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The Bottle Imp

The Bottle Imp

4.5 6
by Robert Louis Stevenson

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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. "The combination of the supernatural and the very human struggle with greed and envy makes for a moving story." -- Booklist


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. "The combination of the supernatural and the very human struggle with greed and envy makes for a moving story." -- Booklist

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In the later years of his life, the Scottish-born Stevenson and his American wife moved to Samoa, where this tale was originally published, in Samoan, in 1891. Offering an engrossing spin on a time-honored theme-the risky business of making a pact with the devil-this short story is a radiant jewel. It recounts the mercurial lot of Keawe, a Hawaiian who purchases a bottle inhabited by an imp capable of granting any wish. Yet this enticing object holds a dark curse: anyone who dies with it in his possession will burn forever in hell. And here's the sticky rub: one can only sell the bottle for less than its purchase price. Keawe rids himself of the bottle after acquiring a palatial home. But when he needs it again to ensure his happiness with a newfound love, its cost is, chillingly, one cent, and the responsibility of ownership becomes a good deal more complex. Stevenson throws unexpected curves and laces his narrative with memorable imagery and canny understatement. Blending period and contemporary elements, Mair's warm, grainy paintings hold more than a hint of Gauguin's renderings of the tropics' lush vegetation and gleaming blue seas and skies. Ages 8-12. (Feb.)
Children's Literature - Mary Sue Preissner
Reminiscent of Gauguin, Mair has used rich jewel tones to illustrate Stevenson's romantic story of Keawe and Kokua. Set in Hawaii, Keawe has purchased a magic bottle, which grants wishes. Stipulations with the bottle are that it will not provide immortality; that should the owner die before passing it along, he will "burn in hell for ever;" those not content with its gifts will experience tragedy; and it must be resold at a loss. Love involves sacrifice, as the reader quickly discovers.
School Library Journal
Gr 6-8-Published first in Samoan in 1891, this story is suffused with the magic of Polynesian culture. Keawe, a native Hawaiian, comes upon the wealthy but downcast owner of a magic bottle. His fortune comes from a demon that lives in the bottle and gives its owner anything he desires. There is a catch, of course. The owner must sell it for less than he paid or "burn in hell forever." Being young and adventurous, Keawe buys it for $50, and his wishes are granted. In addition, he sells the bottle to a friend who is fully aware of the stipulations it carries. Keawe then meets and falls in love with the beautiful Kokua, but now his circumstances take a dreadful turn for he discovers a spot of leprosy on his flesh. To reverse this condition, he seeks out the bottle imp, and he finally traces it to a man who has purchased it for two cents. The horror of Keawe's dilemma is plain; if he buys the bottle for a penny he will be unable to sell it again, and he will loose his soul. Yet his love for Kokua is so great that he makes the purchase. This transaction sets the stage for events that follow. Told with all the elegance of Stevenson's style, the story is enriched by Mair's opaque watercolors that recall the work of Paul Gauguin. Her primitive style and brilliant colors add to the tension of the story and evoke the lush environs of the setting. Older readers who enjoy horror stories but are ready for something challenging will surely find this spooky tale satisfying.-Barbara Kiefer, Teachers College, Columbia University, NY
Hazel Rochman
Would you sell your soul to the devil? For wealth? To save the one you love? This tale of a genie in a bottle is part "Arabian Nights" fantasy, part "Faust", with an intricately twisting story of love and adventure that shows how good and evil get all mixed up. First published in Samoa in 1891, when Stevenson was living in the South Seas, it's illustrated here with Mair's lush full-page paintings that openly evoke Gauguin in their views of the tropical islands and the people. The hero Keawe from Hawaii buys a magic bottle that will give him all he desires--provided he sells it, at a lower price, before he dies; otherwise he will burn in hell forever. Every time he gets his heart's desire, including the woman he loves, disaster comes along with the happiness. Suspense builds as the bottle gets sold from hand to hand at a lower and lower price. No one wants to be left with the accursed thing. The ending is a cop-out (they have to dump that bottle on someone else), but the combination of the supernatural and the very human struggle with greed and envy makes for a moving story. The crisis when Keawe and his wife each secretly try to save each other is a drama of love and redemption.

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Meet the Author

Robert Louis Balfour Stevenson (13 November 1850 - 3 December 1894) was a Scottish novelist, poet, essayist, and travel writer. His most famous works are "Treasure Island", "Kidnapped", and "Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde".

A literary celebrity during his lifetime, Stevenson now ranks among the 26 most translated authors in the world. His works have been admired by many other writers, including Jorge Luis Borges, Bertolt Brecht, Marcel Proust, Arthur Conan Doyle, Henry James, Cesare Pavese, Ernest Hemingway, Rudyard Kipling, Jack London, Vladimir Nabokov, J. M. Barrie, and G. K. Chesterton, who said of him that he "seemed to pick the right word up on the point of his pen, like a man playing spillikins."

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
November 13, 1850
Date of Death:
December 3, 1894
Place of Birth:
Edinburgh, Scotland
Place of Death:
Vailima, Samoa
Edinburgh University, 1875

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The Bottle Imp 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
... by anyone. A true classic.
killerjello More than 1 year ago
Great story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of my favorite stories! Read it when I was 15 and I'm still in love with it! The message of this story is its best feature. 100% recommend!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Hey would you ever sacrifice your life for the one you love? Would you ever pay $50 for a bottled imp to get a house? Would you pay $50 to distroy your life? Well if you do, you might want to read this story before you do! This story will tell you the bad things that it can do! This story is about a Hawaiian man named Keawe that wanted to buy a house for $50 but instead he got a bottled imp. So he got the bottled imp instead and he wished for money to buy a house, but little did he know that he would have to kill someone to get the money. So he sells the bottle to a person, and falls in love with a 'wounderful' woman named Kokua. They get married and Keawe gets really ill and gose off to find the bottle again. I am an 8th grader and I don't like reading at all but this story is the best!