The first time I read ‘Hop-Frog’ was in a collection of Poe’s complete works. It was a hardback with a yellow paper cover, and my older brother, a teenager at the time, had neatly inscribed his name on the frontispiece in green ink. The inventor of the genre of detective fiction, and an early exponent of science fiction and horror, Poe was also a formidable poet and literary critic. Knowing that most short stories could be read at a single sitting, he aimed to control the reader’s attention and emotions by focusing on a single effect or impression, including only those events and situations in the story that contributed to the totality of that effect. This deliberative, rational method is evident in the tale of the court jester Hop-Frog. A ‘cripple’ and ‘dwarf’ kidnapped from a remote province, Hop-Frog is forced to amuse a dissolute king. When Hop-Frog’s companion the fellow-midget Trippetta is brutally humiliated by His Majesty during the preparations for a masquerade, Hop-Frog takes revenge by inventing a diversion called ‘The Eight Chained Ourang-Outangs’. Trust Poe, along with his detached narrator, to fill in the gory details in an impeccable manner. I am so glad my family considered this riveting story suitable material for young children!
First published in 1849. Included in numerous collections. Available online here