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

"Jack and the Doctor's Girl" and "The Thieving Boy"


"Jack and the Doctor's Girl." In Chase, RichardThe Jack Tales. Boston: Houghton, 1943, pp. 114-26. With several drawings by Berkeley Williams, Jr. Because the rich doctor thinks Jack is too poor for his daughter, Jack goes to seek his fortune but falls under the control of thieves who make him steal. He's so successful at using tricks to steal that they give him money and let him go. With another series of tricks, he accomplishes tasks set by the doctor so he gets to marry the daughter. In the Appendix, Chase prints a different version recorded by Frank Proffitt (Beech Creek, NC) from his father. Chase also mentions a version from Virginia called "Jack the Thief." Chase's notes give other parallels of tale type 1525, The Master Thief, from different cultures.

"Jack and the Old Rich Man." In Chase, Richard. American Folk Tales and Songs, and Other Examples of English-American Tradition as Preserved in the Appalachian Mountains and Elsewhere in the United States. Illus. Joshua Tolford. New York: New American Library of World Literature, 1956. Rpt. New York: Dover, 1971, pp. 74-79. Chase reprinted the tale copied by Anna Presnell of Beech Mountain, NC, "from Wiley Proffit as written down by his son, Frank Proffit." This tale has no love interest. Jack decides to steal his employer's money and his mother brags about his becoming a highway robber. He uses tricks to achieve each of the thieving acts his employer requires in order to save his skin and get rewards. In the final test, he has to go to the rich man's house "neither riding, walking, hopping, skipping, nor jumping; neither clothed nor unclothed; neither come in nor stay out." Jack tears his clothes half off, gets on a sow with one foot on the ground, and straddles the man's gate, earning the deed to his farm. This test is found in other tales such as "The Farmer's Daughter."

Jack and the Dentist’s Daughter. Dir. Tom Davenport. Videocassette and DVD. Davenport Films, 1983. 40 minutes. This adaptation uses an African American cast and mid-twentieth-century setting. See also AppLit's Bibliography of Davenport's Fairy Tale Films and Lesson Plan on Mountain Humor and this Film. Video clips of these films are now available at

Davenport, Tom, and Gary Carden. "Jack and the Dentist's Daughter." From the Brothers Grimm: A Contemporary Retelling of American Folktales and Classic Stories.  Fort Atkinson, WI: Highsmith, 1992. Story with photographs from the film.

“Jack and the Doctor’s Girl.” Told by Orville Hicks. The Jack Tales Festival. 2002. Also includes "Big Jack & Little Jack" by Connie Regan-Blake, "Jack's First House" by David Joe Miller, Jack & the Frogs by Dianne Hackworth, and Mutsmag by Charlotte Ross. Videotape from the 4th annual festival to benefit the Ray and Rosa Hicks fund, August 17, 2002, at Bolick Pottery and Traditions Pottery, near Blowing Rock, NC. For more information, The Latest Tale. . . . by Dianne Hackworth in Dianne's Storytelling Site, or call 336-877-4110.

“Jack and the Doctor’s Daughter.” Told by Billy Edd Wheeler. Some Mountain Tales about Jack. Told and Sung by Billy Edd Wheeler. Vol. III. Spoken Arts Cassette Library for Young Listeners, 1980.

"The Thieving Boy." Oral folktale told by Fugate Bryant to James M. Hylton, 1942. James Taylor Adams Collection. JTA 1175. Full text in this web site. Jack becomes a "master thief" because his father sends him off to be a good thief. Since his two older brothers had become thieves when they were sent off to college to make good, the father decides he might as well achieve success by ordering Jack to be a thief.  Jack proves his skill by stealing a sheet off his father's bed while the man is sleeping in it.

"Quare Jack." In Roberts, Leonard. Old Greasybeard: Tales From the Cumberland Gap. Illus. Leonard Epstein. Detroit: Folklore Associates, 1969. Rpt. Pikeville, KY: Pikeville College Press, 1980. pp. 147-54. Reprinted in Dorson, Richard M., ed. Buying the Wind: Regional Folklore in the United States. Chicago, 1964. The tale appeared in Kentucky Folklore Journal, vol. IV (1958). In the section called Humorous and Tall Tales, Quare Jack is the "foolish and uncertain" youngest son of a farmer with lots of property who gives him nothing when he divides his property. Bill and Tom don't want Jack along when they go out to trade, but Jack follows them, whittles with his knife, and picks up some objects that become useful later. He shows up his brothers in a long string of episodes until he is well off and they are the underdogs who realize he is not so quare, and he supports them for a while back home. The beginning is a little like "Mutsmag," as is the test of filling a sifter with water, when a little bird tells Jack to "daub it with mud." A "kindly rich old feller" creates this and other challenges in which Jack wins lots of money and his brothers lose everything, including playing a joke on the man's daughter and pulling off some tricky thefts of the man's own horse, his wife's ring off her finger and the sheet out from under her. Dorson notes that Roberts called this "the most unusual medley of stories and anecdotes that I have ever collected in the mountains," combining at least four tale types (qtd. in Dorson 172-73). (In the Jack Tale Players' adaptation of a "Quare Jack" tale by R. Rex Stephenson, based on another variant, Jack tricks his mean, very dumb brothers in a several slapstick encounters while they are trying to steal sheep, chickens, and then meat, because their parents won't feed them anymore until they get a job. In both versions Jack ends up in a tree and the brothers think God sends them down meat and a table. See photos at and Jack Tale Players web site).

See also:

Davis, Donald. "The Time Jack Stole the Cows." Jack Always Seeks His Fortune: Authentic Appalachian Jack Tales. Little Rock: August House, 1992. pp. 119-31. Davis comments that he likes this tale because the giants are so "nasty" and Jack comes up with such good tricks. Jack is out hunting game for his mother and himself when he gets caught out in the dark and seeks shelter in an open house. He is a little like Goldilocks when he finds three beds, he can't resist eating leftover food, and he falls asleep. Three 14-foot disgusting robber giants come home and threaten to eat him, until he insists he is a robber, too. Jack steals one cow by messing himself up with pig blood and dirt so he looks like a "dead boy," scaring a farmer into leaving his cow by the road while he runs for help. He steals another cow by dropping a shoe so that a farmer looks for its mate, and dropping the same shoe later on so that the farmer goes back to get the first one for his wife, leaving a cow unattended. He passes the third part of the robber test by moo-ing so that a farmer leaves a cow alone to look for the one he can hear. Then Jack bets the giants that he can steal in an hour as much as they stole in a year, so he tells the sheriff about the giant robbers, he and the sheriff surprise them and tie them up, and Jack gets half their possessions as a reward while they go to prison. Throughout Jack expresses concern about getting home to help his mother. This is an interesting variation on "master thief" tales with giants as the thieves. See also Jack and the Giants.

Davis, Donald. "The Time Jack Cured the Doctor." Jack Always Seeks His Fortune: Authentic Appalachian Jack Tales. Little Rock: August House, 1992. pp. 75-81. The doctor gets tired of suitors causing trouble around his pretty daughter so he sets a contest  to find a future son-in-law and local doctor by pretending to be sick. He says he has no sense of taste, memory, or ability to tell the truth. Tom tricks the doctor by playing on his vanity to get him to remember and tell the truth about women who loved his attentions. Will gets the doctor to tell the truth about what he tastes by putting moonshine into a glass and saying it's water to take with pills. Jack is reluctant to participate but his brothers goad him into trying to cure the doctor of all three ailments. Since Jack likes sheep, little sheep droppings give him an idea as he walks along. He feeds sugar-coated sheep droppings to the doctor as pills but the doctor tells the truth about recognizing the taste and remembers well enough to refuse taking more of the same pills. Some people say Jack married the daughter and became the next doctor.

Jack and the Robbers, in which Jack and animal friends chase off robbers but do not fall in with their ways.

Hardy Hardhead, in which Jack gets the King's girl away from a witch by beating the witch in a series of contests.

Mutsmag. In Rex Stephenson's adaptation, Mutsmag cleverly convinces a group of robbers to go after her mean sisters instead of killing her.

Noteworthy Girls in Jack Tales and Jack and the Giants also list tales in which girls help Jack escape or accomplish impossible tasks

Compare with:

"The Master Thief." The Grimm Brothers. No. 192. Household Tales, trans. Margaret Hunt (London: George Bell, 1884). Reprinted in Sur La Lune Fairy Tale Pages by Heidi Anne Heiner.

"Jack the Cunning Thief." Irish tale retold by Joseph Jacobs in More Celtic Fairy Tales. London: David Nutt, 1894. Reprinted in Sur La Lune Fairy Tale Pages by Heidi Anne Heiner. This site also reprints "The Master Thief" from Jacobs' European Folk and Fairy Tales, 1912.

"The Master Thief." Norse tale retold by Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe in East o' the Sun and West o' the Moon, translated by George Webbe Dasent, 1988. Reprinted in Sur La Lune Fairy Tale Pages by Heidi Anne Heiner.

"The Master Thief." Adapted from the Norse of P. C. Asbjørnsen. Edited by Andrew Lang in The Red Fairy Book, 1890. Reprinted in

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