AppLit Home Jack Tales Tina L. Hanlon

"Jack and the King's Girl" and "Jack's First Job"

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Appalachian Jack Tales

Related Appalachian Tales Related Tales from Other Regions Hispanic Connection brown quilt square

Chase, Richard. "Jack and the King's Girl." In The Jack Tales. Boston: Houghton, 1943, pp. 83-88. With two drawings by Berkeley Williams, Jr. Chase notes that this tale combines tale type 571, Making the Princess Laugh, with type 1696, "What Should I have Said (Done)?" Jack works hard in this tale, and goes to visit his uncle, who gives him gifts that he has trouble carrying home.

Chase, Richard. "Jack and the King's Girl." In Richard Chase Tells Three 'Jack' Tales from the Southern Appalachians. LP. Sharon, Conn: Folk-Legacy Records, 1962.

"Jack and the King’s Girl." Folklore of the United States. Jack Tales II. Told by Mrs. Maud Long of Hot Springs, NC. Ed. Duncan Emrich.  LP. Washington: Library of Congress, Division of Music, 1947.

"Jack the Woodchopper." In Jimmy Neil Smith, ed. Why the Possum's Tail is Bare and Other Classic Southern Stories.  New York: Avon, 1993. Collected by James Taylor Adams from Spencer Adams in 1941. Reprinted from Perdue, Charles L., Jr. Outwitting the Devil: JACK TALES from Wise County Virginia. Santa Fe, NM: Ancient City, 1987. Jack unintentionally makes the king's daughter smile while walking by her house with three preachers and three girls stuck to his golden goose, which he earned by helping an old man. Before marrying the king's daughter, Jack has to find a man who can eat a thousand loaves of bread, a man who can drink a thousand bottles of wine, and a ship that can sail on both land and water. In the end, Jack and his wife become king and queen. (See also "Hardy Hardhead" for the magic land ship and helpers with incredible abilities).

Stephenson, R. Rex. Jack's Adventures with the King's Girl. Orem, UT: Encore, 1999. Reprint Eldridge. Dramatic adaptation combining "Hardy Hard Head" and "The Hainted House." Stephenson's version does not contain the "cure by laughing" motif found in other tales on this page and the English "Lazy Jack." See background on the cover illustration on Trivia page.

Stephenson, R. Rex. "Jack and the King’s Girl." In Nellie McCaslin’s Creative Drama in the Classroom. 5th ed. New York: Longman. In story form with guidelines for dramatizing with children. The tale was also published in ALCA-Lines: Journal of the Assembly on the Literature and Culture of Appalachia, vol. IX (2001): 14-15. Also printed in Stephenson's 1994 "Teacher's Guide." Collected from an oral informant by Stephenson, this tale is different from others with this title. After Jack leaves home on his 18th birthday, Jack and the King's girl run off together because the king doesn't want her to marry a mountain boy. When they return, the king has moved west of the Mississippi so that they can take over the Kingdom of Virginia. Later Jack gives up being king so Virginia can become one of the thirteen colonies and have a democratic government. Stephenson told this tale to school children who invented the political ending. See background by Stephenson on Trivia page. Full text of tale in AppLit with suggestions for using the story as dramatic play.

"Lazy Jack." Told by Mary Hamilton on Some Dog and Other Kentucky Wonders. Audio CD. Frankfort, KY: Hidden Spring, 2001. Jack is very lazy but works for his uncle when his mother forces him to find work. Then he misapplies her advice when bringing home different objects as payment. The princess who wouldn't smile (not mentioned early in the tale) laughs at the end of Jack's series of foolish blunders. Hamilton handles the marriage ending by having the king say that in addition to other rewards, the man who makes the princess laugh can have his daughter's hand in marriage if she likes the man and he likes her. Jack and the princess like each other and marry. Hamilton heard this tale from storyteller Elizabeth Ellis, who learned it from her grandfather (who called it "Obedient Jack") "during her Owsley County childhood in Booneville, Kentucky." Hamilton's notes list alternate titles, including "Idle Jack." (Other contents: "Stormwalker," a mysterious incident from writer Roberta Mae Brown's childhood; "The Farmer's Daughter"; "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.

"Jack's First Job." In Sing Down the Moon: Appalachian Wonder Tales. Commissioned and first produced at Theater of the First Amendment. George Mason University, Fairfax, VA, 2000. Conceived by Mary Hall Surface (from KY) and David Maddox (from NC). Written by Mary Hall Surface. Lyrics by Mary Hall Surface and David Maddox. Music by David Maddox. Play with music based on Appalachian folktales and songs, including also "Jack of Hearts and King Marock," "Jack and the Wonder Beans," "Catskins," "The Sow and her Three Pigs," and "The Enchanted Tree." Also produced as set of 2 CDs. Photos and background on how the retellings were developed at Sing Down the Moon. Picture, summary of each tale and downloadable script excerpts at Dramatic Publishing Online Catalog. Also produced at Theater at Lime Kiln (Lexington, Virginia, July 2005). Jack is very lazy and foolish in this tale, which has a plot similar to "Lazy Jack" (see below).

"The Time Jack Got His First Job." In Davis, Donald. Jack Always Seeks His Fortune: Authentic Appalachian Jack Tales. Little Rock: August House, 1992. Also published by August House as Southern Jack Tales, 1997. On the thirteen Jack Tales in this collection, Davis writes, "Out of the nearly three dozen Jack tales which I can recall, most presented in this collection have, I believe, either not been published in their Appalachian manifestations or are so different from any extant version as to make comparison interesting rather than repetitious. The deliberate exception to this principle is 'The Time Jack Got His First Job,' a common tale included so that those acquainted with the genre many compare it and the 'Lazy Jack' versions they know" (Foreword, p. 27). For more details on this book, see Appalachian Folktales in Collections.

Davis, Donald. Jack's First Job. Little Rock, AR: August House Audio, 1993. 1 sound cassette. 56 min. Four tales from Davis' book Jack Always Seeks his Fortune: "Jack's First Job" (19:13), "Jack Seeks his Fortune" (9:57), "Jack Told a Big Tale" (13:43), "Jack Stole Some Cows" (12:45).

Davis, Donald. "Something Old, Something New." In Jack and Granny Ugly. Audio recording. August House Audio, 1997. This 29-minute tale begins with Tom, Will, and Jack leaving home to seek their fortunes one after the other. An old woman comes to the door disguised as the king. Tom and Will try to impress the king but don't let him help with work, so the dinner burns, the guest goes away, and the brothers leave without being heard of again. Only Jack lets the king help with lots of work, and receives a gift from the old woman in disguise. He later uses the death's eye bottle to see that the real king's girl is dying (as in Soldier Jack). He has risked losing his head to get the reward for curing the girl so he knocks the skeleton he sees to pieces with a poker and the girl recovers. The amazed king tests Jack with three tasks before giving him his daughter and crown. The girl knows that a magic old tool instead of a new one must be used to split many trees with an ax, cut with a mowing scythe, and clean the barn with a pitchfork. The girl has to keep reminding Jack to follow her advice as he tries a more useful-looking new tool each time. After he completes each task, Jack tells the king he finishes everything because he is a good boy. When the king then tries to hide the girl in a group of three girls, Jack finally wins by recognizing that the one in old clothes is the one he wants to marry. He later gets tired of being king and hands that job over to his brother.

"Jack's First Job." Part of play Appalachian Jack Tales at Sellersville Theater, On Stage & Off (Children's Theater Production company), Sellersville, PA, Summer 2005. With "Jack and the Magic Bean" and "Jack and King Marock."

"Jack & The King's Girl." In Crabb, Gladys. Jack and the Mule Eggs and Other Jack Tales. CD. Musark, 2003. Told by a storyteller from Virginia and Georgia. Also includes "Jack and the Mule Eggs," "Jack and the Bean Tree," "Jack and the Varmints."

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"The Enchanted Lady." In Isabel 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. 349-51). 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. The king announces a contest for anyone who can keep a rabbit in sight for 24 hours. Many who fail are killed and the one who wins would kill the king and marry the princess. Jack is the only one who is kind to an old man he meets on the way, so the man gives him a magic drill that attracts the rabbit. As the king gets sick, his daughters and the queen try to buy the drill from Jack, who tricks them by taking hugs and kisses from them but won't give up the drill. The king asks Jack to sing a bowl full before he dies, so Jack sings a song about hugging and kissing the women, but before he tells what he did to the king's wife, the king stops him and tells Jack to just kill him, so Jack does and marries the princess.

Chase, Richard. "Fill, Bowl! Fill!" In The Jack Tales. Boston: Houghton, 1943, pp. 83-88. With two drawings by Berkeley Williams, Jr. This tale is similar to "The Enchanted Lady," above, but it's a farmer who sets the contest to keep sight of a rabbit for thirty minutes. The old man who is a magic helper tests and strengthens Jack's faith by sending him to a spring to turn it into wine, which they drink. When Jack returns from the spring, the man gives him a magic drill (this incident similar to one in "Hardy Hardback" as told by Jane Gentry to Isabel Gordon Carter in 1923). At the end the farmer asks Jack to fill a bowl full of lies but stops Jack before he sings about kissing the farmer's wife and asks him to just cut his head off. Notes in this book discuss the cante fable: tales with songs, and compare at length the old man with foreknowledge of Jack's needs and Woden as a wandering stranger in Norse sagas.

Hicks, Orville. "Fill, Bowl, Fill." From a commercial recording (Carryin’ On: Jack Tales for Children of All Ages), recorded at Appalshop, Feb. 6/7, 1990. Transcribed in McCarthy, William Bernard, ed. Cinderella in America: A Book of Folk and Fairy Tales. Jackson: Univ. Press of Mississippi, 2007. pp. 352-56, with notes on the teller and variants of this tale. McCarthy discusses Richard Chase's influence on this version, after Chase learned it from a Hicks relative, Marshall Ward. In chapter 13 on The Hicks-Harmon Beech Mountain Tradition, one of two chapters in this book focusing on tales from the Southern mountains. The book demonstrates that American folktales, from Revolutionary times to the present, should not be viewed as watered-down versions of tales from older cultures. See tales listed at Folktale Collections Indexed in AppLit.

"Little Esmond" by Patty Reese. In Jones, Loyal, ed. Appalachian Folk Tales. Illus. Jim Marsh. Ashland, KY: Jesse Stuart Foundation, 2010.

"Jack and the King's Mountain." 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. 100-105. 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. In this tale the king gets tired of poor boys courting his pretty daughter and puts an obstacle in their way. Jack and his brothers each fall in love with the king's daughter in turn, but only Jack, the third one to try, can answer the king's question about how many buckets of earth it would take to remove the mountain behind his house. Jack says it would take one bucket if it were big enough, winning freedom for all the boys working for the king for a year because they gave the wrong answer. Jack gets the princess and a cabin near the king while his brothers go home to help their parents.

"The King's Well." In Roberts, Leonard (collector). Old Greasybeard: Tales From the Cumberland GapIllus. Leonard Epstein. Detroit: Folklore Associates, 1969. Rpt. Pikeville, KY: Pikeville College Press, 1980. pp. 109-15. Roberts also published this tale in Nippy and the Yankee Doodle, and Other Authentic Folk Tales from the Southern Mountains. Berea, KY: The Council of the Southern Mountains, 1958. This tale is reprinted in Smith, Jimmy Neil, ed. Why the Possum's Tail is Bare and Other Classic Southern Stories. New York: Avon, 1993, pp. 65-71. Merrywise follows his brothers Jack and Bill when they go to seek their fortune. Although they look down on Merrywise, he sees magical sights and manages to dig a well for the King to win the hand of the princess. His brothers who try and fail get their ears chopped off. The King gives him half of his kingdom in money to prevent the marriage, so Merrywise builds his parents a fine house. Then the King wants to be rid of a giant who is cutting down his tress and "ruining the whole countryside." The next part of the tale is like Jack and the Giants, and in the end the King, proud of Merrywise, gives him the kingdom and the princess. See other tales with Merrywise on Mutsmag page.

Soap! Soap! Soap! or "The Boy Who Was Sent for Soap" also contains tale type 1696, "What Should I have Said (Done)?"

Appalachian Humor section of teaching unit WV's Appalachian Music and Literature

Foolish Jack and The Swapping Song

Jack and the Three Sillies

In Jack and King Marock, Jack needs the help of the King's girl to escape with her.

Noteworthy Girls in Jack Tales

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"Lazy Jack." In Joseph Jacobs. English Fairy Tales, 1898. Forced by his mother to go out and earn money, Lazy Jack continues to spoil the goods he earns by following the wrong advice while carrying things home. The deaf and dumb daughter of a rich man happens to see him carrying a donkey on his shoulders, so she laughs for the first time and her father rewards Jack with marriage into this rich family. Jacobs cites Celtic and German parallels for the "cure by laughing" motif, giving American Journal of Folk-Lore, ii, as his primary source. Reprinted online at Rick Walton, Children's Author:  Classic Tales and Fables.Lazy Jack

"Lazy Jack." Reprinted with Joseph Jacobs' 1890 notes on parallels at SurLaLune Fairy Tale Pages by Heidi Anne Heiner.

"Lazy Jack," illustration at right by Arthur Rackham for Flora Annie Steel's English Folk Tales, Macmillan, 1918. Reproduced in Project Gutenberg with illustrations. It's this sight of Jack carrying the donkey that makes a rich man's daughter laugh, which restores her speech and hearing, so she marries Jack, making him and his mother rich.

Motomora, Mitchell. Lazy Jack and the Silent Princess. Illus. Roseanne Lintzinger. Raintree Publishing, 1989. 32 pp. A retelling of an English folktale for beginning readers, in which foolish and young Jack wins the hand of the silent princess by making her laugh.

"The Shepherd Who Made the King's Daughter Laugh." Thomas Crane's Italian Popular Tales, 1885, in by Heidi Anne Heiner. The shepherd is an idle poor widow's son but he is not foolish. He finds a ring in a well that makes people sneeze, and the king's sneezing makes the princess laugh but angers the king, so the shepherd goes to prison. While the shepherd was traveling to see the king, he took a magic tablecloth, purse, and whistle from some robbers. These objects are enjoyed by the prisoners until the king takes them away. The whistle makes people dance against their will so it is the second thing that makes the king look foolish. The shepherd later escapes and finds black and white figs on the same tree that will put horns on his head and take them off. He gives figs to the king, queen and princess, getting his magic objects back and marriage to the princess in exchange for giving them the white figs that will remove the horns.

"Lazy Jack." In Harlynne Geisler. A Giant, An Imp and Two Jacks: Children's Tales from Scotland, Ireland, and England. Audiocassette and CD. Storybag. 2000. 47:22 min. Teacher's guide available. This link is to a short review and cover picture at, which also contains an interview with Geisler, a storyteller in San Diego. This site contains many resources on oral tales, including online tales in text and audio. "In the Irish 'Silly Jack,' Jack's bumbling attempts at making his mother happy win the hand of a rich lady. In the English-American 'Lazy Jack,' Jack's hard work and careful attention to obeying his mother's orders pays off and, again, wins Jack a rich wife in the end. Harlynne Geisler's rich voice and natural pacing bring the stock characters of the folktales to life. . . . Jack's ridiculously likeable character, and the faintly menacing Tom Tit Tot are ably described. The dialogue is expressive, and Geisler adds just a dash of contemporary touches for humor while maintaining the authenticity of the tales" (from audiobook review by Nancy L. Chu in School Library Journal, vol. 47, Mar. 2001, p. 84).

Fleming, Candace. Clever Jack Takes the Cake. Illus. G. B. Karas. New York: Schwartz & Wade Books, 2010. This picture book, an original Jack tale, is both heartwarming and ingenious as it plays with motifs from older tales and nursery rhymes. In the beginning Jack and his mother are poor, as in "Jack and the Bean Tree." When invited to the princess's tenth birthday party, Jack does some trading, hunting, and working to get ingredients and make her a cake. Traveling to the palace, Jack loses the cake bit by bit in a series of mishaps involving folk motifs such as four and twenty blackbirds, a troll demanding payment for crossing a bridge, and a dark forest. At the palace Jack has nothing to offer but the story of what happened to the cake. The princess, bored with her pile of golden presents from other guests, laughs and claps at Jack's gift of an adventure story, and lets her new friend cut her birthday cake. This ending is reminiscent of older tales in which the boy who can make the princess smile or laugh wins her favor. Fleming's web site provides teacher's guide, reviews, and reader's theater script.

Jack Comes to Texas! Compact Disc by Texas storyteller Doc Moore (no date given). Includes "Jack and the Northwest Wind - On his way to confront the Northwest Wind, Jack is waylaid by a gang of clever boys. Jack and the Robbers - Jack and a troupe of senior barnyard animals go for the gold. Jack and the Bean Tree - Jack trades for some magic beans and meets a giant. Go figure! Jack's First Job - Jack joins the work force, a-learnin' as he goes."

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Montes, Marisa. Juan Bobo Goes to Work: A Puerto Rican Folktale. Illus. Joe Cepeda. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2000. Also published as Juan Bobo busca trabajo: un cuento tradicional puertorriqueño. Humorous picture book about Puerto Rican folk hero Juan Bobo ("Simple John"), who commits a series of blunders while trying to following instructions on how to carry payment home from his jobs, like "Lazy Jack."

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