Mario and Luigi have long been among Videogameland’s greatest heroes, and for good reason: the PR that comes with saving the Mushroom Kingdom’s seemingly greatest royal wonder can’t be anything less than stellar. But though Videogameland’s greatest, pipin’ hot plumbers may be the most well-known of heroes, there’s still quite a few people out there who would tend to disagree. Well, perhaps not people. Monkeys.
Yes, Mario’s first enemy, Donkey Kong Sr. (now known as Cranky Kong), spent the first youthful years of his life living not in the jungle, but in some construction yard where Mario was working. Through a series of unfortunate events, Mario pummeled D.K. Sr. into the ground, and so began his road to stardom (Mario’s, not D.K.’s). Unfortunately, at that time, the Kong name could only be associated with villainy, and so it remained for years.
But one day, Donkey Kong III– now simply Donkey Kong– began to redeem the good Kong name. With the help of his Kong brothers, sisters, nephews and nieces (et cetera), Donkey Kong fought off scores of crocodiles, took back tons of Golden Bananas, and, well, the rest is history. Anybody who’s anybody in Videogameland, whether it’s the lowliest Goomba to the greatest oft-missing space hunter, knows about the Kong family’s exploits.
And now, with their new game Donkey Kong Country Returns on the horizon, the Kong family has for the first time allowed outsiders into their banana-filled enclave, admitting interviews that hitherto were very much disallowed. Nintendojo and its simian translators have managed to score exclusive interviews with the D.K. Krew, and is now in the process of working with Donkey Kong to create an exclusive coffee-table book and documentary, as well as some very high-quality D.K. stuffed animals. We’re sure you’ll enjoy it– but for now, here’s an excerpt from the first chapter of our book, A Few Good Apes: The Oral History of the Greatest Simians Ever.
We begin with the very start of the Kong line, and so the very beginning of the Kong tale. It’s an epic tale, and like any great story, it’s wrought with deception, misunderstanding and even romance. Donkey Kong Sr., better known as Cranky Kong these days, has never put events of his youth quite in perspective until now, letting Mario blab on about the story himself. Now, he seems to have had enough.
Donkey Kong Sr.: First of all, I just want to say that if you’d put my name as Donkey Kong Sr. instead of that other name everybody else calls me, I’d really appreciate it. It’s a matter of respect, you know, and an old ape like me deserves his respect from whippersnappers like you.
We good? Okay.
Anyway, it all started back when I was first making my way in the world. Mule Kong, my father– Monkey King bless his soul– had sat me down one day, and told me very clearly, “Son, you know that a bright ape like you can’t stay in the jungle forever. You’re too smart for that. You need to go to the big city.”
I don’t need to tell you how big of a shock that was. I thought I was going to stay in the jungle for my entire life, picking bananas– which, mind you, is a perfectly respectable job, young one, before you start talking about caste and reputation and what have you. Reputation is important, yes, but it doesn’t mean you can’t pick bananas to have a good reputation. It’s– wait, what was I talking about?
Oh… Yes. So I packed a banana-leaf knapsack and left home. I’m not ashamed to say that I cried a little, because that just shows how much I respected my family– something everybody could learn a little from, respect for the family, you know, very important– but I’m also proud to say that I looked at my future, steeled for anything. What I wasn’t steeled for, though, was what I saw outside the jungle.
I was just about to make my way into the outskirts of the jungle when I realized that old Blotch Kong’s banana fields weren’t there. Does that sound stupid? Absolutely. Because if there’s one thing you should know about Blotch, it’s that he took extra good care of his banana fields. Never seen a better farmer in my life. But all of a sudden, those fields were up and gone. Standing in their place was a bunch of strange metal rods and a few iron bars. Of course, I had to go see what was going on. I was very worried about Blotch.
Mario (former construction worker, Mario & Luigi Co.): We’re a-working on the latest Mushroom-a Mall-a, right-a? And all of-a sudden some dirty monkey charges, roaring at-a us. Whatta else-a we supposed to do? It-a was scary, capice?
Donkey Kong Sr.: So I’m walking calmly toward this strange not-a-banana-field. Calmly, because that’s what my father taught me to be. He always said, “Be calm, and the world will follow you.” Unfortunately, it didn’t seem to work out for me this time. This guy in a red hat and red overalls– he was weird– starts to yell at me, even though I’m clearly waving benignly, and all of a sudden pulls out this giant hammer from his pocket. To this day I still don’t know why he did that. I was trying desperately to show that I just wanted to find out why they were doing this to poor Blotch’s field.
Mario: So it’s-a roaring and hammering the ground-a and it’s-a almost wrecking-a our construction. I say-a again, whatta else-a we supposed to do? Plus he take-a my girlfriend! He a monster!
Donkey Kong Sr.: Soon I found myself trying to run away from the foreman or whoever he was, even though I clearly only wanted to talk. The only thing I could think of was to try and find the nicest-looking human there, and try to work things out in a rational manner. So– and in retrospect this may not have been the best of ideas– I tap this very distinguished lady on the shoulder, who in return screams and runs away. I imagine I was probably the first ape she’d seen in her life. Which I know now is not surprisingly for most humans.
Pauline (socialite, Mario’s ex-girlfriend): I was punched by that monster. Nobody ever talks about it because it’s so scary, but I was actually the first victim of that fiend’s rampage. I was so scared I dropped my purse. And my hat. And my umbrella.
Donkey Kong Sr.: So I tried to explain myself, via gesture, since humans like you speak barbarian languages instead of Simianese. Meanwhile the screaming from all around gets louder and louder, while the foreman’s attempts to smash me with that giant hammer get bolder and bolder. It was just a horrible, distracting environment. So I try to get the lady somewhere private where we can talk in a gentleapely manner.
Donkey Kong Jr. (son of Donkey Kong Sr.): The only thing you should really know about Dad is that he’s a really, really nice guy. Or at least, he used to be. I don’t know what happened, but now he just likes to throw tantrums. Seriously, it gets really bad.
Mario: He take-a her to the top of the mall! It was not safe-a there! I left nails-a lying around-a! She coulda gotten an infection-a! She coulda died!
Pauline: When that troll grabbed me and tossed me on top of that building– it– it– (speech lapses into incomprehensible sobbing)
Donkey Kong Sr.: I suppose I might have accidentally knocked over a few barrels along the way, too, but really, I had the best of intentions, and I even offered to send a check for damages. I even offered to go down and pick up the lady’s purse and other belongings for her. The foreman didn’t seem to care so much.
Mario: I almost died trying to get all that stuff for Pauline-a dearest. It’s-a good thing years of track and field-a trained me to jump-a really, really high-a over-a those barrels. I finally got-a up, and you know what I did? I kicked the ape off the cliff! (laughs uproariously)
Mario “Jumpman” smashes a hammer into the unassuming air.
Donkey Kong Sr.: Eventually I decided that nothing was working, and besides, I had errands to run, and so I eventually decided to leave. Not wanting to inconvenience that silly foreman, who was busily smashing random barrels with a hammer, I simply jumped off of the building. I did feel a little remorse for leaving the lady behind, but she simply was not being as cooperative as I expected such people of her rank to be.
In any case, looking back, it was an utter waste of half an hour of my life. I could have been working.
Pauline: How long did that take? Probably the entire day. I’m telling you, it was a horrible experience. And it took me years of therapy afterward to stop crying every time I saw an animal. That dumb Mario even broke up with me because he said he couldn’t talk to me properly anymore. I tried to sue the monkey, but it turns out there’s something in the law about not being able to sue animals. I mean, how stupid is that, right? I don’t– (breaks into tears) Can we talk about something else?
Chunky Kong (grandson of Donkey Kong Sr.): One time I looked at a pretty lady when I was in the city and the pretty lady cried a lot and then I almost got arrested by people in blue shirts but it’s okay because I punched them and now Daddy says I can’t go back in the city ever again.
Donkey Kong Sr.: I will not stoop so low as to say that this experience, as frighteningly ridiculous as it was, was not in some way fulfilling. It did give me some sort of inspiration as to what I wanted to do with my life. After all, I had realized that humans– no matter how nice they may seem –simply are horrible creatures; not to be trusted, indeed. My true place lay in making sure that the so-called “lower primates”– my people to whom I dedicated myself –had a place in this unfortunately human-dominated plane. And what, pray tell, is a better way to ensure the survival of your species than by making sure it’s the most highly-advanced species on the planet?
Donkey Kong III (grandson of Donkey Kong Sr.): Yeah, old Cranky. (laughs) He always did have a thing for barrels. I don’t even know why. After that, I remember as a kid, I’d walk out of the treehouse and there’d be no way to get down to the jungle floor except via barrel. Seriously, for such a old fuddy-duddy, good ol’ Cranky was a pretty sweet inventor. He’d literally build a rocket inside a barrel. Did I say that clearly enough? He built a rocket. Inside. A. Barrel. (guffaws)
Donkey Kong III enjoys a rip-roaring barrel-blast session in Donkey Kong Barrel Blast.
Funky Kong (munitions expert and travel agent): Dude, I can say a lot about Cranky, but the best thing about him? EXPLOSIONS, dude! (laughs) The guy comes home one night and he’s all, “Dude, Funky, I think you best be comin’ over tonight!” And I’m like nerding out, going like, “Dude, no way, I gots schools, man.” And Cranky’s like “Funky, man, you gots to funk it up! Skippin’ school ain’t no matter, I gots a better job for you!” So I go over to his garage and, let me tell you, I ain’t never seen so many barrel bombs in one place. Actually I ain’t never seen so many barrels in one place.
Donkey Kong Sr.: Pardon me? What did Funky say? That I’m the reason he dropped out of school? Nonsense. He must have heard incorrectly, the whippersnapper. I told him that I’d like to see his father, Blues Kong, a respectable ape who would have understood the philanthropic implications of the new barrel-based technology I was creating. Instead, Funky merely drooled at me and mumbled something about explosions. That boy seriously needs a mental checkup.
Funky Kong: He’s a modest dude, Cranky, but seriously, if he wanted to, he could’ve gotten a whole ton of bananas for all the good he’s done for us great apes. Whadda we got now? We got barrel planes, barrel cars, barrel drums, barrel rockets– did D.K. tell you about the rockets oh my great aunt Swanky the rockets–
Donkey Kong Sr.: With my father’s blessing, I stayed in the jungle– the city was too big of a change, for obvious reasons that I’ve just talked about– and I like to think that even now, though I may be old and weary, my inventions have increased the rate of comfortable living considerably. Certainly, with the power of barrels, I could not only do simple things, such as store bananas, but I could also create extremely fast transportation, for instance. Though– and I must admit I’m not up-to-date on this– I think more than a few monkeys may have misused the technology.
Donkey Kong III: I’m telling you, it was sweet. Diddy and I probably spent a whole year bouncing around in those things. I hit my head a lot, but then again so did Diddy. Dad caught me once but I made him promise not to tell Cranky.
Donkey Kong Jr.: I essentially did not tell Dad because I knew that my son Donkey and my grandson Diddy had already suffered brain cell loss in epic proportions. It would have been obvious what they had done with Dad’s tech.
Donkey Kong Sr.: It’s really unfortunate, actually, that my company will likely fall very quickly after my death. My son, Donkey Jr., has no interest in furthering the company, preferring instead to become a entomologist– useless, if you ask me– and my grandson and great-grandson were both born stupid.
Which is why, I suppose, it was such a horrible tragedy, twenty years ago, when the Kremlins came to town.
To be continued in A Few Good Apes: The Oral History of the Greatest Simians Ever. Pick it up at your local Videogameland bookstore today. Not sold in Mushroom Kingdom jurisdictions by request of Kong Corporation.