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The Bottle Imp by Robert Louis Stevenson

The Bottle Imp (1892)

by Robert Louis Stevenson

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A tale on the classic theme of ‘The Problems With Wishes.’ A man comes across the remarkable opportunity to buy a bottle containing an imp – who, genie-like, will fulfill all the wishes of his owner. The catch? If the owner dies in possession of the bottle, he or she will be damned for all eternity. The bottle cannot be given away, only sold – and it may only be sold for a lesser price than it was bought for.
It’s a great set-up, and Stevenson does it full justice.

It’s also worth mentioning that the main characters are native Hawaiian – the setting was based on Stevenson’s 1889 travels in the then-independent Hawaii. There is no ‘exotification’ of the characters’ background at all – interestingly, the story was first published in the Samoan language, according to Stevenson, ‘for a Polynesian audience.’
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  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
One of my favorite stories, just the thing to read for Halloween, not that it is particularly scary, but it does have a dark atmosphere and a cool supernatural conceit involving wishes and an imp. Like The Monkey’s Paw which I just reviewed earlier today, the story is underpinned by the theme of “be careful what you wish for”. Having said that the way wishes work in The Bottle Imp is much more complex and interesting than The Monkey's Paw.

Basically whoever possess the bottled imp can make an unlimited number of wishes, but they must sell the bottle for less than the purchase price before they die, otherwise they will burn in hell forever after their death. That doesn't sound like much of a challenge, selling things at a loss is easy, it’s making a profit that is always a struggle. However, Robert Louis Stevenson cleverly explores the practicality of reselling an item that reduces in value until it reaches the ultimate price level of zilch.

If you have all your wishes you want, but you bought the bottle for a single penny what would you do? The protagonist Keawe thought he had it made when he was able to sell the bottle after being granted a mansion and a servant by the imp. Unfortunately after selling the bottle he is afflicted with leprosy just when he is preparing to marry the beautiful Kokua, the love of his life. His only hope for a cure is to buy the bottle back from whoever has it now. Tracking down the bottle is not particularly challenging, and buying it is all too easy. The problem is that the selling rice is now extremely low, fortunately, his wife Kokua has the brilliant idea of going overseas to a country where the currency has a lower minimum denomination than in the US. So off they go to Tahiti a “centime” is worth less than half of a penny. You will have to read it to find how it all turns out.

Though not as legendary as Stevenson’s classic [b: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde|51496|The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde|Robert Louis Stevenson|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1318116526s/51496.jpg|3164921], The Bottle Imp is a very entertaining and thought-provoking story, the morality of selling such a bottle is, after all, questionable. It is whimsically narrated in the style of a folk tale, and the conclusion is nice and satisfying.

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  apatt | Dec 26, 2015 |
This is one of those little treasures that I have stumbled across in a collection of short stories of Stevenson's that are all have a supernatural theme and also generally creepy (which is what you get with supernatural stories). The Bottle Imp is a story of a native Hawiian (which is interesting in that the main character of this book is not Anglo-american) who is sold a rather magnificent bottle. Basically the owner of the bottle will come into great fortune however there are some catches: if you lose possession of the bottle then your fortune will turn bad, yet if you retain possession of the bottle when you die then you are damned to the fires of hell. So, how does one get rid of the bottle? Well, you have to sell it for less than you purchased it. So, seeing an opportunity, the Hawaiian purchases the bottle and becomes really wealthy and then sells it.
However, as I said, there is a catch. Upon selling the bottle he loses all of his fortune, so he goes on a trek around the world to attempt to find the bottle again, and when he does he can only buy it for one cent, which he does. Fortunately his wife tells him that there are places in the world where they have coins worth less than one American cent, so he goes to Tahiti in an attempt to sell it, which he does, only to discover that his fortune once again vanishes, so he attempts to buy it back, expect that the person who has bought it has already consigned himself to hell so he wants to spend the remainder of his days living it up.
What The Bottle Imp is about is the conflict between living a comfortable lifestyle and living a moral lifestyle (that is a lifestyle where the ultimate destination is heaven as opposed to hell). While, compared to the rest of the world, I am actually quite wealthy (and those of you who are reading this commentary are probably in the same boat) the funny this is that there are always people who are wealthier than us, and there are things that they have that we want, like the big house, or a fancy car.
The thing is that wealth is very seductive and by surrounding yourself with wealth and living such a lifestyle there are two dangers: living beyond your means and alienating yourself from the poor and the marginalised. Many of us, in attempting to enhance our lifestyle end up robbing the poorest sections of society from any opportunity to be able to enjoy life. Our hunt for greater profit and greater returns results in the decline of the manufacturing sector, the undercutting of wages, and what is in effect a race to the bottom. Those of us who are bosses and sit at the top of the chain end up looking for ways of increasing our own income which ends up robbing others of theirs. We close down factories, keep wages stagnated, and jack up prices, without any empathy as to how it is affecting others around us. We go home to our big house in our BMW yet do not realise that our employees are stressing out as to how they can pay their bills and keep a roof over their head or send their children to school and get a good education.
That is the idea as to how our lust for wealth can in the end damn us to hell because we are only concerned about ourself and own life. We do not care that the clothes on our back are produced through slave labour, and we treat others humans as either figures, production machines, or people that simply exist only to serve us. In fact as our economy moves towards a service economy, the jobs that are available look quite appalling indeed, not just because of the low wages, but because of the rubbish that they have to put up with. Dealing with customers is very hard work because in reality customers can be absolute pigs when they want to be, yet those in the service industry have to smile and put up with it because if they put a step wrong and the customer complains, it does not matter whether the customer is right or not, it is the service staff that gets it in the neck. ( )
  David.Alfred.Sarkies | Apr 20, 2014 |
Keave es un marinero que está de permiso en una isla de Hawaii. Paseando por una zona de la ciudad donde hay muchas mansiones, ve una casa que le llama extraordinariamente la atención. El dueño de la casa se asoma a la ventana y le hace señas para que entre y le enseña cómo ha llegado a poseer esa casa. Proviene de un diablo que vive en una botella. Mediante un engaño, Keave compra la botella y a partir de aquí, su vida se convertirá en un infierno.
  Laura_DM | Oct 15, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (33 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Robert Louis Stevensonprimary authorall editionscalculated
Jorgensen, IbCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jorgenson, OskarIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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There was a man of the Island of Hawaii, whom I shall call Keawe; for the truth is, he still lives, and his name must be kept secret; but the place of his birth was not far from Honaunau, where the bones of Keawe the Great lie hidden in a cave.
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First Edition in: Island Nights' Entertainments (1893)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0395721016, Hardcover)

Keawe buys a magic bottle that grants its owner all wishes, but its enchantment is such that he must sell it before he dies or he will be condemned to eternity in hell.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:29 -0400)

Keawe buys a magic bottle which brings him all that he desires but which he must sell before he dies in order to avoid spending eternity in hell.

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