The Ransom of Red Chief
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The Ransom of Red Chief

4.09 of 5 stars 4.09  ·  rating details  ·  2,989 ratings  ·  77 reviews
Bill and Sam arrive in the small American town of Summit with only two hundred dollars, but they need more and Sam has an idea for making a lot of money. When things start to go very wrong, both men soon regret their visit - and the idea.
32 pages
Published February 8th 2001 (first published 1910)
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The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson BurnettThe Metamorphosis by Franz KafkaPeter Pan by J.M. BarrieHowards End by E.M. ForsterA Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
Best Books of the Decade: 1910's
45th out of 183 books — 303 voters
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel HawthorneGreen Eggs and Ham by Dr. SeussA Clockwork Orange by Anthony BurgessThe Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar WildeA Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle
A Kaleidoscope of Colors
73rd out of 698 books — 84 voters

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Community Reviews

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This short story is quick and to the point, and absolutely hilarious! Red Chief is such a cruel little boy, but you can't help but pity him because he's so distant from his father. How O. Henry came up with such an evil little boy and yet straight forward theme is beyond my understanding.
Loved this story as a kid when my Dad would read it aloud on family trips. Even better as a parent. Read this one!
John Yelverton
A hilarious story that is fun for every child and parent who reads this.
The Ransom of Red Chief by O. Henry

You Must Read This: it is short, but packed full with fabulous, uproarious moments!!
This is hilarious and one of the funniest short stories I have read in quite a while.
“It looked like a good thing: but wait till I tell you. “
You are warned from the start and the plot is revealed in the next couple of sentences: Bill Driscoll and the narrator plan to kidnap a boy, who turns out to be Winnetou, Old Shatterhand and Dracula all mixed into one.
This brought to my m...more
This is one of my favorite short stories. Anyone who has children can appreciate this because I think that there hasn't been a time when we haven't thought like the father in this story. It is one of the funniest stories I have ever read.
Kathy Kaylor
I know this kid! Wait, I married him.
This story is hilarious!!!!
Eustacia Tan
As you may have guessed, I've been trying to read different types of mysteries. And after searching for a long time, I finally found a caper mystery - The Ransom of Red Chief, a short story by O. Henry.

A caper mystery, if you don't know, is a mystery that features the criminals as the main story. In this story, the main characters are the two criminals Bill and Sam, who appear tough, but have their weak spot. Although in reality, I think that would be anyone's weak spot.

In this story, our two...more
Marcus Inglis
The authors purpose is to be careful what the choices you make. Two men Bill and Sam (Narrator) try to make easy money by holding a boy Johnny “Red Chief” hostage but ends up with a twist. The impacts on the audience hints them with is a dramatic cut. The story hints an ironic twist which tells Criminals making a plan but it turns out bad. I do think this story will have lasting value because there many stories that can relate to this story, like a similar book, news, or a movie. Although, movie...more
Saybah I.
The story follows 2 men's journey as they kidnap a boy and try to keep him with them, but they find out that keeping him from running away isn't the least of their worries. The story is an adventurous and humorous short story that will keep the reader giggling throughout the story
Shawn Thrasher
As familiar as this story is, I don't think I'd ever actually read it before now. As tired and stale as one would think it could become after a century and some change, it happily still is a fresh, funny short story. If course, the entire thing is one big joke, with the punchline waiting at the end. The whole Red Chief trope -kidnappers who regret their kidnapping of a brat who make their lives hell - is a familiar one that will morph and change with time and sitcom but keep coming back again an...more
Sep 27, 2012 Heather rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Heather by: Mother
I read this short story because my mother had mentioned this book to me one day, and how she read it when she was growing up. She said she could not stop laughing when she read it, it was so funny. So i decided to read it one day at barnes and noble. It took me a short time to read.
This story is a classic, and I recommend that everybody read it just for good knowledge and a good laugh...Although i was not laughing hysterically as my mother would when she read the book, it was quite funny. It ma...more
'The Ransom of Red Chief' was a short story written about 1907. I enjoyed this funny read in the 1960's. It has an entertaining twist at the its conclusion.
Hilarious book

I Found this to be a hilarious that made me laugh. I know others will find it the same. Enjoy this when you get it.
I read this book as a short story and i loved it. it had all of the thigns that a good book should have; comedy, action, and suspense. To sum up the story it is about 2 people who need money fast. so they plan to kidnapp the bank owners son. but yet do they know that he is a evil caniving little boy. so when they do take them they are in for a treat! And the book is about their journey. the reason for the title is becasue they told the little boy that he was the red chirf, and he is being held f...more
Brian Yahn
It's clever, humorous, and cute. The prose is a bit aged and sometimes a pain to read, but given the brevity, it's worth it.
Dec 28, 2011 HeavyReader rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who think their kid is bad
Shelves: short-stories
When I was a kid, my sister and I had a big book that was a collection of short stories. Maybe it was from Reader's Digest. This story was in that big book. Or at least some version of this story was in that book. If the book was from Reader's Digest, it's likely the story was condensed. Isn't that what Reader's Digest is famous for?

In any case, I read this story out of the big book. I also remember the live action version of this story that used to play periodically on Saturday morning after th...more
Jithin James

An outright 5*!! :)
A (dare I use the word?) cute kidnapping tale from yester-year. Told during a kinder, gentler era where the bad guys had ethics and morals, Bill and Alex don't even contemplate killing the monster instead of returning him to his father. When you contemplate that the kid tried to (literally) scalp Bill, I'm not sure I follow the thinking. If the father wouldn't pay to get his kid back, he clearly didn't want him that badly and everyone would have probably been happier if Red Chief had ended up in...more
Feb 23, 2011 Susan rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone wanting/aching for a good story and laugh.
OooOohhh how the story easily reflects our little siblings. :)
THE RANSOM OF RED CHIEF is about a little boy (aka "Red Chief") who is kidnapped by two men, Bill and Sam, who want to get money from the boy's father. However, once Bill and Sam holds the Red Chief hostage, things start running amuk when they get pranked and fooled by the Red Chief.
I definitely recommend this to all; it is a light, amusing read. (Not one of those long, droning, NJASKs or SATs short stories. ;))
If you have kids, you will recognize the kidnappers' plight. If you don't have kids, you will be reminded why.

Bonus: wonderful amount of slapstick for a book that predates what we think of as slapstick. This was written in 1910, no TV, and movies had not quite reached the golden age. I can find one tv movie based on the story, but no other adaptations (of course, many plotlines have borrowed heavily from this story).
I read this years and years ago but I still laugh and love it today. I believe Disney made a movie about it and expanded upon the idea quite a bit--that might be why I love it so much. Sometimes while working with particulary "difficult and wonderful children" I secretly wonder, if kidnapped, would their parents pay the ransom? Hummmm...?
Ken Moten
The story is interesting. It goes from Crime/mystery to noir(parady). You start off obviously not being big fans of the protagonists, but by the end you really feel some tenderness for these guys, at least I know I did at the time I first read this.
Funny story with a great "O Henry ending", but it takes some suspension of belief. Does anyone believe that two men ruthless enough to kidnap a boy would be as passive in allowing him to reek havoc within their hideout to the extent he does?
The ransom of Red Chief is my favorite O. Henry story. I first read it as a teenager. Since I have several brothers, at least one of whom could be Red Chief's twin, I really related. This is one of the funniest short stories ever.
The book made me laugh a lot. Believe me, this book can embarrass you in public. Hope you get the warning and you veto your decision to read it in a cafe or a library. But, Gawd! The humor or The O.Henry humor is priceless.
Pretty certain that I read this in high school English class. I can recall the comic tone, antics, etc. I'm not sure I'd be that compelled to reread it, but if you stuck it in front of my eyeballs I'm sure it'd be okay.
Cheryl in CC NV
Love O.Henry. The insights make the stories really stick with me, even more than Mother Goose or Grimm. All three of my sons would also have caused kidnappers grief, though maybe not as much as this boy does.
Lynette ~ Escaping Reality – One Book at a Time ~
I didn't especially like this one, overall I thought it was kinda lame, but the ending was hilarious, and, I guess, for a school book, it was okay.

I'm 14, and I don't especially recommend this book/short story.
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William Sydney Porter lends the pen name "O. Henry" to surprise endings signed officially as Sydney Porter. His biography shows where he found inspiration for his characters. Their voices and his language were products of his era.

He was born 1862 Greensboro, North Carolina. When he was three years old, his mother died from tuberculosis. He left school at fifteen, worked five years in uncle's drugs...more
More about O. Henry...
The Gift of the Magi Selected Stories The Best Short Stories of O. Henry The Gift of the Magi and Other Short Stories The Last Leaf

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