"Hop-Frog; Or, the Eight Chained Ourang-Outangs" is a short story by the American horror author Edgar Allan Poe. It was first published in the March 17, 1849 edition of the Boston-based newspaper The Flag of Our Union.
The action takes place in an unnamed kingdom at an unspecified time in the past at which "professing jesters had not altogether gone out of fashion at court". The title character is a crippled dwarf who is the court jester of the country's cruel king. Hop-Frog and a female dwarf, a dancer named Trippetta, had both been brought to the king's court as captives from a far away land. When Hop-Frog sees the king strike the defenseless Trippetta in front of his seven ministers, he determines to take revenge on the eight men by playing a trick on them. The trick proves fatal for all eight of its victims.
Hop-Frog is a crippled dwarf who is the court jester to a tyrannical king. He is so called because he is unable to walk as other men do and has to move in a strange hopping motion. However, he has very strong arms and is an excellent climber. Although the king takes great pleasue both from Hop-Frog's comical appearance and from his wit, the jester is mistreated and is unpopular at court. Hop-Frog was brought to the king's court as a captive from a distant land. Another dwarf, a dancing girl called Trippetta, was also brought to the court from the same land together with Hop-Frog. The jester and the dancing girl soon become very close friends. Although Trippetta is very short, she is considered beautiful and is popular at court. She uses her position of greater popularity to ask for favors for Hop-Frog.
A masquerade ball is soon to take place. On the day on which it is to be held, the king summons Hop-Frog and Trippetta to appear before him and his seven ministers, wanting to pick their brains for ideas for costumes which he and the ministers can wear. The king knows that Hop-Frog cannot stand to drink alcohol but forces the jester to drink a goblet of wine anyway. When the king tells Hop-Frog to drink a second goblet, Trippetta steps forward to plead for him to have mercy on the fool. The king hits the young woman, making her fall over, and throws a goblet of wine at her. A strange sound is heard. The king thinks that it was the sound of Hop-Frog grinding his teeth but one of his ministers suggests that it was a parrot outside the room which was scraping its beak on its cage, a suggestion with which Hop-Frog agrees.
Soon afterwards, Hop-Frog announces that he has remembered an amusing entertainment from his own country called "The Eight Chained Ourang-Outangs", in which eight people pretend to be orangutans which have escaped from their captor. Hop-Frog says that it frightens people, especially women, because they believe at first that the eight men are real wild animals. The king thinks that it will make an excellent costume choice for himself and his seven ministers. Following Hop-Frog's instructions, the eight men put on tight underwear, they are covered in tar on top of which flax is placed to imitate orangutan's hair. All eight men are then chained together in a circle.
The king and his seven ministers stumble into the ball room. As Hop-Frog had predicted, many guests are frightened because they take them to be real wild animals. However, when Hop-Frog approaches them, they realize that it is just an entertainment. A chain, which usually holds a chandelier, is lowered from a skylight. Hop-Frog attaches it to the chain which holds the eight men and declares that he thinks he knows who the eight men are. He takes a flaming torch and appears to be trying to take a closer look at the eight men. The eight chained men are lifted high above the room. The strange sound is heard again but there is now no doubt that the sound is indeed Hop-Frog grinding his teeth. The jester says that he now recognizes the men as the cruel king who attacks defenseless young women and his seven ministers. He holds the flaming torch closer to them. The highly flammable flax and tar catch fire and the eight men burn to death. Hop-Frog declares that this is his "last jest", climbs to the top of the chain and escapes. Neither Hop-Frog nor Trippetta are ever seen again. It is believed that she helped Hop-Frog to carry out his plan and that they both returned to their own country.
"Hop-Frog" was adapted as a 1910 silent film by the French director Henri Desfontaines. The story is also the basis of a short film called Fool's Fire which was directed by Julie Taynor, stars Michael J. Anderson as Hop-Frog, Mireille Mosse as Trippetta and Tom Hewitt as the king.
A symphony called Hop-Frog was composed by Eugene Cools in 1926. Lou Reed's 2003 concept album The Raven features a track called "Hop-Frog", on which David Bowie sings.
Roger Corman's 1964 horror movie The Masque of the Red Death, based primarily on the Edgar Allan Poe short story of the same name, uses the story of "Hop-Frog" as a sub-plot. When the dwarf jester (called "Hop-Toad" in the movie and played by Skip Martin) sees one of Prince Prospero's courtiers, a man named Alfredo, strike the little dancer Esmeralda (the equivalent of Trippetta), he determines to take revenge on the man. He persuades Alfredo to dress as an ape for Prince Prospero's upcoming masquerade ball and costumes himself as the ape's keeper. At the ball, Hop-Toad whips and humiliates Alfredo in front of the other guests, before chaining him up, pouring brandy all over him and setting him on fire. prince prospero wishes to reward Hop-Toad fro the "entertainment" that he has provided but finds that the jester has disappeared.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 "Ourang-outang" is the spelling used by Poe. "Orangutan" is now the preferred spelling in English.