Ghost Stories and Tall Tales of the American South

Jack Tales

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“Jack Tales,” Appalachain folktales that arrived via Scots-Irish and German immigrants.

Railroad Track

This story is an example of a type of folktale known as “Jack tales” that found their way into Appalachian culture via Scots-Irish and German immigrants. Like other stories passed down through the oral tradition, the Appalachian Jack tales were modified from their European origins to reflect the settings, values and concerns of Appalachian settlers. ‘Sop Doll” is one of the most famous of them all, and has been told in many different versions throughout the years.

The “Jack tales” typically involve a young hero named Jack who is thrown onto the long road to adulthood, and must overcome many obstacles using his intelligence, bravery, and occasionally, trickery. In Appalachian tales, these obstacles typically are poverty, unemployment and other harsh realities of mountain life.

While “Jack tales” are particularly well known in Appalachian culture, similar characters can be found in Native American and African-American cultures as well. In fact, it could be said that Brer Rabbit from the Uncle Remus tales, a famous trickster in his own right, is a distant relative of Jack’s.

For more information on Jack tales, you may be interested in these sites:

The Jack Tales Wall

And for an excellent collection of Depression-era photographs, check out:

American Memory (Library of Congress)


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One Response to “Jack Tales”


Jeannetta:

People use the term ‘sop’ all the time where I’m from. Sop means mixing food in your plate with your hands. An example of this term being used is “sopping corn bread and greens together.”.

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