Friday, February 20, 2009

Poe Fridays: Hop-Frog

Hop-Frog (click here for an online version) is yet another Poe tale of revenge and murder. The title character is a dwarf and jester for the king's court. Poe writes of Hop-Frog's sadistic revenge when the king makes him drink, and ultimately, throws the wine contents on the dwarf's beloved when he hesitates to drink more. Truly, the revenge seems a bit overboard for this act; however, when this story is taken in context with Poe's life, it makes much more sense. The parallelism can be explained by a passage written by Philip Van Doren Stern, editor of The Portable Poe . . .

"This story was written in February 1849, just eight months before its author's death. It was written after Poe's wife had died of poverty and starvation, after a lifetime of rejection and failure, and immediately after the humuliating experience Poe had gone through with Mrs. Whitman and her family and friends. Unable to take physical revenge upon those who had made him suffer, he struck back at them in his daydreams and - symbolically - in his writing."

Wondering what the experience was with Mrs. Whitman? In a nutshell, Poe tried to court Mrs. Sarah Helen Whitman. Among many protestations from family and friends, Whitman finally agreed to become his wife under the condition that he would quit drinking. Prior to the ceremony, Poe showed up drunk and Whitman was pressured to live up to her earlier agreement. Melodrama resulted and Whitman's mother called off the wedding.

I still think a bit overboard, but can we really expect any less from the wonderful Poe?!?!

For Kristen's response (from We Be Reading), click here. Next week . . . Never Bet the Devil Your Head: A Tale With a Moral . . . I actually don't think that I have read this one, but the title is intriguing enough!! Until next time . . .


  1. That's really interesting about the timing of this story in the context of Poe's life. He too was humiliated by drink. I agree that the revenge might have been a bit much! I thought he was going to simply humiliate the men in return ...

  2. I love literary revenge! I'm excited to read next week's story, too - what a great title! =)


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