LitFilter: What is this old story?
April 5, 2008 10:55 AM   Subscribe

Need help remembering an old story. I think Joseph Conrad wrote it, but I'm not finding anything with the searches. Here are my dreamlike recollections: gist of the story is about a bottle or a box full of money (?). Each owner of the box/bottle has their wishes granted, but has to pass the box to someone else. The last person with the box/bottle goes to hell (or something?). I think I remember one of the characters in the story building a house on a hill in a tropical location. Help?
posted by Slacker Manager to Writing & Language (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I think it's a bottle, and I think it's a Robert Louis Stevenson Story...

is it this?

I feel like the main character does build a big house on the beach in Hawaii, or something, with the bottle...
posted by Rinku at 11:10 AM on April 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

I think 'The Bottle Imp' is it.

I also remember seeing something similar on a TV show - Outer Limits, or Twilight Zone, something like that. The premise was this:
Man comes up and gives someone a box with a button on it.
He tells them if they press the button, they will get lots of money, and someone they don't know will die.
Moral dilemmas are discussed, and eventually they press the button.
The man comes back, takes the box, and announces that he is going to give it 'to someone they don't know'
posted by bashos_frog at 11:22 AM on April 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

There's a similar subplot in Douglas Adam's novel The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul, though it's an envelope in that book. It's referred to as a "hot potato" and inspires a hit pop song with that title (which is one of the ways it made one of its owners a lot of money).
posted by ErWenn at 12:02 PM on April 5, 2008

I'm going to be the "previously" guy, I guess. I usually hate that guy.

But to add a slight amount of off-topic value, bashos_frog, that story comes in two flavors. That was the "New Twilight Zone" version. Years later, I read a short story that was weirdly identical except for the ending. (Perhaps it was the original version?). This second version had the husband and wife discuss the moral dilemmas, with the wife being against, the husband for. At the end, the husband pushes the button anyways. But guess what, surprise twist, he clearly didn't know his wife all that well, so she's the one that is killed. Burn!
posted by IvyMike at 12:27 PM on April 5, 2008

Response by poster: Bottle Imp is it! Thanks, everyone!

Good searching, IvyMike. I looked, but must've not quite hit the right keywords.
posted by Slacker Manager at 1:31 PM on April 5, 2008

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