AppLit Home Jack Tales in AppLit's Annotated Index of Appalachian Folktales Tina L. Hanlon

"Jack and the Bull" and "Jack and the Heifer Hide"


Chase, Richard. "Jack and the Bull." The Jack Tales. Boston: Houghton, 1943, pp. 21-30. With two illustrations by Berkeley Williams, Jr. Herbert Halpert's notes in the Appendix discuss the combination of several tale types in this tale. Jack is bound out to a family with a woman so mean she tries to starve him until a strange bull appears to give him bread and milk out of its horns. Jack Tale Wall The woman's daughters, who have one, two, and three eyes, are sent to spy on Jack but he plays his fiddle longer for each girl and it closes their eyes. The woman orders the bull to be killed but the bull instructs Jack on how to do it so that Jack hits and kills the woman instead, and they escape. The bull has to fight a series of bulls until he is worn out and instructs Jack to take his horns and a strop from his hide. When Jack works for a witch's husband herding sheep and another job watching hogs, the bull strop saves him from attacks by the witch and a giant woman, earning him rewards. He returns home intending to save his money instead of spending it like he did after escaping from the first witch.

The Jack Tales Wall at SWVCC includes an image of the witch's daughters from "Jack and the Bull," with one, two and three eyes. SW VA artist Charles Vess was commissioned in 1992 to create a brick sculpture wall at Southwest Virginia Community College in Richlands, Virginia. Vess explains the use of specific Jack Tales with photos of scenes on the wall at The Jack Tales Wall, Green Man Press web site. Brick sculptor Johnny Hagerman completed this wall. (photo at right by Tina L. Hanlon, 4/9/10)

"Jack and the Bull Strap." Collected by Leonard Roberts. Up Cutshin and Down Greasy. 1959. Rpt. Lexington: Univ. Press of KY, 1988. pp. 109-14. Told by Jim Crouch in Kentucky, who said it was his favorite when his mother told this tale often to her children. Jack's stepmother sends old One Eye, old Two Eyes, and old Three Eyes out to see what he gets to eat when she won't feed them, but he whistles them to sleep, except that one eye of the last girl sees that he eats from the bull's horn. Jack kills the stepmother instead of the bull without instructions from the bull on how to trick her. When the bull fights a bear, lion, and panther, Jack follows the bull's instructions to take three straps from the bull's back after the panther kills it. Jack calls himself "Jack and the Bull Strap" and the strap attacks a man who threatens him as well as a two-headed giant that kills the man's other sheepherders (the strap taking one of his heads off) and a three-headed giant and four-headed giant that kill the sheepherders of kings. Getting possessions from all these opponents, Jack goes to another king's house and falls in love with his daughter. The king disapproves but Jack and the horses he got from giants stop attempts to drown and burn the girl, so that she and Jack can go off and marry.

"Jack and the Bull's Horns." In Roberts, Leonard. I Bought Me a Dog: A Dozen Authentic Folktales from the Southern Mountains. Berea, KY: The Council of the Southern Mountains, 1954.

Johnson, Polly. Two Transcriptions of "Jack and the Bull." James Taylor Adams and Richard Chase, transcribers. In Journal of Folklore Research, vol. 38. Special Double Issue: Perspectives on the Jack Tales and Other North American Märchen. Vol. 38, Nos. 1-2 (January-August 2001). Edited by Carl Lindahl. Includes several tales as well as articles. Available online through library databases such as Academic Index. See Appalachian Folktales in General Collections, Journals and Web Sites for more details.

"Jack and the King's Daughters." Retold by Jerry Harmon, musician and storyteller (direct descendant of Council Harmon, patriarch of the famous Hicks-Harmon family of storytellers in NC). Audio file online at Jerry Harmon: "The Smoky Mountain Gypsy. This tale is very similar to "Jack and the Bull" in Chase's The Jack Tales. Jack is bound out to a man whose wife and three girls hate Jack. The wife tries to starve Jack. A bull offers Jack cornbread and milk that he finds by removing the bull's horns. One of the girls is one-eyed and she can't see what Jack is doing. He also tricks the two-eyed girl by putting her to sleep with a fiddle tune. The three-eyed girl tries harder to keep her third eye open and see where Jack gets food. Jack and the bull trick the mother when she insists on trying to kill the bull, and she is killed. Jack escapes with the bull, who eats grass and drinks from streams while Jack gets food and drink from its horns. Jack and the bull travel on until they meet a series of three bulls that Jack's bull has to fight. Different colored bubbles in the stream signal the approach of the bulls of different colors that Jack's bull kills. Jack follows the instructions of his bull after it is killed by a white bull, taking its horns and part of its hide (the stripe) with him as he travels and then seeks work. A woman gives Jack work herding sheep. Jack expects he can handle her when a feller tells him she's a witch. When she attacks him, the bull's horns and stripe help him ward off her three attempts to choke him when he says, "Tie, stripe, tie. Beat, horn, beat." Each time Jack lets her go from being beaten and tied up, he gets new clothes, money and a horse. When his money begins to give out, Jack seeks work. He helps a farmer shake down apples for his hogs and save them from a giant woman who has been stealing the fat hogs. The horns and tie, along with the pigs, whoop the giant woman when she threatens to kill Jack and the farmer cuts her head off. Jack gets a poke full of money, then decides to go home and saves his money instead of spending it this time.

Oxford, Cheryl Lynne. "They Call Him 'Lucky Jack': Three Performance-Centered Case Studies of Storytelling in Watauga County, North Carolina." Ph.D. Dissertation. Northwestern University, 1987. Abstract available online in DAI, 48, no. 08A (1987): 2135. Oxford studied Marshall Ward (telling "Jack in the Lions' Den"), Stanley Hicks (telling "Jack and the Bull") and Ray Hicks (telling three Jack tales). "Within the boundaries of one mountain county and one märchen cycle, these regional raconteurs demonstrate remarkably different storytelling styles. The challenge posed for this ethnographic study has been to capture in print the performance artistry of these stellar storytellers." Outlines previous research on NC Jack tales, and "the development of the performance-centered approach to folkloristics, beginning in 1923." Chapter V is reprinted in "The Storyteller as Shaman: Ray Hicks Telling his Jack Tales." NC Folklore Journal, vol. 38 (1991): 75-186, with photos, quotations, analysis, and transcriptions of "Jack and Ray's Hunting Trip," "Hardyhardhead," "The Heifer Hide," and  "Jack and the Varmints." (See more under Oxford in Background Resources on Appalachian Folktales and Storytelling.)

Chase, Richard. "The Heifer Hide." The Jack Tales. Boston: Houghton, 1943, pp. 161-71. With two illustrations by Berkeley Williams, Jr. Chase's notes discuss regional and international variants of tale type 1535, The Rich and the Poor Peasant.

“Jack and the Heifer Hide.” Some Mountain Tales about Jack. Told and sung by Billy Edd Wheeler. Vol. III. Spoken Arts Cassette Library for Young Listeners, 1980.

"Jack and the Heifer Hide." Told by Orville Hicks. In Mule Egg Seller and Appalachian Storyteller. Compact Disc. Boone, NC: Orville Hicks, 1998. 20:35 minutes.

"Jack and the Heifer's Hide." Told by Orville Hicks. In Carryin’ On: Jack Tales for Children of All Ages. Audio cassette. Whitesburg, KY: June Appal Recordings, 1990.

"Fool Jack and the Talking Crow." Collected by Richard Chase. James Taylor Adams Collection. JTA-3037. Full text in this web site. At the end of this tale Jack tricks his brothers Will and Tom in dangerous ways. He gets away with crude and outrageous tricks after he foolishly skins his cow and gets talked into trading its skin for a crow that is supposed to talk. Jack in turn fools a man by claiming the crow's squawking is referring to food and drink that he saw the man's wife place in a safe. The middle of this tale and the one listed below, when the woman hides Jack from her jealous husband and the husband says he can smell a stranger, is a little like "Jack and the Bean Tree." The woman's efforts to hide another man in a barrel is reminiscent of medieval fabliau such as Boccaccio's "Tale of Peronella" in The Decameron (Day 7, Tale 2). See also "Rusty Jack" from New York state, below (and "The Man in the Kraut Tub" and "Pack Down the Big Chest" are Appalachian tales about unfaithful wives in American Folk Tales and Songs that Chase compares to the fabliau of Boccaccio and Chaucer).

"Jack and the Talking Crow." In Richard Chase, ed. American Folk Tales and Songs. 1956. Rpt. New York: Dover, 1971. pp. 79-86. Chase refers to this tale as "a Virginia version of 'Jack and the Heifer Hide,'" linking it with Hans Christian Andersen's "Big Claus and Little Claus," African American tales, and other tales in Europe and Nova Scotia (see below). Jack is a victim rather than a fool at the beginning of this version (unlike the tale above), as his jealous brothers kill his cow because it thrives more than theirs. After Jack is persuaded to trade his cowhide for a crow that supposedly talks, he hides in the house of a woman who entertains the preacher until her jealous husband gets home and she hides the preacher. Jack uses his knowledge of things the woman has hidden to persuade the husband that the crow talks and can raise the Devil. When Jack returns home with $1200 from selling the crow, he tricks his brothers into trying to have their cowhides cut into dollar bills. After Jack's mother-in-law dies, on the way to buy her casket he tricks people into thinking they killed her, so they pay him a thousand dollars, and his brothers kill their mothers-in-law in hopes that the undertaker will pay them the same. When his brothers try to drown him for revenge, Jack (who says he's going on 19) persuades an old man to get in the sack to get to heaven and Jack gets his sheep. His brothers each give him a hundred dollars to throw them in the river so they can get sheep, too. This book also contains "The Man in the Kraut Tub" and "Pack Down the Big Chest," Appalachian tales about unfaithful wives that Chase compares to the medieval fabliau of Boccaccio and Chaucer.

"Lazy Jack and his Calf Skin." In Isobel Gordon Carter. "Mountain White Folk-Lore: Tales from the Southern Blue Ridge." Journal of American Folklore 38 (1925): pp. 340-74 (this tale on pp. 343-46). Available online through library services such as JSTOR. A landmark article containing Jack tales told by Jane Hicks Gentry (1863-1925), recorded by Carter in 1923. Carter comments on the decline of storytelling among mountain families who used to know them better, although they had not been recorded as ballads had been. In this tale Jack and his brothers are greedy and deadly rivals; he gets away with many outrageous tricks, such as convincing his brothers that he got riches selling his calf hide so that they kill their own horses but can't sell the hides.

"Jack and the Heifer Hide." As told by Maud Gentry Long of Hot Springs, NC, great-granddaughter of Council Harmon. In Jack in Two Worlds: Contemporary North American Tales and their Tellers. Ed. William Bernard McCarthy. Chapel Hill: Univ. of NC Press, 1994, pp. 93-122. With notes on vocal inflections; an introductory essay by Bill Ellis, "The Gentry-Long Tradition and Roots of Revivalism"; and a photo of Maud Long.  

"Jack and the Heifer Hide." As told by Maud Gentry Long of Hot Springs, NC, great-granddaughter of Council Harmon. In Lindahl, Carl, ed. American Folktales: From the Collections of the Library of Congress. Vol. 1. Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe, 2004. pp. 114-21. In the first chapter on "The Nation's Most Celebrated Storytelling Family: The Hickses and the Harmons." "Jack and the River" (pp. 121-24) is a shortened version of this same "family favorite," told by Maud Long's grand-daughter Daron Douglas, a musician and storyteller who spent much of her childhood with her maternal grandmother. Daron started telling tales in schools and avoids the early scenes in which horses are killed, although she does kill off the two brothers after they try to kill Jack. In her tale Jack's brothers work hard and he does not, so they plan to kill him and put him in a sack. While they go for rope, an old man who is ready to die offers to take Jack's place to see Angels. The man gives Jack his sheep and Jack convinces his brothers he got them out in the river so they get him to throw them in the river to get sheep, too, and Jack can do whatever he wants with no bother after that.

Ward, Marshall. "Jack and the Heifer Hide," a long version with an introduction by Ward about his family's storytelling traditions (both collected 1977). In McGowan, Thomas, ed. "Four Beech Mountain Jack Tales." North Carolina Folklore Journal 49.2 (Fall/Winter 2002): 69-115. Reprinted in honor of Thomas McGowan from vol. 26.2 (1978). Also includes Ward's "Cat 'n Mouse" (1944); and Ray Hicks' "Jack and the Three Steers" (1963) and "Whickity Whack" (composite of tellings from 1973 and 1974). Ward comments on his preference for telling stories to groups of children. McGowan gives notes on parallel versions, sources, and sound recordings of this tale.

"Jack and the Heifer Hide." Photos at this link from Facebook page of Jack Tales Storytelling Theater of the Smoky Mountains. Also 2009 video at this link. "Jack Tales Storytelling Theater of the Smoky Mountains originated at Clear Creek Campground in 1987." Facebook pages include photos and videos from a variety of tales. "Jack Tales Storytelling Theater is performed at Jack's Playhouse, located in the Adventure Bound Camping Resort (also known as Crazy Horse Campground), Highway 321, between Cosby and Gatlinburg, Tennessee" (accessed 5/1/10).

See also:

Old One-Eye - and - Characters with One, Two, and Three Eyes (motif of characters with different numbers of eyes, used to spy on hero in "Jack and the Bull")

"Dirty Jack." In Roberts, Leonard. South From Hell-fer-Sartin': Kentucky Mountain Folk Tales. U of KY Press, 1955. Rpt. Berea, KY: The Council of the Southern Mountains, 1964, pp. 97-100. "A little old dirty, ragged boy" has a bull that dies so he gets a good price for its hide. He pays back the men who caused the bull's death by convincing them to skin their horses, ticking them into beheading his own granny, and then convincing them to kill their granny. Dirty Jack and the two fellers keep thinking they kill each other, and then they show up again.

"Snick and Snack." In Roberts, Leonard. Old Greasybeard: Tales from the Cumberland Gap. Illus. Leonard Epstein. Detroit: Folklore Associates, 1969. Rpt. Pikeville, KY: Pikeville College Press, 1980. Snick kills his poorer brother Snack's horse. Snack claims it can talk and makes money, then tricks Snick into killing his horses. After a long series of tricks Snick is dead and Snack "never had to play a joke on anybody again." Both these tales in Roberts also contain motifs found in Old Dry Frye.

"Whistling Jimmy." In Burrison, John A., ed. Storytellers: Folktales and Legends from the South. Athens, GA: U of GA Pr, 1989. Recorded in 1969 in Helen, White County, GA. Whistlin' Jimmy convinces two brothers to kill all their cattle, claiming his old cowhide is a magic animal that knows everything and then sells for $500. When the brothers try to kill him, he tricks them and drowns them in their own sack.

Compare with:

Andersen, Hans Christian. "Little Claus and Big Claus," a similar story involving a horse's skin. Published by Andersen in 1835. Reprinted online from 1872 translation by H. P. Paull, with black and white illustrations. Also reprinted in Thompson, Stith. One Hundred Favorite Folktales. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1968. Available as E-book.

Jacobs, Joseph, ed. "Hudden and Dudden and Donald O'Neary." Celtic Fairy Tales. London: David Nutt, 1892. Reprinted online at SurLaLune Fairy Tales. Donald is the poor man whose cow is killed by jealous neighbors, like Jack and his mean brothers in some Jack tale versions. Donald seems pathetic until he uses his cow Daisy's hide to trick someone into paying him a fortune for it and tricks Hudden and Dudden into killing their own cows. When they tie Donald up in a sack to drown him for revenge, he tricks a man into taking his place in the sack by claiming he's being taken to marry the king's daughter against his will. When Hudden and Dudden find that he is not drowned, he persuades them to jump in the Brown Lake where they threw him in, because it "leads to the Land of Promise" where he got many fat cattle. Jacobs includes extensive notes on parallel tales in Ireland and other countries.

talking crow illustration"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. Retold 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" (above), 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). Illustration at right by Clifford N. Grady.

"Jean Sot and the Bull's Milk." A Cajun folktale retold by J. J. Renaux. In Holt, David and Bill Mooney, eds. More Ready-to-Tell Tales from Around the World. Little Rock: August House, 2000. pp. 44-47. The introduction tells that Jean Sot, or Foolish John, is not clever like Jack in the Appalachian Jack tales, but "slow-witted and gullible as they come" (p. 44). In this tale he is fooled by a rich man, who tells him to get milk from a bull to prove himself worthy of marrying the man's daughter. After he tries and realizes he's been tricked, he fools the man by telling that his father is giving birth to twins. The man is ashamed of being tricked and has to let Jean Sot marry his daughter. People who have ridiculed him all his life realize Jean Sot is "smart-smart," that he achieved his lifelong goals of marrying the prettiest girl and being the richest man, and they make captain of the Mardi Gras riders. "It just goes to show that even the greatest of fools can sometimes become a leader" (p. 47).

"The Sharp Grey Sheep (A Gaelic Tale)" has similarities with "Jack and the Bull," including a henwife's daughter with an eye in the back of her head who spies on the heroine and her magic sheep when the heroine thinks she is asleep. In Campbell, J. F. Popular Tales of the West Highlands: Orally Collected. London: Alexander Gardner, 1890-1893. Rpt. Detroit: Singing Tree Press, 1969. Reprinted online at SurLaLune Fairy Tales by Heidi Anne Heiner in the section "Tales Similar to Cinderella."

Old One-Eye - and - Characters with One, Two, and Three Eyes contains links to other European and Spanish-American tales similar to "Jack and the Bull."

Boccaccio's "Tale of Peronella" in The Decameron (Day 7, Tale 2) is a medieval fabliau about a woman who gets away with hiding her lover in a tub, similar to part of the plot in some of the Appalachian tales above.

Chaucer's "The Miller's Tale" in The Canterbury Tales is a a medieval fabliau about a woman and her lover who play outrageous tricks on her husband, similar to part of the plot in some of the Appalachian tales above, and, in particular, "Pack Down the Big Chest" in Chase's American Folk Tales and Songs.

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