The Monkey's Paw

The Monkey's Paw
A "monkey paw" is also the term for a kind of cheating device used on older computerized slot machines.
"The Monkey's Paw"
Author William Wymark Jacobs
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre(s) Horror, short story
Publication date September 1902

"The Monkey's Paw" is a horror short story by author W. W. Jacobs. It was published in England in 1902.

The story is based on the famous "setup" in which three wishes are granted. In the story, the paw of a dead monkey is a talisman that grants its possessor three wishes, but the wishes come with an enormous price for interfering with fate.



The story involves Mr. and Mrs. White and their adult son Herbert. Sergeant-Major Morris, a friend of the Whites who has been part of the British Armed Forces in India, leaves them with the monkey's paw, telling of its mysterious powers to grant three wishes, and of its journey from an old fakir to his comrade, who used his third and final wish to wish for death.

Mr. White wishes for £200. Their son is killed by machinery at his company, and they get compensation of £200.

Ten days after they bury Herbert, Mrs. White, almost mad with grief, asks her husband to wish Herbert back to life with the paw. Reluctantly, he does so. After a delay, there is a knock at the door. Mrs. White fumbles at the locks in an attempt to open the door. Mr. White knows, however, that he cannot allow their son in, as his appearance will be too horrific. Mr. White was required to witness and identify the body, which had been mutilated by the accident and then buried for more than a week. He wishes his third wish, and the knocking stops. Mrs. White opens the door to find no one there.

The moral of the story is contained in this description of the paw: '"It had 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."

Versions in other media

The story has been adapted into other media many times, including:

  • A one-act play was performed in 1907 at Broadway's Lyceum Theatre.[1] On 6 October 1903, this one-act play opened at London's Haymarket Theatre, starring Cyril Maude as Mr. White and Lena Ashwell as Mrs. White.[2]
  • There were film adaptations in the silent era, including one in 1923. The 1933 film version starring Ernest B. Schoedsack is a lost film[3] and the first released as a talkie.[4] There is also a 1948 British remake The Monkey's Paw,[5] and most recently, a 1978 film.[6]
  • An updated version of the story was featured in a 19 April 1965 episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.[7] Other TV adaptations were created for Suspense (17 May 1949 and 3 October 1950), Great Ghost Tales (20 July 1961), and Great Mysteries (10 November 1973).
  • "The Monkey's Paw" was adapted as a radio play in 1979 as part of the CBC radio drama series Nightfall.[8]
  • The Monkey's Paw was parodied in the first segment of The Simpson's Treehouse of Horror II, aired October 31, 1991 (Season 3, Episode 7).[9]
  • Director Ricky Lewis Jr. adapted the story into a partially-animated horror short in 2011.[10]

Variations, parodies

A great number of novels, stories, movies, plays and comics are variations or adaptations of the story, featuring similar plots built around wishes that go awry in macabre ways, occasionally with references to monkey's paws or to the story itself.

The story is frequently parodied on television shows and comic books.

See also

Book collection.jpg Novels portal


External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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