Saturday, December 1, 2018
Welcome to the Kitschmas Advent Calendar 2018 !!! T - 24 Days ... and Counting !!!
Christmas stories are almost always filled with elements of fantasy, the fanciful and the fantastic, and recently I was introduced to one that has an amazing pedigree. Have you ever heard of the 'American Jack' tales? Well, you've certainly heard of 'Jack and the Beanstalk' and a number of British 'Jack' tales. Now imagine the beloved character of folklore was transported and somewhat changed when he arrived in America. That's exactly what happened in the Appalachians. Read this excerpt from Wikipedia:
"Jack is an archetypal Cornish and English hero and stock character appearing in legends, fairy tales, and nursery rhymes, generally portrayed as a young adult. Unlike moralizing fairy heroes, Jack is often portrayed as lazy or foolish, but through the use of cleverness and tricks he usually emerges triumphant. In this way, he may resemble a trickster.
Some of the most famous are "Jack and the Beanstalk", "Jack Frost", "Jack the Giant Killer", "Little Jack Horner" and "This Is the House That Jack Built". While these heroes are not necessarily congruous, their concepts are related and in some instances interchangeable. The notion of "Jack" is closely related and sometimes identical to the English hero John. He also corresponds with the German Hans (or Hänsel) and the Russian Iván.
Richard Chase, an American Folklorist, collected in his book "The Jack Tales" many popular Appalachian Jack tales as told by descendants of Council Harmon. Council Harmon's grandfather, Cutliff Harmon, is thought to very possibly be the one who originally brought the Jack tales to America. As pointed out by folklorist Herbert Halpert, the Appalachian Jack tales are an oral tradition as opposed to written, and like many Appalachian folksongs, trace back to sources in England. For instance, where the English original would feature a king or other noble, the Appalachian Jack tale version would have a sheriff. Some stories feature Jack's brothers, Will and Tom. Some Jack tales feature themes that trace to Germanic folk tales."
I use the above excerpt to illustrate the very first 'American Jack tale' I discovered a few months back. My original thought was to follow up last year's K.A.C. articles about the forgotten Dickens Christmas Stories with some even lesser-known distaff Dickens, as it were, and sheerly by chance happened upon the 'Jack' Christmas tale. I was so delighted by it, I had to lead off this year's K.A.C. with the story, courtesy of the Appalachian History website - here you go!
Coming Tomorrow: A Centennial Salute to a composer who invented one of the ALL-TIME WORST Christmas Tunes that you CAN'T get out of your head! Consider yourself warned!