Stingy Jack

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Stingy Jack, also known as Jack the Smith, Drunk Jack, Flaky Jack, and Jack o' the Lantern, is a mythical character sometimes associated with All Hallows Eve. The "jack-o'-lantern" may be derived from the character.[1]


As the story goes, several centuries ago in Ireland, there lived a drunkard known as "Stingy Jack". Jack was known throughout the land as a deceiver or manipulator. On a fateful night, Satan overheard the tale of Jack's evil deeds and silver tongue. Unconvinced (and envious) of the rumours, the devil went to find out for himself whether or not Jack lived up to his vile reputation.

Typical of Jack, he was drunk and wandering through the countryside at night when he came upon a body on his cobblestone path. The body, with an eerie grimace on its face, turned out to be Satan. Jack realized that this was his end; Satan had finally come to collect his malevolent soul. So Jack made a last request: he asked Satan to let him drink ale before he departed to Hell. Finding no reason not to acquiesce the request, Satan took Jack to the local pub and supplied him with many alcoholic beverages. Upon quenching his thirst, Jack asked Satan to pay the tab on the ale, much to Satan's surprise. Jack convinced Satan to metamorphose into a silver coin with which to pay the bartender. Satan did so, impressed upon by Jack's unyielding nefarious tactics. Shrewdly, Jack stuck the now transmogrified Satan (coin) into his pocket, which also contained a crucifix. The crucifix's presence kept Satan from escaping his form. This coerced Satan to agree to Jack's demand: in exchange for Satan's freedom, he had to spare Jack's soul for ten years.

Ten years after the date Jack originally struck his deal, he naturally found himself once again in Satan's presence. Jack happened upon Satan in the same setting as before and he seemingly accepted it was his time to go to Hell for good. As Satan prepared to take him to Hell, Jack asked if he could have one apple to feed his starving belly. Foolishly, Satan once again agreed to this request. As Satan climbed up the branches of a nearby apple tree, Jack surrounded its base with crucifixes. Satan, frustrated at the fact that he had been entrapped again, demanded his release. As Jack did before, he made a demand: that his soul never be taken by Satan into Hell. Having no choice, Satan agreed and was set free.

Eventually the drinking took its toll on Jack, and he died. Flaky Jack's soul prepared to enter heaven through the gates of St. Peter, but he was stopped. And Jack was told by God that because of his sinful lifestyle of deceitfulness and drinking, he was not allowed into Heaven. Jack then went down to the Gates of Hell and begged for admission into underworld. Satan, fulfilling his obligation to Jack, could not take his soul. He gave Jack an ember to light his way. Jack is doomed to roam the world between the planes of good and evil, with only an ember inside a hollowed turnip ("turnip" in this context referring to a large rutabaga) to light his way.[2]

Another version of the tale, from an 1836 edition of the Dublin Penny Journal, has Jack help an old man who is revealed to be an angel. To reward him, the angel grants Jack three wishes. He uses these to punish anyone who sits in his chair, takes wood from his tree, or tries to take his cobbling tools, by fixing them to the ground. The angel is disappointed by this and bars Jack from entering Heaven. Jack manages to deflect Satan's messengers who attempt to trick him, and he is condemned to enter neither Heaven or Hell.[3]

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  1. ^ Hofherr, Justine; Turchi, Megan (2014-10-29). "The History of The Jack-O-Lantern (& How It All Began With a Turnip)". Retrieved 2015-07-30.
  2. ^ Bachelor, Blane (2020-10-27). "The twisted transatlantic tale of American jack-o'-lanterns". National Geographic. Retrieved 2020-11-03.
  3. ^ Traynor, Jessica (29 October 2019). "The story of Jack-o'-lantern: 'If you knew the sufferings of that forsaken craythur'". The Irish Times. Retrieved 2020-11-03.

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