AppLit Home Appalachian Tales of Strong Women Tina L. Hanlon

"Old One-Eye" - and - Characters with One, Two, and Three Eyes


"Old One-Eye." In Richard Chase. Grandfather Tales. Boston: Houghton, 1948, pp. 205-7. With one drawing, by Berkeley Williams, Jr., of the old lady reaching for her knife near her fireplace and her one-eyed fish. A sharp old rich woman scares away robbers by letting them think she is a witch calmly waiting to attack them. She plans to cut a chunk out of her one-eyed dried fish, not the one-eyed rogue who misunderstands her. Collected from Ben Hall, Haysville, NC.

"Old One-Eye" told by Michael "Badhair" Williams, in Tell Me a Story. Vol. 5. Videocassette. Barr Entertainment, 1986. A professional North Carolina storyteller who does great character voices tells stories to a small group of children, explaining details such as the old lady's carding. This video also includes "Muts Mag" and a short song, "Turkey in the Straw." Cartoon-like drawings illustrating the plot are shown occasionally during the storytelling.

"The Gaping Woman." Told by Nancy McDaniel, age 75. In Roberts, Leonard. South From Hell-fer-Sartin': Kentucky Mountain Folk Tales. Lexington: U Press of Kentucky, 1955. Rpt. Berea, KY: The Council of the Southern Mountains, 1964. No. 63, pp. 140-41. An old woman who cards and spins is spied upon by robbers with one and two eyes. She's counting her own gapes when the robbers think she is a witch watching out for them and run away. One robber also hears her telling a one-eyed fish she will eat it and thinks she intends to eat him. Roberts identifies the tale as Type 1 641B, Sleepy Woman Counting Her Yarns, comparable to Type 1641, "Dr. Knowall" (see Grimm Brothers, below). Roberts notes the appearance of women in the American tales even though they are similar to the German one with male characters.

"One Eyed, Two Eyed, Three Eyed." Told by Lorie Smith, a student at Berea Foundation School and College, May 1950. Leonard Roberts Collection. Berea College Southern Appalachian Archives. Unlike the tales listed above, this one is similar to the Grimm Brothers' "One-Eye, Two-Eyes, and Three-Eyes" (see below). The daughter who is mistreated in her family because she has two eyes like other people gets magic help from a beautiful woman, including a goat bringing her tables of food, until her mother kills the goat. The beautiful woman tells her to bury the goat's heart, and there a tree grows with all kind of fruit. Her mother tries to hide her from a passing man, but the tree won't give fruit to the sisters. When only Two Eyed can pick its fruit, the man takes her home to live happily ever after. The fruit tree disappears.

Hattie Presnell tells a tale called "One Eye, Two Eyes, Three Eyes" in the Barbara McDermitt Collection, Archives of Appalachia, East Tennessee State University. Field collection tapes from 1982, Beech Mountain, NC.

See also the comic robbers in Jack and the Robbers and in Rex Stephenson's adaptation of Mutsmag.

Some variants of Jack and the Bull contain girls with one eye, two eyes, and three eyes who spy on the hero.

Compare with:

"Dr. Know-All." Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. Household Tales. Trans. Margaret Hunt (London: George Bell, 1884, 1892). Reprinted online at, A peasant who pretends to be a doctor called "Know-All" is called to help solve a robbery at a great lord's house. Servants who stole the money think he is on to them when he is simply calling out the number of dishes served, so they confess to him and return the money. The doctor gets rewards from the lord and the servants who ask him to keep their identities concealed.

The stories below contain strange twists and humorous tricks that involve creatures with different numbers of eyes and animals associated with the heroine, but they are not the same tale type as "Old One-Eye."

"One-Eye! Two-Eyes! Three-Eyes! A Very Grimm Fairy Tale." Told by Aaron Shepard. Also reader's theater version  and storytelling version online at Shepard's site. Also published as a picture book with this title. Illus. Gary Clement. Simon & Schuster/Atheneum, 2007. Based on no. 130 in the tales of the Brothers Grimm. "In this playful retelling of a tale from the Brothers Grimm, a young lady with cruel sisters gets help from an old woman, a goat that provides food magically, a handsome knight, and some magical verses—and in the end finds out she is not so alone as she believed." A lengthy sample of the picture book and the old lady's song are available at Shepard's web site.

"One-Eye, Two-Eyes, and Three-Eyes." In Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm. Household Tales. Trans. Margaret Hunt. London: George Bell, 1884, 1892. Reprinted in Heidi Anne Heiner's  Sur La Lune Fairy Tales.

Kimmel, Eric A. One Eye, Two Eyes, Three Eyes: A Hutzul Tale. Illus. Dirk Zimmer. New York: Holiday House, 1996. The Ukrainian heroine endures cruel treatment with the help of her pet goat.

Hayes, Joe. Pájaro Verde = the Green Bird. Illus. Antonio Castro. El Paso, TX: Cinco Puntos Press, 2002. Bilingual picture book retelling a northern New Mexico tale with medieval Spanish roots. The two-eyed heroine is one of nine sisters and each one has a different number of eyes. See more at Whitebear Whittington page under Hispanic Connection.

"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."

Graham, Jack. "Old One Eye." Pennsylvania Jack. No date. This storyteller's web site gives his version of several Appalachian tales, with no specific details on sources. "Jack Gets a Herd of Cattle" is identified as an Appalachian tale. "The Longest Story" is identified as a Jack Tale brought to America. "The Snakebit Hoe Handle" is identified as a classic American tall tale. Other "Old Time Stories" include "Davy Crockett's Grin," "The Trained Trout," and "Two Old Women Make a Bet."

Last update:  06/30/08   |   top of page


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