The Winged Monkeys were once a free people, living in the forests of Oz. They were carefree, but rather mischievous. One day the King of the Winged Monkeys, as a prank, tossed a richly dressed man into a river, ruining his costume of silk and velvet. The man, whose name was Quelala, was good natured enough, but his fiancée, a sorceress named Gayelette was furious, and punished the Winged Monkeys by making them the slaves to the Golden Cap she had prepared as a wedding present for her betrothed.
Quelala used the Golden Cap only once, commanding the Winged Monkeys to stay away from Gayelette. Eventually the cap fell into the hands of the Wicked Witch of the West, who used the Winged Monkeys to conquer the Winkie Country, defeat the Great Oz, and capture Dorothy and the Cowardly Lion, destroying the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman in the process.
After the witch was melted, Dorothy took the cap and used it. The first time, she commanded the Winged Monkeys to carry her and her companions to the Emerald City. Then she asked them to carry her home to Kansas, but they could not, thus resulting in her wasting the cap's charm. Her third request was to carry her and her friends over the mountain of the Hammer-Heads.
Dorothy finally gave the cap to Glinda, who ordered the monkeys to carry Dorothy's companions back to their homes in Oz, and then to cease to bother people. She then gave them the cap as their own, to free them. (The Wonderful Wizard of Oz)
In the films
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
The monkeys are simply the creatures of the Wicked Witch of the West. Their leader is named Nikko. They do not speak, or act independently of the Witch's will. The Witch sends them out to apprehend Dorothy Gale and her companions, but they only get Dorothy and Toto and scatter the Scarecrow's straw. They disappear from the story after the Witch has been melted. (The Wizard of Oz)
- Their presence in the film has given the flying monkeys their iconographic identity in modern-day popular American culture.
In 1978 The Wiz made the flying monkeys a motorcycle gang, and they all had a very unpleasent smell, which the Wicked Witch could not stand at all.
Oz the Great and Powerful
There's two different kinds of winged monkeys. The winged baboons controlled by Evanora, and the winged monkeys. The only representative of the latter category is Finley, who is smaller than the winged baboons and more intelligent.
The Winged Baboons, meanwhile, are much larger and are very ferocious. The Witch controls armies of them, which she uses to terrorize various parts of Oz, including China Country which was destroyed by them. (Oz the Great and Powerful)
Depictions in modern fiction
In Alexander Volkov's Magic Land series, they appear in one more book after the first (By Stella' request, they delivered the analogue of the Magic Picture to Scarecrow, who was suffering from boredom), and are mentioned once more. The latter case makes it obvious that their reputation is quite ancient, since the mere mention forced a giant witch to reconsider fighting Stella - and the witch in question was asleep for five thousand years. While not bound to serve anyone, they are friendly to Stella.
In Gregory Maguire's revisionist novels Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West and Son of a Witch, the flying monkeys were created by Elphaba (the Witch) as part of her experiments on the nature of the soul and what distinguishes non-speaking animals from intelligent, speaking Animals. In these novels, most of the flying monkeys cannot speak, but Elphaba's favorite (named Chistery) has a distinctive speech pattern characterized by the repetition of similar-sounding words. In the musical adaptation, the monkeys gain wings as part of a magic spell gone awry.
The Vertigo comic book series Fables features a flying monkey named Bufkin, who may be a survivor of a conquered Land of Oz.
David Hulan's story "The Gauds of Oz" offers an explanation for how the Wicked Witch obtained the Golden Cap and so gained control over the winged monkeys. Other modern Oz writers also exploit the monkeys — see Dennis Anfuso's The Winged Monkeys of Oz, Chris Dulabone's The Marvelous Monkeys of Oz, and Peter Schulenburg's The Unwinged Monkey of Oz.
In Marvel's graphic novel adaptation the Winged Monkeys were dressed like soldiers. They still serve the Wicked Witch of the West, as she owns the hat that controls them. Their role in the story is identical to that in the original book, but with a new visual spin on them.
In Video Games
In Temple Run: Oz, Evanora's Winged Baboons replace the Temple Run series' standard Demon Monkeys as the main enemies chasing the player. They chase Oz through the Whimsie Woods, and also through the Dark Forest. They also swoop down at Oz, forcing him to duck under them. Finley also appears, giving Oz boosts by flying him over the terrain.
A Flying Monkey rebels against the Wicked Witch in the i0s game Flying Monkeys of Oz. The Witch shoots fireballs at him, while swirling energy ambushes him from all sides as the Emerald City passes in the background. Dorothy Gale later joins him and rides on his back.
In Todd McFarlane's action figure line "The Twisted Land of Oz," two flying monkey action figures (with a bloated Munchkin) are available as part of the "Collector's Club." According to the accompanying story, they are the Wizard's minions, transformed into steampunk cyborgs due to "Ozmic power."
Some historians who interpret The Wizard of Oz as a political allegory suggest the Winged Monkeys represent African-Americans, oppressed by an overbearing force and who are relieved to be free of that bondage when the evil force is terminated. Others see them as hired Pinkerton Agents who worked for the Trusts in the 1890s and hounded labor unions. (L. Frank Baum made an explicit reference to Pinkerton agents in a later book, The Lost Princess of Oz, p 211)
References in pop culture
These characters have had enough impact, between the books and the 1939 film, to have taken their own place in pop culture, regularly referenced in comedic or ironic situations as a source of evil or fear.
- Flying monkeys have appeared in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and The Simpsons.
- The Wayne's World catch-phrase "and monkeys might fly out of my butt!" may be a reference, at least incidentally, to the winged monkeys.
- In the movie Jumanji, monkeys see inside a TV shop on a television the winged monkeys from the Wizard of Oz, so they break inside the shop and steal TV sets.
- In the 1973 movie Hunter, actual footage from the Wizard of Oz movie is used to brainwash a race-car driver, terrorizing him until he screamed the line "Stop the monkeys! PLEASE Stop the monkeys!"
- The music video for "Heretics & Killers" by Protest The Hero opens with a shot of the front page of a newspaper stating 'The Witch is Dead: Flying Monkeys Out of Work'. The remainder of the video features the bandmembers dressed as the Flying Monkeys, trying (and failing) at various jobs, begging on the street, getting thrown out of a bar, and rocking out.
- In the DCOM movie Halloweentown High Debbie Reynolds' character Aggie Cromwell say "Whoever heard of hockey without Flying Monkeys".
- In the movie Inkheart, flying monkeys made their appearances as black monkeys with large eagle wings. They were with other animals in the dungeon after Darius used to read and said these words. Darius released them with other animals to attack Capricorn and his goons before they were returned to the Wizard of Oz book by Meggy who created her own words to send animals back to the books in the end of the movie.
- The Flying Monkeys apeared in Dora's Birthday Adventure!
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