[Spoilers for a famous classic short story.]
"The Most Dangerous Game" is a short story written by Richard Connell and published in 1924. Until about a year ago, I had never heard of this story, but I'm pretty sure I saw adaptations of it throughout my life. The basic concept has to do with the hunting of humans in place of animals. It's a terrifying concept and one that honestly appears to breach out of the realm of fantasy, placing it firmly as a serious possibility.
The movie that peaked my interest into this story was called "Bloodlust!". I happened upon it on an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, and I really liked the concept. The movie actually follows the plot of "The Most Dangerous Game" very closely with the added horror of the hunter making taxidermy tableaus of his hunted victims. Not a bad addition, if you ask me.
The story exposes a taboo that most people rarely consider, and that is that humans are not to be treated like animals. We may joke and play around with the idea, but, as a whole, we are much more comfortable having the control that being a human being offers us. In "The Most Dangerous Game," that control is snatched away, and you are forced into the role of a beast clamoring for survival. It is clear that we were never intended to be placed in this position.
The villain of the story was a Cossack named Zaroff. He had a giant of a servant called Ivan who was deaf and mute. Ivan reminded me a lot of the Igor type of character found in a lot of Mad Scientist stories. Zaroff was your standard sociopath, but he was a man true to his word.
Everything that Zaroff was had to do with the hunt. He never lied about the hunt. At no point in the story does he ever cheat. Some may think that using his hounds to assist him might be considered cheating, but the use of hounds in a hunt was perfectly acceptable at the time, and even considered sporting. I think my only problem with the adaptation "Bloodlust!" was that the Zaroff character did end up cheating when he saw that he was on the verge of losing. I figure the writers may have opted for that to go out of their way to make the villain as villainous as possible.
After reading "The Most Dangerous Game," I feel like Zaroff was a man of his word, although it was never really fully tested. I suppose the jury may still be out, but that's just how I feel. I saw him as a man who was true to himself. Evil... but true.
This story has been adapted more times than I am willing to bother listing them out. The adaptation list has it's own separate Wikipedia page, and I am fairly certain they missed a few things that I happened to know about. There are a heck of a lot of ways to experience this story.
As I hinted at towards the beginning of this blog, this story feels real because it seems plausible. The idea of elitist people hunting down human beings that are below them can and might have already occurred in some way or another throughout human history. It's not that farfetched! Along with the taboo, I think the plausibility of the story is what makes it so horrific.
"The Most Dangerous Game" comes highly recommended by me. It is well deserving of its classic status. It's very easy to find if you want to read it. Enjoy!
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