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This section deals with the story of Monkey, and how this great TV series came into being. Enjoy.

The story of Monkey | Book details | TV show/History | Dubbing | Lyrics

The story of Monkey

The story of Monkey! is very loosely based on a 16th century Chinese book, Journey To The West by Wu Ch'eng-en, which is a collection of stories about the real-life journey of Hsuan Tsangof, a 7th-century monk.

In Wu Ch'eng-en's stories, the Monk, Tripitaka, embarks on the pilgrimage from China to India accompanied and protected by Monkey, Sandy and Pigsy, each a symbol of different types of human nature. Their task is collect Buddhist scriptures from India, and return them to China for translation. In the book the pilgrimage to India is completed, though the same can not be said of the TV series: however if the series had continued to further seasons, who knows?

Click image to enlarge it! Click image to enlarge!

The book was first translated into Japanese almost 250 years ago, and a Japanese picture book of the story was first produced in 1806.

Journey To The West was translated into English by Arthur Waley and renamed Monkey. The book is still in print, and is still popular.

Get the book!

The book, Monkey - the translation of Journey to the West by Arthur Waley is available to buy through this link (readers' reviews are also available). Orders for this book are fielded through Amazon, so secure ordering is assured and deliveries can be arranged to all countries. Click here to go to the appropriate page at, or use the picture of the book to the right.

ISBN: 0-14-044111-5

Monkey - the translation of Journey to the West by Arthur Waley

New version now in print!

As the reviews at will testify, the book remains extremely popular and hence this new edition has been published. Click here to go to the appropriate page at, or use the picture of the book to the right.

ISBN: 0-80-213086-0

Monkey - the translation of Journey to the West by Arthur Waley

Monkey and Tripitaka

TV Shows

Monkey! (or erm.... Monkey, to call it by it's Japanese name) was commissioned by Japan's Nihon Television (NTV) in 1978 to coincide with the station's 25th anniversary. The correct name for the programme is "Monkey" rather than "Monkey Magic" - however the latter has stuck with the show thanks to the repetition of "Monkey Magic" in the title theme, and the fact that the show was a favourite with kids when it was first run in the UK.

The show's tacky special effects and the barely theatrical-standard costumes sported by the lead cast belie the fact that at ¥100 million, Monkey! was amongst the most expensive commissions put into production in the station's then quarter-century history.

Much of the expenditure connected with the show can be attributed to the locations: much of the first series was filmed outside Japan in inner Mongolia and Northwest China.

Given that in 1978 Japan had only recently restored its diplomatic relations with China, to produce a less-than highbrow entertainment show strongly linked to the Buddhist faith was certainly a bold move, and one without precedent.

The show's arrival in Japan was keenly awaited by audiences, especially when NTV announced details of the cast. Masaaki Sakai (Monkey), Shiro Kishibe (Sandy), Toshiyuki Nishida (Pigsy - series one) and Masako Natsume (Tripitaka) were all well known to the Japanese public through their prior work in entertainment. As with popular UK series of the time such as Dr. Who, the villains in each episode were often played by popular guest actors.

The first series finished it's debut run in Japan in the Autumn of 1978. Monkey proved so popular that NTV put together a 2 hour highlights show and ran it the following week to satisfy demand from viewers. A new series was put into production and aired the following year.


The series was dubbed into English by a team at World Wide Sound in London, led by the BBC scriptwriter David Weir who penned the English language version.

The dubbing displays a charming disregard for lip-sync (think a cross between a Jackie Chan film and Orville), and the English script was full of jokes and witty double-entendres. There are some sparkling moments scripted between the action in Monkey, including perls of wisdom such as "Even a starving camel is still bigger than a horse" and "It's better to travel alone than with a fool. But what may two fools do?" (PS: You may have noticed that a quote from the narrator appears at the foot of all pages in this Magic guide)

The narration on the dubbed shows was performed by Frank Duncan. Duncan himself was an accomplished actor whose career spanned three decades, from an appearance in the 1963 film The Mouse on the Moon (as a news anchor) to more frequent TV work, including roles in shows such as Dempsey & Makepeace (1985), Juliet Bravo (1980) and Lovejoy (1986).

Frank Duncan in 'Luna' (Thames Television).

Despite our meticulous scouring, we have only been able to trace one picture of Frank Duncan. Here he is seen in the role of "Gramps" in the off-beat and less-remembered 80s ITV series 'Luna' which was produced by Thames TV and introduced the public to the better-known Patsy Kensit.

Sadly, Frank Duncan died in France in 1995. He will surely be remembered for his many roles, including the Monkey narration.

Miriam Margoyles was responsible for Tripikata's voice and those of many other female characters. Margoyles is now working on stage and has previously had supporting roles in British and American films, including 'The Apple' (1980). Her performance in the film 'The age of innocence' earned her a BAFTA for best supporting actress. She lives in Oxford, UK.

Miriam Margoyles was the voice of Tripitaka


"What were the lyrics to the song Monkey Magic?". To settle all those pub-quiz arguments, here are the lyrics in full. Enjoy.

Born from an egg on a mountain top,

Funkiest Monkey that ever popped,

He knew every magic trick under the sun,

Tease the Gods and everyone can have some fun.

Monkey magic, Monkey magic,

Monkey magic, Monkey magic,

Monkey magic, Monkey magic ooh!


What a cocky, saucey Monkey this one is.

All the Gods were angry and they punished him.

Until he was saved by a kindly priest,

And that was the start of their pilgrimage quest.

Monkey magic, Monkey magic,

Monkey magic, Monkey magic,

Monkey magic, Monkey magic,

Monkey magic, Monkey magic ooh!


Very good, now, shall we hear that sung properly? Pop in to our downloads page and download the theme tune.

"Where do we come from? Where do we go? Only the sage knows. And the sage knows such questions are profitless. Daily, the clever man learns something. Daily, the wise man gives up some certainty. Perhaps."

Site content by Monkeymania. Monkey © NTV Networks (Japan)







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