The Monkey's Paw
|"The Monkey's Paw"|
|Author||William Wymark Jacobs|
|Genre(s)||Horror, short story|
|Publication date||September 1902|
The story is based on the famous "setup" in which three wishes are granted. In the story, the paw of a dead monkey is a talisman that grants its possessor three wishes, but the wishes come with an enormous price for interfering with fate.
The story involves Mr. and Mrs. White and their adult son, Herbert. Sergeant-Major Morris, a friend of the Whites who has been part of the British Army in India, introduces them to the monkey's paw, telling of its mysterious powers to grant three wishes and of its journey from an old fakir to his comrade, who used his third wish to wish for death.
Sergeant-Major Morris throws the monkey's paw into the fire but White quickly retrieves it. Morris warns White, but White, thinking about what he could use the paw for, ignores him.
Mr. White wishes for £200 to be used as the final payment on his house. Having made the wish his son, Herbert, is killed by machinery at the factory where he works. The couple gets compensation of £200.
Ten days after the funeral, Mrs. White, almost mad with grief, asks her husband to use the paw to wish Herbert back to life. Reluctantly, he does so. Shortly afterwards there is a knock at the door. Mrs. White fumbles at the locks in an attempt to open the door. Mr. White knows, however, that he cannot allow their revived son in, as his appearance will be too hideous. Mr. White was required to identify the body, which had been mutilated by the accident. It has now lain buried for more than a week. While Mrs. White tries to open the door, Mr. White makes his third wish (for his son to be dead and in his grave), and the knocking stops. Mrs. White opens the door to find no one there.
The theme of the story is contained in this description of the paw: "'It had a spell put on it by an old fakir,' said the sergeant-major, 'a very holy man. He wanted to show that fate ruled people's lives, and that those who interfered with it did it to their sorrow.'"
Versions in other media
The story has been adapted into other media many times, including:
- On 6 October 1903, a one-act play opened at London's Haymarket Theatre, starring Cyril Maude as Mr. White and Lena Ashwell as Mrs. White.
- "The Monkey's Paw" was adapted as a radio play in 1979 as part of the CBC radio drama series Nightfall.
- "The Monkey's Paw" was again adapted as a radio play narrated by Christopher Lee in 2004 as part of the BBC radio drama series Christopher Lee's Fireside Tales.
A great number of novels, stories, movies, plays and comics are variations or adaptations of the story, featuring similar plots built around wishes that go awry in macabre ways, occasionally with references to monkey's paws or to the story itself.
The story is frequently parodied on television shows and in comic books.
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