The Ransom of Red Chief by O. Henry – A Short Story Review

This story came recommended by a family member, so I knew the story would be a bit quirky but in the end very well done. The story was about two desperate men who plotted a kidnapping with the goal of getting a ransom. They carefully picked the richest man in town, a mortgage financier, and stole his child, bringing him out of town to a mountain cave where they were unlikely to be found. Little did they know that they were kidnapping a hellion.

The kid immediately started playing Indians where he was Red Chief, the terror of the plains while his two captives were Old Hank, the Trapper, and Snake-Eye the Spy. The kid beat up on Old Hank pretty good when Snake-Eye would leave to take care of business. He gave him cuts, bruises, and eventually tried to scalp him the following morning. He also put a red-hot potato down his back and kicked it, mushing the burning potato into his skin. It became increasingly evident that little Red Chief had no intentions of going home and things were getting worse by the minute for the kidnappers.

They wrote an elaborate ransom note for $1500, taking $500 off their initial price because they simply wanted to get rid of this kid. The rebuttal note they got back from the kids father basically said, “Hey I’ll cut you a deal, if you bring the kid back and give me $250, I’ll agree to take him off your hands for you.” They were blown away that the kids father would demand money instead of pay it out. However, things were getting desperate, the kid was playing David and Goliath and slinging rocks at Old Hank’s head. Finally they decided the only way to get rid of this kid was to pay out the cash. So they brought him back home, paid the $250, and ran out of town as fast as possible.

I liked this story because it was very simple yet with a plot I didn’t expect. It’s definitely a story you could tell to a younger child because its plot, characters, language, etc are easy to digest. It has adventure, danger, and mischief with a twist plot. I definitely recommend reading it, especially reading it to a younger sibling/neice/nephew/son/daughter/etc.

About the Author O. Henry:
William Sydney Porter (September 11, 1862 – June 5, 1910), known by his pen name O. Henry, was an American writer. O. Henry’s short stories are known for their wit, wordplay, warm characterization and clever twist endings. (Courtesy of

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