The Bottle Imp

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Overview

"The Bottle Imp" (1891) is a short story by the Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson.

Keawe, a poor Hawaiian man, buys a strange bottle from a sad, elderly gentleman who credits the bottle with his fortune. He promises that an imp residing in the bottle will also grant Keawe his every desire.

Of course, there is a catch - the bottle must be sold at a loss, i.e. for less than its owner originally paid, or else it will simply return to him. The currency used in the transaction ...

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The Bottle Imp

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Overview

"The Bottle Imp" (1891) is a short story by the Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson.

Keawe, a poor Hawaiian man, buys a strange bottle from a sad, elderly gentleman who credits the bottle with his fortune. He promises that an imp residing in the bottle will also grant Keawe his every desire.

Of course, there is a catch - the bottle must be sold at a loss, i.e. for less than its owner originally paid, or else it will simply return to him. The currency used in the transaction must also be in coin (not paper money or a bank cheque/check). The bottle may not be thrown or given away. All of these commands must be transmitted from each seller to each purchaser. If an owner of the bottle dies without having sold it in the prescribed manner, that person's soul will burn for eternity in Hell.

The bottle was said to have been brought to Earth by the Devil and first purchased by Prester John for millions of dollars; it was owned by Napoleon and Captain James Cook and accounted for their great successes. By the time of the story the price has diminished to fifty dollars.

Keawe buys the bottle and instantly wishes his money to be refunded, to convince himself he has not been suckered. When his pockets fill with coins, he realizes the bottle does indeed have unholy power. He finds he cannot abandon it or sell it for a profit, so he wishes for his heart's desire: a big, fancy mansion on a landed estate. Upon his return to Hawaii, Keawe's wish has been granted, but at a price: his beloved uncle and cousins have been killed in a boating accident, leaving Keawe sole heir to his uncle's fortune. Keawe is horrified, but uses the money to build his house. After explaining the risks, he sells the bottle to a friend.

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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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
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781494423414
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Publishing
  • Publication date: 12/8/2013
  • Pages: 38
  • Product dimensions: 6.14 (w) x 9.21 (h) x 0.08 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert Louis  Stevenson
Jacqueline Mair is an artist and illustrator whose work has been exhibited in Great Britain and internationally. She lives in England.

Biography

Robert Louis Stevenson was born in 1850 in Edinburgh. His father was an engineer, the head of a family firm that had constructed most of Scotland's lighthouses, and the family had a comfortable income. Stevenson was an only child and was often ill; as a result, he was much coddled by both his parents and his long-time nurse. The family took frequent trips to southern Europe to escape the cruel Edinburgh winters, trips that, along with his many illnesses, caused Stevenson to miss much of his formal schooling. He entered Edinburgh University in 1867, intending to become an engineer and enter the family business, but he was a desultory, disengaged student and never took a degree. In 1871, Stevenson switched his study to law, a profession which would leave time for his already-budding literary ambitions, and he managed to pass the bar in 1875.

Illness put an end to his legal career before it had even started, and Stevenson spent the next few years traveling in Europe and writing travel essays and literary criticism. In 1876, Stevenson fell in love with Fanny Vandergrift Osbourne, a married American woman more than ten years his senior, and returned with her to London, where he published his first fiction, "The Suicide Club." In 1879, Stevenson set sail for America, apparently in response to a telegram from Fanny, who had returned to California in an attempt to reconcile with her husband. Fanny obtained a divorce and the couple married in 1880, eventually returning to Europe, where they lived for the next several years. Stevenson was by this time beset by terrifying lung hemorrhages that would appear without warning and required months of convalescence in a healthy climate. Despite his periodic illnesses and his peripatetic life, Stevenson completed some of his most enduring works during this period: Treasure Island (1883), A Child's Garden of Verses (1885), Kidnapped (1886), and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886).

After his father's death and a trip to Edinburgh which he knew would be his last, Stevenson set sail once more for America in 1887 with his wife, mother, and stepson. In 1888, after spending a frigid winter in the Adirondack Mountains, Stevenson chartered a yacht and set sail from California bound for the South Pacific. The Stevensons spent time in Tahiti, Hawaii, Micronesia, and Australia, before settling in Samoa, where Stevenson bought a plantation called Vailima. Though he kept up a vigorous publishing schedule, Stevenson never returned to Europe. He died of a sudden brain hemorrhage on December 3, 1894.

Author biography from the Barnes & Noble Classics edition of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Good To Know

It has been said that Stevenson may well be the inventor of the sleeping bag -- he described a large fleece-lined sack he brought along to sleep in on a journey through France in his book Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes.

Long John Silver, the one-legged pirate cook in Stevenson's classic Treasure Island, is said to be based on the author's friend William Ernest Henley, whom he met when Henley was in Edinburgh for surgery to save his one good leg from tuberculosis.

Stevenson died in 1894 at Vailima,, his home on the South Pacific island of Upolu, Samoa. He was helping his wife make mayonnaise for dinner when he suffered a fatal stroke.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Robert Louis Balfour Stevenson
    1. Date of Birth:
      November 13, 1850
    2. Place of Birth:
      Edinburgh, Scotland
    1. Date of Death:
      December 3, 1894
    2. Place of Death:
      Vailima, Samoa

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 5 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 6 of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 5, 2014

    Great story.

    Great story.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2012

    Great read!

    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!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 2, 2004

    Would you................................

    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!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 16, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing 1 – 6 of 5 Customer Reviews

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