2013 · fiction

Hop-Frog by Edgar Allan Poe

illustration by Arthur Rackham
illustration by Arthur Rackham
If you missed it, yesterday I flailed over the reopening of the Poe House!!

Last year for his birthday I reviewed Poe’s Some Words with a Mummy, a relatively unknown and very silly short story. Believe it or not, Poe was a funny guy!

This time time around I wanted to review Hop Frog – a movie adaptation is in the works with PETER DINKLAGE in the starring role!!

Hop-Frog; Or, the Eight Chained Ourangoutangs was one of Edgar Allan Poe’s last stories. Published in March 1949 – just seven months before his death – Hop-Frog tells the tale of a court jester seeking revenge. Given the moniker by the king’s council who were amused by the crippled dwarf, Hop-Frog finally saw his chance at freedom when the king announced there would be a masquerade ball.

‘I now see distinctly,’ he said, ‘what manner of people these maskers are. They are a great king and his seven privy-councillors, – a king who does not scruple to strike a defenceless girl, and his seven councillors who abet him in the outrage. As for myself, I am simply Hop-Frog, the jester – and this is my last jest.’

In just six pages, Hop-Frog serves up a gruesome act of revenge. The king and his court all love a good prank and Hop-Frog uses this knowledge to talk them into the trap he had set. First covering the eight men in tar, then coating them in flax, Hop-Frog declares them orangutans. He then chains them together and waits until the ball is well underway before parading them into the room.

Naturally the guests are shocked – some of the ladies fainted! – and attempt to flee. Unfortunately, the king had requested all the doors locked beforehand and only Hop-Frog has the key. As the men make their way into the center of the room, Hop-Frog hooks their chain onto the chandelier’s chain and proceeds to hoist them off the ground. Throughout this ordeal, the king and council still believe it’s all a prank. It’s not until the very last moment do they realize it’s no longer just a harmless joke.

Poe does revenge stories really well. He can also be EXTREMELY graphic and gruesome and the descriptions in Hop-Frog are not for the faint of heart. The story moves a bit too fast for my liking, but with only six pages, I suppose I couldn’t have expected lots of backstory and characterization.

I took the story at face-value, but there are some people who feel Hop-Frog is autobiographical. Hop-Frog was taken from his home and given a new name. Poe was adopted when he was a toddler and given the name Allan. References to alcohol and personal vendettas also seem to be taken from Poe’s life. Whether he intended for the story to hint at his own life or not, I think it’s still pretty interesting.

Hop-Frog is one of Poe’s more well-known stories and at just six pages, there’s no reason not to read it. Especially with the upcoming movie!

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4 thoughts on “Hop-Frog by Edgar Allan Poe

  1. I remember reading this story possibly for a high school but just as possibly for a college english class. The ending stayed with me just as the story about the girl with the birthmark did.

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