The Hop Frog by Edgar Allan Poe: Summary & Analysis

Instructor: Tina Miller

Tina earned an MFA in Creative Writing, has several published novels and short stories, and teaches English and writing.

''The Hop Frog'' is a short story by Edgar Allan Poe about a king and his fool, Hop-Frog. They laugh, they masquerade, and they combat. Who comes out on top -- the king or the jester?

Who's Laughing Now?

In The Hop Frog, Edgar Allan Poe converges humor with revenge to show that nice guys can win. While the short story has a palatial setting with a king and a jester, it's not all laughs and giggles. The king is, after all, not the kindest ruler. When the jester sees an opportunity to laugh at the king instead of with him, he takes it. In this lesson, we will learn about, and analyze the jester's plan.

The King and the Hop-Frog

In a land far away, the king sits, surrounded by his seven ministers and servants. The king ''seemed to live only for joking.'' For the king, jokes are ''the surest road to his favor.'' And what's a prank-appreciative king without a jester? The king's jester, Hop-Frog, is taken from his homeland after a conquest and gifted to the king by his general. Hop-Frog is a ''dwarf and cripple,'' named for the way he leaps and wriggles when he walks. Hop-Frog's friend, Trippetta, has also been forcibly removed from her home by the same general. The two bond with each other because of their capture and roles in the kingdom.

A Masquerade

The plot revolves around the king's wish to hold a masquerade. Trippetta is responsible for preparing the hall, while Hop-Frog, being the wit that he is, must come up with costuming ideas for the king and his seven ministers because they, after all, have more important matters to tend to, like drinking wine.

When they meet, wine goblets in hand, things get a bit tense. The king forces wine down Hop-Frog's throat. Hop-Frog, not enjoying the elixir (nor the force) is resistant, and Trippetta sticks up for him. Splash! She is hit in the face with wine, and the king pushes her back. Hop-Frog, aghast, suddenly comes up with a costume idea for the king and his ministers, ''just after your majesty, had struck the girl and thrown the wine in her face.'' His idea: the eight chained ourang-outangs.

The king and his ministers are chained together, outfitted and tarred, and prepped for the masquerade. Hop-Frog prepares the ourang-outangs, and they enter the grand saloon. The room is dark, and the people are frightened. Hop-Frog leads the chained men to the center of the room, wherein which the chandelier hangs low enough for him to connect the gaggle to the lighting fixture. The chandelier begins to rise, just as Hop-Frog takes his torch and swipes it around the crew. As they rise with the chandelier, the flames brim. Hop-Frog shimmies up the structure until he frees himself through an opening in the roof. He joins Trippetta, and they make their way back to their homelands.

The Masquerade Charade
The Masquerade Charade

The Trickery

Poe uses the descriptions of the characters to foreshadow a David and Goliath-inspired tale. Hop-Frog and Trippetta are both small. Yet, they are both powerful. Trippetta is ''universally admired and petted; so she possessed much influence'', and Hop-Frog is dexterous with ''prodigious muscular power'' in his arms. In contrast, the king and his seven ministers are ''large, corpulent, oily men''.

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