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|"The Ransom of Red Chief"
|| United States
"The Ransom of Red Chief" is a 1910 short story by O. Henry. It follows two men who kidnap and attempt to ransom a wealthy Alabaman's son; eventually, the men are driven to distraction by the boy and end up having to pay the boy's father to take him back.
The story and its main idea have become a part of popular culture, with many children's television programs using a version of the story as one of their episodes.
Two small-time criminals, Bill and Sam, kidnap Johnny, the red-haired son of an important citizen named Ebenezer Dorset, and hold him for ransom. But the moment they arrive at their hideout with the boy, the plan begins to unravel. Styling himself Red Chief, the brat proceeds to drive his captors to distraction with his unrelenting chatter, malicious pranks, and demands that they play wearying games with him. Desperate to be rid of the little terror, the kidnappers lower the ransom. The father, who knows his son well, rejects their demand and offers to take the boy off their hands only if they will pay him. Knowing a good deal when they see it, the men hand over the money and the howling boy and flee.
Like other Henry works, The Ransom of Red Chief has become a familiar cultural trope. Its influence is seen in movies such as Ruthless People, starring Danny DeVito and Bette Midler, and The Ref, starring Denis Leary. Television series, especially for children, often include an episode based on its idea; see for example the capture of Perfuma on She-Ra: Princess of Power, or of Louise Lamour on Disney's TaleSpin (in an episode titled The Ransom of Red Chimp) or the Dennis the Menace film, or the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode A Dog and Pony Show. The story is the central theme for the 1998 television film The Ransom of Red Chief.