Friday, February 27, 2009

Poe Fridays: Never Bet the Devil Your Head

This week's Poe short story is Never Bet the Devil Your Head: A Tale With a Moral. Poe starts this tale by stating that he has critics who say his stories have no morals. He argues that all stories have morals, whether planned or not, but that he will oblige and write one with an obvious moral -- one that is right in the title of the story.

Poe has returned to first person narration in this story which always seems to work best for him. This tale made me laugh out loud but it was also quite ridiculous at parts. He describes his friend "Toby Dammit" thusly:

"The fact is that his precocity in vice was awful. At five months of age he used to get into such passion that he was unable to articulate. ... At eight months he peremptorily refused to put his signature to the Temperance pledge. Thus he went on increasing in iniquity, month after month, until, at the close of the first year, he not only insisted upon wearing moustaches, but had contracted a propensity for cursing and swearing, and for backing his assertions by bets."

Of course, his bets are not of a monetary nature but just word play. Eventually, his favorite phrase becomes "I'll bet the Devil my head ...". As Poe said, the moral is in the title.

"I hurried up to him and found that he had received what might be termed a serious injury. The truth is, he had been deprived of his head, which after a close search I could not find anywhere."

I'll leave it to you to find out how Toby Dammit loses his head. It's quite amusing, in a completely grotesque way! This was a fun little story from a totally demented mind.

As I skip around through my Poe volume, I think the next story will be The Angel of the Odd, due to its subtitle An Extravaganza. I'm enjoying reading some new stories that I don't recall reading before.

Avoiding any bets with the devil,


  1. This was definitely the weirdest one so far! My post is up here.

  2. Definitely Poe's attempt at sarcasm I think!! Here's my post (late again!) . . .

  3. I love it! Poe Fridays!! :)

    OOh! I have a bit of trivia info!-I'd always heard that Poe drank dangerous amounts of Absinthe, but after my research of absinthe for a book, I found that there is NO evidence of him being connected with the drink. I was kind of sad cuz I have a fascination with writers and absinthe, but Poe has enough vices to his name:)

  4. Yeah, Poe was just into laudanum and alcohol, not absinthe. Just imagine how much crazier his writing could have been ...