Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Monkey's Paw

The Monkey's Paw by W.W. Jacobs. A short story originally appearing in The Lady of the Barge, 1906. 

HachiSnax Note: Happy October everyone! With Halloween around the corner, we will try to focus on frightful tales this month. First up is a short story that scared the dickens out of me when I read it as a lad of 13. Every few years, I go back and revisit it, and it still gives me a chill. This is a very brief tale, so it will be a brief review. Plus I don't want to risk any spoilers. Ladies and gents, "The Monkey's Paw". -Hach

A very short tale with a very wicked punch, "The Monkey's Pale" is a true tale of terror from over a century ago. Set in a desolate area of England with dreadful weather (even by British standards), it tells the tale of the White family (Mr., Mrs., and grown son Herbert), and the strange simian fetish that permanently alters their lives.

One evening, the Whites are entertaining a guest, a friend of Mr. White and a former military man. After regaling them with tales of far-off places visited, the guest, Sergeant-Major Morris, introduces the titular paw, a mummified monkey hand that has been charmed by a fakir in India. The power of the paw? To grant three bearers three wishes. Sounds great, right? The twist is that the charm is more of a curse; meant to show that those who attempt to interrupt the natural path of fate will suffer for it.

Unable to resist the temptation, wishes are made. Wishes come true. And each wish comes with a price. Any more information would be a silly spoiler to a tale that can be read in 10 minutes (and enjoyed ever after).

The Monkey's Paw satisfies for reasons more than simply stellar subject matter. With a very small word count, Jacobs conjures vivid imagery (although he is wise enough to leave the 'best bits' to the reader's imagination). You can fully imagine the comfort of the parlour, with its crackling fire, where the fate of the White family is forever changed one dreary evening. The limited cast is rendered very well also, from Sergeant-Major Morris, whose own dealings with the Paw, and subsequent regrets, are succinctly implied, to the snarky, juvenile Herbert White. Mrs. White is an annoying hen, pecking away at her husband while lavishing favor upon her darling boy, and Mr. White serves as the moral compass that lacks moral fortitude.

But above all of this, what is the best part of The Monkey's Paw? How about the fact that you can read it for free here, and I am sure many other places. There are also numerous readings and film adaptations on Youtube.

Here's what it is:
One of the best horror shorts ever written. Bar none. If you haven't read it yet, follow the link and enjoy. If you haven't read it since middle school, enjoy it again.

Final Score:


Cover Score:

No cover for this one. It has appeared in and been anthologized in too many forms to count. Just put the pic up there since it looks nice.

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