Is Curious George really a monkey?
July 4, 2008 5:25 PM   Subscribe

So, is Curious George really a monkey? Can you identify what species of monkey or ape he might be?

After being seriously over-exposed to Curious George and the admonitions to "Be a good little monkey," I am starting to think that he probably isn't a monkey. For starters, he doesn't have a tail. Isn't that the key distinction between apes and monkeys? Also, isn't he rather large for a monkey? I think he might be a chimpanzee, but in the illustrations and TV show, he's brown, not black.

So, is Curious George really a monkey? Can you identify what species of monkey or ape he might be?

I have a child who is nearly 3 and I clearly have been getting too much George on TV, books, and the computer.
posted by mausburger to Grab Bag (20 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Wikipedia says he's a chimpanzee.
posted by Ruki at 5:30 PM on July 4, 2008

He doesn't have a tail, so he cannot be a monkey.
posted by Class Goat at 5:31 PM on July 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

As pointed out, he stops being a monkey when he has no tail.

Curious George is either

a: A monkey that has had its tail amputated.


b: A monkey that has a lazy arsed artist that can't draw tails.
posted by Brockles at 5:33 PM on July 4, 2008

I don't think you can use the size as a factor. As with most cartoon-type illustrations, the relative size of all people/animals/objects is off.
posted by winston at 5:46 PM on July 4, 2008

In the fictional universe in which Curious George is set some monkeys don't have tails.
posted by oddman at 5:46 PM on July 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

My baby book from 30 years ago has my first sentence as: "George is a monkey." Thus, he is a monkey.
posted by meerkatty at 5:51 PM on July 4, 2008 [6 favorites]

Barbary Macaques are pretty much tail-less (they do have stubs), yet they are monkeys. However, George is not likely a Barbary Macaque, as he originally lived in a jungle, not in Gibraltar or the Atlas mountains.
posted by teg at 5:58 PM on July 4, 2008

For those that haven't noticed, this is a fictional story.

This question relates well to a conversation I once had with Zack Snyder as we talked about the problems people had with his running zombies. Zack would always answer by saying, "Well, in the REAL zombie world......."
posted by HuronBob at 6:09 PM on July 4, 2008 [3 favorites]

Best answer: After a thorough investigation of the evidence (one YouTube video), this primatologist concludes that he's an ape. No tail plus knuckle-walking rules out all monkeys, and narrows down the field to chimps and gorillas.

I predict he'll reach sexual maturity and try to kill the Man in the Yellow Hat.
posted by bergeycm at 6:13 PM on July 4, 2008 [30 favorites]

George is a cartoon. There, that settles it.
posted by seawallrunner at 6:37 PM on July 4, 2008 [2 favorites]

Curious George is really a monkey. From the publisher:

"Hans and Margret (Rey) were married in Brazil on August 16, 1935, and they moved to Paris after falling in love with the city during their European honeymoon. It was there that Hans published his first children’s book, after a French publisher saw his newspaper cartoons of a giraffe and asked him to expand upon them. Raffy and the Nine Monkeys (Cecily G. and the Nine Monkeys in the British and American editions) was the result, and it marked the debut of a mischievous monkey named Curious George."
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:44 PM on July 4, 2008

Lots of people who weren't educated to know any better though there was no difference between Chimps and Monkeys in the 1940's.

Lots of people still don't.

Either way, I don't think the artist was going for accuracy here. It's a book for kids, after all.
posted by wsp at 10:49 PM on July 4, 2008

If I had to pick a species, I would say chimp. But he's really just an odd sort of cartoon species, and one might as well ask what sort of dog Goofy is. Does anyone know, by the way?
posted by Solon and Thanks at 10:50 PM on July 4, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks everyone, for the great answers. I could gratuitously mark all of them as best answer. Let me summarize the arguments.

* Curious George is fictional.
This explanation comes in various forms: it's an alternate reality where monkeys don't have to have tails; and it's meant to entertain children. I kind of buy these arguments, except that the PBS cartoon is designed to teach math and science principles to children. They take great care to make everything else educational, so why not this detail? I suppose there are lots of other unrealistic details, such as George being left unsupervised while the Man in the Yellow Hat goes off to work. This is probably just a plot device so George can get into trouble while being curious. Furthermore, keeping George as monkey allows them to remain faithful to the original books.

* Curious George has a poor costume department.
The Reys didn't know better in the 1940s. This makes sense to me. Also, I think they could have drawn tails if they wanted to. The PBS artists can probably draw tails too, given that they draw things like dinosaur skeletons.

* Curious George is labeled as a monkey; therefore, he is a monkey.
Good point, but I would have a hard time explaining this linguistic convention to my kid.

* You can't use size as evidence for anything because it's a cartoon.
Point well taken, but everything else in the books and TV show has realistic proportions.

To sum up, Curious George is a fictional character in a world where monkeys don't have to have tails and have near-human intelligence, but not verbal ability, because the Reys didn't know better, being artists 1940s rather than primatologists in the 2000s.
posted by mausburger at 10:32 AM on July 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

I suggest that there is an Untold Story: How Curious George Lost His Tail.
posted by SPrintF at 11:23 AM on July 5, 2008

I think it's pretty obvious he's a juvenile chimp. Compare and contrast: same basically hairless face, hands and feet, same protuding ears. Using monkey as a generic word for a primate is not that weird. There is a variety called a brown or chocolate chimpanzee.
posted by nanojath at 12:38 PM on July 5, 2008

George is a monkey and he can do things you can't.
posted by vertigo25 at 5:18 PM on July 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

All cats are curious. George is curious, therefore George is a cat.

The reasoning in the above is flawed because....
posted by doppleradar at 7:57 PM on July 5, 2008

The Reys (originally named Reyersbach) fled France just before the Nazis invaded. Therefore, somehow, Curious George is a metaphor for a Jew.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:59 AM on July 6, 2008

Response by poster: Nanojath: Try calling The Librarian at the Unseen University a monkey. You'll regret it.
posted by mausburger at 1:41 AM on July 7, 2008

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