Jack and the King's Girl

With Suggestions for Using the Story for Dramatic Play

Collected and retold by R. Rex Stephenson

Reprinted in AppLit with permission. Previously published in Nellie McCaslin’s Creative Drama in the Classroom, 5th ed. (New York: Longman, 1990). And 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." For details on other tales with this title, see "Jack and the King's Girl" in AppLit's Annotated Index of Appalachian Folktales. Another tale retold in story form by Stephenson for use in the classroom (with a similar ending) is "Jack and the Giants," and his adaptation of "Mutsmag," with illustrations by school children, is also in this web site.

Background on the Tale:

I collected this story in a Veterans Administration hospital in Louisville, Kentucky. In the fall of 1979, my company, The Jack Tale Players, was performing in VA hospitals in the South. At the end of the show in Kentucky, a patient came up to me and said, “I bet I know a tale that you have never heard before.” While the company was loading the van, I was told this story. In the rush to pack our equipment and be on our way (because we had to be in Little Rock the next day), I forgot the original storyteller’s name. I do recall, however, that he claimed to have heard the story from his grandmother and if memory serves me correctly, that was some place in Eastern Kentucky. The original story ended with the departure of the King. Some time later in a creative drama workshop in a local school, I asked the children to imagine what might have happened after the King departed. The children discussed various endings and finally came up with the idea that Jack abdicated so that Virginia could become part of the United States.

R. Rex Stephenson
Ferrum College

Jack and the King's Girl

This is the story of Jack and the King’s girl. Now, in this story, Jack is a grown-up boy. No longer is he that little fella that was always in trouble. His “bojangle” days are over.

His eighteenth birthday was the day Jack set off to seek his fortune. He was a might sad to leave home and say goodbye to his Maw and two brothers, Bill and Tom. But he was purty sure that there was lots to see in the world, and this was the perfect day to start seeing it!

So, Jack walked and walked. He went up hills, and round mountains, waded creeks, and finally crossed through Adney’s Gap. This was all might hard goin’, too, ‘cause you see, the part of Virginia Jack was raised in was made mostly of hills and mountains, and this was long ago, way before there were any roads—let alone bridges—in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

It started to get pretty dark after Jack crossed Adney’s Gap, so he cut some pine branches and made himself a bed under the stars. Then, while he was laying there thinking what a lucky fella he was—he fell asleep. Jack didn’t hear the foxes that howled or the owl that “whoo’d” all night long. He just slept soundly.

The next morning Jack made some ashcakes and drank some buttermilk his Maw had sent with him, and he found some blackberries that he ate for dessert. Then, on Jack went. It wasn’t long till he reached Bear Mountain. He had to climb over Bear Mountain if’n he was going to see the world. Up Jack went, climbing over rocks, goin’ round trees, even grippin’ hold of bushes in a couple of places ‘cause it was so steep!

Jack finally got to the top, and then he started down the other side. This was a might easier than going up. When he got to the other side of Bear Mountain, Jack heard this music, and he being a curious fella, he went to see just what was going on.

Well! What was going on was a party! And right there in that valley, the King of Virginia and all the Dukes and Duchesses of the Blue Ridge were having a party to celebrate the birthday of the King’s daughter. They were all dancing, eating, talking to one another, and having the best of times.

So, Jack walks up to the King and says, “Hello, King. May I come to your party?” Jack asked nicely cause his Maw raised him up to be polite.

“I’d be proud to have you join us,” the King said.

“Mighty nice party, King,” Jack replied, then asked, “but who is that pretty girl over there?”

“That’s my daughter,” the King answered, “and this party is to celebrate her eighteenth birthday.”

“Well, King, she is mighty pretty—mighty pretty,” Jack said.

At that moment, the King’s daughter looked at Jack and smiled. Jack smiled back, and then he declared, “You know, King, I think I’d like to marry your daughter.”

“I don’t want to hear any talk like that,” the King warned. “I won’t let my daughter marry an ol’ mountain boy like you!”

“King, I’m bound and determined to marry your daughter!” Jack avowed.

“Listen, Jack, if I hear any more talk like this from you—you and I will fight!” the King responded, with a touch of finality in his voice.
Jack was still polite when he said, “Now, King, that’d be might unneighborly of you, ‘cause I think the little girl likes me.”

Just then, the King noticed his daughter, again smiling at Jack, and he raised up and exclaimed, “Jack, I’m mighty powerful! I’m the King, and I have a army!” The King snapped his fingers and in marched forty soldiers. They stopped directly in front of Jack, showed him their muskets and skinnin’ knives, then marched around him three times till the King said, “Y’all are dismissed. Now Jack, you are welcome to stay at the party, but keep away from my daughter!”

Jack didn’t answer the King, but went over and got himself something to eat. There was lots of apple cider and ham biscuits and even some more turnip greens. However, while Jack was eating, the King’s daughter came over and asked him to dance the Virginia Reel with her.

They were going through the arch the other dancers had made for them when the King’s daughter said, “I’m might fond of you, Jack.”

Jack quickly responded by asking, “How would you like to become my wife?”

“That would be fine,” she answered, “but my Paw would never allow me to marry a mountain boy like you,”

“Well, why don’t we just run away?” Jack asked.

“Let’s go!” the King’s daughter quickly replied, and off they headed in the direction of Jack’s Maw’s house.

When the king discovered they had run away, he ended that party pretty quick, and he got his army out searching for Jack and his daughter. They looked in every holler and on top of every mountain, but they never even got close to them.

Well, Jack and the King’s girl got married, but after about three months, they both thought they should go back and make friends with the King. So, back they went—up hills, round mountains, wadin’ creeks, and crossing Adney’s Gap until they came up to the site of the party.

But when they got there, there was nothing there but an old wooden sign. Beside the sign an old man was smoking on a corncob pipe. Jack and the King’s daughter walked up to the sign and read it: GONE WEST OF THE MISSISSIPPI, signed the KING. Jack thought this sign curious, so he said to the old man, “You know anything about the King leavin’?”

“Yep, I do,” the old man replied. “He left so you and his daughter could have his Kingdom of Virginia.”

So Jack and the King’s daughter lived on the land where they first met, and Jack was King for a short piece, but later he “give it up” so we could have a democratic government and be part of the United States. And that’s the true story of how
Jack got married, and how Virginia became one of the original thirteen states.


Suggestions for Using the Story for Dramatic Play

  1. Creating a Dramatic Play

    1. Divide the story into scenes (whenever location changes) and, in groups, have the class draw and color pictures of the most important events in each scene.

    2. Building upon the pictures that each group has drawn, have them build statues out of their bodies that are similar to the picture they have drawn.

    3. Using a narrator (maybe the teacher), link all the scenes together to create a play.

  2. "Jack and the King's Girl" is very much a Blue Ridge story. Using the same plot, adapt the story to fit another culture, maybe German, Spanish or Chinese.

  3. Read the story only to the point where Jack and the girl run off. Allow the class to dramatize what they think would have happened.

copyright 2003 R. Rex Stephenson
all rights reserved

Bibliography of Publications by and about R. Rex Stephenson

The Jack Tale Players Web Site

Study Guides for Jack Tales Dramas

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