”

Juan and the princess now agreed to go back to the palace and tell the story. So they went. As soon as the king and queen saw the couple, they were very much surprised; but to remove their doubt, Juan immediately related to the king all that had happened. Thus the king and queen were finally reconciled to the at first hated couple. Juan and his wife succeeded to the throne on the death of the king, and lived peacefully and happily during their reign.

The story is now ended. Thus we see that God compensated the father and mother of Juan for their religious zeal by giving them a son, but punished them for not being content with what He gave them by taking the son away from them again, for Juan never recognized his parents.