AppLit Home Appalachian Tales of Strong Women Tina L. Hanlon

"The Farmer's Daughter" or "Jack's Daughter Annie"


"The Farmer's Daughter." In Marie Campbell. Tales from the Cloud Walking Country. Indiana UP, 1958. Rpt. Athens: U of Georgia Press, 2000. pp. 198-200. The daughter answers three riddles asked by the king, preventing the king from taking away her father's farm. The king then orders the farmer to send her to him, not wearing clothes and not going naked, not walking and not riding, and with a present that isn't a present. She goes wrapped in a fish net, on a goat with her feet dragging, carrying a bird as a present that flies away and won't be a present. The king marries her but when she disobeys him and butts into his business, he sends her home, saying she can take whatever she most wants to keep. She gets him drunk and takes him so that he wakes up at the farmer's house. The king keeps his clever, loving wife and puts up with it when she butts into his business after that.

See Appalachian Riddles page to see the riddles from this tale, in the section on Riddles in Folktales.

"Jack's Daughter Annie." Told by Elizabeth Ellis at the 1993 National Storytelling Festival, Jonesborough, TN. A recording is archived in the American Folklife Center, Library of Congress. Ellis asks whether the audience had heard that Jack married and had one daughter, who didn't like helping her Mama in the house. This long tale contains many traditional "clever woman" motifs, emphasizing how smart Annie is throughout. She answers 3 riddles in order to help her father win back his only skinny cow from a rich man who tried to take it, after the rich man's wife gives logical but incorrect answers. Annie says the sweetest thing in the world is "a good night's sleep," the strongest thing in the world is "a guilty conscience," and the richest thing in the world is the "earth itself...Everything that's good for us comes up to us out of the world." The judge who set these riddles asks who helped with the answers and says he would like to marry such a smart girl, but asks for her to come to him not riding and not walking, not clothed and not naked. Annie, who has seen the judge and would like him to court her, wraps a quilt tightly around her naked body, ties it to a mule's tail, and goes to the judge being pulled without walking or riding. On their wedding night the judge says he'll send her packin' back to her father if she ever uses her cleverness to embarrass or cross him. She later helps prove that a man has a right to his mare's colt, reversing the judge's decision when another man claims the colt because it was born under his wagon. Annie says to put the judge's beloved Stetson under a quilt and say the quilt could not give birth to a hat, as a wagon did not give birth to the colt. When the judge finds out she helped with this answer, he gets mad and says she'll have to go. She sweet-talks him into parting as friends, cooking a big dinner and putting extra alcohol in everything while he's drinking. Her father (Jack) helps her carry the drunken judge to his house, where the judge wakes up in an ugly old room with Annie beside him. She reminds him that he said to take with her whatever in his house pleasures her, so she took him. He says they should go home and forget all about it.

This tale is retold by After Jack in their show of traditional music and stories for school children, in affiliation with Young Audiences-Arts for Learning-Virginia, beginning in November 2013. After Jack is a band created in 2011 by Emily Blankenship-Tucker, Rachel Blankenship-Tucker, and Mary Allison, former members of the Jack Tale Players of Ferrum College.

"The Farmer's Daughter." Told by Mary Hamilton. Some Dog and Other Kentucky Wonders. Audio CD. Frankfort, KY: Hidden Spring, 2001. Other contents: "Lazy Jack"; "Stormwalker" (based on Roberta Mae Brown's true story recorded in her book The Walking Tree and Other Scary Stories); "Some Dog," a tall tale that includes an incredible "split dog"; "Jeff Rides the Rides," a funny family anecdote; "Jump Rope Kingdom," a childhood memory about learning to jump rope that contains children's schoolyard and jump rope rhymes.

"The King's Son and the Poor Man's Daughter." In Musick, Ruth Ann. Green Hills of Magic: West Virginia Folktales from Europe. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1970. pp. 248-50. This book contains seventy-nine folktales from Europe told by immigrants in West Virginia mining communities in the mid-twentieth century. A poor woman wins a prince through the clever way she explains her strange manner of carving and serving a chicken, and later the headstrong wife saves her marriage by carrying away her husband after he tells her to leave with everything that belongs to her. There are European tales with the same motifs, but this version asserts repeatedly that the prince likes his wife because she is smart.

See also these Appalachian tales:

"Sheepskin." In Hicks, Orville, and Julia Taylor Ebel. Jack Tales and Mountain Yarns, As Told By Orville Hicks. Illus. Sherry Jenkins Jensen. Boone, NC: Parkway, 2009. pp. 92-99. Comments by Hicks and in Thomas McGowan's Afterword describe Orville learning old tales from his mother and from his cousins Ray and Rosa Hicks, but don't give other notes on particular tales. When Jack's father asks him to sell a sheepskin and come back with both the sheepskin and the money, Jack can find no one who will give him money until a young woman takes the wool off the sheepskin, pays him for it, and gives back the skin. After Jack marries her, she figures out other apparent riddles, such as suggesting that Jack's father wants him to make the road shorter by telling him a tale as they travel to build a castle for the king. After the king threatens to kill them so no one else can have as fine a castle, Jack gets the king to send his son to Jack's wife to get the straight and narrow tool they need. Knowing that is a signal of danger, Jack's wife tricks the king's son into reaching in a tool chest, locks him in, and holds him hostage until Jack and his daddy are released. They build the wife a castle finer than the king's since she has saved their lives.

"The King and Old George Buchanan." 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. 370-71). Available online through library services such as JSTOR. A landmark article containing Jack tales told by Jane Hicks Gentry (1863-1925) and others, 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. This is one of six tales told by Susie Wilkenson of eastern Tennessee. George Buchanan is the king's fool who doesn't like the rules so he keeps breaking them and then asks the king's pardon. The king gets fed up and threatens him with death if he can't travel to him clothed and unclothed, and riding and walking. George tears his clothes and rides on a ram with only one leg riding it. He continues to talk to the king in riddles and test his laws, even getting the king to trade places with him for a while. When the king orders him away from Scotland land, George puts England dirt in his shoes and hat. The king never can get the best of him. Reprinted in Richard M. Dorson, Buying the Wind: Regional Folklore in the United States (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1964), in a group of Jocular Tales in the section on Southern Mountaineers

In Tom Davenport's film adaptation of "Ashpet," learning traditional riddles from a wise woman is one sign of the heroine's strengths and links with her mother's heritage.

In "Like Meat Loves Salt," the heroine uses a kind of riddle to demonstrate her loyalty to her father.

In "The Time Jack Solved the Hardest Riddle," the man has to solve a riddle asked by a woman, as in ancient "loathly lady" tales.

"Mister Fox" and "Jack and His Master" contain riddles and women who outsmart murderers.

"Rumpelstiltskin" Adaptations

See also Appalachian Riddles and Noteworthy Girls in Jack Tales.

Compare "The Farmer's Daughter" with:

Many variants in European folktales, including the following tales reprinted online at by Heidi Anne Heiner:

  • "The Peasant's Clever Daughter," from Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm. Household Tales. Transl. Margaret Hunt. London: George Bell, 1884, 1892. 2 vols.
  • "The Clever Lass" from Jacobs, Joseph, ed. European Folk and Fairy Tales. New York: G. P Putnam's Sons, 1916. Jacobs' notes give a long summary of scholarship on origins of this tale in different parts of Europe and Asia.
  • "The Clever Girl" from Crane, Thomas Frederick. Italian Popular Tales. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1885. (This tale also appears as "The Clever Peasant Girl" in Thompson, Stith. One Hundred Favorite Folktales. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1968. pp. 345-47. Available as e-book. )

"Not Driving and Not Riding." Norwegian Folk Tales From the Collection of Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe. Transl. Pat Shaw Iversen and Carl Norman. Oslo: Dreyers Forlag, 1982. pp. 137-8. When a king's son loses interest in his betrothed, he says he'll take her if she can come to him "not driving / and not riding, / not walking / and not sliding, / not hungry / and not full / not naked / and not clad, / not by day, / and not by night." She eats part of three barleycorns, puts a net over herself, and gets on a ram with her feet dragging the ground, at twilight. The guards won't let her in because she looks quite a sight, but the commotion attracts the prince and she breaks a window with one of the ram's horns, so they let her in to become a princess.

"Clever Marcela." In Tchana, Katrin. The Serpent Slayer and Other Stories of Strong Women. Illus. Trina Schart Hyman. Boston: Little, Brown, 2000. The Preface refers to this tale about a clever girl outwitting a king or other authority figure being told all over the world.

Dundas, Marjorie. Riddling Tales from Around the World. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2002. Chapter 1, "Clever Manka-type Riddling Tales," has six tales including "Clever Manka" from Czechoslovakia. The Introduction discusses the different types of riddles in these tales: the question and answer riddles that the heroine answers; the "oppositional riddle" of figuring out how to travel not walking or riding, not clothed or naked, etc.; then there is another kind of riddle about who owns the colt born under a man's wagon to another man's mare; and then the heroine instructs the man in how to resolve arguments about the colt with a kind of riddle.

Hoffman, Mary. Clever Katya: A Fairy Tale from Old Russia. Illus. Marie Cameron. Brooklyn, NY: Barefoot Books, 1998. Picture book based on "The Wise Little Girl."

"Marietta's Choice." In McCarty, Toni. The Skull in the Snow, and Other Folktales. Illus. Katherine Coville. New York: Delacorte Press, 1981. In this book of folktales from around the world with female protagonists, this is a retelling of a tale found in Italy, Yugoslavia, Israel, and Kazakhstan. Although independent Marietta is quite rude to the prince, her clever tricks attract him and she likes marrying a prince. When she is sent home because she shows him up, she proves her love by taking him as the thing she loves best. In a Norwegian tale in this book, "The Squire's Bride," a farm girl avoids marrying the squire by outsmarting his trick, getting the men to take a horse into the house and back downstairs in the wedding clothes intended for her.

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