Some Folktales from Outside Appalachia

Compiled by Tina L. Hanlon

Back to Folktale Bibliography Index

Links to Other Online Texts

Note: This page contains miscellaneous folktale resources in different media that may be useful when studying Appalachian folktales and their links with other traditions, such as Jack tales in other regions. Most of the pages in AppLit's folktale bibliographies list other resources with Appalachian folktales and those from other traditions. Many specific parallels for individual tales are listed in AppLit's Annotated Index of Appalachian Folktales. AppLit's Background Resources also contains some general materials on folklore that do not focus on Appalachia. My other bibliographies on mostly non-Appalachian tales include Feminist Collections of Folktales and Dragons in Children's Literature.

Adventures of Jack/Coffee Grows on White Oak Tree. 1 sound cassette. Mahwah, NJ: Troll Associates, 1965-1972? "Adventures of Jack" is a version of one of the traditional "jack tales." "Coffee Grows on White Oak Tree" is in the style of an American folk song (WorldCat).

Doherty, Berlie. The Famous Adventures of Jack. Hodder Children's Books, 2000. English book published in U.S. by HarperCollins/Greenwillow, 2001. 148 pp. Fiction for children. Jack tales are woven together in a metafictional frame story in which Jill has encountered Old Feller Storyteller, who gave her a bag full of objects associated with different tales, and old Mother Greenwood, who takes her in her cottage and starts telling tales of the different Jacks in her family, some foolish and lazy and some brave. Her magical cat can tell tales and turn itself into a horse. Eventually Jill gets caught up in living through the stories. She hears or participates in "The King of the Herrings," "Daft Jack" (same as Lazy Jack), "The Magic Castle and the Apples of Immortality," "Jack and the Golden Snuffbox," and the most fearful, climactic "Jack the Giant Killer." She is also told the "neverending story" tale in which Jack saves his head and wins a princess by telling a story so tedious that the king wants it stopped and declares Jack the winner of his "longest story" contest. A giant beanstalk starts growing outside the cottage early in the story when Jill produces beans from the bag and Mother Greenwood throws them out the window in disgust. By the end Jill hears that Mother Greenwood's son Jack, grandson of the bravest man in the world, Jack the Giant Killer, has gone up the beanstalk. She puts on the Giant Killer's powerful belt and goes up the beanstalk to see if there is one giant left.

Fleming, Candace. Clever Jack Takes the Cake. Illus. G. B. Karas. Clever Jack coverNew York: Schwartz & Wade Books, 2010. This picture book, an original Jack tale, is both heartwarming and ingenious as it plays with motifs from older tales and nursery rhymes. In the beginning Jack and his mother are poor, as in "Jack and the Bean Tree." When invited to the princess's tenth birthday party, Jack does some trading, hunting, and working to get ingredients and make her a cake. Traveling to the palace, Jack loses the cake bit by bit in a series of mishaps involving folk motifs such as four and twenty blackbirds, a troll demanding payment for crossing a bridge, and a dark forest. At the palace Jack has nothing to offer but the story of what happened to the cake. The princess, bored with her pile of golden presents from other guests, loves Jack's gift of an adventure story, and lets her new friend cut her birthday cake. Wonderful illustrations in gouache and pencil earth tones; even the end papers add detail to the story. Fleming's web site provides teacher's guide, reviews, and reader's theater script. For other plot connections, see "Foolish Jack - and - The Swapping Song," and "Jack and the King's Girl."

Geisler, Harlynne. A Giant, An Imp and Two Jacks: Children's Tales from Scotland, Ireland, and England. Audiocassette and CD. Storybag. 2000. 47:22 min. A storyteller in San Diego tells four traditional tales. Teacher's guide available. This link is to a short review and cover picture at, which also contains an interview with Geisler. This site contains many resources on oral tales, including online tales in text and audio. Geisler tells the Scottish tale "Peerifolk," in which a youngest princess saves her sisters from a giant with help from peerifolk, the Scottish fairies. "Tom Tit Tot" is an English tale like "Rumples." "Two Jack tales present facets of the ubiquitous character's personality. In the Irish 'Silly Jack,' Jack's bumbling attempts at making his mother happy win the hand of a rich lady. In the English-American 'Lazy Jack,' Jack's hard work and careful attention to obeying his mother's orders pays off and, again, wins Jack a rich wife in the end. Harlynne Geisler's rich voice and natural pacing bring the stock characters of the folktales to life. . . . The cunning youngest daughter, Jack's ridiculously likeable character, and the faintly menacing Tom Tit Tot are ably described. The dialogue is expressive, and Geisler adds just a dash of contemporary touches for humor while maintaining the authenticity of the tales" (from audiobook review by Nancy L. Chu in School Library Journal, vol. 47, Mar. 2001, p. 84).

Hickey, John David, and Dylan Spevack Willcock. You Don't Know Jack. CD. Baldwin's Mill, QC: Topeda Hill Pub, 2005. Montreal storytellers who perform all over Canada (partly influenced by Southern American tales). "You probably know Jack as a mountaineer of beanstalks, but have you heard about his roles as story spinner, world-renowned hunter, or thief? There's more to wily Jack than you ever thought possible, but now you have the chance to hear and read the REAL story behind Jack! Honest! Unlike many other storyteller CDs, You Don't Know Jack also comes with a book, complete with illustrations. The stories are written to be read and told to be heard; the written version is not a word-for-word transcription of the CD, which means you can appreciate both on their own merits!" (Text from CD Baby web site, where audio samples are available.) Includes "Jack the Hunter," "Jack's Tall Tale," "Jack and the Silver Sword," "Jack Cures the Doctor," "Jack and the Haunted House," "The World's Greatest Thief."

"Jack and His Magic Aids." From Canadian Wonder Tales by Cyrus MacMillan. Illus. George Sheringham (London: John Lane, The Bodley Head, 1918). Reprinted in The Baldwin Online Children's Literature Project. This tale has some similarities to "Jack and the Beanstalk," but Jack gets magic food, then a magic belt, then a magic flute from a man who takes his cows. These objects all give power over other people, so that Jack avoids getting beaten after he lies to his mother about someone stealing the cows. He uses the magic food (which puts people at his mercy because they can't stop eating it until he removes it) to trick the landlord into giving his widowed mother the farm, and sets off to seek his fortune. Although he is "an awkward, ugly fellow," Jack enters a contest to make a girl laugh three times. He uses the magic objects to control the girl and commands her to laugh each time before he will release her from the food, the belt, or the dancing that the flute compels. The girl's rich father doesn't like Jack and imprisons him with wild beasts, but the belt ties up the beasts. Jack's flute summons wasps that make the girl's rich suitor seem crazy so her father decides Jack has great power, celebrates the marriage of Jack and his daughter, and later leaves Jack his lands.

"Jack and the Corn Stalk." Tale from Kansas retold by S. E. Schlosser. American Folklore web site. This is a tall tale about the Kansas corn growing so fast that Jack can't be rescued from it when he climbs up a cornstalk to survey the whole field. It's growing too fast for his father's men to chop it down so they have to leave Jack up there until a drought occurs.

"Jack and His Wonderful Hen." From Canadian Wonder Tales by Cyrus MacMillan. Illus. George Sheringham (London: John Lane, The Bodley Head, 1918). Reprinted in The Baldwin Online Children's Literature Project. Jack lives alone with his poor parents "in a remote part of Canada." Jack insists on going to find work to help his parents. He earns a hen that lays numerous eggs. He sells the hen for a lot of money and later sells their goat. His parents are saddened when he steals the goat back. He goes off to seek his fortune again and is tricked by a robber who kills Jack after promising to make him rich and steals his goat. "Poor Jack's stolen goat had brought him to a sad end."

Jones, Ron. "Jack and the Two Bottles." A North Carolina storyteller who tells some Appalachian tales adapted a tale about Clever Peter from a Howard Pyle book and tells it as a Jack tale. Audio clip at this link in Jones' web site. Jack is considered "not very smart" at the beginning of this tale. Walking to the city to sell eggs, Jack finds a magic door in a tree.

Kennedy, Patrick, ed. The Fireside Stories of Ireland. Dublin: M'Glashan and Gill, 1870. In "The Unlucky Messenger" (similar to Appalachian "Soap, Soap, Soap" tale), a farmer's wife sends Jack, a servant boy, to the butcher for heart, liver, and lights. He offends a series of people by repeating phrases told to him, never remembers what he was sent for, and returns home in disgrace. This book also contains "Jack the Cunning Thief" and "The Princess in the Cat-skins." In "The Three Gifts," Jack gets riches for his poor mother after having trouble on his journeys to return home with his gifts. Reprint of this book from Harvard College library available at Google Books.

Kyofski, Bonelyn L., Douglas Manger, Kenneth A. Thigpen, Patricia M. Macneal, P .J. O'Connell, Brandon Uhlig. Videocassette (33 min.). Clear the Other Side of Everywhere: Storytelling Tradition in North Central Pennsylvania. Mansfield, PA: Northern Tier Cultural Alliance, Center for Arts and Folklife, 1999. "Abstract: In the late 1800s immigrant loggers swapped extraordinary Jack tales in the mountains of Northern Pennsylvania. Those tales became traditional family stories embellished and shared for more than one hundred years. Storyteller Bonnie Kyofski shares those tales with new generations of children and novice school teachers, keeping alive a tradition which links today's Northern Tier communities with their colorful past. But the best stories also teach traits that transcend time—confidence, self identity, courage, resourcefulness, cooperation and humor" Note(s): Produced in cooperation with the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Institute for Cultural Partnerships. Originally taped for the Pennsylvania Heritage Affairs Commission by the Documentary Resource Center and edited by B&C Productions (WorldCat).

Lannon, Alice, narrator. "The Ship that Sailed on Land and Water." Tale passed down in Lannon's Newfoundland family, recorded in 1999. With critical essay by Martin Lovelace. Journal of Folklore Research, vol. 38 (Jan.-Aug. 2001). Full text available online through library services such as Academic Index ASAP. Lovelace describes it as containing tale types "'The Land and Water Ship' (AT 513B), prefaced by 'Squeezing the (Supposed) Stone' (AT 1060) and 'Eating Contest' (AT 1080). In many ways, it is a male-centered tale. Jack's boast that he can do 'anything a good strong man can do' typifies the aggressive self-confidence the tales seem to recommend as a model of how working men should be when facing employers." In the end Jack is given the king's daughter to marry and turns down the offer of a castle because he has his own place.

Lawrence, Michael. The Book of Jacks. London: Pavilion, 1999. 96 pp. A British book of tales about Jack.

Leviton, Sonia. The Man Who Kept his Heart in a Bucket. Illus. Jerry Pinkney. New York: Penguin/Dial Books for Young Readers, 1991. Jack is a village metal worker who keeps his broken heart in a bucket and can't feel emotions. A golden carp turns into a maiden who steals the heart from his bucket and leaves him with a riddle about gold and love to solve. He melts the bucket, which becomes a new gold heart. Then, with his "heart in the right place," he can enjoy the pleasures of food, music and babies, with the villagers who help him recognize three types of golden scales that solve the riddle (a measuring scale, musical scale, and fish scales). Jack and the beautiful maiden then merge their hearts and plan to make wedding rings. The lively illustrations depict rural mountains and characters who look like Eastern European villagers.

Lovelace, Martin. "Jack and His Masters: Real Worlds and Tale Worlds in Newfoundland Folktales." Journal of Folklore Research, vol. 38 (Jan.-Aug. 2001): pp.149ff. Available online through library services such as Academic Index ASAP. Focuses on the way magic tales from Newfoundland transferred values from an agricultural British world to maritime life as they "offer models of behavior for young working-class men, particularly in their relationships with employers." Includes transcript of tale by Alice Lannon (see above). Some comparison with Richard Chase tales is included.

Oral Traditions: Swapping Stories.  The focus is on Louisiana folklore, but this site, which includes John Henry and Virginia Hamilton as additional examples, provides detailed models of lesson plans for examining oral storytelling traditions, tall tales, urban legends, regional folk heroes, family stories, and media celebrities, linked with state standards of learning. For English Language Arts and Social Studies, grades 4–8.

Pavesic, Christine. University of Wisconsin and Upper Iowa University. Pavesic's web site notes, "In 2003 she presented 'The Jack Tales in Illinois: Continuing the Oral Tradition' at the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency's Conference on Illinois History."

Russell, Jean (reteller). The Fish Bride and Other Gypsy Tales. Illus. Michael Larson. Linnett, 2000. 90 pp. Reviewed by Ginny Gustin in School Library Journal, vol. 46 (Sept. 2000): p. 251. Gustin describes "retellings of 16 traditional tales collected in the American Midwest in the late 1930s and in Wales during the same time period. Larson's introduction describes her childhood visits to Gypsy camps in Iowa, where she was fascinated by the colorful storytelling she heard, and the similar youthful experiences of Jack Richards, who contributed the Welsh stories. Larson also tells briefly of the long history of Gypsy persecution in Europe and elsewhere." Includes "'Jack and the Green Man,' a typical 'foolish Jack' tale from Wales." Each selection accompanied by notes and a Gypsy proverb. "Children who enjoyed the 'Jack Tales' or the stories of the fools of Chelm will find similar themes and humor in this collection."

"Rusty Jack." In Cothran, Jean, ed. With a Wig, With a Wag, and Other American Folk Tales. Illus. Clifford N. Grady. New York: David McKay, 1954. pp. 9-17. Reprinted from Gardner, Emelyn Elizabeth. Folklore from the Schoharie Hills, New York. Univ. of Michigan Press, 1937. Told in New York state in 1912 by Della Miller, daughter of a storyteller. Rusty Jack wears old rusty clothes and has stronger, better-looking brothers named James and Mark. Their father leaves Jack only an old ox which dies, so Jack takes its hide and goes to seek his fortune, having never worked in his life. The oxhide attracts his lost pet crow, which calls his name and frightens some women he meets, one of whom looks like a princess. As in "Fool Jack and the Talking Crow," Jack tricks his host, a woodchopper, by claiming that the crow tells him about treasures that Jack had seen the women hide in the house. The man shares the treasures with Jack and then gives Jack his own half in exchange for Jack's oxhide, believing it will help him attract more fortune-telling crows. Jack claims the crow tells him that the beautiful lady is hidden under a bed. She agrees to marry Jack so they go off to bury her father and brothers, who were killed by robbers, and take over her father's estate. Cothran notes that in Yeats' "Irish Fairy and Folk Tales, the talking crow is a talking magpie" (p. 91). This book also includes "Old Bluebeard" from the Southern Blue Ridge, collected by Isobel Gordon Carter (Journal of American Folklore, 1925). Tales from other regions also include "With a Wig, With a Wag" (similar to "Gallymanders"), "The Cat, the Cock, and the Lamb" (similar to "Jack and the Robbers"), and "Little Bear" (similar to "Mutsmag").

Stone, Kay. "Things Walt Disney Never Told Us." The Journal of American Folklore, vol. 88, No. 347, Women and Folklore (Jan. - Mar. 1975), pp. 42-50. Available online through JSTOR. Stone compared male and female roles in European and American collections of folktales, and interviewed 40 North American women who recall being influenced by traditional fairy tales with passive heroines. See more details on Background Resources page.

Swope, Sam. Jack and the Seven Deadly Giants. Illus. Carll Cneut. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004. A book by a New York author, with black and white pictures by a Belgian illustrator. In seven chapters plus "Prologue" and "The End," young Jack, who starts out as an orphan and bad boy, searches for his mother and combats giants that represent the seven deadly sins: the Giant Poet, the Terrible Glutton, Mrs. Roth, the Wild Tickler, Avaritch, Orgulla the Great, and the Green Queen. See colorful cover at Farrar, Straus and Giroux web site (use search page to find this 2004 book).

Two Jack Tales. Audiocassette. Devon, England: Folktracks. 1975. Notes: "Jack and the Lord High Mayor" and "Jack and the Three Giants" told by Frank McPeake of Belfast, Ireland, and "Silly Jack and the Englishman" and "Silly Jack and the Two Pairs of Three Women" told by Henry MacGregor of Perth, Scotland. Title on insert: Two Pairs of Jack Tales (WorldCat).

Williamson, Duncan. Don't Look Back, Jack: Scottish Travellers Tales. Edinburgh: Canongate Books, 1995. Williamson (1928- ) has told many folktales from the Scottish "traveling people" he grew up with, including Jack tales in this book, and other books and recordings for children and adults. Fireside Tales of the Traveller Children: Twelve Scottish Tales includes "Jack and the Witch's Bellows" and "Jack and his Mother's Cloth" (New York: Harmony Books, 1983). The East Tennessee State Univ. Archives, Appalachian-Scottish & Irish Studies Collection, contains material on Williamson's tales. His other books include:

Williamson, Duncan. "Jack and the Silver Keys." In Best-Loved Stories Told at the National Storytelling Festival. Jonesborough, TN: National Storytelling Press and Little Rock: August House, 1991 (20th anniversary edition). pp. 175-89. "This story was passed down to me from my father's family, a clan of nomadic tinsmiths and basket-makers who relied on stories for their education and survival. I tell the stories of my [Scottish] tradition so that the old traveling folk will never be forgotten" (p. 175). Jack and his mother are so poor on a rundown farm that she persuades him to start working and he borrows horses and a plow. While plowing their land, he finds three giant keys. His mother tells him how his father drowned in a ditch fifteen years earlier searching for the silver keys because the king had offered such a big reward for their return after he lost them. His mother persuades Jack to return them to the king, keep them secret on the way, and find out what they open. The king tells his story about receiving the keys to a magic garden from a magician. While the king is away, the queen has Jack thrown in the dungeon for ruining her life, since the king will be able to drink from a fountain of youth in the magic garden, and won't age as she does. The king returns as a younger man that Jack does not recognize, saving Jack at the moment that he is to be hanged for the false charge of insulting the queen. The king puts the queen in the dungeon but Jack, for the sake of his mother's opinions, persuades the king to pardon her. He takes her to the Garden o' Youth as he had planned, and the story ends with the possibility that Jack may have gone there and still be around, working the big farm that he bought with his reward. This book also contains "The Bee, the Harp, the Mouse, and the Bumclock," an Irish Jack Tale retold by Appalachian Gwenda LedBetter.

Yolen, Jane. "Jack and His Companions." Yolen's retelling of a nineteenth-century Irish tale collected by Patrick Kennedy. In Yolen's book Mightier than the Sword: World Folktales for Strong Boys. Illus. Raul Colón. New York: Silent Whistle/Harcourt, 2003, pp. 56-63. Yolen notes that Jack is a good leader and organizer in this tale. He returns the robbers' loot to Lord Dunlavin, and is rewarded but not with marriage. He and his animal friends get prosperous posts at the castle. Jack's quest to find money for himself and his poor mother, and his care of his mother at the end, contrast with his antagonistic reasons for running away from home in some Appalachian tales.

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