"To look at," said the sergeant-major, fumbling in his pocket, "it's just an ordinary little paw, dried to a mummy."
He took something out of his pocket and proffered it. Mrs. White drew back with a grimace, but her son, taking it, examined it curiously.
"And what is there special about it?" inquired Mr. White, as he took it from his son and, having examined it, placed it upon the table.
"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."
His manner was so impressive that his hearers were conscious that their light laughter jarred somewhat.
"Well, why don't you have three, sir?" said Herbert White cleverly.
The soldier regarded him in the way that middle age is wont to regard presumptuous youth. "I have," he said quietly, and his blotchy face whitened.
"And did you really have the three wishes granted?" asked Mrs. White.
"I did," said the sergeant-major, and his glass tapped against his strong teeth.
"And has anybody else wished?" inquired the old lady.
"The first man had his three wishes, yes," was the reply. "I don't know what the first two were, but the third was for death. That's how I got the paw."
The Monkey's Paw is a Public Domain Artifact originating in a story by W.W. Jacobs, a wish granting artifact with a knack for answering a request in the way that will cause suffering or harm to the wisher. The story itself is linked below.
It has since become a byword for any malevolent wish-giver - the sort of help you get from demons, lower spirits and evil jjini.
It is just possible that an truly evil person may be able to use a monkey's paw without suffering harm - possibly because his aims amuse whatever dark power is granting the wishes - but in general these things aren't safe to have around.
Game and Story Use
- Use these sparingly in your campaign to avoid your players lynching you: ideally you'll want to make sure that they accquire them inspite of hints that they're not safe and/or by crossing moral event horizons. When that demon offers you a payoff not to kill it … this is your reward.
- Compare and contrast with the Imp Bottle - gives you as many wishes as you want, and is slightly less malevolent, but the long term costs are somewhat greater.