Thursday, July 19, 2012

Orangutans, Cigarettes, and the Rue Morgue: One Monkey Battles Her Infamous Heritage

Perhaps you've heard of Tori, the oragutan who made headlines this week for her cigarette smoking habit (If you haven't read it yet, click here for CNN's coverage).

What you may not know is that Tori's anscestor was convicted of brutally killing a woman and her daughter, Madame & Madamoiselle L'Espanaye. If this tale sounds familiar it's because you've probably read it.

Tori shares a direct bloodline with the killer
in Edgar Allan Poe's The Murders in the Rue Morgue.

This week, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Tori.
                         She was a little bitter - and she has every right to be.


Tori, thank you for meeting with me today. Now, it has come to my attention that aside from this week's nicotine drama, you also come from a very infamous heritage.

Tori: Yes ma'am.

How long have you known that your ancestor was responsible for the deaths of Madame and Madamoiselle L'Espanaye?

(She goes to light her cigarette, then pauses) You mind if I...? (I nod my approval and she lights it.)

I was two. I still lived in the same habitat as my parents. The story had been passed down over the generations as kind of a cautionary tale. I asked them why we couldn't live in a house, like the people did. That's when they told me.

And you decided to keep it a secret?

They told me I could talk about it if I wanted to. It was my choice. But I didn't want to be defined by something that someone else did.

Some people have come to excuse your ancestor - to reason that he didn't know what he was doing. We've all heard the disclaimer that he was only trying to imitate shaving. What are you thoughts on his actions?

He knew exactly what he was doing. He broke into that house. He tried to hide the body of the younger woman. And there's no excuse. No excuse.

When did people start to find out your secret?

We had a staff member – this kid, he was really jolly, kind of obnoxious, but always treated me well, you know? He dropped me a ciggy now and then. Then one day he told me about this big book he owned – the complete works of Edgar Allan Poe. It just sat there on his shelf, he said. So that year, for the new year, he decided he was going to read every single story Poe had ever written.

By February, he was no longer my friend.

After her read the story, how did he treat you?

At first, it started slow. He told me he had read "that Rue Morgue story." He asked if I was of any relation to the "Ourang-Outang." Then he started taunting me. He stopped giving me ciggys. He told the visitors to stop giving me ciggys, too. "She's the Murderer's Daughter! The Murderer's Daughter!" My father wasn't a murderer. My mother wasn't a murderer. My grandparents weren't murderers. Some monkey I've never even met offed a couple people 200 years ago and because we happen to share a bloodline I'm held accountable. It's <intentionally deleted> up.

(She takes a puff of her cigarette)

How did the visitors react?

A lot of the kids these days, they don’t read. They’ve got their video games and their cell phones. They don’t know Poe. They think it’s a funny concept – a monkey murdering someone with a butcher’s knife. They actually started throwing me more cigarettes after he told them.

And now, these baboons (I giggle at my word usage, she attemps a polite smile) are throwing massive amounts of cigarettes into your cage and it's gained notice from the zookeepers.

Now, suddenly, smoking is a problem. My parents smoked - both of them - it wasn't a problem.

On top of that, in light your cigarette smoking, you’re being forced to move to an isolated island. Do you think that your heritage has any influence on this sentence?

Of course it does. I mean, seriously. Who goes into isolation for cigarette smoking? They get the patch and they move on with their lives. Look at all of these visitors who keep tossing me ciggys – they’re not locked up. They’re at the <intentionally deleted> zoo!

I understand your plight, Tori,  and I wish you the best of luck with your isolation. Thank you again for sharing your story with us. I know it can't have been easy for you.


The implications of this post are completely fictional.
No monkeys were questioned for this interview.

Many thanks to the wonderful Mr. Poe for writing The Murders in the Rue Morgue, without which this post would not be possible.

Additionally, our prayers and thoughts go out to Tori as she works on kicking the habit and living in isolation.


  1. Thanks for stopping by my blog today. I'm a new follower.

    I love Poe. I took an entire college course on him. It was disappointing to learn that the Sherlock Holmes stories are pretty much all knock offs of Poe's.

  2. Thanks for stopping by mine as well!

    I've heard a rumor that the word "detective" was first used in The Murders in the Rue Moruge - Truth?

    I'm working my way chronologically through Sherlock Holmes now - I'll keep my eye-peeled for similarities.