Sunday, June 16, 2024

I, jowly Chim-Chim, ate an Elvis

That's an anagram of my full name, created by one of my fellow missionaries in 1998 or 1999. He explained that Chim-Chim is the name of a chimpanzee character in Speed Racer (which I knew nothing about) and that "an Elvis" must refer to someone of that name other than the King himself -- perhaps Elvis Costello or figure skater Elvis Stojko. It occurs to me now, though, that there is a kind of sandwich called an Elvis -- peanut butter, banana, and bacon, a favorite of Presley's -- and that that reading makes much more sense. Apparently the character Chim-Chim is known for his appetite and his sweet tooth, much like Elvis himself, and of course a banana sandwich is exactly what you would expect a cartoon chimp to eat.

Peanut butter and banana sandwiches (without bacon) were one of my own favorites as a child, part of my Banana Man persona. My other nickname from that time, besides Banana Man, was in fact Elvis, because of my hairstyle. (I insisted, despite my father's objections, on growing out the hair in front of my ears to look like sideburns.) At that time I knew essentially nothing about Elvis except that he was apparently a singer who had sideburns, and I certainly didn't know that Elvis and Banana Man had such similar taste in sandwiches. The weird thing is that the guy who created the anagram knew none of this about me. He was just trying to come up with something tolerably grammatical that used all the letters in my hard-to-anagram name, and he ended up hitting on something related to monkeys, bananas, and Elvis.

If you look at my photo in the sidebar, you might even detect a hint of incipient "jowliness," I suppose. Jowls are drooping cheeks, so what a "jowly" chimp makes me think of is Cheekey the Monkey. This is character from a Mormon parenting book my mom had when I was tiny. At first I couldn't find any trace of him online because I'd been searching for Cheeky without the extra e. (My exposure to the story was well before I had learned to read.) After racking my brain a bit, though, I came up with the title of the book -- Teaching Children Joy (1980) by Linda and Richard Eyre -- and was able to find it online.

Cheekey was a baby monkey. He lived with his sister and his mother and father in a tree. Their tree was in the jungle. In the jungle were some laws. They were called Jungle Laws. Do you know what laws are? (Things that you must do right or else you get punishment.)

Do you know what punishment is? (Something sad that happens when you break a law.)

There were two laws in Cheekey's jungle. One was that whenever you were in a tree, you had to hold on with your hand, or your foot, or your tail. What do you think the punishment was if you broke the law? (You would fall!)

The other jungle law was that if you saw a lion coming, you had to quickly climb up a tree. What do you think the punishment was if you broke that law? (You would get eaten up!)

In Cheekey's own family tree, there were two family laws. One law was that you couldn't go out of the tree without asking. Why do you think they had that law? (So Cheekey wouldn't get lost.)

Why didn't his mother and father want him to get lost? (Because they loved him.)

What do you think the punishment was if Cheekey went out of his tree without asking? (His mother gave him a little swat with her tail right on his bottom.)

Why did his mother do that? (So he wouldn't go out of the tree again.)

Why didn't she want him to do it again? (Because she loved him and didn't want him to get lost.)

The other monkey family law was to never drop your banana peels on limbs of the family tree. Why do you think they had that law? (So no one would slip on them and fall out of the tree.)

Why did the monkey family decide to have a law like that? (Because they loved each other and didn't want anyone in their family to get hurt.)

The story follows Cheekey through his day as he makes various choices, and in each case the children have to say whether there's a law to tell him what to do or whether he's free to do what he likes. I heard the story many times from an extremely young age, and even now I have vivid memories of my mental images of Cheekey climbing a tree to get away from a lion, choosing whether to wear his red hat or his green one, and so on. Not sure what specific relevance it has, but I suppose the sync fairies never bring anything up without a reason.

Coming back to "an Elvis," what's the plural of Elvis? This question comes up sometimes when people have occasion to refer to "parachuting Elvises" and such, and common incorrect suggestions include Elvi and Elvii (which are properly the plurals of Elvus and Elvius, respectively.) By analogy with other singular nouns ending in -is, the correct plural would be Elves -- spelled, though not pronounced, exactly the same as the plural of elf. "An Elvis" is one of the Elves.

This idea of eating an elf made me think of a story one of my brothers wrote as a child. These stories were written to be read aloud at our local literary club, and one of the things my brother liked to do (we were pretty avant-garde for little kids) was include "intermissions" -- where the story would be unexpectedly interrupted by a short poem and then resume where it had left off. In one of these stories, a character says, "It has eaten green moss," and then there's an intermission. After the intermission, the story continues with "the elf" -- revealing that the intermission had come in the middle of a sentence, and that what had been eaten was not green moss but rather an elf named Green Moss.

I still have copies of lots of these old stories, so I looked it up. Here's how it begins:

One upon a time there lived a gnome named Fuloo. Fuloo lived by himself in the Buck Horn Forest.

One night Fuloo was sitting by his fire, making rope, when suddenly he heard what sounded like 900 deer stampeding through the forest. Fuloo poked his head out of his hole to see what was scaring the deer like that. . . . A gigantic griffin was soaring through the forest, gulping down deer left and right.

The grffin thing is totally plagiarized from a very similar scene in The Tinleys, The guy sitting by the fire making rope is also ripped off, from one of my other brother's yarns. But don't worry, it's about to get a lot more original. Here's Fuloo's friend Will summarizing the damage done by the griffin -- interrupted by an intermission -- after which a rather singular character makes his appearance:

"Well," said Will, "it has eaten Green Moss

INTERMISSION: The Snowflake

Small and light, beautiful white is the snowflake falling down. Whirling, twirling on the breeze, it keeps on twirling round and round and then it softly comes falling to the ground.

END OF INTERMISSION

the elf, Romut the gnome, 463 deer, and 47 wolves."

"Wow," said Fuloo. "It must have been hungry."

"Yep," said Will, "it certainly wh--"

Suddenly they were interrupted by Soto the monkey-elf. "What is a monkey-elf?" you're probably asking right now, so I'll tell you: It is a half-monkey, half-elf creature, and unfortunately they didn't get much of the human intelligence, so they were mostly messengers, and this one was doing that, and it had carefully dropped a message right into Will's mouth.

A monkey-elf! I'd forgotten about that, but what led me to look this old story up was the idea of a chimp eating an elf. Recent posts here have featured apes as stars and apes as angels. In Tolkien, Elves are Eldar, literally "Star-folk." The story says that monkey-elves were "mostly messengers" -- which is the literal meaning of the word angel.

3 comments:

WanderingGondola said...

Recently I've been looking back at some of your 2022 posts. Loading the page for August just now, Uncle Honkard took me by surprise. The comments also talk about moons and keys, which has some relevance.

Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

Ha! I was just thinking of the Honkard rhyme earlier today, my train of thought having gone from Halloween as “November Eve” to “the Eve of September.”

What about the post “took you by surprise,” though?

WanderingGondola said...

Only that I'd basically forgotten about it, so seeing monkeys right after reading this post was kind of funny.

How beautiful upon the mountains are their feet!

In his July 21 post " Twister, 'The Extreme', and Shine On ," William Wright mentions a couple of Book of Mormon passages ...