The Signifying Monkey*
- The Monkey and the Lion
- Got to talking one day.
- Monkey looked down and said, Lion,
- "I hear you's king in every way.
- But you know somebody
- Who do not think that is true -
- He told me he could whip
- The living daylights out of you."
- Lion said, "Who?"
- Monkey said, "Lion,
- He talked about your mama
- And talked about your grandma, too,
- And I'm too polite to tell you
- What he said about you."
- Lion said, "Who said what? Who?"
- Monkey in the tree,
- Lion on the ground.
- Monkey kept on signifying
- But he didn't come down.
- Monkey said, "His name is Elephant -
- He stone sure is not your friend."
- Lion said, "He don't need to be
- Because today will be his end."
- Lion took off through the jungle
- Meaning to grab Elephant
- And tear him bit to bit.
- He come across Elephant copping a righteous nod
- Under a cool shady tree.
- Lion said, "You big old no-good so-and-so,
- It's either you or me."
- Lion let out a solid roar
- And bopped Elephant with his paw.
- Elephant just took his trunk
- And busted Lion's jaw.
- Lion let another roar,
- Reared up six feet tall.
- Elephant just kicked him in the belly
- And laughed to see him drop and fall.
- Lion rolled over,
- Copped Elephant by the throat.
- Elephant just shook him loose
- And butted him like a goat.
- Then he tromped him and he stomped him
- Till the Lion yelled, "Oh, no!"
- And it was near-nigh sunset
- When Elephant let Lion go.
- The signifying Monkey
- Was still setting in his tree
- When he looked down and saw the Lion.
- Said, "Why, Lion, who can that there be?"
- Lion said, "It's me."
- Monkey rapped, "Why, Lion,
- You look more dead than alive!"
- Lion said, "Monkey, I don't want
- To hear your jive-end jive."
- Monkey just kept signifying,
- "Lion, you for sure caught hell -
- Mister Elephant's done whipped you
- To a fare-thee-well!
- Why, Lion, you look like to me
- You been in the precinct station
- And had the third-degree,
- Else you look like
- You been high on gage
- And done got caught
- In a monkey cage!
- You ain't no king to me.
- Facts, I don't think that you
- Can even as much as roar -
- And if you try I'm liable
- To come down out of this tree and
- Whip your tail some more."
- The Monkey started laughing
- And jumping up and down.
- But he jumped so hard the limb broke
- And he landed - bam! - on the ground.
- When he went to run, his foot slipped
- And he fell flat down.
- Grr-rrr-rr-r! Lion was on him
- With his front feet and his hind.
- Monkey hollered, "Ow!"
- Lion said, "You little flea-bag you!
- Why, I'll eat you up alive.
- I wouldn't a-been in this fix a-tall
- Wasn't for your signifying jive."
- "Please," said Monkey, "Mister Lion,
- If you'll just let me go,
- I got something to tell you, please,
- I think you ought to know."
- Lion let the Monkey loose
- To see what his tale could be -
- And Monkey jumped right back on up
- Into his tree.
- "What I was gonna tell you," said Monkey,
- "Is you square old so-and-so,
- If you fool with me I'll get
- Elephant to whip your head some more."
- "Monkey," said the Lion,
- Beat to his unbooted knees,
- "You and all your signifying children
- Better stay up in them trees."
- Which is why today
- Monkey does his signifying
- A-way-up out of the way.
*Source: "The Signifying Monkey." Crossing the Danger Water: 300 Years of African Writing. Ed. Deidre Mullane. New York: Anchor Books, 1993. 261-263.
Also recorded as:
"The Signifying Monkey." The Book of Negro Folklore. Eds. Arna Bontemps and Langston Hughes. New York: Dodd, Mead, and Co., 1983. 363-366.
Unexpurgated versions can be found in:
Abrahams, Roger D. Deep Down in the Jungle: Negro Narrative Folklore from the Streets of Philadelphia. Hatboro, Pennsylvania.: Folklore Associates, 1964. 147-157.
Go to thesis index.
© 1994 NSU Press © 1994-1999 Rodney Lain.
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