illustration of an open-faced monkey's paw with a skull design on the palm

The Monkey's Paw

by W. W. Jacobs

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What spell was put on the monkey's paw by a Fakir? Why did the Fakir put the spell on the paw?

Expert Answers

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According to the story, the answer to your questions are in the following quote:

"It had a spell put on it by an old fakir," said the sergeant-major, "a very holy man. He wanted to show that fate ruled people's lives, and that those who interfered with it did so to their sorrow. He put a spell on it so that three separate men could each have three wishes from it."

Although this is what the author says, I think that there is more to it than this, or that we can state both parts of the answer a bit better.

To me, the most important aspect of the spell is that the wishes can be granted in any way -- even ones that cause something very bad to happen.  You can see an example of this when Mr. White gets his 200 pounds but only by having his son die.

The fakir presumably puts this spell on the paw as a way of teaching people that they should not be greedy -- they should not want things that they do not have.  The spell shows us that getting the things we think we want will not alway really help us.  Perhaps you can liken this to cases in the US where lottery winners' lives are destroyed because they cannot adjust to having all that money all of a sudden.

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