The Monkey’s Paw by W.W. Jacobs (1902)
Tuesday Tale of Terror, July 30, 2013
Inside the small parlour of Laburnam Villa in the deep countryside of England, father and son are sitting at a game of chess before the firelight. Mrs. White sits fireside, knitting, but watching their moves on the board.
“Hark at the wind,” said Mr. White, who, having seen a fatal mistake after it was too late, was amiably desirous of preventing his son from seeing it.
This mistake by Mr. White of putting his king at risk is the foreshadowing of a most tragic and frightening short story by author William Wymark Jacobs.
Dark magic. White Magic. Soul Magic. Which do you believe in? Or are you a skeptic about magical powers? Jacobs’ The Monkey’s Paw will test your most curious thoughts.
Three is the magical number in this story. Like mystic and master mathematician Pythagoras said, “Everything is number.” And although this story is not about numerology, it is about the power of three. Three glasses of whiskey, three knocks at the door, three parts of this story, three main characters, three listeners to the tale. And the most thrilling, three wishes.
Sergeant-Major Morris is visiting the White family on this windy cold night. He has just returned from the far East where in India he obtained a mummified monkey’s paw: black, hairy, stiff and shriveled. The grim Morris tells his tale of three wishes granted by the magical paw to the previous owners. Herbert, the White’s grown son, is skeptical and makes fun of the fairy tale.
“Pitch it in the fire, like a sensible man,” Morris advises Mr. White.
White is half-tempted to toss it into the flames … but then, he thinks again. Three wishes!
One wish unfulfilled might be fate. But wishes fulfilled might unleash an uncontrollable power.
Read The Monkey’s Paw at Online Literature (20-minute read).
On YouTube, Lewisworks Studios has The Monkey’s Paw (2011 film, about 30 minutes) directed by Ricky Lewis Jr. that is an excellent adaptation—and the music adds just the perfect level of horror to this favorite classic.
p.s. Author Update: My novel Night Sea Journey, A Tale of the Supernatural just won the Indie Book of the Day Award for July 28th. And do watch for news of my newest short story, Between the Darkness and the Dawn, to be published at Whistling Shade Literary Journal this autumn (Of course, it’s supernatural. Do I write anything else?).