Read the Short Story “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”

The 1939 James Thurber story behind the upcoming Ben Stiller comedy

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Wilson Webb/20th Century Fox

You can now read “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” the short story by James Thurber that forms the basis of the upcoming Ben Stiller movie, for free online.

The comic tale — about a mild-mannered man who frequently imagines himself in thrilling situations — originally appeared in The New Yorker on March 19, 1939. The character’s name and its adjective (Mittyesque) have entered the  lexicon as terms used to describe someone prone to daydreams to the detriment of their real life.

The upcoming Ben Stiller film, which also stars Kristen Wiig and Sean Penn, reimagines the classic character as a LIFE magazine employee in search of lost photo negative. A 1947 version featured comedian Danny Kaye in the role of Mitty.

Read the full short story online now before the film hits theaters on Dec. 25, 2013.