Jack is an English hero and archetypal stock character appearing in multiple legends, fairy tales, and nursery rhymes.
Some of the most famous Jack tales 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.
Jack is generally portrayed as a young adult. Unlike moralizing fairy heroes, Jack is often lazy or foolish, but emerges triumphant through wit and trickery, resembling the trickster or rebel archetypes. Some of the stories feature Jack's brothers, Will and Tom. The notional "Jack" corresponds with the German Hans (or Hänsel) and the Russian Ivan the Fool. Some Jack tales feature themes that appear to originate from Germanic folk tales.
"Jack tales" are present in Appalachian folklore. As noted by the folklorist Herbert Halpert, the Appalachian Jack tales are analogous to many of the folk songs of Appalachia, being passed on orally rather than in writing, and tracing back to sources in England. In the Appalachian Jack tales, where the English original would feature a king or other noble, the Appalachian Jack tale version would have a sheriff.
In his book The Jack Tales American folklorist Richard Chase collected many popular Appalachian Jack tales as told by descendants of a man named Council Harmon (1803–1896), whose grandfather Cutliff Harmon (1748–1838) was believed by Chase to have brought the Jack tales to America. One notable descendant of Council Harmon known for the telling of Jack Tales was Ray Hicks, whose relatives continue to keep the oral tradition alive. The Harmon-Hicks family are also known for their unique repertoire of traditional British folk ballads.