Jack tales and their effect on people in Blue Ridge

Blue Ridge” folklore or folklife which effectively communicates both the example and its significance to your reader/audience.

Jack tales and their effect on people in Blue Ridge

The Blue Ridge region is known for its remarkable background and for the fact that it has hosted a great deal of cultures performing diverse customs. In spite of the fact that industrialization has had a strong effect on the area, it manages to keep most of its beauty and its vestiges. Ted Olson’s “Blue Ridge” provides a complex example regarding the territory’s history and instances in the lives of whites and Natives that lived in the area. The fact that these people were actively engaged in developing folklore made it possible for the region to be very different from other American areas that have kept many of their traditions through time.

One of the most interesting things about Blue Ridge is the fact that it has always been the location of significant events in the country’s history. In comparison to other communities in the U.S. people at Blue Ridge were unprivileged and were provided with very little political and economic influence in the country. Moreover, there has always been an intense economic competition between settlers and native tribes that have been struggling to maintain their influence in the territory. In spite of the fact that conditions are less welcoming in the Blue Ridge area when compared with other territories in the U.S., it manages to capture the essence of American folklife through its diverse cultural values.

Life in Blue Ridge is characteristically American because of the concepts present there and because people in the territory have focused on keeping most of their customs. The fact that they are relatively isolated from the rest of the country played an essential role in assisting them in preserving their culture. They received very little influences from other American cultures and thus had no trouble maintaining their principles and their civilization. People at “Blue Ridge” have developed complex cultural values through the years as they took traditional stories that they have come across and adapted them to the area’s natural appearance.

Individuals in the present-day society at Blue Ridge are inclined to express particular interest in regard to certain concepts and the “Jack Tales” have largely dominated folk thinking in the area. These stories are European in character but have been modified so that individuals in Blue Ridge identify with the protagonist and with the locations that he visits. “The Jack tales feature a combination of Old and New World elements — folkloric characters from the Old World, such as giants, devils, and kings, transported to New World settings” (Olson 76). While one might be inclined to believe that these stories are not necessarily relate to people in Blue Ridge, they actually succeed in capturing the core of thinking in the area.

Jack is normally portrayed as an individual who is more intelligent than people that he interacts with and does not hesitate to play tricks on these individuals. He comes from humble origins and one can even perceive him as being a Southern country boy who believes that there is nothing wrong with providing amusing punishments for individuals whom he considers to be immoral in character. While many influential individuals attempt to oppress him, he manages to outmaneuver them and puts across behavior that people in Blue Ridge consider characteristic for thinking in the territory.

In spite of the fact that the Jack stories are very common in Blue Ridge today, their presence was less influential until half a century ago when Richard Chase published “The Jack Tales.” The 1943 publication of the manuscript made it possible for individuals to acknowledge the fact that Jack could be used as a cultural value. One of the most impressive things about the book was that the writer inspired from families living in Blue Ridge when writing it. As a consequence, most of its stories can be associated with the area and with traditionalists living there. By familiarizing himself with thinking in the Harmon, Hicks, and Ward families, Chase transcribed his feelings and provided his readers with the chance to understand more in regard to people in Blue Ridge.

It is actually surprising that Chase managed to influence his readers in associating Jack tales with the Blue Ridge region, considering that he generally focused on having them put across “a slice of Americana rather than as an uncommon local storytelling tradition from the Blue Ridge” (Olson 77). It is probable that the Appalachian-English dialect characteristic to Blue Ridge played an important role in making readers feel that these tales have been shaped by cultural values in the territory. These tales are not necessarily meant to be appealing to a wide public, as people in Blue Ridge are very likely to understand them different from most individuals who come across them. The fact that they have been relatively isolated from the world made it possible for them to develop a unique culture. As the community interacts more and more with the outside world its values change and storytellers find it difficult to continue to tell their stories in settings where individuals are unable to identify with the characters (McNeil 14).

The Jack tales are more than just an adaptation, as they are actually distinctive in regard to Blue Ridge history. These stories go back to the last years of the colonial period when David Hix struggled to avoid being caught by anti-British militants and joined others who were living in Blue Ridge at the time for the same purpose. Hix “entertained his family and his frontier neighbors by telling a set of tales (i.e., the precursors for the Jack tales) which he remembered from his youth in the British Isles” (Olson 76). His family members and people in the region remembered these stories through time and told using new elements. This made it possible for them to identify with the character and to start to consider that the Jack tales basically presented an individual in Blue Ridge who had the power to do anything he wanted as long as he employed determination. It was not uncustomary for storytellers in the region to actually attribute most of Jack’s qualities to one of the individuals whom they presented with the story.

Orville Hicks is probably one of the most intriguing individuals in Blue Ridge when considering his involvement in the folklore industry. The fact that he was born in a family that provided him with a lot of teachings regarding the Jack tales and similar stories that have stayed in the community for decades and even centuries enabled Orville to get actively involved in telling stories concerning the region. His mother told him many stories when he was young with the purpose of keeping his attention away from the jobs that he was accustomed to. “Orville remembers her telling stories to keep the children happy while bundling galax for delivery to a marketer in Avery County and while preparing farm produce for canning and drying” (Orville Hicks). In addition to telling him stories, his family also encouraged the man to be an active part of the community by telling stories himself. Similar to most individuals in his family and in Blue Ridge as a whole, Orville was first presented with Jack tales. This had a strong effect on his perception of stories and on the way that he saw his community. He started to understand that these stories were more than simple tales and that one could actually feel their historic importance as a result of the settings that they related to. From his point-of-view, to be a good storyteller means more than simply to simply reproduce words that one has heard at a particular moment in his or her life. Orville does not hesitate to tell a story and to incorporate a character that is very similar to him during its storyline. “He also has a special skill of using a local story or joke to foster group relationships and connections to community history” (Orville Hicks).

Blue Ridge folklife is all about simplicity and this is perfectly exemplified by Orville Hicks. This man has a simple lifestyle but focuses on keeping his family’s traditions because he knows the importance of storytelling. He joins his audience in listening to the story that he tells and experiences most of his listeners’ feelings as the storyline progresses.

People are mainly responsible for creating and maintaining folklore and this is perfectly reflected by attitudes expressed by individuals at Blue Ridge. Stories can move particularly fast in communities and it all depends on thinking in the respective groups. It is surely very difficult to verify the origin of some stories, but this is not necessarily important when considering their significance and the influence that they have on particular groups (Turner 3). While the Jack tales originate in Hix’s England, individuals in Blue Ridge managed to maintain and modify them in accordance with their thinking. They virtually turned these stories into tales about Blue Ridge and their ancestors. Some stories have been told as rumors or legends and this influenced people in having difficulty understanding whether they were real or not. Many people in Blue Ridge are likely to believe that Jack tales are a hallmark when taking into account the area’s history and the general character of people that lived there through the ages.

Many families of storytellers at Blue Ridge have inherited tales through time and have been encouraged to continue to retell these respective stories using elements that they think would improve the storylines. The fact that individuals in the area came from diverse backgrounds made it possible for the region to have a unique influence on individuals living in the area.

For example, Donald Davis inherited a series of stories that were different from everything else presented in the U.S. because of the Celtic elements that have shaped it through time. People at Blue Ridge are not only successful because they managed to keep traditions, as they are also impressive because of the fact that they inherited story-telling abilities from their ancestors. Donald’s “reflective involvement in the process of story performance, memory, and creativity could bring forth essential insights into his tale-telling tradition” (Davis 17).

A great deal of individuals believe that it is wrong for tales to be modified, but they are unable to understand that these modifications are very important and that they are basically responsible for keeping a community’s culture alive. Blue Ridge tales are presently with even more attention as a result of the fact that technology has experienced great progress. “The ideal of a folklore text expanded to encompass a more and more minute representation of the storyteller’s style” (Davis 18). A storyteller needs to identify with his background and needs to see the tales that he tells from the perspective of an individual who actually understands them. Present-day folklorists need to employ a series of attitudes in dealing with stories and they need to be very well familiarized with their setting in order to be able to tell them properly. This is an essential concept in message-sending process and needs to be addressed by any storyteller who wants to have an intense effect on his or her audience.

In spite of the fact that the people at Blue Ridge are simple, it is not very simple to write in regard to them or their customs because of the diverse culture in the area. Folklore is particularly important in the territory and through the use of Jack tales people came to get actively involved in making history. While stories generally seem to be childish, Jack stories told in Blue Ridge actually manage to contribute to making history, considering that storytellers introduced real-life events in some of these tales. Cultural values in Blue Ridge stay with the community because people in the area acknowledge their importance and feel that it is essential for them to preserve their past. As a consequence they retell these stories and introduce ideas that they believe to characterize life in Blue Ridge. This makes it possible for readers and listeners to understand that these are not just stories and that they are a piece of Blue Ridge cultural life (Bernard McCarthy 59).

One can interpret some the Jack tales told in Blue Ridge in a series of ways, even with the fact that they generally seem to be directed at an underage audience. Some stories contain complex messages that are meant to provide readers with moral concepts and that are likely to induce strong feelings in some individuals. These tales are not only successful because of their ability to entertain people, as they can also be effective in providing them with historic events that have happened in Blue Ridge through the years. One of the best methods of understanding such a story would be to listen to it told by an individual who was born in an old family in Blue Ridge. His or her experience in listening and telling stories along with his or her family’s background makes it possible for the respective individual to introduce actual feelings in telling the story. It is basically as if someone tells a story regarding an event that he or she experienced from a firsthand perspective.

By being certain that he or she addresses the correct concepts through telling a story, an individual is more likely to experience positive results in this process. His or her audience is also more probable to understand the exact messages that the storyteller wants to convey. While it is very difficult to provide an overview of Blue Ridge cultural values, simply getting actively involved in studying people by focusing on their stories is enough to provide a deeper understanding of the location. Cultural values are effectively presented through Jack tales that have been told through time. People realized that they could use these stories with the purpose of relating to their own history and started to concentrate on storytelling as a means to express traditions.

Ted Olson’s book manages to put across most important elements in the lives of people at Blue Ridge and demonstrates that something as simple as a Jack tale can have a strong influence on individuals. One cannot tell it similar to how he or she tells any other story, as he or she needs to be a part of the story and needs to have listeners feel that they too are engaged in the process. By doing this the storyteller and the listeners connect and are enabled to contribute to making history, considering that listeners can influence the person telling the story to revise his version of the tale in accordance with new information that he or she receives.

Jack tales are an important concept in the South and in Blue Ridge in particular. These stories have been used as a tool to preserve the community’s history and have encouraged people in the area to be unhesitant about inventing a story themselves. It is thus essential for listeners and storytellers to be well-acquainted with the purpose of a Jack tale in order for them to make the storytelling process more effective.


Bernard McCarthy, William, “Jack in Two Worlds: Contemporary North American Tales and Their Tellers,” (UNC Press Books, 1994)

Chase, Richard, “The Jack Tales,” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2003)

Davis, Donald, “Southern Jack Tales,” (august house, 1997)

McNeil, W.K. “Appalachian Images in Folk and Popular Culture,” (Univ. Of Tennessee Press, 1995)

Olson, Ted, “Blue Ridge Folklife,” (Univ. Press of Mississippi, 1998)

Pavesic, Christine, “Ray Hicks and the Jack Tales: A Study of Appalachian History, Culture, and Philosophy,” (iUniverse, 2005)

Turner, Patricia a. “Univ. Of Tennessee Press, 1995,” (University of California Press, 1994)

“An appreciation of the rich and distinctive folklife in one of the earliest settled regions in southern Appalachia,” Retrieved April 12, 2012, from the University Press of Mississippi Website: http://www.upress.state.ms.us/books/72

“Orville Hicks,” Retrieved April 12, 2012, from the BlueRidgeHeritage Website: http://www.blueridgeheritage.com/traditional-artist-directory/orville-hicks

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