I don’t know Jack

I’ve been researching about Jack of Beanstalk and Giant-Killing fame.  He’s a typical trickster, using his wits and luck to accomplish his impossible feats. He’s small, wiry, but mostly fearless and smarter than the average giant or king.  He’s often gullible and foolish, forgetting the very good advice he gets from magical helpers, but he gets his own back and more.

Most of the Jack Tales I’ve been able to find are Southern Appalachian folklore, told in the mountain dialects that are the remnants of lowland Scots, the brogue of the folks relocated to Northern Ireland and then the US during the 1700s. They are incongruous, the valiant Jack going to market, but stopping by the house of the king which is located in the village.

He manages to kill a wild boar, a unicorn and a lion–one with a mane like in Africa, not the mane-less catamounts or cougars found in the Appalachians. The king pays him in cash–a total of $1500, and he goes back home to mom, with no princess in tow.

In another story, Jack is on his way to find the North Wind, to stop up the hole it blow through to make himself and his mom more comfortable. On the way he meets a magical man who gives him a tablecloth that provides food, a hen who lays golden eggs and a stick that will beat anything, including a log into firewood.

Of course, Jack loses each of these things to some ruffians along the way, and has to get them back by using the stick to beat the other men until they give his things back. Then it’s back home to Mom. Jack is always described as the youngest son, typical of most folk tales, but generally the other brothers are out with their father hunting or  trading or just away.

Since most of these tales were published in the 20s and 30s, they are not in the public domain and aren’t available free online,and cheapskate that I am, I’m reading through lesson plans for third grade and scholarly articles through the U. of Phoenix library–it’s good to have access. But I don’t  know Jack.

The beanstalk climber is  a thief and a murderer, so that later versions of this story have a fairy tell Jack that all the things he stole were stolen from his own father, and in some cases that he himself is a prince reduced to farming. It seems strange that his mom did not share these details with him, but then, often we don’t tell our kids things they don’t need to know.

I’m reading Boneshaker by Cherie Priest, and part of the conflict there is that the fifteen year old son does not know the truth about his father and his grandfather, one of whom is seen as a hero, and one as a villain. So he’s on a quest, and therefore, so is she. So mjuch of the conflict in relationships is not sharing the information a person needs to know, or knowing what a person needs to know. That’s the conflict that keeps Boneshaker moving, along with the wonderfully detailed steampunk setting.

In the next Maven book, the son of the Jack who climbed the beanstalk is featured, and I’m looking for his further adventures, and what I can use to explore that story, much like Andrew Lloyd Webber did with Into the Woods.  What happens after happily ever after?

Lottery winners are often broke after a couple of years, and so are Ward and his mom, a regional princess brought to poverty and completely unable to cope with it. They are down to a dry cow, and the contents of their cottage–a nice one with glass windows and slate roof, but a cottage none the less.This “jack” is named Edward,but he goes by Ward, and his primary goal is to take care of his mom in such a way that he can escape the farm and see the wider world, and maybe take the miller’s daughter Yz, short for Ysabella, along with him. She has her own problems as we all do,  and while she likes Ward, she has her dad the miller to look after.

So, I’m still working on the Jack stories and looking for the European variants, like the Brave Little Tailor and the Boy Who Knew No Fear for some inspiration of stories to fracture. I don’t yet know Jack.

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