Jack in Two Worlds

Contemporary North American Tales and Their Tellers

Edited by William B. McCarthy

Tales edited by William Bernard McCarthy, Cheryl Oxford, and Joseph Daniel Sobol; Publications of the American Folklore Society

Jack in Two Worlds

336 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 7 illus.

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-4443-4
    Published: July 1994

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The "Jack" known to all of us from "Jack and the Beanstalk" is the hero of a cycle of tales brought to this country from the British Isles. Jack in Two Worlds is a unique collection that brings together eight of these stories as transcribed from actual performances by tellers and eight interpretive essays by leading folktale scholars.

The "two worlds" in the book's title refer to the Jack tales' popularity first among traditional Appalachian taletellers and now among storytelling revivalists. The tellers included in this volume represent both worlds. Unlike previous collections of Jack tales, in which the stories were heavily revised and rewritten, the tales in this volume have been transcribed verbatim and are presented in a format that preserves much of the oral quality of the taletellers' craft. The result is a body of richly nuanced tales that can be read with pleasure both by scholars who are studying the Jack tale tradition and by general readers who love a good story.

The taletellers are Stewart Cameron, Donald Davis, Ray Hicks, Bonelyn Lugg Kyofski, Maud Long, Frank Proffitt, Jr., Leonard Roberts, and Marshall Ward.

The essayists are Bill Ellis, Carl Lindahl, William Bernard McCarthy, W. F. H. Nicolaisen, Cheryl Oxford, Joseph Daniel Sobol, Kay Stone, Ruth Stotter, and Kenneth A. Thigpen.

About the Author

William Bernard McCarthy, professor of English at Pennsylvania State University, DuBois Campus, is author of The Ballad Matrix: Personality, Milieu, and the Oral Tradition.
For more information about William B. McCarthy, visit the Author Page.


β€œThis collection of essays and tales enriches our understanding of folklore through its examination of traditional and revivalist storytelling and the complex relations between the two. . . . An important book for any student of folktale and storytelling and would make a useful supplementary text in a course on oral narrative.”--Ethnologies

"Scholars will find this juxtaposition of tales and essays useful, and anything that sustains and spreads these vibrant stories should be applauded."--Library Journal

"All serious students of folklore, narrative and tale telling will find this volume an absolute MUST."--Come-All-Ye

"The stories presented in Jack in Two Worlds and the modes of folklore analysis employed . . . form a noteworthy and unique accomplishment in folk narrative scholarship. [This book is] ideal as a text for courses both in general folklore and the folktale."--Kenneth S. Goldstein, University of Pennsylvania

"These tale texts represent the range of the genre well, include kinds of tales not appearing in print before, and reflect upon one another productively. [The book's] interpretive essays broach a wide range of perspectives, approaches, and issues, and they advance and foreground important ideas about Jack tales and tale telling."--Thomas McGowan, editor of the North Carolina Folklore Journal