Once upon a time there was a group of twelve boys and girls who lived in a village called Dancing. After dinner everyday they would light a fire and dance.

One evening a monkey came and sat in a corner. He was wearing a smart safari suit with a stylish hat. He had a banjo in his hand, with which he played melodious music. He played so well that no one realised that he was a monkey.

The girls were impressed by his music. They danced their best for him.

From then on, the monkey would come and play the banjo every night and the girls would dance to his music. Soon all the girls were in love with the monkey.

How Monkeys Got their Red Bottoms
How Monkeys Got their Red Bottoms [Illustration by Shiju George]

Each day one or the other girls would give small gifts to the monkey. One girl gave him a ring, another gave him some fruit beer and a third even brought him cookies, which she had baked herself.

The boys did not like this at all. “After all who is this fellow?” inquired Summy.

“Where did he come from?” asked a curious Mittu.

So, the boys decided to watch him closely. That night they could not believe what they saw. The heartthrob of so many girls had a tail!! And his hands and feet were covered with thick hair!! The person they had been jealous of was just a monkey!

That night the boys were relieved and slept peacefully.

But the next day they burnt some wood around the stone on which the monkey usually sat. As the stone became hot they quickly cleaned the area and began singing and dancing acting as though nothing was wrong.

Soon the monkey came and as usual sat on the hot stone.
“Aaaaaaaa!!” screamed the poor monkey as its bottom came in contact with the red-hot stone.

The stone was so hot that it burnt his bottoms through his pants. The monkey screamed and tried to jump into a pail of water to ease his agony. The monkey ran away into the night and never came back.

The boys laughed so much at the girls who had given a monkey a ring, fruit beer and cookies.

Ever since monkeys have always had red bottoms.

A Gadabas folktale retold from ‘When the World was Young’ by Verrier Elwin.