Hop-Frog, the jester, is a crippled dwarf in the service of an evil king who laughs at his deformities and torments him by forcing him to drink wine. The king has incurred Hop-Frog's wrath by abusing his female companion, also a dwarf.
He takes vengeance on the king and his seven equally cruel councilors by persuading them to dress as orangutans in tight fitting, knit suits covered with tar and flax, both of which are highly flammable. They are chained together to imitate a string of captured animals and enter the castle ballroom to the alarm and amusement of the king's guests. Hop-Frog uses the chain which normally supports the candelabra to lift them into the air. His strong arms enable him to climb the chain and suspend himself above the trapped men. He waves a torch above them, pretending to be trying to determine what they are. He sets the men on fire and climbs higher on the chain to be out of reach of the flames. He then proclaims to the assembled crowd that the "apes" had been the king and the councilors, who abused a helpless girl. Hop-Frog climbs to exit through the skylight, and he and the dwarf woman, Trippetta, escape to another country.
The practical details of Hop-Frog's murderous prank require him to climb the chain and be above the evil king, his councilors, and the crowd of guests. However, one can also see the physical elevation as symbolic. A dwarf who has to drag himself around on the floor can be high in morality, displaying the nobility of resolve to rescue a maiden in distress—as knights in chivalrous tales do. Meanwhile the king and councilors have betrayed their human status by consenting to be transformed into beasts, or lower animals.