The Monkey’s Heart

'Why, said the monkey to the crocodile. if our heart was inside us, when we go jumping among the tree tops it would be all knocked to pieces!’


Signed, silk screen print on Somerset acid free 100% cotton 250gsm paper


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This print was inspired by a two month cycling trip to India where I became fascinated by the many folk tales that I encountered. This print originates from the 'Jataka' Tales:



The Monkey’s Heart

India, Jataka Tales


Once upon a time, the Bodhisatta came to life at the foot of the Himalayas by the river Ganges as a monkey. Now at that time there

was a crocodile dwelling in the Ganges. The crocodile’s mate saw the great frame of the monkey, and she conceived a longing to eat his heart. So she said to her lord, ‘Sir, I desire to eat the heart of that great king of the monkeys!’

‘Good wife,’ said the crocodile, ‘I live in the water and he lives on dry land. How can we catch him?’

‘By hook or by crook,’ she replied, ‘he must be caught. If I don’t get him, I shall die.’


So when the Bodhisatta was sitting on the bank of the Ganges,  the crocodile drew near, and said, ‘Sir Monkey, why do you live on bad fruits in this old familiar place? On the other side of the Ganges there is no end to the mango trees, with fruit sweet as honey! Is it not better to cross over and have all kinds of wild fruit to eat?’

‘Lord Crocodile,’ the monkey answered. ‘The Ganges is deep and wide. How shall I get across?’

‘If you want to go, I will let you sit upon my back, and carry you over.’

The monkey trusted him, and agreed.  But when the crocodile had swum a little way, he plunged the monkey under the water.

‘Good friend, you are letting me sink!’ cried the monkey. ‘What is that for?’

The crocodile said, ‘You think I am carrying you out of pure good nature? Not a bit of it! My wife has a longing for your heart, and I want to give it to her to eat!’


‘Friend,’ said the monkey, ‘it is nice of you to tell me. Why, if our heart was inside us, when we go jumping among the tree tops it would be all knocked to pieces!’

‘Well, where do you keep it?’ asked the crocodile.

The Bodhisatta pointed out a fig tree, with clusters of ripe fruit, standing not far off. ‘See,’ said he, ‘there are our hearts hanging on yonder fig tree.’

‘If you will show me your heart,’ said the crocodile,’then I won’t kill you.’

‘Take me to the tree, then, and I will point it out to you.’

The crocodile brought him to the place. The monkey leapt off his back, and, climbing up the fig tree, sat upon it. ‘Oh silly crocodile!’ said he. ‘You thought that there were creatures that kept their hearts in a treetop! You are a fool, and I have outwitted you! You may keep your fruit to yourself. Your body is great, but you have no sense.”’



Lillias Kinsman-Blake © 2014.