The Ransom of Red Chief

I hope you are familiar with the famous short story, The Ransom of Red Chief by O. Henry.  It is one of the funniest short stories of all time.


The story follows two petty thieves who decide to ransom the son of a wealthy banker to fund an illegal land deal in another state.  What the hapless kidnappers fail to realize is that they have chosen one boisterous little boy.  A little boy who doesn’t like school and says home is boring, so he has no reason to want to go home.  He plays rough, and who else is there to play with but the kidnappers.  In short order, Red Chief, as the boy calls himself, he has battered and bruised the kidnappers.  They originally want $2,000, but decide to ask for $1,500…just in case the father is reluctant to get the boy back.

The return message is not what they expect though:

I received your letter about the ransom you ask for the return of my son. I think you are a little high in your demands. I hereby make you a counter-proposal, which I believe you will accept.  You bring Johnny home and pay me two hundred and fifty dollars, and I agree to take him off your hands. You had better come at night because the neighbors believe he is lost. And, I could not be responsible for what they would do to anybody they saw bringing him back.

I really love this story.  It’s not what you expect at all and I think the kids would get a kick out of it.  But, I printed off the original version of the story, available here as a pdf, and the language was too old-fashioned to use.  I got lucky and found an adapted radio version designed for audiences who speak English as a second language.  Much simpler!

I can’t wait to share this fabulous story with the kids.  I hope they enjoy it as much as I do.