Jack (hero)

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Jack meets a fairy in Jack and the Beanstalk

Jack is an archetypal Cornish and English hero and stock character appearing in legends, fairy tales, and nursery rhymes, generally portrayed as a young adult. Unlike moralizing fairy heroes, Jack is often portrayed as lazy or foolish, but through the use of cleverness and tricks he usually emerges triumphant. In this way, he may resemble a trickster.

Some of the most famous are "Jack and the Beanstalk", "Jack Frost", "Jack the Giant Killer", "Little Jack Horner" and "This Is the House That Jack Built". While these heroes are not necessarily congruous, their concepts are related and in some instances interchangeable. The notion of "Jack" is closely related and sometimes identical to the English hero John. He also corresponds with the German Hans (or Hänsel) and the Russian Iván.[1]

"Jack tales" are also popular in Appalachian folklore.[2][3] Richard Chase, an American Folklorist, collected in his book "The Jack Tales" many popular Appalachian Jack tales as told by descendants of Council Harmon. Council Harmon's grandfather, Cutliff Harmon, is thought to very possibly be the one who originally brought the Jack tales to America.[4][5] As pointed out by folklorist Herbert Halpert, the Appalachian Jack tales are an oral tradition as opposed to written, and like many Appalachian folksongs, trace back to sources in England.[6] For instance, where the English original would feature a king or other noble, the Appalachian Jack tale version would have a sheriff. Some stories feature Jack's brothers, Will and Tom. Some Jack tales feature themes that trace to Germanic folk tales.

See also[edit]

Suggested reading[edit]

  • William Bernard McCarthy, Cheryl Oxford and Joseph Daniel Sobol, Jack in Two Worlds: Contemporary North American Tales and Their Tellers, University of North Carolina Press (1994), ISBN 978-0-8078-2135-0
  • Julia Taylor Ebel, Orville Hicks: Mountain Stories, Mountain Roots, Parkway Publishers (2005), ISBN 978-1-933251-02-8
  • Duncan Williamson, Don't Look Back, Jack!: Scottish Traveller Tales, Canongate Books (1990) ISBN 978-0-862413-09-5


  1. ^ Jack Zipes (2004). Speaking Out: Storytelling and Creative Drama for Children. Psychology Press. p. 129. ISBN 978-0-4159-6660-3.
  2. ^ Grace Toney Edwards (July 1, 2010). "Wonder Tales in Appalachia". AppLit. Retrieved 2015-01-05.
  3. ^ Roberta T. Herrin (1992). Journey Through Fantasy Literature: A Resource Guide for Teachers. Department of English, College of Arts and Science, East Tennessee State University.
  4. ^ Betty N. Smith, Jane Hicks Gentry: A Singer Among Singers, University Press of Kentucky (1998), ISBN 978-0-8131-0936-7 , page 15.
  5. ^ Julia Taylor Ebel and Orville Hicks, Orville Hicks: Mountain Stories, Mountain Roots, University Press of Kentucky (1998), ISBN 978-1-9332-5102-8, page 11.
  6. ^ Richard Chase, ed., The Jack Tales, Houghton Mifflin Co., 1943, ISBN 0-395-06694-8. "Told by R. M. Ward and his kindred in the Beech Mountain section of Western North Carolina and by other descendants of Council Harmon (1803-1896) elsewhere in The Southern Mountains; with three tales from Wise County, Virginia. Set down from these sources and edited by Richard Chase; with an appendix compiled by Herbert Halpert; and illustrated by Berkeley Williams, Jr."

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