Monkeys populate our culture, from the adorable hijinks of Curious George and the loyal friendship between Aladdin and Abu to the menacing gait of the winged ones in The Wizard of Oz. We visit them in zoos and even sometimes keep them as pets à la Catherine de Medici and Michael Jackson. As renowned zoologist Desmond Morris shows, it is not surprising that we are so attracted to them. While we sometimes view monkeys as trivial or comic, their mischievousness is delightful, and their urge to explore and love of activity fascinate us.
Monkey unpacks human attitudes toward these animals, tracing our connection with them throughout history. Morris reveals that our fascination with monkeys extends through many cultures and eras—ancient Egyptians revered baboons, monkey deities featured prominently in ancient Chinese and Japanese religions, and sacred status was given to the langur monkey by some groups in India. He also describes how our relationship with monkeys has changed since Darwin, and even become more troubled—this in-depth knowledge of our own origins amplifies our identification with and concern for the idea of monkeys’ primitivism and destructive behaviors. Drawing a vibrant picture of these beguiling animals and their continued popularity with humans, Monkey brings a new understanding to our complicated relationship with the ever-curious George.