Tales of the Gold Monkey Geographical Model
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I came across the attached manuscript in a pile of papers in a second-hand bookstore. So far as I can determine, it was never published. Certainly there is no reference to it in any of the more prestigious scientific journals. Neither have I been able to identify the institution with which Dr. McWhirtle was associated.

Dr. McWhirtle's stated aim was to stimulate further scholarly research but, in this respect, he seems to have failed. On the other hand, he admits to a feeling (I think of it as McWhirtle's Dream) that it was not scholars, but the ordinary devotees of 'Tales of the Gold Monkey' who would be the key to unravelling the geography of the Marivellas. I think he'd be pleased to find his work coming to rest at Patricia Annino's website.

- Len Warne


A Preliminary Reconstruction of the Geography of the Marivellas
by Dr. Ernest J. McWhirtle

Although there is an extensive body of research on the "Tales of the Gold Monkey", the geography of the Marivellas has been somewhat neglected in comparison with the more glamorous aspects of the field.

The reluctance of scholars to confront this daunting enterprise is understandable. The Marivellas existed only in 1938 and, until and unless a map or other authentic geographical documents are unearthed, the available evidence will be limited to what we can find in the series 'bible' and in the stories themselves. This presents us with serious obstacles.

To begin with, the Marivellas, like the Marshalls, the Carolines and the Marianas, undoubtedly consisted of several hundred islands. Indeed, this is confirmed in the 'bible'. Unfortunately, the stories acquaint us with only around thirty. And of some of those, we learn whether or not they lie in the Japanese Mandate and nothing more.

Moreover, even for the 25 or so islands that remain, constructing a geography is a challenging and frustrating business. There are only a handful of unambiguous references to provide a foundation. The rest depends on the piecing together of clues from various episodes, supplemented by guess-work. A model that seems to be emerging quite nicely can suddenly collapse like a house of cards with the discovery of a single previously-unnoticed remark by a minor character.

Many scholars have been discouraged by the nature of the clues themselves. Too many of them are vague, and too many appear to be mutually contradictory. Mostly, we are dependent on things that the characters tell us. And people sometimes make mistakes or mis-speak themselves or say things that are open to interpretation. Why would the people of the Marivellas be different?

Nevertheless, excessive scholarly caution can only leave us mired in ignorance. Progress is only possible if some effort is made to construct models that are as coherent as the evidence will permit. This paper records one such effort. It does not present itself as being authoritative in any way, but is intended to stimulate more extensive research.


We know from the 'bible' that the Marivella chain is situated so that the northern half lies in the Japanese Mandate, whose historical boundaries are known (see map). Further, we know that Boragora is 3251 miles east of Manila ("The Late Sarah White"). We also know that Matuka, Princess Koji's home base, is in the Japanese Mandate, 183 miles from Boragora ("Cooked Goose"). It follows that Boragora, in addition to being 3251 miles east of Manila, is less than 183 miles south of the equator (which was the southern boundary of the Japanese Mandate). Just how much less than 183 miles we can only guess, although we are never given the impression that it lies especially close to the boundary.

The third island that features prominently in the stories is Tagataya. Again, we are told by the 'bible' that Tagataya is about 4 hours' flying time from Boragora. To unpack this reference, we need to consider that, on paper, the Grumman Goose had a maximum speed of 200 m.p.h. (which Jake confirms in "Once a Tiger") and a maximum cruising speed of 190 m.p.h. Using the latter speed, the distance between Tagataya and Boragora would be some 760 miles. However, the range of the Grumman Goose was only about 640 miles, and we are never given any indication that the "Goose" cannot make that trip without refueling. It is therefore assumed, for purposes of the model, that Jake tends to cruise about 150 m.p.h. on that particular trip, and that Tagataya lies about 600 miles from Boragora.

(Note: I am indebted to Professor E. Entwhistle, who has brought to my attention that 600 miles is still getting close to the maximum range of the Goose, but that there is some support for this proposition in "A Shout of Distant Thunder" - when the "Goose"'s tank is down a bit, a flight to Tagataya becomes problematic).

Fortunately, we also have an important clue about the directional relation between the two islands. In "Trunk from the Past", Jake and Corky are returning to Boragora with cargo from Tagataya. With the "Goose" shrouded in clouds, the instruments suddenly malfunction. When the clouds clear, Jake estimates from the stars that they are 100 miles southeast of Boragora. A strong case can therefore be made that Tagataya lies roughly southeast of Boragora. We will see, however, that this conclusion is not free of controversy.


In "Shanghaied", Koji's half-brother kidnaps Corky, and takes him to repair his ship, which is stranded at the (unnamed) island occupied by the Mud People.

We, the viewers, learn that the island of the Mud People lies fairly close to Boragora, because a heavy boat rowed by two men can traverse the distance in a night and part of a day. The most generous conceivable estimate for such a feat would surely be 30 or 40 miles.

(There are some who argue that the rowing time was greater. It depends upon when Jake recovered from his fever. Louie, who is quite familiar with malaria from his days on Devil's Island, expected it to break by morning. Yet, on the morning when Jake embarks on his search, Louie remarks that Corky has been gone a day. We may therefore allow that Jake may have been incapacitated for two nights and a day, and the villains may have rowed further - but still, surely, not more than 50 or 60 miles).

Unfortunately, only Jack actually sees Corky being taken away in the rowboat. By morning, so far as Jake and the rest know, Corky could be "anywhere in the islands." They fly off to Matuka, believing that one of Princess Koji's captains is responsible.

Indeed, things seem to take a turn for the better, because Koji is fairly sure who has kidnapped Corky, and where the perpetrator can be found. She tells Jake to fly "towards the southern end of the Marivellas". This is most unsettling. The Marivellas extend at least 600 miles southeast of Boragora, because that is where we have located Tagataya, with considerable confidence. The island of the Mud People cannot be, at one and the same time, within a day or two's heavy rowing distance from Boragora, and also down around Tagataya, 600 miles away.

It can only be that the Marivella chain is shaped rather like a tadpole, with the tadpole's tail, in this case, drooping down to the southeast where Tagataya lies. Koji is in fact directing Jake, not to the southern end of the tail, but to the southern region of the tadpole's main body. In other words, we must accept that the island of the Mud People is south of Matuka - after all, they do find the island. But it seems we can't accept that it is at the "southern end of the Marivellas" per se.

Since the island of the Mud People and Boragora are not far apart, it follows that Boragora, too, lies roughly south of Matuka.

This, however, is not the end of our problems. On the way to Matuka, the "Goose" is attacked by Zeros, who report that this encounter took place 50 kilometers east of Matuka. What is Jake doing east of Matuka when he should be more or less south? We can only conclude that Jake's course had been a little erratic. After all, he was flying while in the grip of a malarial fever, and didn't have Corky along to navigate.

However, in all fairness to Jake, we should place Boragora, in relation to Matuka, a little east of south. At least this minimizes his error. It then follows that the island of the Mud People is westerly, and no doubt a little south, of Boragora.

Finally, it should be acknowledged that there is one further reference in the series which deals with the relative positions of Matuka and Boragora. It comes to us from "Mourning Becomes Matuka". On Matuka, Jake tells Corky (who is going to be doing the flying) that he should "go north through the mountains so you'll be heading out to sea towards Boragora's south side." No reputable authority, to my knowledge, has been able to make an ounce of sense out of this. Boragora is 183 miles away. Can it really matter that much which direction Corky takes off in? But worse, and far more important, what about the direction? Are we to conclude that the south side of Boragora faces the north side of Matuka - in other words, that Boragora is north of Matuka? Surely not - this would flatly contradict everything else we know, including the 'bible', which clearly states that the French Marivellas are south of the islands in the Japanese Mandate. At this stage in the scholarship, Jake's remark must be ruthlessly set aside.


In "Black Pearl", a storm forces Jake and Corky to fly zig-zag "legs" on a flight from Tagataya. They spot an outrigger with dead and dying Tutsami natives, who have paddled/drifted from Trou dans la Mer over the course of a day or two. Later, Jake is taken indirectly, by launch and U-boat, from Boragora to Trou dans la Mer, while Corky and Sarah first follow, and then later try to retrace the earlier erratic route from Tagataya.

Sarah and Corky have no idea where Jake is being taken. They give the launch a head start - say, one hour. When they catch sight of the launch, it is 5 nautical miles northwest of Tonaga, on a heading of 75, travelling at 35 knots (about 42 m.p.h.). So at that point, the launch has probably travelled 35 or 40 miles east and a little north of Boragora and we can situate Tonaga accordingly.

Soon after - say 50 or 60 miles out - Jake remarks that they are still "a couple of hours" from Trou dans la Mer - i.e. about 80 miles at the speed the launch has been travelling. It is then that they switch to the U-boat. The point of switching to the U- boat is to disguise their destination, so it follows that the sub would not pursue the same 75 heading that the launch was on. In fact, it must turn fairly sharply to a more southerly course.

Why south? - because Jake and Corky had spotted the drifting outrigger while flying "legs" from Tagataya to Boragora, i.e., from southeast to northwest. As far as we can tell, the outrigger was paddled, then drifted, for just a day or two, from Trou dans la Mer - a maximum distance of, say, 50 miles. Unless Trou dans la Mer is somewhat south (and not somewhat north) of Boragora, Jake and Corky would never have spotted the outrigger on their flight, even taking into account that they were flying "legs".

However, it is logical to also keep Trou dans la Mer well to the east, because Jake remarks that it is "off the beaten track."

Jake had also made the further complicating remark that they had spotted the outrigger "somewhere between Tagataya and the Tutsami Islands". Probably then, this is a small cluster of islands that lies between Trou dans la Mer and the Tagataya - Boragora flight path. Presumably, the natives were trying to travel the short distance from Trou dans la Mer to their home islands when they became ill and drifted south. (Note that the Tutsamis are either wide-ranging or wide-spread, or both. Some of them also fish on Bukatari and regularly pass the island on the way to Tagataya ("Ape Boy")).

It is largely on the basis of this episode that Professor V. Nordquist argues that Tagataya lies mainly east of Boragora, and perhaps only 100 miles or so to the south. He points out that, at the point where Jake is taken onto the U-boat, Corky tells Sarah that they are "a couple of hours" flying time from Tagataya. He is making that estimate at a point where (see above) the launch has evidently travelled about 50 - 60 miles east and a little north from Boragora. If Tagataya is southeast of Boragora, it is not possible for Tagataya to be 4 hours from Boragora (the 'bible') and "a couple" of hours from a point 50 - 60 miles east and north of Boragora.

Professor Nordquist has argued that Corky, despite his intellectual shortcomings, was an experienced navigator and could not make such a mistake, any more than he would make a mistake about a carburetor or a manifold. However, he argues, if Tagataya is not too far south of Boragora, the pursuit of the launch has in fact brought the Goose closer to Tagataya and, if we allow a little flexibility in interpreting "a couple of hours", Corky's estimate may not be too far off. Of course, if Tagataya is swung towards the northeast in this way, we must, as a consequence, re-position Trou dans la Mer and the Tutsami Islands, as well as the point where Jake and Corky spotted the drifting outrigger.

However, I believe that Professor Nordquist is overlooking the events which occur while the Goose is recreating the earlier flight. When Jake was switched to the U-boat, the launch was at a point which Jake thought was still "a couple of hours" by launch from Trou dans la mer - around 70 - 80 miles. But we seem to learn later in the episode that the U-boat travels only about 9 miles per hour. (The captain needs 40 minutes to travel a safe 6 miles from the explosion). That would mean it would have taken the U-boat about 8 or 9 hours to complete the journey. During that same time, so far as we know, Corky and Sarah fly back to Tagataya and retrace part of the original flight, legs and all. When they reach Trou dans la Mer, the Germans have already set their bomb and left. If Corky's estimate had been correct, the "Goose" would have arrived at Trou dans la Mer while the U-boat was still on its way to the island, with a fair distance still to go. (How all of this is crammed into a single day is an issue that requires further analysis).

In their analysis of this episode, some scholars have tried to make use of the fact that, according to Corky's re-tracing of the flight, the Tutsamis had been spotted after three legs, in the order [port - starboard - port]. However, in my estimation, our current understanding of the geographical fundamentals is so tentative that to invoke such vague details can only confuse the issues.

It should be noted that, in "Black Pearl", we actually get a clear look at a naval chart showing part of the Marivellas, and Trou dans la Mer in particular. On the chart, near the island, we even see a coordinate reference, 11 E (1'E). Such a reference may enable someone with naval navigational skills to place Trou dans la Mer quite precisely. Unfortunately, it is meaningless to the author, unless Trou dans la Mer is an island on a lake in Europe or west-central Africa.


In "Once a Tiger", a cargo plane develops engine trouble at 160 13'E, 0 53'S, in the "vicinity" of the French Marivellas. Kramer, the co-pilot, bails out there, over open ocean. McGraw, the pilot, crash-lands the plane on an island soon after, where the wreck quickly becomes the object of cargo-cult worship by the island natives. In the model explored in this paper, the coordinate reference lies at the western edge of the Marivellas, about 60 miles south of the equator.

Our heros embark on a search for the downed aircraft.

As it turns out, Jake has three possible strategies to guide the search:

  1. The search could be conducted on the basis of the coordinates reported by the plane just before Kramer bailed out.

  2. Allegedly, the plane was flying on a great circle route from Samoa to New Britain, on a heading of 285 true. Jake could try to recreate the relevant portion of the flight path.

  3. Then, there is what has become known as the blue-faced booby theory. Jake knows that the Peleau reef fishermen who pulled Kramer from the water usually fish about halfway between their island and Aapu. This fishing spot is a 2-day canoe ride from Boragora - about 50 miles. Moreover, the birds improbably known as blue-faced boobys always congregate about 50 miles from land, and Kramer had seen many of them while he was in the water.

In order to make geographic sense of this episode, we must be prepared to accept some help from all of these options.

Jake, however, is more single-minded. He opts for the blue- faced booby theory. And he succeeds - the island where the plane went down is soon discovered - so we are provided with some valid clues about the islands mentioned. There is no indication that the island where the plane finally went down is either Peleau or Aapu, so presumably it is a third island. (We also learn that it lies in international waters). According to the blue-faced booby theory, each of these islands must lie at least 50 miles from where Kramer was picked up (since the blue-faced boobys are always seen 50 miles from land). The natural picture one forms is of a square or diamond, at whose respective corners lie Boragora, Peleau, Aapu, and the cargo-cult island.

However, we have yet to establish whether we are dealing with a region north, south, east or west of Boragora. Here, it seems reasonable to turn to the coordinates reported by Kramer. Initially, we are discouraged from doing so because Jake never seems to take them seriously. First, he tells Sarah that the coordinates only direct them to an area of about 4000 square miles. This is puzzling. Jake would be telling the truth if, in fact, Kramer had only reported the position in degrees. However, since minutes of arc were included in his reading, the search should be narrowed down to about 1 square nautical mile. Then Jake says "they were only guessing". Indeed, this is entirely possible, since they had been flying in a thunderstorm. But we must also keep in mind that, when making these remarks, Jake was trying to discourage Sarah from mounting a search.

If we assume that the coordinates were in fact fairly accurate, we can place the islands more or less west of Boragora, which is what I have done.

As if to add to our confusion, after telling viewers that his search strategy is based on the blue-faced booby theory, Jake tells Kramer that he is using a strategy of trying to recreate the plane's route. This is puzzling, and also brings to the surface a more fundamental question.

This is a plane, we are told, which was on a heading of 285 true, travelling on a great circle route from Samoa to New Britain. Here, we badly need clarification from someone with navigational skills. On a globe, or on any kind of map that I can find, the route from Samoa to New Guinea looks like it would pass over the Solomons, south of the Marivellas, and surely not as far northwest as 160 13'E, 0 53'S.

Of course, there are a number of factors to be considered. Allegedly being on a great circle, the plane had been following the circumference of a circle, the center of which would lie at the center of the earth. If you plot this course on a Mercator Projection, the route will be a line which curves gently toward the south pole. On a Lambert Conformal, of course, the great circle would appear as a fairly straight line. On the other hand, if the fliers used a constant heading (285), this would suggest they were actually following a rhumb line. Such a course would appear as line curved toward the north pole on a Lambert Conformal, or a straight line on a Mercator Projection. Finally, there is the difference between the true and magnetic headings to be taken into account. All of this goes without saying.

However, even with these clear and simple considerations in mind, I can only reach one conclusion. The fliers had been blown badly off course by the storm and had become strangely confused. No one who is located at 160 13'E, 0 53'S, and who is travelling with a heading of 285, is going to reach New Britain anytime soon. Or so it will seem until further research has been done.

But then, if the route was so problematic, why did Jake bring it up with Kramer? Clearly, we must look to Jake's more subtle motive. He needed a lead-in to an important question he wanted to pose to Kramer - "Why wasn't his distress signal heard in Boragora?" We need not be too troubled by this question. The stated flight path may pass too far south of the Marivellas for our comfort, and the actual flight path may have passed God knows where but, in either case, we can imagine it unfolding within radio range from Boragora.

This is an altogether difficult episode that invites further analysis but, before leaving it, we should note in passing that it is the reef near Peleau where the island ferry Shima Maru is washed up after being wrecked in "Visions from the Past").


All of these islands come to our attention in "The Lady and the Tiger", in which Jake meets a family from an Amish community co- existing rather uneasily with a Japanese army base.

We have two fundamental facts to work from:

  1. Jake had taken off on a supply run which included stops at Tagataya, Saint Bourdeau (plantations), Croix de Noir (leper colony) and Saint Michelle.

  2. Jake ends up on Koti-Ri (which is in the Japanese Mandate, but very close to the boundary with the French), as a result of "cutting across a corner of the Japanese Mandate to save time", when returning to Boragora.

To deal with the second point first, there is only one place where it would make any sense (or even be possible) for Jake to be "cutting across a corner of the Japanese Mandate to save time", and that would be at the southeast of the mandate, where the boundary proceeds northeast from the equator. Even this barely qualifies as a "corner", but there are no other options available. We are forced to conclude that Saint Michelle (which had been the last intended stop) lies northeast of Boragora, hugging the boundary of the Japanese Mandate.

Some mention must be made here of the Revisionist School, which maintains that, if the Marivellas could manifest themselves in 1938, it is just as likely that the Japanese Mandate could have manifested some corners that it didn't have before or after. I cannot share this view since, if we allow the Japanese Mandate to metamorphose in this way, we will have almost no fixed references to work from. We might as well be treating "Tales of the Gold Monkey" as mere fiction.

As for the other islands, Jake had set out on a single run comprising Boragora - Tagataya - Saint Bourdeau - Croix de Noir - Saint Michelle - Boragora. We must therefore conclude that these islands form some sort of logical loop and probably lie well off the main stream of traffic. It is credible, then, to place Saint Bourdeau and Croix de Noir on the east of the Marivellas, between Tagataya on the south, and Saint Michelle on the north.


Baku is the island on which ancient Tse-sing monks from China had constructed the gold monkey idol (Pilot). Bukatari is the island on which the Ape Boy was found. We know that both of these islands lie on the flight path between Boragora and Tagataya, but we do not know quite where on the flight path.

We do know that Bukatari is close enough to Tagataya to be regularly passed by canoe traffic. On the other hand, it is far enough away to make it possible for a severe storm to rage over Bukatari at the same time as people are enjoying a pleasant day on Tagataya.

Otherwise, the placement of the two islands along the flight path is arbitrary.


Of these islands' location, we know that they are only a mile apart, with Kenaru being in the French zone and Tori Hado, with its secret bomber base, being in the Japanese Mandate ("Honor thy Brother"). Therefore, we have an excellent fix on their position on the north-south axis, but not on the east-west axis. In east- west terms, their position on the map is arbitrary.


We learn in "Sultan of Swat" that these three (presumably small) islands lie within an easy outrigger ride of Boragora - probably 10 miles or less. Headings are not given. Problems of scale makes it impractical to show them on the map.


Several more islands of note. Lagoda is the site of a French penal colony ("Escape from Death Island"). On Eel Island, Watusi warriors guard the treasure of King Solomon's Mines, while Bolo is home to a leper colony ("Legends are Forever"). Tamarari is one of several islands inhabited by apes ("Ape Boy"). Tongaree is home to a tribe of cannibals and a Russian missionary ("Lady from a Colder Clime"). Petite Plage is one of 11 islands which Louie plans to stock with food and munitions in case of war ("Visions from the Past").

Except for a mention that Tongaree lies "in the heart of the Marivellas", all we know of the location of these islands is that they lie in the French Marivellas, so their positions on the map are arbitrary and their names are shown in brackets to denote this.


Iwa Kona is the site of the lost tomb of the pharoah Ka. ("Trunk from the Past"). All we know about its location is that it is situated in the Japanese Mandate . Its position there, on the map, is arbitrary.


With a precision that is rare in the series, we are told that Petit Bijou is a small, deserted island that lies about 20 miles south of Boragora ("Cooked Goose").


There are certain matters raised in the episodes which are not, strictly-speaking, geographical in nature, but which spring from the same root - our need to solidify our sense of place. I deal with two such matters here.

The "Queen Victoria" Incident

When the ocean liner "Queen Victoria" is disabled in southern waters ("God Save the Queen"), Jack and Jake debate whether they are closer to the Solomon Islands or to Tuvalu (the Ellice Islands). We can therefore reasonably place this incident in the waters south of Tagataya at a point more or less equidistant between the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu, although it is probably wise to side with Jack and place it slightly closer to Tuvalu.

Architectural Anomalies

Many have been troubled by the astonishing resemblance between certain street scenes in Manila ("The Late Sarah White") on the one hand, and Tagataya ("Ape Boy"), on the other. In fact, to the untrained eye, they appear identical. Similarly, in "Ape Boy", we learn that Princess Koji has an estate on Tagataya which is disturbingly similar to her home estate on Matuka, right down to the scarlet bridge in her garden. Although it pains me to say it, there are some scholars who have actually used such anomalies to cast doubt on the historical veracity of the Tales.

In fact, I believe there is a perfectly plausible hypothesis to account for this curious apparent duplication. To develop the hypothesis, we need only turn to the relationship between Tagataya and Boragora.

Tagataya, we learn in the 'bible', is larger than Boragora. It is also the seat of the Colonial Governor to whom Louie and the other French Magistrates in the islands are accountable ("Last Chance Louie"). Most of the supplies for the French islands seem to come in through Tagataya - Jake is forever carrying in goods from the larger island.

And yet, virtually all of the stories that were thought worth recording revolve around the residents of Boragora. Boragora seems clearly to have been, in some important sense, the real nerve center of the islands. The 'bible' tells us that even the famed Clipper touched down only briefly on Tagataya each trip, while staying overnight in Boragora.

So here we have Tagataya, nominally the most important island in the Marivellas, yet much of the time languishing in the shadow of scruffy, up-start Boragora. This must surely have been the cause of constant irritation and envy on the part of the high officials and leading merchants of Tagataya. (We perhaps see this reflected, for instance, in the undisguised hostility which the Magistrate on Tagataya shows towards Louie in "Last Chance Louie"). It would hardly be surprising if they reacted in the way such people often do - they became pretentious, desperately aspiring to make Tagataya's main center another 'jewel of the east'. In their misguided effort to accomplish this, they set out to copy architectural settings from the great cities of the region. Thus, we see street scenes seemingly transplanted, lock, stock, and barrel, from Manila. Indeed, if my hypothesis is correct, there were probably similar settings copied from Saigon and Hong Kong and perhaps others as well.

As for Princess Koji, we know that she considered all European pretensions absurd, and this one would certainly have been no exception. However, we also know that it was in her own best interest to cultivate profitable relations with all the seats of power and wealth throughout the region. Therefore, it should not surprise us if she was both contented and amused to go along with this charade, by building a Tagataya version of her own estate.


I can proceed no further, based on current evidence. I leave it to others to carry on the work, but not to scholars alone. The first of nature's secrets were not unlocked by scholars poring over dusty tomes, but by admirers of nature who merely sought to deepen their affinity with what they admired. Perhaps it is such as those, the ordinary lovers of the Tales themselves, that we must rely on most. Only their insights, I suspect, will provide the leaven that will finally enable the true geography of the Marivellas to rise.


Detailed Map

Courtesy of Len Warne

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