MFS three wise monkeys

The three wise monkeys are a pictorial maxim that embody the proverbial principle "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil". They consist of three monkeys, each in their own pose: one with their hands obscuring their eyes, one covering their ears, and a third with its hands clasped over its mouth. The imagery can be found in a number of paintings and sculptures dating back to 8th century China, and represent different cultural meanings. In Buddhist tradition, the tenets of the proverb are about not dwelling on evil thoughts, while in Western culture, the phrase and image refer to a lack of moral responsibility or feigning ignorance.

Its endurance through the centuries has lent the phrase and its imagery to a number of references in art, sculpture, and music. More modern cultural depictions often involve characters from literature, movies, and television adopting the poses of the three monkeys. Notable examples can be found in the original 1968 Planet of the Apes, Shrek, Mel Brooks's Robin Hood: Men in Tights, Gilligan's Island, Friends, and Doctor Who.


  • The living room of the Muppet Boarding House as seen in Muppets from Space is decorated with several knick-knacks, evident of the space appearing well lived-in. While the Muppets gather to watch UFO Mania, a figurine of the three wise monkeys can be seen on a cabinet as the camera pans behind the couch to the basement Muppet Labs.

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