THE TALE WITHOUT AN END and THE ENDLESS TALE
James Taylor Adams
NOTE: These texts were recopied directly from typewritten copies in the archives of the Blue Ridge Institute. James Taylor Adams (1893-1954) kept typewritten copies of the folktales he and others collected during the last thirty years of his life, while he lived in Wise County, VA. Any typographical errors or dialect spellings in Adams' typescripts have not been changed. These tales and others from the Adams collection have been published by Charles L. Perdue, Jr., in Outwitting the Devil: Jack Tales from Wise County Virginia (Santa Fe, NM: Ancient City, 1987). For details on variants of this tale, see The Endless Tale.
THE TALE WITHOUT AN END
Aldred B. Franklin was present when Bethel Lee Adams told the tale about the king wanting an endless tale. He said, "I've heard grandma Robbins tell that, but she called it "The tale without an end," and hit went like this:
One time there was a great king and he norated throughout his kingdom that the man who could tell him an endless tale could have his daughter for a wife and be the king when he was dead. Several young men came and tried to tell a tale without an end, but they all run out of something to tell. At last a boy named Jack came in and told the king a tale.
Jack told the king that once there was a king who gathered all the wheat that his people had raised and put it in a big granaery and was going to doll it out as he seen fit. But a rat cut a hole in the wall and went in and got one grain of the wheat. The next day it went in and got one more grain. The next day it went in and got one more grain. Jack just kept telling about the rat going in and out until the kind couldn't stand it any longer and he told him to hush and he could have the girl.
Record Copy Made by Blue Ridge Institute to Replace Unstable Original
[JTA-123] 250 words
THE ENDLESS TALE
Told me on December 22, 1941, by Bethel Lee Adams of Big Laurel. She learned it from her grandmother, Mrs. Celia Ann Banks.
One time they was a king who had a beautiful daughter. He put out that he'd give her for a wife to the man who'd tell him the longest tale. There was one condition and that was if one failed after he started that he'd get his head cut off.
Several men come and tried to win the girl, but they failed to please the king and had to stop because they couldn't keep on with the tale he had their heads cut off.
They was a boy named Jack and he heard about it an' he said he'd try. The king told him to go ahead, but if he stopped he'd get his head cut off. So Jack started in to tell his tale.
He said that one time they was another king and that he took one-tenth of every thing his people raised for tax. He built a big house in the middle of his kingdom and filled it with rice the people had raised. Well a rat started gnawin' at one corner and finally it got so hit could get in an' hit got one grain of rice an' carried it out. The next day hit went in an' got one more grain. The next day hit went in an' got one more grain. The next day hit went in an' got one more grain. The next day hit went in an' got one more grain. Jack just kept right on goin' over an' over with that for a whole day. The king was so tired of hearing about the rat goin' in the house an' gettin' one more grain that he told him to shet up he'd could have his daughter.
Retyped by the Blue Ridge Institute, April 11, 1991
[JTA-58] 300 words
copyright 2001 U
of Virginia's College at Wise/Blue Ridge Institute of Ferrum College
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