The Monkey and the Crocodile by Vikram Seth
About the poet
Vikram Seth is an Indian poet, novelist, biographer, and memoirist. He won the Sahitya Academy Award for his excellence in literature, and several other awards including Padma Shri, Pravasi Bharatiya Samman, etc.
About the poem
The poem ‘The Monkey and the Crocodile’ is taken from ‘Beastly Tales from Here and There’ (1912), and it is written in the form of a ballad by Vikram Seth.
The poem depicts the theme of betrayal in friendship, greed, and selfishness in human relations.
The entire poem is written in such a way that it makes couplets. It follows the rhyme scheme of aabb.
The poem ‘The Monkey and the Crocodile’ enriches with a message that humans should not believe in those who are not able to be trusted and are unusual.
The entire poem revolves around three characters- Mr. Kuroop, Mrs. Crocodile, and the Monkey.
Detail discussion about characters:
Vikram Seth presents Kuroop as a self-centered and greedy fellow who makes his wife happy by all means and enjoys her company while eating his prey. He loves only his wife and fulfills all of her desires. He is so selfish that he easily forgets all the mangoes the monkey has given to him and his kindness towards him and his wife. He betrays the monkey only to give an anniversary treat to his wife, Mrs. Crocodile. He does not have control over his mind, or the courage to differentiate between right and wrong, so he is easily manipulated by others. He can not make his wife understand how wicked she is when she thinks of eating the monkey’s heart, but his wife convinces him to betray the monkey. On the other hand, the monkey befools him by saying that his chest does not contain his heart, and Kuroop takes him to the tree where he lives. Kuroop does not have the intellect and presence of mind to understand the circumstances, and he becomes a victim of manipulation by his wife and the monkey. He has also feelings of gratitude and guilt which are reflected in the poem with time. Due to his gratitude, he tries to make his wife understand that they can not eat the monkey’s heart as he is his friend. Again, his guilt is shown when he looks at the monkey with a regretful smile at the end of the poem.
Mrs. Crocodile is selfish and self-centered. She can do anything to fulfill her wish. She can read others’ minds and manipulate them easily. Thus, she succeeds in persuading Kuroop to betray his friend, the monkey. She does not have gratitude to others rather she considers kindness as foolishness. Hence she does not listen to Kuroop who fulfills her every wish, and she thinks of eating the monkey’s heart remembering his kindness and mangoes of summer treat. She possesses an illogical mind and wicked thoughts that she guesses that the monkey’s heart is sweeter than sugarcane as the mango pulps gather in his heart. She is narrow-minded and opportunistic. She is ready to take advantage of the monkey’s faith in Kuroop by snatching life from the monkey to fulfill her wish.
iii) The Monkey
The monkey has compassion and kindness for Kuroop and his wife, so he throws sweet ripe mangoes at Kuroop to give them a summer treat. He is loyal to his friend and true to his friendship by showing his love through mangoes. He believes his friend so much that he does not hesitate to sit on the back of Kuroop. He has enough intellect and presence of mind to save himself when he is about to die. He acts according to the situation so, he can make a plan to defeat Kuroop in fulfilling his goals. He is so brave that he is not afraid of death when Kuroop allows him to choose death by drowning or being gutted by him and his wife. He does not tolerate dishonesty. He punishes Kuroop by throwing squishy, rotten, dead mangoes on the head of Kuroop.
The poem ‘The Monkey and the Crocodile’ narrates a story that depicts friendship and betrayal between the Monkey and the Crocodile. In the poem, the Crocodile lived with his wife on the greenest island. He loved his wife and shared with her the carcass of the prey he caught. He used to give her dolphins, turtles, fatter fish, and mangoes.
Kuroop had a very good bonding of friendship with the Monkey who provided sweet ripe mangoes to him year after year. He knew Mrs. Crocodile loved mangoes so he gave mangoes to him for his wife also. It was the time when Mr. Crocodile and Mrs. Crocodile enjoyed the summer treat the Monkey gave.
Once Mrs. Crocodile desired to eat the monkey’s heart on the occasion of her anniversary. At first, Mr. Crocodile tried to make her understand that he could not betray the Monkey as he was his friend who believed him and fed them mangoes. Mrs. Crocodile advised her husband how it could be easy to betray the monkey as he believed Kuroop. Eventually, Mrs. Crocodile threatened Kuroop that if she could not eat the monkey’s heart, she would die out of bitterness. Mr. Crocodile became afraid of the Crocodile’s threat and went to invite the Monkey to dine with them on the occasion of their anniversary. The Monkey was extremely glad to be invited and sat on the back of Kuroop. They reached the middle of the way when the Crocodile ordered the Monkey to throw all the mangoes in the water and declared that the Monkey himself was a gift for Mrs. Crocodile. He asked the monkey if mango nectar filled his heart. He worried that his wife would get indigestion after eating the Monkey’s heart. Kuroop offered the Monkey death by drowning or being gutted by Mr. Crocodile and his wife. Then the Monkey said he could accept any kind of death for the sake of Mrs. Crocodile, but worried about Mrs. Crocodile’s reaction while separating his ribs, as his chest did not contain the heart. He had put his heart in the hollow of the tree as Kuroop was in a hurry while fetching the Monkey. He suggested an idea to Kuroop to fetch his heart, and Kuroop agreed with him. So Kuroop took him to the place where the Monkey lived.
After reaching his home the Monkey refused to come back and cursed him. He threw squishy, rotten, and dead mangoes upon the Monkey’s head. Kuroop looked at the Monkey with a regretful smile.
Multiple Choice Questions
1. Kuroop would silently glide as a– a)tadpole b)fish c)dolphin d)tortoise
2. The crocodile lived in the water of the – a)Ganga b)Krishna c)Narmada d)Yamuna
Kuroop’s wife wanted to eat the monkey’s heart– a) as a feast b)as a spicy food c)as a summer treat c) as an anniversary treat
4. The crocodile falsely convinces the monkey to attend their home across the river for – a)a dinner b)a lunch c)a supper d)a feast
Kuroop betrays – a)the monkey’s trust b)himself c)his wife’s trust d)a tiger
The monkey says that his breast does not contain – a) bean b)liver c)kidney d) heart
7. The monkey used to live in – a) a mango tree b) an apple tree c) a hut d) a house
8. The crocodile wished to get the monkey’s heart– a) to celebrate a special summer treat b)to please his wife c)to sell in the market d)to please himself
The crocodile fulfilled every wish of – a)his wife b) the monkey c)his friend d)everyone
10.“He would view with tepid eyes”. -Tepid means – a)not enthusiastic b) not hopeful c)cunning d)greedy
11. The poem ‘The Monkey and the Crocodile’ is an extract from- a) Bishop b)Fairy Tales c)Parable d) Beastly Tales
12. In the poem ‘The Monkey and the Crocodile’, the word ‘isle’ means- a)island b)small piece of ice c)cringe d)ridge
13. Why did the crocodile think that his wife would upbraid him? -a)for being late b)for being failed c)for the bitter heart of the monkey d)for the loss
14. Kuroop wanted to -a) please his friend b)please his wife c)eat mangoes d)swim
15.Vikram Seth preferred the _____form of writing. – a) comic b)ballad c)serious d)epic
16. The monkey’s parting gift for the crocodile was- a)rotten mangoes b)rotten oranges c)rotten apples d)rotten strawberries
17.”When you gaze into her eyes/you will enter paradise”-is an example of a – a) metaphor b)hyperbole c)personification d)antithesis
18. What is referred to as a ‘substantial dish’ in the poem ‘The Monkey and the Crocodile’? -a)Dolphin, turtle, and fatter fish b)mangoes c) oranges d)raisin
Short Answer Type Questions
1. What did Kuroop do after catching his prey?
Ans: After catching his prey Kuroop snapped it, tore it with its teeth, and killed it. He dragged the dead body of his prey to his wife’s feet. Then he ate it and watched his wife eat it.
2. Where did the monkey stay?
Ans: The monkey stayed in a mango tree on a river bank.
3. What was the prime pleasure of the Crocodile’s life?
Ans: The prime pleasure of the crocodile’s life was to eat his prey and watch his wife eat it.
4. What did the Monkey throw upon the Crocodile’s head as his parting gift? How did the crocodile behave at that time?
Ans: The Monkey threw squishy, rotten, and dead mangoes upon the crocodile’s head as his parting gift.
Then the Crocodile sat and looked at him with a regretful smile.
5. What is referred to as the “golden treasure”?
Ans: The golden and ripe mangoes are referred to as the “golden treasure”.
6. Why did Kuroop’s wife think the monkey’s heart is sweeter than sugarcane?
Ans: Kuroop’s wife thought the monkey had consumed sweet and ripe mangoes year after year, and the mango pulp must have gathered in his heart and sweetened his heart including every part of the monkey’s body. So she thought that
the monkey’s heart to be sweeter than sugarcane.
7. Who is Scalyskins?
Ans: Kuroop, Mr.Crocodile is Scalyskins.
8. Mention any four things that Kuroop used to take for his wife.
Ans: Kuroop used to take Dolphins, turtles, mangoes, and fish for his wife.
9. “Darling, he’s my friend”. –Who says this about whom?
Ans: Kuroop, Mr.Crocodile says this about the monkey.
10. What did the monkey say after knowing the crocodile’s evil intention?
Ans: After knowing the crocodile’s evil intention, the monkey said that his breast did not contain his heart. He also said that he had kept the heart in the hollow of a tree.
11. What did Kuroop want to know about the monkey’s heart and Why?
Ans: Kuroop wanted to know if mango nectar filled his heart because he worried that his wife get indigestion after eating the monkey’s heart.
12. How was the monkey taken to the crocodile’s home?
Ans: The monkey was taken to the crocodile’s home with trickery. Mr. Crocodile invited the monkey to dine on the occasion of the anniversary of Kuroop and Mrs. Crocodile.
13. How did Kuroop look?
Ans: Kuroop was greeny-brown in color. He had shabby legs and scaly skin.
14. What did the monkey keep in the hollow?
Ans: The monkey kept his heart, liver, half of his brain a fingernail, Cufflink, chutney, and a spare tail in the hollow.
15. What option did Kuroop give to the monkey when they were in the middle of the water in the poem ‘The Monkey and the Crocodile’?
Ans: When Kuroop and the monkey were in the middle of the water, Kuroop gave two options for the monkey to choose death which were death by drowning or being gutted by them.
16. How did Kuroop react when the monkey bade him goodbye?
Ans: When the monkey bade him goodbye, Kuroop sat and watched him with a regretful smile.
17. Why did Mrs. Crocodile particularly want the monkey’s heart?
Ans: She thought that the monkey’s heart would taste sweeter than sugarcane, so she particularly wanted the monkey’s heart.
18. What did the monkey give to the crocodile as a summer treat? What did he know about his wife?
Ans: The monkey gave sweet ripe mangoes to the crocodile as a summer treat.
He knew about his wife’s love of mangoes and how Mrs. Crocodile would weep and swoon if she had no mangoes to eat.
19.”I will let you choose your end”-What choices were given by the speaker?
What opinion did Kuroop give to the monkey when they were in the middle of the water?
Ans: When Kuroop and the Monkey were in the middle of the water, Kuroop ordered the monkey to throw all the mangoes in the water. He told him that the Monkey himself was a gift. Then he gave the choices- death by drowning or gutted by him and Mrs. Crocodile.
20. How did Kuroop usually catch his prey?
Ans: After Kuroop viewed a prey coming, he used to get down the water to catch it. He moved smoothly as a log floats on the water, and he also moved silently like a tadpole catches prey.
Long Answer Type Questions
1. Who was Kuroop? Where did he live? How did he look? What kinds of prey did he like to hunt? What did he do whenever a potential prey came into his view?
Ans: Kuroop was the crocodile.
He lived on the greenest island on the Ganga River.
He looked greeny-brown in color. He had a gentle grin, stubby legs, and scaly skin.
Kuroop liked to hunt dolphins, turtles, and fatter fish which seemed to be a substantial dish.
Whenever a potential prey used to come into his view, would get down to follow and capture it.
2. “Not the fruit, but your sweet love,/Showered on us from above,” – Who says this to whom? What did the speaker mean to say here? Is It true?
Ans: “Not the fruit, but your sweet love,/Showered on us from above,” –Kuroop, the crocodile says this to the Monkey.
The speaker means to say that mangoes do not matter to him, but his wife likes the love the Monkey expresses by providing them with the mangoes.
It is not completely true. Mrs. Kuroop likes the love the monkey shows, but she also likes mangoes.
3. What did Mrs. Crocodile want to eat as an anniversary treat? Why had Mr. Crocodile agreed with his wife?
Ans: Mrs. Crocodile wanted to eat the monkey’s heart as an anniversary treat.
Mrs. Crocodile threatened her husband that she had suffered from slow breathing and every fruit seemed to be bitter for her. She further warned him if she could not eat the monkey’s heart, she would die out of bitterness. Being afraid of his wife’s death Mr. Crocodile agreed with his wife.
4. What did the crocodile say while inviting the monkey? How did he feel after being invited?
Ans: Mr. Crocodile thanked the monkey for his kindness and invited him to dine with him and his wife. Mr. Crocodile said that the monkey made his wife’s life so sweet by giving her mangoes. Then he described his wife’s amazing personality by persuading the monkey to believe that the Monkey’s heart would be gnawed and he would enter Paradise after he met her.
5. Whom does the crocodile choose to betray? What mangoes does the monkey throw at Kuroop for his betrayal at the end of the poem? How does the monkey express his joy when Kuroop goes to fetch him for his wife?
Ans: The crocodile chooses the monkey to betray.
At the end of the poem, the monkey throws squishy, rotten, and dead mangoes at Kuroop.
When Kuroop goes to fetch him for his wife, the monkey is so delighted that he lets out a joyful shout. He jumps from branch to branch with pleasure, throws golden mangoes, and tells the crocodile to eat them and take them for Mrs. Crocodile, his wife.
6. How does Vikram Seth portray the presence of mind in the monkey in the poem ‘The Monkey and the Crocodile’?
How did the monkey use his wits to save his life in the poem ‘The Monkey and the Crocodile’?
Ans: The Monkey did not get afraid of death when the Crocodile told him to choose death by drowning or gutted by him and his wife. He used his brain and courage to overtake Kuroop’s plan. He said he was ready to sacrifice his life to make Mrs. Crocodile happy. At the same time, he expressed his sorrow that his chest did not contain a heart as he had put it in the hollow. Mr. Crocodile was in a hurry and the Monkey came without taking his heart. Mrs. Crocodile would be unable to speak if she could not find his heart after separating his ribs. After expressing all of these concerns he suggested to the Crocodile that he wished to bring his heart back for Mrs. Crocodile. The Monkey convinced Mr. Crocodile with each word, and Mr. Crocodile took him to the shore where the Monkey lived. This way the Monkey saved himself with the help of his intellect and presence of mind.
7. What did the monkey do after being saved from the crocodile?
Ans: After being saved from the Crocodile, he shouted at the crocodile and said that he was not twice a fool. He cursed him to tell his wife to eat her own heart. He also said his heart used to beat in his chest every moment. Then he threw squishy, rotten, and dead mangoes upon the Crocodile’s heart as his parting gifts.
8. Why did the crocodile agree to return the monkey to the shore? How did he feel at that time?
Ans: The Monkey convinced the Crocodile that he had put his heart in the hollow of the tree where he lived. He expressed his desire to bring his heart back to make Mrs. Crocodile happy. So the crocodile agreed to return the monkey to the shore.
9. How did the crocodile’s friendship with the monkey come to an end?
Ans: The Crocodile invited the Monkey to their anniversary treat, and made him sit on his back. After a while they reached the middle of the way and the Crocodile told him to throw all the mangoes in the water. He also said that the Monkey himself would be a gift for Mrs. Crocodile. He told him to choose death by drowning or being gutted by him and his wife. It was the time when the Monkey knew the truth of Kuroop who betrayed the Monkey, and their friendship came to an end.
10. Comment on various themes of the poem ‘The Monkey and the Crocodile’.
Ans: The theme of the poem ‘The Monkey and the Crocodile’ revolves around the Monkey’s friendship and trust, Kuroop’s betrayal and dishonesty, and Mrs. Crocodile’s greed and selfishness. The Monkey showed his friendship by providing mangoes to Kuroop year after year. He trusted Mr. Kuroop and sat on his back when Kuroop invited him. The Crocodile was a dishonest fellow who offered death to the Monkey and betrayed his friend. Mrs. Crocodile was so greedy that she wanted to eat the Monkey’s heart. She was a self-centered, narrow-minded fellow who fulfilled her desire without differentiating between fair and foul.
11. Bring out the didactic elements in the poem ‘The Monkey and the Crocodile’.
Ans: In the poem Vikram Seth shows how greed grasps our thoughts by portraying the character of Mrs. Crocodile. She used to eat mangoes the Monkey provided him, and became greedy to eat his heart. She made a conspiracy with the help of the Monkey’s faith in Kuroop. She misunderstood him as a foolish fellow due to his kindness and compassion for Kuroop as many times a few people consider others fools for their goodness. On the other hand, Kuroop was easily manipulated by the blackmail Mrs. Crocodile used, and again the Monkey easily convinced him that his chest did not contain his heart. Kuroop was henpecked as a husband, and he could not be true to his friend as many people are easily manipulated by others and become a fool in managing their personal relations and social relations due to the lack of their brains. Kuroop’s unloyalty to his friend also proves how friendship is spoiled due to greed and selfishness. After getting an invitation from the Crocodile, the Monkey sat on his back as many of us blindly believe our friends, and get ourselves trapped in a conspiracy. The friendship between the Monkey and the Crocodile is unusual as people face difficulty in an unusual friendship. Again, the way the Monkey saved himself teaches us to face challenges with the presence of the mind. So the poem ‘The Monkey and the Crocodile’ is a didactic poem that teaches us a lot with various messages related to human relations.
Do as directed:
1. I am not such a double-dunce. (Change to Affirmative Sentence)
Ans: I am less than such a double-dunce.
2. The monkey clambered down. He was delighted. (Join into a complex sentence)
Ans: When the monkey clambered down, he was delighted.
3. I must eat the monkey’s heart. (Change to Negative Sentence)
Ans: I can not but eat the monkey’s heart.
4. Mango trees stood rank on rank. (Change to Present Perfect Continuous sentence)
Ans: Mango trees have been standing rank on rank.
5. She won’t eat fruit. (Change the voice)
Ans: Fruit won’t be eaten by her.
6. The crocodile said to the monkey, “How my sweetheart will upbraid me!” (Change the Narration)
Ans: The crocodile told the monkey with the exclamation that his sweetheart would upbraid him greatly.
7. I will let you choose your end. (Change the voice)
Ans: You will be let choose your end by me.
8. He would test the water too. (Change the voice)
Ans: Water would be tested by him too.
9. If you had not rushed me so, I’d have found time to go. (Replace the underlined word with a phrasal verb)
Ans: If you had not hurried me up so, I’d have found time to go.
10. Let us show our gratitude. (Change the voice)
Ans: Let our gratitude be shown.