The Monkey’s Paw by W.W. Jacobs

The Monkey's Paw
Rating:

“It has 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 so to their sorrow. He put a spell on it so that three separate men could each have three wishes from it.”

A fascinating classic horror story that has definitely withstood the test of time. I don’t usually enjoy short stories but it seems Jacobs knew his craft because he didn’t leave us wanting.

The Simpsons “Treehouse of Horror” Halloween specials introduced me to the tale of The Monkey’s Paw. That interpretation certainly carried the essence of Jacob’s ‘be careful what you wish for’ message.

“Why we’re going to be rich, and famous and happy.”

Famous last words.

“Hold it up in your right hand and wish aloud,” said the sergeant-major, “but I warn you of the consequences.”
“Sounds like the Arabian Nights.”

Buffy‘s “Forever” episode was probably influenced by Jacob’s chilling tale. When Dawn resurrects their recently dead mother, there’s a knock at the door. As Buffy rushes to greet their mother Dawn realises that what’s at the door could never be the maternal figure they once knew. It would be a monster. Something they’d never want to tarnish their mother’s memory, so Dawn breaks the spell just as the father does to prevent his wife from opening the door to their dead son’s walking corpse.

“It’s my boy; it’s Herbert!” she cried, struggling mechanically. “I forgot it was two miles away. What are you holding me for? Let go, I must open the door.”

“For God’s sake don’t let it in,” cried the old man, trembling.

“You’re afraid of your own son,” she cried, struggling. “Let me go. I’m coming, Herbert; I’m coming.”

If I had three wishes, what would I wish for? Any wish would have to be exceptionally detailed and specific. As in airtight contractual lawyer-speak specific. Selfish wishes are better. Global scale wishes are harder to pin down and there are more likely to be unforeseen, catastrophic consequences with this wild and unpredictable magic.

A highly enjoyable Halloween read.

*Read for free via the Gutenberg Project.

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