With this trident, you can control the whole ocean, everything. But only a true king can wield it in their culture.
Arthur Curry, Aquaman, learned from his master how to wield this golden giant fork of his, creating an invincible halo of light, which immediately reminds me of the way the Monkey King wields his golden cudgel.
The trident or the Monkey King’s staff, which one would you vote for?
Long quest for the weapons
You might know the Monkey King as the mischievous agility hero from Dota 2, but the character is actually based on one of China’s Four Great Classical Novels Journey to the West. In the novel, his weapon, the golden cudgel is made from a sacred iron forged by the Supreme Lord, a sage in ancient Chinese. From ancient myths, the cudgel was originally used to stop the great flood along the Yangtze river which caused disaster and destruction, and was then placed at the bottom of the east ocean. It has been there since the beginning of time.
The Monkey King is self-crowned and self absorbed, as he calls himself the Great Sage Equal to Heaven. He is an early rebellious hero, with a punk spirit, one that boasts the courage to challenge Buddha. He has never believed in anything other than himself his whole life. In his mind, there was no weapon powerful or mighty enough to suit his ego.
The Dragon Palace down the sea is where they kept many treasures, where the monkey went on his quest for a dream weapon. There was the shiny 4,800 pound spear and a giant sword that weighed 9,600 pounds. But they were all so mediocre in comparison to what he saw next –the 20 feet tall, barrel-thick stick that was built for guarding the ocean, sparkling with blinding golden rays. He was immediately captivated by its magnificent beauty.
Aquaman’s trident, however, originally comes from the idea of a fisherman’s spear, is a weapon of Poseidon, the Greek god of the ocean. In ancient Greek myth, the trident is forged by the three elder cyclopes (one-eyed giants), and Poseidon used it to help Zeus win his battle against the Titans. The image can also be found in many other mythology or religions. In Hinduism, Shiva, God of destruction, also holds a three-pronged weapon.
In the movies, when Aquaman crossed oceans, deserts and trenches to find his weapon, the real trident just stood there behind a water fall (also an image taken from the Journey to the West), as if it had waited for him peacefully for centuries, the love of his life. All he needs to do is to convince the keeper of the trident, a hideous underworld creature, to let him take it.
The Monkey King’s staff is beautifully designed, with golden bands on both sides, and a line of inscription that reads “the As-You-Will-Gold-Banded Cudgel, thirteen thousand five hundred catties”, quite like an anti-counterfeit label.
Some say that instead of merely decorations, the golden bands are symbols of control, putting constraints on the behavior of Monkey King, so that he doesn’t kill or hurt to his heart’s content. The staff is intertwined with the soul of the monkey, as they were merged as one in fights. After the pilgrimage to the west ended, the golden cudgel disappeared naturally, as the Monkey becomes the Warring and Winning Buddha. Having been enlightened, he and his weapon truly became one.
Talking about appearances, Aquaman’s trident has three prongs, with the longest one in the middle. A God deserves a specially shaped weapon, other than shield, arrows or an electrified hammer.
Interestingly, the shape of the trident resembles the weapon of another heroic character in the Journey to the West, Erlang Shen, who has a third eye in the middle of his forehand. He is always imagined and depicted as one of the most beloved male gods in Chinese culture, god of romance, strong and muscular, grim-faced and drop-dead gorgeous, well, the lady-type. Quite like Aquaman, he is also a half-breed, son of a mortal father and a fairy mother. Sounds familiar?
How the final battle of Aquaman and Orm resembles the epic battle between Monkey King and Erlang Shen. Beautifully crafted weapons for beautiful gods.
The Monkey King’s staff is apparently more portable. Monkey King, is able to wield it in whatever way he desires, and even transform it into a small needle to hide behind his ears. In the Journey to the West, we know the transformations of the golden cudgel from the conversations of Monkey King with the Dragon King.
Sun Wukong hitched up his clothes and went to give it a feel. He found that it was an iron pillar about as thick as a measure for a peck of grain and some twenty feet long. Seizing it with both hands he said, “It’s too thick and too long. If it were a bit shorter and thinner it would do.” As soon as these words were out of his mouth, this precious piece of iron became several feet shorter and a few inches thinner.
Sun Wukong tossed it in his hands, remarking that it would be even better if it were thinner still. The precious iron thereupon became even thinner.
The monkey king can transfigure into 72 different creatures. He could also split himself into an uncountable number of selves, and so could his weapon. The golden cudgel can also be split into thousands, with each monkey holding one in hand. It coincides with the essence of Taoism, The Dao produced One; One produced Two; Two produced Three; Three produced All things.
It’s an implication that the monkey is the king of freedom, free from all boundaries and laws, unbound by mundane norms.
The trident cannot change its shape or form, but it excels in its immense powers controlling water, both towards sea creatures and ocean currents. In the final battle, Aquaman uses it to summon all sea creatures, including giant octopuses and electric rays. Water can be seen as the source of all living things, which makes him much more powerful than the land warriors. In Greek mythology, Poseidon also uses the trident to create massive storms, tidal waves and hurricanes, with enough power to destroy the land.
The trident is also so magical that it grants Aquaman, the champion swimmer, the ability to travel to any spot of the ocean within seconds. In comparison, the monkey is an animal rocket. He could travel 108,000 li (21,675 kilometres (13,468 mi)) in one somersault, and this is without the additional power of the golden cudgel.
They are both extraordinarily fast!
Underwater and onshore
The Monkey King is not flawless after all. He is not as good underwater as he is onshore.
In the Journey to the West, the monkey always says he is not that good of a fighter underwater, and that he could not wield the cudgel smoothly. Whenever it comes to underwater combat, he always passes the buck to his other two fellow comrades in the pilgrimage. One used to be in charge of the marine troops in heaven, the other has been a water demon all his life.
The golden cudgel is of course, not at all, useless in the rivers and oceans. In the fight against the little dragon king, Monkey King uses the golden cudgel as a stirring stick, causing huge waves in the seas to lure him out. The little dragon probably surrenders out of sea sickness.
On the contrary, Aquaman doesn’t seem very flexible in dry deserts. The prince of Atlantis belongs in the ocean, and so does his weapon. In his debut in More Fun Comics #73 (November 1941), according to his own narration, “By training and a hundred scientific secrets, I became what you see—a human being who lives and thrives under the water.”
It’s really hard to tell which weapon is mightier. Maybe we should set up a fight between them.