Thursday, May 13, 2010

The story of the Bottle Imp...

We have been playing Flaschenteufel: The Bottle Imp as many times as possible the past month. It is a ridiculously clever and devious trick-taking game that works best with three.  I am happy to say that this great little game is being reprinted in the upcoming year.

When Gunter Cornett invented the game, he had based it on a short story by Robert Louis Stevenson.  Thanks to Wikipedia, here is the story:

The story is about a working class native of Hawaiʻi, Keawe, who buys a strange bottle from a sad, elderly gentleman who credits the bottle with his wealth and fortune, and promises the imp in the bottle will also grant Keawe his every wish and desire.
Of course, there is a catch — the bottle must be sold at a loss, i.e. for less than its owner originally paid, or else it will simply return to him. The currency used in the transaction must also be in coin (not paper currency or check). The bottle may not be thrown or given away. If an owner of the bottle dies without having sold it in the prescribed manner, that person's soul will burn for eternity in Hell.
The bottle was said to have been brought to Earth by the Devil and first purchased by Prester John for millions of dollars; it was owned by Napoleon and Captain James Cook and accounted for both's great successes, but each sold it - leading both to a nasty end. At the time of the story the price has diminished to eighty dollars, and declines rapidly to a matter of pennies.
Keawe buys the bottle and instantly wishes his money to be refunded, to convince himself he hadn't been suckered. When his pockets fill with coins, he realizes the bottle does indeed have unholy power. He finds he cannot abandon it or sell it for a profit, so he wishes for his heart's desire: a big, fancy mansion. He then sells the bottle to a friend (after explaining the risks) and returns to Hawaiʻi.
Upon his return, Keawe's wish has been granted, but at a price: his beloved uncle and cousins have been killed in a boating accident, leaving Keawe sole heir to his uncle's fortune. Keawe is horrified, but uses the money to build his house.
Keawe lives a happy life, but there is something missing. Walking along the beach one night, he meets a beautiful woman. They soon fall in love and become engaged. Keawe's happiness is shattered on the night of his betrothal, when he discovers that he has contracted "the Chinese Evil" (leprosy) in his travels. He must give up his house and wife, and live in the caves with the other lepers. Unless...
Keawe tries to track down the friend to whom he sold the bottle, but the friend has become suddenly wealthy and left Hawaiʻi. Keawe eventually finds the bottle, but the owner has bad news: he only paid two cents for it. If Keawe buys it for one, he won't be able to resell it.
Keawe decides to buy the bottle, and wishes himself clean. But now he is despondent: how can he possibly enjoy life, knowing his doom? His wife mistakes his depression for regret at their marriage, and asks for a divorce. Keawe confesses to her his secret.
His wife suggests they sail to Tahiti, where the colonists of French Polynesia use centimes, a coin worth one-fifth of an American cent. When they arrive, however, the suspicious natives won't touch the cursed bottle. Keawe's wife decides to bribe an old sailor to buy the bottle for four centimes, and she will secretly buy it back for three. But now she carries the curse.
Keawe discovers what his wife has done, so he asks a brutish boatswain to buy the bottle for two centimes, and he will buy it back for one, thus sealing his doom. However, when Keawe goes to retrieve the bottle, the sailor threatens to bash in his head. There's no way he's giving up the magic wishing bottle. (Its most attractive feature, from the boatswain's point of view, is being filled with a never-ending supply of whisky.)Keawe warns the sailor that he'll go to hell if he keeps the bottle, but the sailor never expected to go anywhere else. Keawe returns to his wife, finally free from the curse. In effect Satan is confounded - having taken considerable trouble in sending this bottle into the world, and finally gotten for it only the boatswain's soul, which was his anyway. 


  1. Wait is it lame that I rather enjoyed the story?

  2. That was awesome! I hope you're bringing that game with you.

  3. Im waiting for the reprint from zman for this game as i do hear good things about it

  4. Definitely worth picking this one up. And yes, Laura, we will be playing this and Tichu a ton in July when we arrive. Book a babysitter... ;)

  5. That's not the story, but rather its summary.
    The story itself can be found here:

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