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Winged monkeys

"The monkeys caught Dorothy in their arms and flew away with her"—illustration by W. W. Denslow in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900)

Winged monkeys (often referred to in adaptations and popular culture as flying monkeys) are fictional characters created by American author L. Frank Baum, and appear in his classic children's novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900). The winged monkeys are most notable from the famous 1939 movie musical movie by MGM. Ever since, they have taken their own place in popular culture, regularly referenced in comedic or ironic situations as a source of evil or fear.


  • Classic Oz media 1
    • In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz 1900 1.1
    • The Wizard of Oz (1939) 1.2
  • Legacy 2
  • See also 3
  • References 4

Classic Oz media

In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz 1900

In Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the winged monkeys were just what the name implies: jungle monkeys with powerful bird-like feathered wings attached to their shoulders that allows them to fly.

The winged monkeys started out as being free creatures living in the jungles within the Land of Oz. They were a rather carefree bunch, and also very mischievous by nature. One day the King of the winged monkeys, as a prank, tossed a richly dressed man into a deep river, ruining his handsome costume of velvet. The man, whose name was Quelala, was good natured enough and did not mind the prank. But his fiancée Princess Gayelette, was ever so furious because the day the winged monkeys played the prank, was the same day of Quelala and Gayelette's royal wedding. She had ruled Oz's northern quadrant, called the Gillikin Country, and lived in a small palace made of rubies. Princess Gayelette had also practiced real magic and was a sorceress in her own right. As punishment for the winged monkey's prank, she cursed them by making them all the eternal slaves to the Golden Cap she had originally prepared as a wedding present for her beloved betrothed. The cap itself was a very nice one indeed, studded with real sparkling diamonds, and precious blood red rubies that ran entirely around its 24/karat solid gold brim. The curse of the cap allows its possessor to command the winged monkeys exactly three times whenever they speak the cap's magic incantation aloud. Whenever the words were spoken, the winged monkeys had to immediately stop whatever they were doing at that time, and assist their master at once. The curse of the cap is also rumored to have cost Gayelette half her powers to construct.

Quelala used the Golden Cap only once, commanding the winged monkeys to stay away from Gayelette and her kingdom. The winged monkeys did as they told and disappeared for a very long time. Eventually, the cap somehow fell into the hands of the Wicked Witch of the West, who used the cap's charm to compelle the winged monkeys and help her to conquer Oz's western quadrant, the Winkie Country and enslave the native Winkies. Next the Wicked Witch used the cap to drive the Wizard of Oz out of her territory when he attempted to overthrow her. Finally, she uses the cap to capture Dorothy Gale and the Cowardly Lion, and telling the winged monkeys to destroy the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman in the process.

After the Wicked Witch was melted with a bucket of water by Dorothy, she took the Golden Cap to wear. The first time, she commanded the winged monkeys to carry her and her companions to the imperial capital, the Emerald City. Then Dorothy asked them to carry her and her pet dog Toto back home to their homeland in Kansas, but the winged monkeys could not leave the magical realm of Oz, thus resulting in her wasting one request of the cap's charm. Dorothy's third and final request was to carry her and her company over the rocky mountains that was inhabited by the very unfriendly creatures called Hammer-Heads, who would not let them pass over their turf.

Dorothy ends up handing the Golden Cap over to Glinda, the beautiful Good Witch of the South who ruled Oz's southern quadrant, the Quadling Country. Glinda then ordered the winged monkeys to carry Dorothy's companions back to their homes in Oz after Dorothy's departure, and then to simply cease to bother people and not play pranks on them. She then gave the winged monkeys the cap as their own, which finally broke the curse and set them free.

The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Nikko (Pat Walshe), the head flying monkey as he appears in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz

In the classic 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, the monkeys are apparently intelligent enough to obey commands, but do not speak, though they do in the book. They abduct Dorothy and dismantle the Scarecrow, but do nothing to the Tin Man or the Cowardly Lion, leaving them free to put the Scarecrow back together and rescue Dorothy. There is no mention of any three wishes in the film, suggesting that the monkeys serve the witch unconditionally. Nikko (the head monkey) is shown again after the Witch orders him to throw a basket containing the dog Toto in the river (an order that Dorothy prevents him from carrying out), with the Witch as she angrily throws down the hour glass after the trio rescues Dorothy, and once more after the Witch has been melted. There is only a brief glimpse of the Golden Cap in the film: after Dorothy and the Lion reawake after Glinda breaks the spell on the poppies conjured by the Witch, she is seen watching them in anger in her crystal ball. Nikko hands her the Golden Cap and she utters the "somebody always helps that girl" line, before throwing the cap across the room angrily. The reason for this brief appearance comes from a scene deleted from the final film. In the script, after the Witch conjures up the poppies that put Dorothy, Toto and the Lion to sleep she orders Nikko to fetch the Golden Cap so she can summon the winged monkeys and they can take the Ruby Slippers from the sleeping girl. However, she never gets a chance as the spell is broken before she can. Why the Witch doesn't use the Golden Cap to summon the monkeys when she sends off into the Winkie Forest to capture Dorothy and Toto is unknown. In the film, the cap looks almost identical to the original artwork by Denslow in the book.

They were never included in any of the subsequent Oz books by Baum, although they are mentioned in The Marvelous Land of Oz (1904), and Alexander Volkov's Oz-based series briefly features them once more (and they are also mentioned once more).


  • In the film version of The Wiz, the African-American rock adaptation of The Wizard of Oz, the flying monkeys are a motorcycle gang, whose leader is named Cheetah, after the Tarzan character. Their metal wings are part of their motorcycles, but these apparently dissolved with the witch's other magic, as they are absent when carrying Dorothy and her friends back to the Emerald City. The idea of the Flying or winged monkeys were invented by the master of creators Michael Blaine.
  • In 1976, two statues of winged monkeys were erected on the rooftop of a mattress store called "Emerald City of Oz" in Burlington, Vermont. In 1996, the statues were moved to the roof of Union Station (now Main Street Landing), and statues of baby monkeys were added in the winter of 2004–2005. Two more statues of winged monkeys were installed on the roof of the nearby Waterfront Theatre in the 1990s.[1][2][3]
  • The winged monkeys subsequently appear in the early 90's cartoon version of The Wizard of Oz, with one of them named Truckle (voiced by Pat Fraley) serving as the Wicked Witch of the West's chief sidekick. He's shown as capable of speech and even gets to wear the Ruby Slippers for a brief time. Truckle led the winged monkeys that were loyal to the Wicked Witch of the West into performing a ritual that would resurrect her.
  • In The Muppets' Wizard of Oz, the winged monkeys are formerly a rather peaceful group of "motorcycle enthusiasts" and are played by Sal Minella, Sweetums, Crazy Harry, Black Dog, Calico, Old Tom, Spotted Dick, and Aretha from Fraggle Rock. The winged monkeys were placed under the Wicked Witch of the West's control when she took possession of their Magic Biker Cap. Forced to do her bidding, the winged monkeys rode their motorcycles through the skies of Oz, performing the Wicked Witch of the West's dirty work. Once she was defeated upon melting in a bathtub filled with tap water, Dorothy returned the Magic Biker Cap to Sal Minella, thereby restoring the winged monkeys' independence.
  • In Bill Willingham's Vertigo comic book series Fables, a winged monkey named Bufkin is a clerk and librarian in the Business Office belonging to the government of Fabletown, a community of refugee fairy-tale characters ("Fables") living in modern-day New York City. It has yet to be revealed how he became a citizen of Fabletown, but it is known that Oz is one of the mythical "Homelands" conquered by the Adversary that forced many Fables to flee to the "real" world, and was given over to the Nome King to rule in the Adversary's name. Though somewhat scatter-brained, lacking in wisdom, and partial to alcohol when he can find it, Bufkin has a surprising amount of knowledge gleaned from the vast array of reference material in the library. After becoming separated from Fabletown and losing his wings in a conflict with the witch Baba Yaga, Bufkin eventually makes his way back to the lands of the Oz books, and in the wake of the Adversary's defeat by Fabletown, leads an uprising that deposes the Nome King's rule. Bufkin goes on to have other adventures across the Homelands before settling down in his old age and dying of natural causes.
  • Beyond Oz, winged apes called "clakars" appear in "While the Gods Laugh" by Michael Moorcock, the second published novelette featuring his character Elric of Melniboné; the novelette was later republished in different collections.[5]
  • In the 2012 film The Avengers, Nick Fury, portrayed by Samuel L. Jackson calls Hawkeye and Erik Selvig (who had been hypnotized at the start of the film) two of Loki's flying monkeys. At this remark, the Asgardian hero Thor is confused, not knowing what a monkey is (and not having read or seen The Wizard of Oz) whilst Captain America excitedly announces that he understood the reference, having come from a source from before when he was frozen during World War II.[6][7]
  • The winged monkeys appear in Oz the Great and Powerful. Oscar Diggs was able to befriend a winged monkey named Finley (voiced by Zach Braff) after using an illusion to save him from a lion. The film also included Winged Baboons which make up the armies of Theodora and Evanora. Unlike Finley who can speak and behave like a human, the Winged Baboons are feral and vicious and cannot speak.
  • In the music video "Heretics and Killers" by Canadian band, Protest The Hero, the band is seen performing in the monkey suits. A newspaper at the beginning also indicates the monkeys are out of work so they try working and other things to make money.
  • The winged monkeys appear in the third season of Once Upon a Time. The Wicked Witch of the West sends one out to collect a sample of the Evil Queen's blood for her potion. The Wicked Witch sent a winged monkey to make her presence known to the Evil Queen. Before it can attack Robin Hood's son Roland, the Evil Queen turned it into a plush toy and gave it to Roland. Another winged monkey assumes the form of a man named Walsh (played by Christopher Gorham) and becomes in a relationship with Emma Swan for eight months. However, when she declines his marriage proposal to go to Storybrooke, he reveals his true form and attacks Emma. Emma fights back and knocks him off a building. Though he vanishes into smoke before he can hit the ground. When Emma is back in Storybrooke, the winged monkeys start taking its inhabitants one by one in order to be converted into winged monkeys. In "It's Not Easy Being Green," it was revealed that Walsh was the previous Wizard of Oz before being turned into a flying monkey by the Wicked Witch of the West. After the Wicked Witch's defeat, everyone who was turned into a flying monkey return to their human forms.
  • The winged monkeys appeared in the 2013 animated film Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return (based on Dorothy of Oz) with their vocal effects provided by Scott Menville, Alan Shearman, Randi Soyland, and Flip Waterman. The winged monkeys are servants of the Jester where the flying monkey named "You" (voiced by Randi Soyland) is his main servant.
  • A winged monkey skin exists for Brightwing in Heroes of the Storm. More of the creatures are said to inhabit its Luxorian setting.
  • The flying monkeys appear in the Lego Dimensions video game. The flying monkeys are only affected by that their master the Wicked Witch of the West witnessed the disappearing of Dorothy via the vortex and battle Gandalf, Batman, and Wyldstyle.

See also


  1. ^ Carlson, Rik. "The Flying Monkeys of Burlington, Vermont". Retrieved January 17, 2011. 
  2. ^ Ocker, J. W. (November 10, 2008). "Flying Monkeys". OTIS: Odd Things I've Seen. Retrieved January 17, 2011. 
  3. ^ "Burlington, Vermont - Winged Monkeys". Roadside Retrieved January 17, 2011. 
  4. ^ A Touch More Evil: Azkadellia's World", ''SciFi Pulse'' video (Atom Films mirror) - November 13, 2007""". Retrieved 2009-11-09. 
  5. ^  
  6. ^ Lavery, David (2014). Joss Whedon, A Creative Portrait: From Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Marvel's The Avengers. London: I.B. Tauris. p. 174.  
  7. ^ Kroq Jock (May 6, 2012). Spoiler Reference Guide *UPDATED*"The Avengers". Celebutopia. Retrieved June 17, 2014. 
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