The Three Monkeys

You've probably seen pictures of the three monkeys. One is using his hands to cover his eyes, one is covering his ears, and the third is covering his mouth. They are called "See No Evil, Hear No Evil, and Speak No Evil." But you may not know that these three famous monkeys actually come from Japan and that there's a special story about them.

Monkeys are famous in China and Japan, and there are lots of tales about them. Some of these stories are told in the following pages. But the famous three monkeys are said to be the invention of a famous Buddhist priest, and they are a play on words in Japanese.

In Japanese, the same sound-zaru-can mean both "monkey" and "don't." So, in Japanese, if you say, "Iwa-zaru," it means "Don't speak," but also makes people think of a monkey. Similarly, if you say "Mi-zaru," it means "Don't see," but brings to mind a monkey. And "Kika-zaru" means "Don't hear." So the three monkeys are saying "Don't See Evil," "Don't Speak Evil," and "Don't Hear Evil."