"The Ransom of Red Chief" is a 1907 short story by O. Henry first published in the Saturday Evening Post. 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.