Whither Our Flying Monkeys?

If there’s one thing that would make monkeys better, it’s wings. They’ve got expressive faces; they’ve got opposable thumbs; they’ve even got most excellent tails. All they need to be the best ever animal is flying.

Of course L. Frank Baum realized this early on in his life.

One of my favorite parts of The Wizard of Oz is the flying monkeys. Quick recap, in case you’re one of the people who hasn’t re-read Baum in a while: Oz has a tribe of flying monkeys. They belong to the Wicked Witch of the West, because she has the Golden Cap that allows her to give them orders (because of complicated backstory involving former rulers of Oz and disputes about bathing). Eventually Glinda gets the cap, and good (read: altruistic) witch that she is, she gives it to the monkeys.

The monkeys don’t really appear again in The Land of Oz, and their eventual fate was never very clear. After generations of being at the beck and call of humans, living in castles and befriending people, would you want to go back to the forest? Sure, the simple life sounds great, but after a few months living in treehouses and having nothing to entertain you except food and possibly sex (Oz’s stance on its inhabitants being sexually active is, as ever, murky), wouldn’t you want something else to entertain you? Possibly a war, or even a good book?

Unfortunately, Oz doesn’t provide much for career advancement unless you’re a girl from Kansas and want to become a councilor to the princess. (Other non-Oz creatures are also supplied with this opportunity, but only if they are beings such as chickens, daughters of rainbows, or glass cats. Monkeys don’t rate such an august company.)

In Oz, you can be a farmer.

With the invention of the education pill (thanks, Professor Wogglebug), children bypass the whole learning process—apparently Baum wasn’t a fan of the schoolroom. So academia—and all other professions of the mind—are off-limits to the denizens of Oz; the bucolic happiness seems to preclude any need for mental exertion. Or trains.

Whither our flying monkeys, then? I feel that the life of the farmer is not for them.

Maybe they can become an aerial acrobatic troupe. Or alternatively, cartographers.

Gina Gagliano thought she read The Wizard of Oz as a child, but it turned out to be all a dream.


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