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Jack meets a fairy in "Jack and the Beanstalk"

Jack is an English hero and archetypal stock character appearing in multiple legends, fairy tales, and nursery rhymes.

Examples of Jack tales

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.[citation needed]


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.[citation needed] The notional "Jack" corresponds with the German Hans (or Hänsel) and the Russian Ivan the Fool.[1] Some Jack tales feature themes that appear to originate from Germanic folk tales.

Jack tales in Appalachia

"Jack tales" are present in Appalachian folklore.[2][3] 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.[4] 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.[5][6] 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.[7] The Harmon-Hicks family are also known for their unique repertoire of traditional British folk ballads.[8]

See also

Suggested reading


  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. ^ 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."
  5. ^ Betty N. Smith (1998), Jane Hicks Gentry: A Singer Among Singers, University Press of Kentucky, ISBN 978-0-8131-0936-7, p. 15.
  6. ^ Julia Taylor Ebel and Orville Hicks (1998), Orville Hicks: Mountain Stories, Mountain Roots, University Press of Kentucky, ISBN 978-1-9332-5102-8, p. 11.
  7. ^ goldsteinsl (2019-08-02). "Hicks, Harmon, and Ward Storytelling Tradition on Beech Mountain and in Western North Carolina". Hicks, Harmon, and Ward Storytelling Tradition on Beech Mountain and in Western North Carolina. Retrieved 2020-12-04.
  8. ^ "No ordinary banjo". Folklife Today. Library of Congress. 2018-04-12. Retrieved 2020-12-04.

Further reading