The Building of the Causeway

Now that the army is ready to move on Longka, Phra Ram assembles his staff officers and tells them that a causeway must be built between the mainland and Longka island so that the army and all its baggage and supplies can be taken safely across the strait. He orders Sukreep to supervise the operation, while Hanuman and Nilapat, with the other monkeys of the army as their laborers, are chosen to carry out the construction work.

Glad to be away from the camp again, Hanuman flies blithely down to the strait with his companions. He might perhaps be less happy if he knew what his colleague Nilapat is thinking. The fact is that the black monkey has had a grudge against the Son of the Wind since the time Hanuman abducted his foster father, King Chompoo, in order to bring him before Phra Ram. The great Chompoo readily forgave Hanuman upon learning that Phra Ram wanted to enlist his aid in the campaign against the demons, but Nilapat has been brooding ever since over what he feels was an affront to his honor as Chompoo’s personal guard. So far he has nursed his resentment in secret, but now, flying down to the Longka strait, he promises he will pay off his score with Hanuman.

While the Sukreep goes off to attend to other business, the two monkeys prepare for work. "I suggest you stand in the water, brother Hanuman," says the sly Nilapat, "while I toss you the rocks from the mainland."

"Fair enough," says Hanuman, "but mind you throw the rocks straight and at reasonable intervals. It’s going to be hot work out there."

Nilapat laughs gleefully to himself as he flies to the nearby Himaphan Mountains. "This is going to be fun," he says to himself. On the side of the mountain he gathers together a pile of rocks the size of small pavilions. "Ready?" he shouts to Hanuman, who is standing out in the water. "Let’s begin." And he takes rocks and throws them across to the Son of the Wind, at first at a reasonable speed, but gradually faster and faster and closer and closer together, so that Hanuman has to work at furious speed to keep himself from being buried beneath them. Even though he can use both his hands independently of each other, plucking the rocks out of the air and placing them in position on the sea bed, his pelt is soaked with sweat by the time Nilapat has run through his supply. "You’ll be needing a rest, I suppose," shouts Nilapat maliciously. "Not in the least," Hanuman bawls back. "Just let’s change places and I’ll be ready to continue immediately." But to himself he growls, "And then we’ll see about playing games."

Hanuman flies to the mountainside and quickly gathers together rocks of suitable size, which he attaches to the hairs of his body. Up he shoots into the air and heads out over the strait. "Catch this lot then, partner," he shouts down to Nilapat, who, startled to hear Hanuman’s voice from overhead, looks up to see what appears to be a mountain flying directly above him.

"What? . . . One at a time, brother, one at a time," Nilapat quavers, but before he can utter another word, Hanuman shakes himself like a wet dog, and down come the rocks with a roar. Like a lone pine before an avalanche, like and ant under a landslide, Nilapat is engulfed and disappears. It is a full minute before he can pick himself off the bed of the sea and reemerge above the waves, wet, bruised and seething with rage. Hanuman is helpless with laughter at the sight of him.

Nilapat is nearly beyond words. He lurches up into the air, screaming as he does so, "That’s just the kind of behavior I might have expected from a blackguard of your sort. But now I’m going to teach you a lesson you’ll never forget."

The two monkeys clash with a noise like thunder. Hanuman is quick to see that Nilapat means business and lashes out with both feet to send the enraged animal crashing against Mount Jakrawan. Nilapat, winded but undeterred, springs back at Hanuman and, with eyes glowing like coals, deals the Son of the Wind a blow that sends him hurtling to the ground. The impact of his fall topples trees for miles around. "If that’s the the way things are," says Hanuman between his teeth, "see how you like the taste of cold steel," and the two monkeys snatch up their swords and square away, circling and feinting, looking for an opening to get in a deadly thrust. They are hard at it, cutting and thrusting, their blades clashing and striking sparks from each other, commanding the lesser monkeys to hold them apart. Even so, it is quite five minutes before they can be safely released and led separately back to the camp.

But the matter does not stop there.

The noise of their conflict has come to the ears of Phra Ram. Angry that his own officers should be fighting when so much is still to be done, he orders his brother to bring the offenders before him.

Each of the monkeys is brought to Phra Ram under escort and tells his version of the story behind the conflict. So furious do they both become again that their voices rise, and if it were not for their guards they would again be at each other’s throats. Phra Ram, however, commands them to be silent and reminds them that the punishment for their crime is not less than death. Hearing this, the monkeys tremble. Sukreep, however, intercedes with Phra Ram, pointing out that the morale of the army might be affected by the loss of so powerful an ally as Hanuman, while Chompoo himself could hardly remain well disposed toward them if his foster son were executed.

Having considered this advice, Phra Ram pronounces judgement.

"Nilapat is to return to Chompoo in disgrace, another general form the monkey city taking his place. Hanuman is to complete the building of the causeway to Longka island within seven days - or his life shall be forfeited," he decrees.

Hanuman gets to work on the causeway without further delay. For two days all goes well, and the road to Lonkga grows out into the strait. Under Sukreep’s direction, and with Hanuman’s superhuman example to spur them on, the lesser monkeys redouble their efforts, and it seems certain that the construction will be finished before the end of the appointed time. On the third day, however, a curious thing happens. All progress stops. The monkeys continue to hurl their rocks into the water, but not one inch further forward does the causeway advance. It is as if the materials are being hurled into a bottomless gulf. Conscious that time is passing, Hanuman works even faster, but even so, by the end of the third day the monkeys have nothing to show for their labor.

Sukreep, perturbed by this state of affairs, takes his nephew to one side. "Hanuman, my boy," he says, "something is wrong here. I suspect our friend Totsagan is up to his tricks. If you value your life, you’ll take my advice and dive down there below the green waves and see why our work is being held up."

Hanuman is only too pleased to take his uncle’s advice. The laborious business of carting stones is not much in his line, and he thinks a bit of diversion will come in nicely. He grips his sword firmly, and having saluted Sukreep, the Son of the Wind kicks up his heels and dives neatly under the turbulent waves.

When his eyes have accustomed themselves to the green and murky light below the surface, Hanuman is astonished to find the water alive with fishes. Schools, shoals, swarms of the glittering creatures flash here and there, and with a shock of indignation the Son of the Wind realizes that while those swimming towards the causeway have empty jaws, those swimming away from it bear stones, rocks and even boulders, each according to its size, fixed firmly between their teeth.

"Now then," roars Hanuman, brandishing his sword, "be of with you, or you’ll end up over a hot fire."

At the sight and sound of this furry monster, the fishes with one accord turn tail and flee, vanishing in a flash of scales. To his annoyance, Hanuman sees that one fish - is it a fish though? - has disobeyed his command, and hovers resolutely some way off in the mistiness. "Now I’m really getting angry," he mutters to himself and streaks towards the figure, his sword raised for the kill. As he comes closer his arm falls, his resolution deserts him, he gapes with surprise. Facing him, her tail twitching this way and that with outrage, is the most exquisite mermaid he has ever seen - golden-bodied and with the tail of a fish, but in all other respects a model of femininity.

This lovely creature is really rather frightened at the sight of the powerful monkey, but she doesn’t intend to show it. With yet another whisk of her tail that stirs up a little whirlwind of sand, she says angrily, "How dare you frighten my subjects like that. I’ll have you know that you are dealing with Supanna Matcha, daughter of Totsagan of Longka and Queen of the Ocean. From this moment you are my prisoner."

"Prisoner!" shouts Hanuman, and doubles up with laughter. "You are MY prisoner," and in a flash he leaps at her. Supanna Matcha eludes him and is off like lightning. But, fast as she is, the Son of the Wind is faster and very quickly has her in his arms.

Whatever Hanuman’s intentions in pursuing her, once she is in his arms he has only one thought in mind - to take not her life but her love. Supanna Matcha at first weeps and wails and laments her lot, but slowly, skillfully, passionately, the resourceful monkey kindles the fire in her veins that burns in his own, and it is not long before, many fathoms down on the soft sea bed, they are tasting the delights of love.

Later the enamored mermaid queen tells Hanuman the whole story. Totsagan’s watchmen had seen and reported to the king the rapid construction of the causeway to Longka, and the demon king had sent instructions to his daughter to ensure that the monkeys’ work was brought to nothing. So she had assembled her sea minions and directed them to carry away the rocks as soon as they were thrown into the sea. That is what they had been doing when Hanuman had come.

The Son of the Wind tells her his side of the story, or at least as much of it as he considers suitable. Preening himself, he explains that he is one of Phra Ram’s most important generals, and describes how the conflict between Ram and her father started.

Having told her of his quarrel with Nilapat, and Phra Ram’s decree, he makes it clear that his life depends on his completing the causeway within a further four days. If her subjects continue to carry away the rocks, he explains, he will certainly be executed. Supanna Matcha assures him that her subjects, far from hindering his work, will replace those rocks they have taken away. And so, with many a long-drawn-out sigh between them, they part.

This interlude has consequences for the golden-bodied Goddess of the Sea - and indeed for Hanuman - as will later be described.

Greatly refreshed by his underwater excursion, and secretly aided as he is by the lovely Supanna Matcha, Hanuman is able to complete the causeway within the prescribed time. Sukreep hurries to inform Phra Ram that the work is done, and the king’s joy soars to the sixteenth heaven.

The army of monkeys, with fur neatly combed and polished, with accoutrements correctly slung and gleamingly furbished, its banners hoisted and snapping in the breeze, is marched to the beginning of the causeway and drawn up in order. Phra Ram mounts his victory chariot and reviews his troops. Looking on their serried ranks with pride, he delivers his order of the day. "Now the real battle begins. Soldiers, do your duty!"

The monkeys then file out along the causeway and onto Longka island, cheering as Phra Ram rides slowly across to enemy territory. The air resounds with martial music, and unseen angels release a gentle rain of flowers.

In this auspicious way, the siege of Longka begins.