Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Hanumān हनुमान्, & Sun Wukong 孙悟空

It appears that the original of the Chinese folk hero Sun Wukong is the Hindu deity Hanumān. As a child, I seem to remember seeing some strange film that mixed elaborate stop motion animation with live action of an anthropomorphised Monkey King. I recall jewel encrusted thrones and fantastic landscapes. It may have been some Chinese or Japanese fantasy film or a late product of the great Russian animator Władysław Starewicz, if it existed at all outside my childish imagination. One story of Hanumān tells of his conflict with Rahu, the disembodied snake's head Asura, over the Sun. As a child, Hanumān believed the Sun to be a ripe mango and was constantly pursuing it; and when he saw Rahu and understood his intention was to swallow the Sun, he beat him unconscious. The tale goes on to tell of Rahu complaining to Indra of his thrashing by this Monkey and Indra striking Hanumān with a thunderbolt and (the Wind deity) Vaya's taking offense, which leads to his withdrawal into seclusion and the slow asphixiation of all living things. Indra is thus forced to negate Hanumān's injury, and the Devas revive and heal the young Monkey King. This seems to correspond rather well with what I possibly remember of that movie I may have only dreamed of watching one Saturday afternoon in the Capitol Theater on Main Street in Willimantic Connecticut in 1962.

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