The Monkeys’ Wedding: where rain meets sun


Photo copyright 2015 Tish Farrell. Art copyright Kathleen Collins Howell

The Monkeys’ Wedding  was my first children’s short story. I wrote it while we were living in Zambia (see Letters from Lusaka 1 & 2) . It was also the first piece of work accepted for publication. This stroke of luck was due to my good friend, artist and illustrator, Kathleen Howell. At the time she was Professor of Children’s Illustration at SUNY Buffalo, and had received several freelance commissions from America’s well beloved children’s magazine group, Cricket.

Unbeknownst to me she had sent a copy of my story to the then Art Director. He liked it and, after much editing, I received a contract. Time passed. Quite a lot of time in fact. Things, as I was to learn from future contracts, can move slowly at Cricket Magazine. They like to do their best by their writers and illustrators, and in each monthly edition of their magazines, combines submissions that complement one another, or follow a theme. In the meantime, Kathy said she would like to illustrate it, and finally in 2001, some 7 years after I’d written it, the story saw the light of day in Spider Magazine. It was also given a re-run in 2009.

The thing that sparked the story in the first place was the colloquial expression ‘a monkeys’ wedding’. It is possibly of Zulu origin, and I found it in my South African Pocket Oxford Dictionary, the only dictionary I could find to buy in Lusaka. (There were hardly any books in Zambia in the early 1990s).  The  phrase means simultaneous sunshine and rain, and I was so pleased to discover it, I set about creating my own folk story to explain it.

And so evolved the humorous tale of the monkey chief who was about to marry off his daughter, but made the tactical error of inviting everyone except Rain to the wedding.  Rain, in a big sulk, then drenches the forest for days. Something has to be done, or the wedding will be a wash-out.


Copyright 2001 Spider Magazine: August 2001 and September 2009


It’s interesting re-reading the text some 20 years on. I probably wouldn’t write it quite this way now, but Kathy’s illustrations are still brilliant. The top photo is some of her original artwork done with mixed media collage.

And now here’s a photo of an actual ‘monkeys’ wedding’ taken at Hunter’s Lodge, Kiboko, in Kenya during a sudden brief and sunny deluge. This place, with its many vervet monkeys, was also a source of inspiration for the story. Aaah. Happy days of finding monkeys under the bed, or rifling through my bag.

214 (2)


copyright 2015 Tish Farrell

47 thoughts on “The Monkeys’ Wedding: where rain meets sun

  1. I really love this. A late congrats on the publication. The rain and sun meeting, is something that happens all too often here in Florida. I like having a new name for it. Thank you so much for sharing.

  2. Oh how lovely, Tish! The title brings a big smile to my face. 🙂
    Many, many, very, very belated congratulations on your first published children’s story. Well done. ❤

  3. You’re a clever one, Tish ! – I think it must take enormous talent to write at that level, truly ! It’s easy enough to write like an adult; but another thing entirely to write simplistically and not ‘talk down’.
    Complimenti, bella !

  4. Nice to hear about your first publication. I love both pictures from Kenya. The vervet monkey reading the Nation and the Standard, not unheard of 😀

  5. We too have this expression in our place. In my language, Kannada, we say ‘Mangana maduve’. Mangana is Minkey’s , madive is wedding 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

    1. That’s really interesting to know, and of course there has long been contact between India and Africa, through centuries of trade and more recent settlement. So perhaps there is even more of a story to tell about this saying. Your comment is much appreciated 🙂

  6. Lovely, Tish! Every bit of it. I’m going to share the excerpt with my boy when he’s feeling better. My brother went to Buffalo. (We grew up in NYC.) I love the way you came up with your story and the neat glimpse into how your story (eventually) surfaced. The illustrations do justice to your work.


    1. Oh you lovely person, Diana. And how nice that you’ll show it your son. Hope he’s feeling better soon. You can maybe get the original Spider edition in your library, though September 2009 is going back a bit now. Do you use the Cricket magazines for your home schooling? Tx

  7. Beautiful story about the story, and the illustrations are lovely. Makes me think, how wondrous to touch young minds this way: to spark the imagination, and the desire to tell stories themselves, one day. It’s really a lovely gift you were able to present and receive, at the same time.

    1. I love that image too. It was brilliant having a good chum (to say nothing of her being a professor of illustration to boot) to work on the story. What luck!

  8. Oh, I like these illustrations too. Funny, we have an expression here for the simultaneous rain and sunshine wedding – a gypsy wedding, but I don’t know the story of that one. Hope all is well with you, Tish.

    1. Hello, Paula. Glad you like the pix. Interesting your idiom of a gypsy wedding. Now let’s see. How what the origin of that phrase come about 🙂
      I am well thank you. Doing much digging. Hope all is well with you, Paula – and you’re not overloaded, nose wise and work wise. Tx

      1. Thanks Tish :). I’m better and not working this weekend, but will be very busy next week before my trip to Portugal.

  9. My schoolfriend who grew up in Kenya told me it was called a monkeys wedding when the rain came down on a sunny day…my husband thought I was dreaming but now I have googled and found out about your story I must look it up!

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