AppLit Home Jack Tales in AppLit's Annotated Index of Folktales Tina L. Hanlon

"Soldier Jack" or "Whickety-Whack, Into My Sack"


Chase, Richard. "Soldier Jack." The Jack Tales. Boston: Houghton, 1943, 172-79. With three drawings by Berkeley Williams, Jr., including a full-page picture of Jack's confrontation with the flying devils and the pack of cards they play with. Chase notes that this tale combines type 332, Godfather Death, and type 330, The Smith Outwits the Devil.   

Soldier Jack, or The Man Who Caught Death in a Sack, 1988. Dir. Tom Davenport. Davenport Films. Videocassette. 40 minutes. Free stream available at From the Brothers Grimm, beginning in 2015. Jack revives the President's dying daughter with his magic sack. At the end of the film he is persuaded that everyone who has been aging so long needs to die, so he lets death out of the sack.

Davenport, Tom, and Gary Carden. "Soldier Jack, or The Man Who Caught Death in a Sack." From the Brothers Grimm:  A Contemporary Retelling of American Folktales and Classic Stories. Fort Atkinson, WI: Highsmith, 1992. Story with photographs from the film. See also AppLit's Bibliography of Davenport's Fairy Tale Films.

"Jack and Old Raggedy Bones." In Haley, Gail EMountain Jack Tales. New York: Dutton, 1992. Jack is a middle-aged man coming home from the wars after "twenty year or more." Haley's two wood engravings show a grinning skeletal figure as Old Raggedy Bones, or Old Man Death. See Appalachian Folktale Collections A-J for more details on Haley's book of Jack tales and Muncimeg.

Stephenson, R. Rex. "Soldier Jack." Story Theatre script 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. Tallahassee, FL: Eldridge. After becoming famous for his bravery in war (acted out briefly but dramatically by a group of actors), Jack gets only two loaves of bread from the King of Virginia for his twenty years of service. But he shares it with old beggars who gives him a magic vial that enables him to identify Death and a magic sack. Jack defeats three devils in a card game in a haunted house, catching them in the sack and earning the deed to the house. He catches Death in the sack, saying "Whickety-Whack. Into My Sack," thus saving the King's young daughter from death after three doctors fail to help her. Well over one hundred years later, an aged woman, formerly the princess, makes Jack realize that he's the one who stopped Death and they are far too old to go on living, so he releases Death from the sack. Jack sees Death in "Soldier Jack" TV productionThis version is based on a manuscript from the James Taylor Adams Collection of folklore collected in Southwestern VA. This script also includes "Jack's Mother's Second Marriage," "Foolish Jack," and "Jack and the Mean Old Man."

In photo at right, Jack sees Death, in the Jack Tale Players
WBRA-TV production of "Soldier Jack," c. 1980

Children's responses to Stephenson's version of this tale are displayed at Appalachian Storytelling Event. Appalachian Studies Program. Virginia Tech, 2013. On June 24, 2013, children made quilt squares and recorded their own audio stories or responses to Jack Tales after seeing Stephenson and Emily Blankenship-Tucker tell stories (photos of storytellers at this link). Alicia, age 11, told her own variation on "Soldier Jack," with a hero named Bob acquiring a magic sack and vial. Charlie, age 7, drew the 3 devils. So did Lilly, age 8, who described them as a devil family with a hot pink Dad and little orange Mom.

Below, kids in Ferrum College Summer Enrichment Camp drama class, directed by Rex Stephenson, perform Stephenson's adaptation of "Soldier Jack" for the camp, July 2015. (See more photos in Facebook Jack Tales pages.)

Soldier Jack catches geese   Soldier Jack photo
Soldier Jack catches turkeys with his magic sack (photo by Chip Phillips).   Soldier Jack sees Death threatening the princess while the King watches anxiously (photo by Lana Whited).

Torrence, Jackie. "Soldier Jack: Long Journeys and Quests." Jackie Tales: The Magic of Creating Stories and the Art of Telling Them. Introduction by Ossie Davis. Photographs by Michael Pateman. New York: Avon, 1998. This unusual book contains background on African American storyteller Jackie Torrence and details on her style of storytelling. Each tale is accompanied by details on voice and gestures throughout the text, many photographs of Torrence as she tells it, and marginal notes about sources, themes, details in the tale, and audience reactions. She was from east of the NC mountains, but as a child she heard Richard Chase's Jack tales read at school, not realizing that the reader was giving them an African American flavor.  She often told mountain tales as a very popular storyteller herself. The section of Jack Tales also contains "Jack and Hardy Hardhead: Visualizing Stories," and "Jack's Trip to Hell": The Messages in Stories" (the latter from a ScottisJackie Torrence on her CD coverh Tinker whom Torrence met).

Torrence, Jackie. "Soldier Jack." Jackie Torrence -- the Story Lady. Videocassette and DVD. Jonesborough, Tenn: National Storytelling Resource Center, 1979. "Jackie Torrence demonstrates storytelling techniques in her presentation of two stories": "Soldier Jack" and "The Monkey's Paw."

Torrence, Jackie. Mountain Magic Jack Tales II. Audiobook on tape. Chicago Earwig Music, 1984. "Soldier Jack" and "Jack Goes Out to Seek His Fortune." Audio of "Soldier Jack" also posted in YouTube, Sept. 16, 2015. Mountain Magic Jack Tales I, produced at the same time, includes "Jack and the Northwest Wind." "Jack and the Three Sillies," "Jack and the King's New Ground." Both sets are included in a four-cassette set Jackie Torrence Tells Stories for Children. Chicago: Weston Woods, 1984, with Brer Rabbit stories and other classic tales for children (from The Story Lady recording), including "Jack and the Varmints" and "Kate the Bell Witch of Tennessee."

Lowry, Tim. "Soldier Jack." YouTube, Oct. 23, 2013. Video of professional storyteller Tim Lowry, who learned stories during his childhood in Harlan County, KY. He lives in SC and appears to speak from Charleston in this storytelling video, which places Soldier Jack at the end of the Civil War. This tale is also included in Lowry's CD Mostly Jack Tales: Stories from Southern Appalachia (Woodruff, SC: Studio 101, 2016), with audio of "Soldier Jack" in YouTube. Other tales on the CD are "Jack and the New Ground," "Chunk o' Meat," "Jack and the Cat Girl," "Jack and the One-eyed Booger," and "The Green Gourd." Several of the same tales, including "Soldier Jack," are in an earlier CD, American Folk Tales (Woodruff, SC: Studio 101 Recording, 2002).

Whickety Whack Into My Sack. Audio telling by Dr. Gwynn W. Ramsey, at, which also has background on hearing his first tales from his grandma in the foothills of North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains.

"Whickety-Whack, Into My Sack" by Ray Hicks. In Higgs, Robert J., Ambrose N. Manning, and Jim Wayne Miller, eds. Appalachia Inside Out: A Sequel to Voices from the Hills. Vol 2. Knoxville: U of TN Pr, 1995. With 2 essays on Hicks, language, and storytelling traditions.

"Whickety-Whack, Into My Sack" by Ray Hicks. In Peck, Catherine, ed. QPB Treasury of North American Folktales. Introduction by Charles Johnson. New York: Quality Paperback Book Club, 1998, pp. 347-51.  

"Whickety-Whack, Into My Sack." Told by Ray Hicks. In Ray Hicks Telling Four Traditional Jack Tales.  LP. Sharon, Conn: Folk-Legacy Records, 1964. Also includes "Jack and the Three Steers," "Big Man Jack, Killed Seven at a Whack," "Jack and Old Fire Dragon. " Biographical notes by Sandy Paton on container; notes concerning the recording by Paton, transcriptions of the texts by Lee B. Haggerty, and "A Note on Ray Hicks' Speech, by Cratis Williams" (17 pp.) inserted.

"Whickety-Whack, Into My Sack." Told by Ray Hicks. In Jack Tales. 1 Audio cassette. Sharon, Conn: Folk-Legacy Records, 1963. Also includes "Jack and the Three Steers," "Big Man Jack, Killed Seven at a Whack," Jack and the Old Fire Dragon."

"Whickety-Whack, Into my Sack." In Fixin' to Tell About Jack. Dir. Elizabeth Barrett. Whitesburg, KY: Appalshop, 1974. 25 minutes. A film depicting Ray talking and working at his home. See details in Appalshop catalog and Appalshop links to video clips of Ray discussing life and Jack Tales, with clip of "Whickety-Whack."

Whickity Whack." Told by Ray Hicks (composite of tellings from 1973 and 1974). In McGowan, Thomas, ed. "Four Beech Mountain Jack Tales." North Carolina Folklore Journal 49.2 (Fall/Winter 2002): 69-115. Reprinted in honor of Thomas McGowan from vol. 26.2 (1978). Also includes Hicks' "Jack and the Three Steers" (1963); and Marshall Ward's "Jack and the Heifer Hide" (1977) and "Cat 'n Mouse" (1944). McGowan gives notes on parallel versions, sources, and sound recordings of the tales.

"Jack and the Three Gifts." Photos at this link from Facebook page of Jack Tales Storytelling Theater of the Smoky Mountains. This is the same Jack tale sometimes known as "The Solder." Also video clip at this link. "Jack Tales Storytelling Theater of the Smoky Mountains originated at Clear Creek Campground in 1987." Facebook pages include photos and videos from a variety of tales. "Jack Tales Storytelling Theater is performed at Jack's Playhouse, located in the Adventure Bound Camping Resort (also known as Crazy Horse Campground), Highway 321, between Cosby and Gatlinburg, Tennessee" (accessed 5/1/10).

Leebrick, Christopher. Good Stories from All Over. West Linn, OR: The Author, 2002. Sound recording. "Soldier Jack (Appalachian Jack tale)" as well as "Old One Eye (Appalachian)," "Strange Animal (Africa)," "The Old Man and his Grandson (Brothers Grimm)," "Pat and the Mule egg (Irish-Appalachian)," "The Wind and the Moon (George MacDonald), "Tebo and his Pet Fish (Oregon tall tale)," "The Skeleton Woman (Cree Native American)."

See also "Wicked Jack" (or John) for other encounters with devils.

"The Godmother." In Musick, Ruth Ann. Green Hills of Magic: West Virginia Folktales from Europe. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1970. pp. 30-31. An old man and woman with a baby avoid having the devil as godfather, but let a woman who is Death become godmother. She convinces the man to pretend he is a doctor and gives him the power to see her shadow behind the door if a patient is dying. He becomes rich because he can predict death, but when Death comes to him, he hides his eyes to avoid her, until his daughter brings her baby into the room, with news of its baptism, and he sees "the old woman with the sickle." This is one of several tales in Part 2. Efforts to Outwit Death. The notes indicate that like the Grimm Brothers' tale, this Italian tale is type 332, Godfather Death. It was told for him by the family of Joseph A. Monell, Fairmont, 1959. For a longer, Moravian version of this Godmother tale, see Sur La Lune Fairy Tales (also referred to below). A. H. Wratislaw's 1890 edition explained that Death is feminine in Slavonic dialects.

"The Doctor That Acted a Partner with Death." In Campbell, Marie. Tales from the Cloud Walking Country. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1958. Rpt. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1976. pp. A couple who needs help naming their 13th child don't realize that Death is the skinny character who asks to name him. The boy learns doctoring and partners with Death, who stands at the feet of patients so the doctor knows whether they will die. Then he wants to fool Death to increase his fame and success instead of having half his patients die, so he puts a patient's head at the foot of the bed. Death warns him not to cheat again but he does when the king's daughter gets sick. Death, who is the devil, destroys the doctor for cheating by leaving him in a dark cave. This is one of the tales told by Doc Roark, who often picked up old tales and legends while doctoring. Campbell identifies it as Type 332, Godfather Death, citing the Grimm Brothers and mostly Scandinavian parallels.

Smibert, Angie. "The Jelly Jar." Cicada 15.4 (2013): 18+. Full text of story available through library services such as MasterFILE Premier (accessed July 17, 2014). An excerpt is available on the Cicada web site (Cricket's magazine for teens), as well as "Behind the Scenes: Designing 'The Jelly Jar'" by designer Melanie Galloway, about creating art for the magazine's iPad version to reflect the setting in a deep mine. This young adult short story, set in a southwestern VA mining community during World War II, contains some magic realism. Bone, a young woman named after the rock left when the coal is gone, is Will's friend who speaks for him and tells Jack tales and other stories. In the most detailed storytelling scene, Bone's tale begins and ends like "Jack and the Doctor's Daughter," but is like "Soldier Jack" in the middle with Jack's magic sack. Will is a young man who lost his voice when he was five and his father was killed in a mine cave-in. As Will begins his work in the mine, the work conditions are described, and especially the lunch that his mother prepares in the bucket his father had used. The magic jelly jar in the lunch bucket leads the story to its intriguing climax and conclusion.

Compare with:

The Soldier and Death  A video in Jim Henson’s series The Storyteller (adaptations, with live actors & Muppets, of European folktales). Adapted in words and pictures in Minghella, Anthony. Jim Henson’s The Storyteller. Illus. Darcy May. New York: Knopf, 1991.

Godfather Death: Tales of Aarne-Thompson Type 332. Translated and/or edited by D. L. Ashliman, Univ. of Pittsburgh. Includes versions from the Grimm Brothers and other European collectors.

Godfather Death. Heidi Anne Heiner's annotated version of the Grimms' 1884 tale translated by Margaret Hunt, with illustrations, parallel tales across cultures, modern interpretations, and reprints of tales called "Godfather Death" and "Godmother Death."

Lowry, Tim. Legends of the Lowcountry: Folk Tales of Historic Charleston, Sc. DVD. Summerville, SC: Tim Lowry, 2005. 47 min. Includes "Soldier Jack" and other tales told by Tim Lowry.

"Soldier Jack" and other Jack tales to be performed by Civic Theatre of Allentown [PA], March 2005. Dir. Tim Brown.

May, Jim. Purple Bogies and Other Ghost Tales. Woodstock, Ill: Jim May, 1986. Sound recording. Is "Soldier Jack Meets the Purple Bogies" related to "Soldier Jack"? The other tales are "Tailypo," "Conjure Wives," and "The Spectral Duck."

Rowling, J. K. "The Tale of the Three Brothers." In The Tales of Beedle the Bard. New York: Scholastic, 2008. After the 7-book Harry Potter series ended, this collection of folktales, which Harry and his classmates learned at Hogwarts, was sold for charity. Commentary by Albus Dumbledore, headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, is included in the book. The three brothers encounter Death and two of them are disappointed when gifts from Death do not help them get what they want. The third brother receives an Invisibility Cloak that he passes down to his son when he's ready for death.

Langdo, Bryan. Tornado Slim and the Magic Cowboy Hat. Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish Children, 2011. N. pag. In this humorous picture book with a "Wild West" (Southwestern U.S.) setting, Slim is a bit like Jack–at least in tales in which Jack is naive and lazy and acquires magic objects that elevate his status. He is also like tall-tale heroes such as Davy Crockett when he tames out-of-control natural and manmade disasters. A coyote tricks Slim into delivering a letter that turns out to be for himself when he is made sheriff after resolving a series of crises in Fire Gulch City. (Coyote is a trickster character in some western Native American tale traditions.) The coyote gives Slim a hat as a bribe. The hat is like Soldier Jack's magic sack when it sucks up the flood from a burst dam and then a tornado. The water then comes out of the hat to put out a fire and the tornado comes out to blow away a band of bank robbers.

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