Winged monkeys

Winged monkeys

Winged monkeys (often referred to in adaptations and popular culture as flying monkeys) are characters from "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz", of enough impact between the books and the 1939 movie to have taken their own place in popular culture, regularly referenced in comedic or ironic situations as a source of evil or fear.


In the original Oz novels, these were just what the name implies: intelligent monkeys with wings. They were controlled by a golden hat, initially worn by the Wicked Witch of the West who used it to set the monkeys upon Dorothy and her friends. At one point they destroy the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman entirely, leaving them scattered across the landscape. In return, the Wicked Witch is allowed 3 wishes that leave her entirely responsible for any mishaps or misconceptions.

An account in the "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" explained that the hat was made and imbued with power by a princess named Gayelette. When she was to marry a man named Quelala, the monkeys played a prank on him. Angry, she made the cap, and gave it to Quelala as a wedding present. Quelala merely ordered the monkeys to no longer play pranks, but somehow, the cap fell into the hands of the Wicked Witch. After her death, Dorothy used the cap three times, and finally gave it to Glinda, who ordered the monkeys to carry Dorothy's companions back to their homes in Oz, and then to cease to bother people, and then gave them the cap as their own, to free them. [Michael O. Riley, "Oz and Beyond: The Fantasy World of L. Frank Baum", p 55, ISBN 0-7006-0832-X ]

They were never included in any of the subsequent Oz books.

Depictions in modern fiction

In the film version of "The Wiz", the Flying Monkeys are a motorcycle gang, whose leader is named Cheetah, after the Tarzan character. Their metal wings are part of their motorcycles, but these apparently dissolved with the witch's other magic, as they are absent when carrying Dorothy and her friends back to the Emerald City.

In Gregory Maguire's revisionist novels "" and "Son of a Witch", the flying monkeys were created by Elphaba (the Witch) as part of her experiments on the nature of the soul and what distinguishes non-speaking animals from intelligent, speaking Animals. In these novels, most of the flying monkeys cannot speak, but Elphaba's favorite (named Chistery) has a distinctive speech pattern characterized by the repetition of similar-sounding words. In the musical adaptation, the monkeys gain wings as part of a magic spell gone awry.

The Vertigo comic book series "Fables" features a flying monkey named Bufkin, who may be a survivor of a conquered Land of Oz.

The Harpeth Hills Flying Monkey Marathon refers to a legendary breed of flying monkeys, the Harpeth Hills Flying Monkeys, named after the geologic region where they are said to reside.

Political interpretations

Some historians who interpret "The Wizard of Oz" as a political allegory suggest the Winged Monkeys represent African-Americans, oppressed by an overbearing force and who are relieved to be free of that bondage when the evil force is terminated. Others see them as hired Pinkerton Agents who worked for the Trusts in the 1890s and hounded labor unions. (L. Frank Baum made an explicit reference to Pinkerton agents in a later book, "Lost Princess of Oz", p 211)

References in popular culture

*Flying monkeys have appeared in "The Simpsons", Montgomery Burns owns a few of them, though they are unable to fly.
*Flying monkeys are mentioned in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" as a demon species. Andrew Wells summoned a group of them attack a Sunnydale High drama club production of Romeo & Juliet.
*In the movie "Jumanji", monkeys see inside a TV shop on a television the winged monkeys from the Wizard of Oz, so they break inside the shop and steal TV sets.
*In the 1973 movie "Hunter", actual footage from the Wizard of Oz movie is used to brainwash a race-car driver, terrorizing him until he screamed the line "Stop the monkeys! PLEASE Stop the monkeys!"
*The music video for "Heretics & Killers" by Protest The Hero opens with a shot of the front page of a newspaper stating 'The Witch is Dead: Flying Monkeys Out of Work'. The remainder of the video features the bandmembers dressed as the Flying Monkeys, trying (and failing) at various jobs, begging on the street, getting thrown out of a bar, and rocking out.
*In the DCOM movie Halloweentown High Debbie Reynolds' character Aggie Cromwell say "Whoever heard of hockey without Flying Monkeys".
*United States Naval Academy midshipmen refer to West Point cadets as "woops" because of the similarity between the cadet's gray, high collar uniforms with those of the flying monkeys.
*In the "Being Ian" episode "Is There an Ian in the House?", Nurse Sturgeon yells out "RELEASE THE FLYING MONKEYS!" Her assistant then says that flying monkeys don't exist.
*Justin and Josh the flying monkeys from family guy
*A Harpeth Hills Flying Monkey Marathon in Nashville, TN honors flying monkeys on the basis of a local legend.
*Political humorist Lewis Black made reference to evil flying monkeys while referring to North Korea in one of his stand-up bits.
*A pair of large flying monkey statues from the Wizard of Oz over look the city of Burlington Vermont. They sit atop the One Main building located on the waterfront of Lake Champlain. Architects inspired by the duo have copied the flying statues and incorporated other monkeys into a new structure on the waterfront near the One Main building. The Monkeys originally sat on top of a now closed water bed store, aptly titled " Emerald City Waterbeds", which was also in Burlington VT. The flying monkeys have become a must see for tourists and are one of Burlington's most beloved distinguishing landmarks.
*Flying monkeys appear in Fables (Vertigo), both at the Farm and Bufkin, an administrative assistant.
*Bat-winged monkeys called "mongbats" appear as monsters in the Ultima fantasy computer role-playing games from Origin Systems. [ [ "Mongbat" entry, the Codex of Editable Wisdom (Ultima wiki) - retrieved December 8, 2007.] ]
*The 2007 Sci Fi television miniseries "Tin Man" depicts a re-imagining of Baum's world of Oz, including bat-winged monkeys called "mobats" that are the familiars of the sorceress Azkadellia. [ [ "A Touch More Evil: Azkadellia's World", "SciFi Pulse" video (Atom Films mirror) - November 13, 2007] ]
*X-Ray Dog, a company that makes music for movie trailers, recently released a piece called "Flying Monkeys".
*In the Disney film version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, at the climax of the film one of the gargoyles, Laverne, is seen commanding a flock of pigeons, reminiscent of the winged monkeys. She uses the same dialogue and arm movements of the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz, and the same background music plays.


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