Have you ever laughed in Chinese? “The Ransom of Red Chief” is the first comedic story in the Mandarin Companion family. Written in 1910, the story The Ransom of Red Chief brilliantly tapped into a rich vein of comedy associated with the many difficulties of caring for a mischievous child.
Perhaps many readers are unaware of the far-reaching influence this story has projected onto even modern day comedy. While there have been modern remakes of this story, the core of the story-line has been the inspiration of many others. Some notable influences can be seen in movies such as “Home Alone” and characters like “Dennis the Menace.” Stories with a mischievous child who outwits a couple of bumbling bad guys have their roots in this classic tale by O. Henry.
The “Red Chief” in the title, however, calls attention to the very different culture of the time, when “cowboys and Indians” was the most common game all children knew, and the United States had barely even begun to address its real issues of racial equality.
Clearly, the original “Red Chief” does not work in a Chinese context, even though the story’s larger theme of a child so unruly that he can barely be contained is all too familiar in the modern Chinese one-child household. And yet Chinese kids do have a uniquely Chinese hero all their own, unparalleled in his naughtiness: Sun Wukong, the Monkey King from Journey to the West. Thus, our story uses its own version of Sun Wukong, a modern-day, fictional caped simian superhero named 红猴 (Hóng Hóu), and gleefully jettisons the anachronistic “Red Chief.” You won’t miss him at all.
We are sure this story will bring a chuckle to your Chinese learning. This may be the first time you’ll laugh…in Chinese!