"Become aware what is in you. Announce it, pronounce it, produce it and give birth to it." - Meister Eckhart

11 April 2015

Day 10 of the A to Z Blogging Challenge

J is for Jack


I love Jack tales and I encourage my storytellers to have at least one Jack (or Jill) tale in their repertoire.

If you don't readily recognise who I mean, think "Jack and the Beanstalk", "The House that Jack Built", "Silly Jack" (one of my favourites), and "Jack and the Villains". Jack is the "hero" of numerous folktales and nursery rhymes ("Jack and Jill", "Jack be Nimble, Jack be Quick" etc). I qualify "hero" because Jack is certainly not a hero in the traditional sense of clever, strong, and handsome. In fact, he usually the opposite -- foolish, weak, and plain-looking. But, it's usually those qualities and his silliness that wins the day.

Research suggests that the character of Jack originated in England--in Cornwall perhaps--and emigrated with early settlers to the Americas where the character quickly wove himself into the fabric of Appalachian folklore. However, Jack was certainly a staple of much European storytelling ("Hans" in the Grimm's tales) and characters like him appear in the stories of many cultures. In fact, when I was storytelling in the Middle East a few years ago, I had occasion to tell "Silly Jack" to a large audience of Arab women and their children. Although I worked with a translator, the audience responded to my comic gestures immediately. The children, in particular, who did not understand English, were so in tune with the story, laughing at all the appropriate places and anticipating Jack's silly antics. Later, one of the mothers informed me that the children were thrilled that I was telling one of their stories. I was surprised, explaining that I had learned the tale in Scotland from the Traveller storyteller Stanley Robertson. But she explained to me that it was also a well-known Middle Eastern tale. Jack certainly gets around!

Jack tales are particularly well-known and loved in America and if you don't know them, check out the work of Appalachian storyteller Ray Hicks, the late storyteller Chuck Larkin,  and the very much alive Ed Stivender. And to begin your own research into the Jack Tales, begin with Richard Chase's classic Jack Tales (1943) who traces the Appalachian sources back through Council Harmon, the 19th-century "Father of Jack Tales," and beyond. And until you get your hands on the book, try this link http://ccb.lis.illinois.edu/Projects/storytelling/jsthomps/tales.htm#bibliography and begin your own journey into the Jack Tales.

And when you get back, share one with me.

 “But that was always the way with Jacks, wasn’t it? They were clever and fools all at once.”






Testimonials

"We have received only very positive reports of your workshop, and must thank you for being so flexible and responsive both before and in the course of implementing the workshop. It has been lovely to work with you. . . . We are hopeful this project will give rise to future storytelling endeavours, and would be very happy to work with you again if the opportunity arises!" Muireann Crowley, At Home in Scotland, University of Edinburgh, May 2014 ("Storytelling, Research and Public Engagement" workshop)

Michael Williams is a a storyteller of compelling skill. He is also a fine human being who engages in all situations and draws people into the warmth of communication and shared experience." Donald Smith, Director, Scottish Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh Scotland

"Michael's understanding of storytelling within a leadership and business context has helped us provide a great service in helping leaders determine their personal and organisational destiny and legacy. Working with Michael is inspiring and fun; and pulls you to be fully engaged from start to finish." Norton Bertram-Smith, Managing Director and Leadership Consultant for On Purpose.

Kamink: the little boy who grew into a giant of a man

Blues and Roots Radio

Blues and Roots Radio
Check out my weekly storytelling radio show, The Teller and the Tale on bluesandrootsradio.com.

Creative Scotland

Creative Scotland
I'm grateful to Creative Scotland for its support.