Jack the Master and Jack the Servant

Patrick Kennedy
1891 (2nd Edition)

In the Volksmärchen (People's Stories), Hans (the diminutive of Johannes) performs the greater part of the exploits. His namesake Jack is the hero of the household stories of the more English counties of Ireland. The following is a fair specimen of the class:—


There was once a poor couple, and they had three sons, and the youngest's name was Jack. One harvest day, the eldest fellow threw down his hook, and says he, "What's the use to be slaving this way? I'll go seek my fortune." And the second son said the very same; and says Jack, "I'll go seek my fortune along with you, but let us first leave the harvest stacked for the old couple."

Well, he over-persuaded them, and bedad, as soon as it was safe, they kissed their father and mother, and off they set, every one with three pounds in his pocket, promising to be home again in a year and a day. The first night they had no better lodging than a fine dry dyke of a ditch, outside of a churchyard. Before they went to sleep, the youngest got inside to read the tombstones. What should he stumble over but a coffin and the sod was just taken off where the grave was to be. "Some poor body," says he, "that was without friends to put him in consecrated ground: he mustn't be left this way." So he threw off his coat, and had a couple of feet cleared out, when a terrible giant walked up. "What are you at?" says he; "The corpse owed me a guinea, and he sha'n't be buried till it is paid." "Well, here is your guinea," says Jack, "and leave the churchyard, it's nothing the better for your company." Well, he got down a couple of feet more, when another uglier giant again, with two heads on him, came and stopped Jack with the same story, and got his guinea; and when the grave was six feet down, the third giant looks on him, and he had three heads. So Jack was obliged to part with his three guineas before he could put the sod over the poor man. Then he went and lay down by his brothers, and slept till the sun began to shine on their faces next morning.

They soon came to a cross-road, and there every one took his own way. Jack told them how all his money was gone, but not a farthing did they offer him. Well, after some time, Jack found himself hungry, and so he sat down by the road side, and pulled out a piece of cake and a lump of bacon. Just as he had the first bit in his mouth, up comes a poor man, and asks something of him for God's sake. "I have neither brass, gold, nor silver about me," says Jack; "and here's all the provisions I'm master of. Sit down and have a share." Well the poor man didn't require much pressing, and when the meal was over, says he, "Sir, where are you bound for?" "Faith, I don't know," says Jack; "I'm going to seek my fortune." "I'll go with you for your servant," says the other. "Servant inagh (forsooth)! bad I want a servant—I, that's looking out for a place myself." "No matter. You gave Christian burial to my poor brother yesterday evening. He appeared to me in a dream, and told me where I'd find you, and that I was to be your servant for a year. So you'll be Jack the master, and I Jack the servant." "Well, let it be so."

After sunset, they came to a castle in a wood, and "Here," says the servant, "lives the giant with one head, that wouldn't let my poor brother be buried." He took hold of a club that hung by the door, and gave two or three thravallys on it. "What do yous want?" says the giant, looking out through a grating. "Oh, sir, honey! " says Jack, " we want to save you. The king is sending 100,000 men to take your life for all the wickedness you ever done to poor travellers, and that. So because you let my brother be buried, I came to help you." "Oh, murdher, murdher, what'll I do at all at all?" says he. "Have you e'er a hiding-place? " says Jack. "I have a cave seven miles long, and it opens into the bawn." "That'll do. Leave a good supper for the men, and then don't stir out of your pew till I call you." So they went in, and the giant left a good supper for the army, and went down, and they shut the trap-door down on him.

Well, they ate and they drank, and then Jack gother all the horses and cows, and drove them over an hether the trap-door, and such fighting and shouting, whinnying and lowing, as they had, and such noise as they made! Then Jack opened the door, and called out, "Are you there, sir? " "I am," says he, from a mile or two inside. "Wor you frightened, sir? " "You may say frightened. Are they gone away?" "Dickens a go they'll go till you give them your sword of sharpness." "Cock them up with the sword of sharpness. I won't give them a smite of it." "Well, I think you're right. Look out. They'll be down with you in the twinkling of a harrow pin. Go to the end of the cave, and they won't have your head for an hour to come." "Well, that's no great odds; you'll find it in the closet inside the parlour. D———-do 'em good with it." "Very well," says Jack; "when they're all cleared off, I'll drop a big stone on the trapdoor." So the two Jacks slept very combustible in the giant's bed—it was big enough for them; and next morning, after breakfast, they dropped the big stone on the trap-door, and away they went.