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 Index of Appalachian Folktales

Tina L. Hanlon

"Soap! Soap! Soap!"


Soap! Soap! Tales

Related Appalachian Tales Related Tales from Other Regions Hispanic Connection

Soap Soap coverBirdseye, Tom (reteller). Soap! Soap! Don't Forget the Soap!: An Appalachian Folktale. Illus. Andrew Glass. New York: Holiday House, 1993. A comical tale of a forgetful boy who gets confused about his errand when he repeats what each person along the road says to him. Birdseye heard his father tell "The Forgetful Boy" around the campfire and started telling it himself one day when he forgot a book he was going to read to his fifth grade class. Background, summary, reviews and two pictures at

“Soap, Soap, Soap!” In Richard Chase. Grandfather Tales. Boston: Houghton, 1948, pp. 130-36. With small drawings by Berkeley Williams, Jr. The boy inadvertently insults a series of people who remind him that he has been sent to buy soap. The last woman takes pity on the dirty, crying boy and sends him on his way. His mother washes him in the creek and hangs him on the line to dry. Chase got the tale from James Taylor Adams, Dicey Adams, and others. Chase's notes link the tale with "Stupid Cries" in More English Fairy Tales by Joseph Jacobs.

“Soap, Soap, Soap.” In Hicks, Orville, and Julia Taylor Ebel. Jack Tales and Mountain Yarns, As Told By Orville Hicks. Illus. Sherry Jenkins Jensen. Boone, NC: Parkway Publishers, 2009. Afterword by Thomas McGowan. pp. 108-13.

The Soap Tale.” Collected by Emory L. Hamilton from Mrs. Belle Kilgore, Mt. View, VA, 1940. James Taylor Adams Collection, JTA-2326. Full text in this web site. This version contains some crude language and does not show the boy's return home to his mother.

"The Boy Who Was Sent for Soap." Collected by James Taylor Adams from Mrs. L. Kilgore, Big Laurel, VA, 1942.  JTA-100. Full text in this web site. This short version contains a joke about swearing in front of the preacher and does not show the boy's return home to his mother.

"Soap! Soap! Soap!" In Carol Lee Kindt and Linda Rockwell High. Once Upon a Mountain Tale: Eight Jack and Grandfather Tales. Lakeland, TN: Memphis Musicraft Publications, 1995. Accompanied by music and drawings with which children can make puppets and backdrops. 

“Soap, Soap, Soap.” Told by Rick Carson, Giggles and Ghosts. Audio cassette. Elizabethtown, KY: Alpha Recording, 1991.  

“Soap, Soap, Soap.” Adapted from Chase's Grandfather Tales by storyteller Barry McWilliams (Everett, WA). Full text online with an explanation of changes McWilliams made in the story.  He added the moral, "Don't Forget where you are going and why you are going there!" (Other material on storytelling is also included in McWilliams' web site)

“The Boy Who Was Sent for Soap.” Told to James Taylor Adams by Mrs. L. Kilgore, Big Laurel VA, 1942, who heard it from her grandmother, Mrs. Mary Morris. JTA-100.

“Soap.” Collected by Richard Chase, Damascus, VA, 1941.  James Taylor Adams Collection, JTA-3023.

"The Soap Boy." In Leonard Roberts. South From Hell-fer-Sartin': Kentucky Mountain Folk Tales. U of KY Press, 1955. Rpt. Berea, KY: The Council of the Southern Mountains, 1964, p. 142. In a shorter version than most, the boy gets distracted when he stubs his toe and starts running around in circles saying, "Here I lost it, there I found it; here I lost it, there I found it." A man who tries to help him almost falls off his horse and says his stirrup is "slick as soap," thus reminding the boy that he is on his way to buy soap for his mother. 

quilt square Related Appalachian Tales

"Heart, Liver, and Lights." In Marie Campbell. Tales from the Cloud Walking Country. Indiana UP, 1958. Rpt. Athens: U of Georgia Press, 2000, pp. 94-97. Told by Big Nelt  (a big man who sang ballads and told old tales) in E. KY. When a farmer's boy is sent to buy heart, liver, and lights, his repetition of the words in order to remember them causes a man to slap him because the words remind the man of foul sights and smells at butchering time. A long series of encounters in which the boy is told to say something else and repeats it in the wrong context involves crops, a graveyard, fox hunting, a drunken husband, men fallen in a well, and a blind man who tells him to say "Nothing at all." In town the boy repeats the series of sayings, prompted by an angry butcher, but he can't go back far enough in his memory and has to return home, where he insults the farmer's wife by repeating the butcher's words "you're a fool." Next the forgetful boy catches the wrong fowl in the yard and they have a dinner so tough they can't chew it. The narrator says that when he worked for the miller, this story "learned me not to forget what I was told" (p. 97). See European sources below.

Other comic tales about foolish people and behavior such as Jack and the Three Sillies, Foolish Jack, The Two Old Women's Bet

"Don't be a Silly-Billy," in It happened in No-End Hollow, and You're Sure Silly, Billy!, both by May Justus.

quilt square Hispanic Connection

Soap Soap Soap coverDulemba, Elizabeth. Soap Soap Soap/Jabón Jabón Jabón. McHenry, IL: Raven Tree Press, 2009. Video book trailer, images, activities for children, and links to reviews and blogs at Dulemba's web site. "Hugo’s mamá sends him to the store to buy soap. Of course, Hugo takes the long way there which gets him into loads of trouble and plenty of mud. With all his adventures, he keeps forgetting what he’s supposed to buy at the store. But through each mishap he’s somehow reminded he needs soap, soap, soap ~ jabón, jabón, jabón! Hugo ends up a muddy mess, but he finally prevails. He buys the soap and returns home only to discover that his mamá plans to use the soap on him! Soap takes the classic Appalachian Jack Tale and gives it a modern twist. The story now takes place in a small rural town with a sweet little troublemaker named Hugo. The artwork is drawn with graphite and rendered digitally using bright, happy colors reminiscent of this playful tale. The story is presented in English text with embedded Spanish in rojo. The sprinkling of Spanish easily introduces key words using both story context and illustrations to aid in the fun and learning. A vocabulary page is also included to jump start learning in either language" (description from author's web site).

Hayes, Joe. "Buy Me Some Salt = Cómprame sal." In Dance, Nana, Dance = Baila, Nana, Baila: Cuban Folktales in English and Spanish. Illus. Mauricio T. Sayago. El Paso, TX: Cinco Puntos Press, 2008. This award-winning book is labeled as "a collection of [13] stories from Cuban folklore, representing the cultures of Spain, Africa, and the Caribbean," with a Cuban-born illustrator. Each page faces a translation in the other language.

quilt square Related Tales from Other Regions

Grimm Brothers' tale no. 143, "Going a-Travelling." Marie Campbell (in notes to the book above, p. 256) identifies the tale as Type 325, What Should I Have Said (Done)? Along with variants from other places, including Ireland, she cites the Grimms' short tale in which a poor youth tries to travel but keeps repeating the wrong things to people, until he is beaten so much by offended people that he has to crawl back to his mother, never to travel again. Margaret Hunt's 1884 translation of Household Tales by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm is reprinted at

"The Unlucky Messenger." The Fireside Stories of Ireland. Ed. Patrick Kennedy. Dublin: M'Glashan and Gill, 1870. A farmer's wife sends Jack, a servant boy, to the butcher for heart, liver, and lights. He offends a series of people by repeating phrases told to him, never remembers what he was sent for, and returns home in disgrace. Reprint of this book from Harvard College library available at Google Books.

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