"The Most Dangerous Game", also published as "The Hounds of Zaroff", is a short story by Richard Connell. It was published in Collier's Weekly on January 19, 1924.
Widely anthologized, and the author's best-known work, "The Most Dangerous Game" features as its main character a big-game hunter from New York, who falls off a yacht and swims to an isolated island in the Caribbean, and is hunted by a Russia aristocrat. The story is an inversion of the big-game hunting safari in Africa and South America that were fashionable among wealthy Americans in the 1920s.
Sanger Rainsford and his hunting companion Whitney are traveling to the Amazon forest to hunt the fabled big cat of that region, the jaguar. After a discussion about how they are the hunters instead of the hunted, Rainsford hears gun shots, drops his pipe, and falls off of their boat while trying to retrieve it. After he realizes he cannot swim back to the boat, he swims to an island, Ship-Trap Island, that is the subject of local superstition. He finds a palatial chateau inhabited by two Cossack: the owner, General Zaroff, and his gigantic deaf-mute servant Ivan. The General, another big-game hunter, has heard of Rainsford from his book about hunting snow leopards in Tibet. After inviting him to dinner, General Zaroff tells Rainsford of how he became bored with hunting because it no longer challenged him. Thus, Zaroff says, he decided to live on an island where he could capture shipwrecked sailors to send them into the jungle supplied with food, a knife, and hunting clothes to be his quarry. After a three-hour head start, he would follow them to hunt and kill them. If the captives eluded him, Ivan, and a pack of hunting dogs for three days, General Zaroff would let the man go, but no one had eluded him that long thus far. Zaroff invited Rainsford to join him in his hunt but Rainsford, appalled, refuses. Zaroff then tells Rainsford that he will be the next person to be hunted (if he refuses he will be knout to death by Ivan).
Rainsford lays an intricate trail in the forest and climbs a tree. Zaroff finds him easily, but decides to play with him like a cat with a mouse. After the failed attempt at eluding the General, Rainsford builds a "Malay man catcher" which injures Zaroff in the shoulder, causing him to return home for the night. Next he sets a Burmese tiger pit, which kills one of Zaroff's hounds. Finally, he sets a trap that was a Uganda native trick with his knife that kills Ivan, but not Zaroff. To escape the General and his approaching hounds, Rainsford dives off a cliff. Zaroff assumes Rainsford has killed himself and returns home. Zaroff locks himself in his bedroom and turns on the lights, revealing Rainsford, who had hidden by the bed curtains having swum around the island. Zaroff congratulates him on winning the "game," but Rainsford decides to fight him, and says "I'm still a beast at bay." The General accepts the challenge, saying that the loser will be fed to the dogs and the winner will sleep in his bed. The ensuing fight is not described, but the story ends with Rainsford's observation: "He had never slept in a better bed, Rainsford decided."
Read more about Zaroff at Wikipedia ...
Official Site: Richard Connell
Links: Wikipedia Classic Short Stories Turner Classic Movies