Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Monkeys' Wedding Day

Just for a few moments yesterday afternoon, the low winter sun found a gap in the clouds above Lochan nan Al and shone through a rain shower.  To me, as a child growing up in Africa, sun and rain together marked a monkeys' wedding day.

Looking up the phrase on Google produces a few references to the phrase - see, for example, this site - enough to prove that it relates to very ancient folk lore - ancient because, although monkey can be replaced by tiger, fox, rat, hyena and many other animals, it is used widely around the world.

The African origins of the phrase, as explained to me years ago, lie in a folk story.  Back in the days when the world was young and all animals lived peacefully together, two monkeys wanted to get married.  Only the lion could perform the ceremony but, being lazy, didn't want to.  However, in answer to their pestering, he promised that, next time the sun came out while it was raining, he would perform the ceremony.  The monkeys, unwilling to wait until the rainy season, which was months away, chose the next bright, sunny day and, while the lion was lying in his den, climbed up and scattered a gourd-full of water in front of its entrance so it looked like rain, obliging the lion to marry them.

It's a lovely story yet it's more than just a story because there's moral hidden in it.


  1. My children, brought up in Africa, know this phrase well and we still use it. Most people have no idea what we are talking about of course.

  2. A particularly meaningful story Jon as we are currently in the Kruger park and have seen many lions in the past few days. I still have my daily read of the Kilchoan Diary though! It's a bit warmer here...

  3. I find it intriguing that it's so widespread, suggesting it may have come out of Africa in the early stages of human migration.

    Nic - If you have a chance, ask any locals you speak to if they've heard the phrase. On one of the websites, it suggests that the origins of the English version came from a Zulu story. Jon

  4. Hi Jon, our tracker was a Limpopo man who was very knowledgeable about many things but hadn't heard of the phrase. The much younger Afrikaans ranger had vaguely heard of it, so can't be much help I'm afraid.