June 17, 2011

Jack tales

I was at a meeting yesterday with a couple of friends and cronies whereat we cooked up various schemes to raise hell and entertain ourselves this summer. Since it was a typical West Virginia meeting, we digressed widely and shot that which is euphemistically called the bull. Digressions are often the most enjoyable and productive parts of a meeting in my experience.

In one such, I learned that the spouse of a friend was a storyteller who liked to tell Jack tales. Jack has showed up here before, but for newcomers, he is the subject of a cycle of stories that probably originated in the British Isles and were brought to the Appalachian mountains by settlers, where they are part of an oral tradition.

Most people are familiar with Jack and the Beanstalk, which is an English version. In the mountain variety, the stories morphed over time to express what I think is the best in Appalachian culture. I have spent a good many years running around the state telling about Jack. The stories enthralled me from the time I first learned about them and I've seen them work their magic on even the most jaded listeners.

I've made it a point to tell my grandkid the Jack tales I know and read him the ones I've forgotten. I think this is important not just because they are entertaining but because they teach you how you ought to act and live.

If you ever get a chance to hear one, try it. They're meant to be heard. Or you can get by with reading Richard Chase's classic collection The Jack Tales.

WHAT HE SAID. Here's Robert Reich on the right's war on workers.

KEEP IN MIND. A brain implant shows promise of improving memories for people with dementia or other brain injuries.

ANIMAL AWARENESS discussed here.


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