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"Jack (or Merrywise) and Old Greasy Beard"


Stephenson, R. Rex. "Jack and Ol' Greasy Beard." The Jack Tales. Schulenburg, TX: I. E. Clark, 1991. Reprint Woodstock, IL: Dramatic Publishing. Story theatre dramatization, as performed by The Ferrum Jack Tale Players. Ol' Greasy Beard steals food from Jack and his brothers. In a chase scene, the brothers rescue Sally, who has been kept captive in Mr. Greasy Beard's cave. Sally calls Jack "brave and clever"; later they marry and have seven clever sons.

Stephenson, R. Rex. "The Jack Tales." Eight Plays for Youth: Varied Theatrical Experiences for Stage and Study, edited by Christian H. Moe and R. Eugene Jackson. American University Studies Series XXVI: Theatre Arts. Vol. 8. New York: Peter Lang, 1991. Includes three tales by Stephenson with background on Jack Tales and story theatre: "Jack and the Robbers," "Jack and the Three Giants," and "Greasy-Beard."

Roberts, Leonard. Old Greasybeard: Tales from the Cumberland Gap. Collected and annotated by Leonard Roberts. Illus. Leonard Epstein. Detroit: Folklore Associates, 1969. Rpt. Pikeville, KY: Pikeville College Press, 1980, pp. 53-58. "Old Greasybeard," collected in Leslie County, KY in 1955, is included in the section Hero and Giant Tales. Jack, Tom, and Merrywise are brothers whose parents send them out to seek their fortune. Merrywise is "a spunky little fellow" who insists on going with the others. After an old man with a greasy beard steals food from his brothers, Merrywise stops him by catching his beard in a log. They follow blood and hair to the man's underground home, where they rescue three beautiful girls from their mean father. Merrywise gets an eagle to pull them out of the hole. He attempts to leave his brothers down there but they also get the eagle's help and bury the old man in his hole. Roberts discusses many ancient sources and parallels for tale type 301A, Quest for a Vanished Princess, including Hercules and Beowulf.

"Dirtybeard." 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. 17-18. This is a shorter version of the same tale, with brothers Tom, Bill, and Jack. Threatened with a beheading, Jack takes the old man's razor and cuts his head off. The brothers take food and three pretty girls and leave Jack in the hole, but he gets an eagle to fly him out.

"Old Greasybeard." Told by Jane Muncy Fugate (from KY). Recorded by Carl Lindahl in 2001. American Folktales: From the Collections of the Library of Congress. Ed. Carl Lindahl. Vol. 1. Armonk NY: M. E. Sharpe, 2004, pp. 300-308. Fugate is a psychotherapist who called Merrywise an overcomer or coping person, one who doesn't always do everything right or easily, but does know how to use his tools to cope with obstacles (even though he's small and the youngest brother). Fugate's grandmother told her stories to keep her occupied, share family memories, and "to help us learn something." An Eagle helps Merrywise rescue his bride from Mr. Greasybeard, a tall man with a long greasy beard. Fugate added references to current events while telling this tale to a folk narrative class after Sept. 11, 2001, linking Greasybeard with the terrorist leader Osama bin Laden. The other Merrywise tales from Fugate in this section are "Merrywise" and "The King's Well." Bluebeard

"Old Bluebeard." 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. 341-43). 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. This tale is very similar to Greasybeard tales and Dragaman tales, except that the villain is a man with a blue beard and long teeth. Available online through library services such as JSTOR. This tale retold in Jean Cothran, ed. With a Wig, With a Wag, and Other American Folk Tales. Illus. Clifford N. Grady. New York: David McKay, 1954, pp. 26-33 (also contains a Jack tale from New York state, "Rusty Jack"). Illustration of Old Bluebeard at right by Clifford N. Grady.

Chase, Richard. "Jack and Old Tush." 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. 771-73. Old Tush is an "old slobbery hairy man, looked like a gorilla," who steals Jack's ashcakes three times when he is alone in a shanty while cutting timber. Jack chases him with a poke-stick —"whippity-cut!" and the third time goes down a hole after him to another world. A pretty girl give Jack a sword and wishbone and clothes. He cuts off Old Tush's head with the sword and they make a wish to get out of the hole and get a house and land and a thousand dollars. Chase's headnote links this tale with "Old Fire Dragaman" and quotes folklorist Martha Warren Beckwith on the relationship between Beowulf (in which a feast is raided by a monster) and folktales about a Bear's Son.

See also:

"Old Fire Dragaman," with a similar plot in which Jack rescues girls from a dragon man underground.

Stephenson, R. Rex. "Jack and the Mean Old Man." Story Theatre script with songs published in Jack Tales Too! Stories from the Blue Ridge Mountains. Salt Lake City, UT: Encore Performance Publishing, 2004. Reprinted as Jack in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Venice, FL: Eldridge. Jack sets out to find food for his hungry family. His brothers and mother have to rescue him from the house of a Mean Old Man who tries to kill him. They trick the murderous man and his wife by putting a corpse that was under the bed in Jack's place in bed, then giving the impression that Jack is strong enough to survive deadly blows with a hammer, and making them think that the corpse has been revived, so the couple gives Jack all the food he wants. This script also includes "Jack's Mother's Second Marriage," "Foolish Jack," and "Soldier Jack." "Jack and the Mean Old Man" is a song with lyrics by Stephenson and the traditional tune "John Henry," arranged by Emily Rose Tucker. Published by Encore in Jack Tales: A Song Book (2004, 43 pp.). Reprinted by Eldridge as Jack Tales Study Guide/Songbook (65 pp.). The song book also contains traditional folk songs and "The Jack Tales Song" with lyrics by Stephenson (sung to the tune of "Old Joe Clark").

Links checked 3/07/06   |   Last update 7/26/13


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