Adapted by Bertie for Storynory
Picture from Adobe Stock
Dedicated to Edwyn in LA who supports Storynory on Patreon
Hello This is Jana,
And welcome back to Storynory.
This is a traditional story from England. As is often the case with stories from England, the hero is a boy called Jack.
Jack was in love with the prettiest girl in his village. He was poor and so was she, but he was sure they would be happy together. He dreamed that with a lot of hard work and a little luck, one day they would live in a nice big house and have lots of children. On a fine morning he went to ask the girl’s parents if he could marry their daughter. He knew that the girl was listening at the door to the conversation that would decide her future. She could hear him pop the question to her mother.
“Ma’m, I want to marry Anny, and she wants to marry me. Will you give us the go-ahead Ma’m? I would be the happiest lad in all of England if you agree to us getting hitched.”
But however carefully the girl was listening at the door, she could not catch the answer. Her mother said nothing. She just stared blankly at Jack with her glassy eyes. It was hard to know if she had even understood the question.
“Well, Ma’m, I suppose you don’t have to speak out loud,” said Jack. “Just a nod will do.”
At last, after a long stony silence, the woman spoke. In fact, she shrieked! “HUSBAND! Come here right now! This good-for-nothing boy without a penny to his name wants to marry our daughter!”
A moment later, the father, grasping a wooden spoon in his hand, appeared from the kitchen:
“How dare you want to marry our daughter when you haven’t got any money? Come here you little whippersnapper and let me tap you on the head with this wooden spoon and maybe I shall bash some manners into you.”
Jack, having swiftly decided that he did not want to be tapped on the head with a wooden spoon, departed via the open window and ran through the garden and down the road as fast as he could. Eventually, when he reached the safety of some woods, he leaned against a tree and said to himself:
“I shall catch my breath, and then I shall carry on running into the world until I find some work, and I shall earn some good honest money, and then, after about a year, I shall return to my village, and I shall marry Anny, and then we shall live as happily ever after as Cinderella and Prince Charming.”
And so he put his plan into action. He kept on running until he found an old widow who was gathering sticks for her fire. He stopped to help her pick up the sticks and she said to him.
“You’re a helpful lad. If you come to work for me, and prove yourself to be an honest lad, I shall pay you fairly.”
“Why thank you Ma’am,” said Jack, who agreed right away to work for the widow. He did everything she asked of him, including chopping wood, fetching water, lighting her fire, scrubbing her kitchen, feeding her hens, and milking her goat. But the most important task of all was to look after her donkey called Alchemy, whom he soon learned had a very special secret. Every morning, he had to pull Alchemy’s ears. Then the donkey said:
lifted up his tail, and poop out six gold coins. The boy collected the gold coins, washed them under the pump, and gave them to the old widow.
Jack worked honestly for the old lady for an entire year until one day he said to her:
“Ma’am, I’ve worked honestly for one year, and done everything you asked of me, and now it is time for me to return to my village and marry the lassy I love. Will you be so kind as to pay me fairly as you promised you would?”
He was hoping that the old lady might give him just one of the gold coins that her donkey pooped-out every morning.
The widow looked him up and down and said:
“You have indeed proved yourself to be hard-working and honest. I am old, and I have enough gold coins to last out the rest of my days. You can have my magic donkey, so that you and your sweetheart shall never lack for money.”
“Why thank you Ma’am!” exclaimed Jack. And in the best of spirits he ran to the stable to collect Alchemy, the magic, gold-pooping donkey. He sat on the donkey’s back and set off in the direction of his village. Alchemy was not the speediest of animals. When Jack saw that the sun was setting, and the sky was turning red, he stopped for the night at an inn. After all, he would have no trouble paying now that he owned a gold-pooping donkey.
“I’ll have the best room in the house,” he said to the Innkeeper. “And send up your best food!”
The innkeeper looked at the boy, and saw that he was young and had an air of poverty, including his frayed shirt and worn boots. “Anything you want,” he said, “so long as you pay up front.”
“Just a moment,” said the boy, “I’ll fetch the money.” He went out of the door and the innkeeper assumed that would be the last he saw of him. He thought he would have a good laugh watching him run off. But when he went to the window, he saw the boy stroke his donkey that was tethered to the gatepost. Then the boy pulled the donkey’s ears. The donkey said: “Eye-Awe!” lifted his tail, and pooped out six gold and silver coins. The boy picked up the coins, washed them under the pump, and returned to the Inn where he paid for everything he had asked for, and more, with a silver coin.
The Innkeeper showed the boy to the best room in the house, and promised to lodge his donkey in the stable and to feed and water him. Unfortunately, honesty was not the inn-keeper’s strongest suit. That night, he swapped the boy’s magical donkey for his own, who looked very similar. In the morning, the boy headed off to his village, without noticing the swap. He was so excited that he rode straight to the house of the girl he loved and knocked on the door.
When the father opened up, the boy said:
“Good Morning sir. I have returned to ask once more for the hand of your daughter in marriage. But before you tap me on the head with a wooden spoon, let me explain that I have worked hard for one year, and I now possess a miraculous donkey who poops gold and silver coins. If I marry Anny, I promise that we shall never lack for money!”
“Well now, a donkey who poops gold and silver coins, I have to see this,” said the father, reaching for his riding crop.
“ I am happy to demonstrate,” said the boy. He returned to the gatepost and pulled the donkey’s ears.
“Eye-Awe!” said the donkey, crossly. But he did not poop any gold or silver.
“Come on Alchemy,” said the boy, “this is no time to be constipated.” And he pulled the Donkey’s ears a second time.
“Eye-Awe!” said the donkey who was not called Alchemy and didn’t like having his ears pulled. In fact he belonged to the Innkeeper and was called Barrel. Jack went around the back of the donkey, and pulled his tail. This was not his best idea. The donkey kicked with his hind-legs and caught the girl’s father with his heels.
“Ah-oh!” said Jack, looking at the man who was now rolling on the ground holding his bloody nose. “I don’t suppose I’ll be marrying your daughter today. I think I’ll be off now,” and he ran out of the village as fast as his legs would carry him.
After he had run a long while, he came across a carpenter who was making a table. “Excuse me sir,” said the boy, “can I work for you?”
The carpenter agreed to give him a chance. As long as the boy worked well and honestly, he would pay him fairly.
“Thank you sir,” said the boy, “What shall I do first?”
The carpenter asked him to go and fetch some wood. The boy continued to work hard, cleaning and fetching, and delivering furniture. His most important job was preparing the carpenter’s meals, which was easy to do, as he had a magic table. All the boy had to do was go to the kitchen and say to the table, “Table, my master has been sawing and hammering all day and he’s hungry,” and in an instant, a wonderful meal would appear on the table.
After the boy had worked for a year, he said to the carpenter. “Sir, I’ve worked for you honestly for one year, and done everything you asked of me, and now it is time for me to return to my village and marry the apple of my eye. Will you be so kind as to pay me fairly as you promised you would?”
And the carpenter agreed that the boy had worked hard and proved himself to be an honest lad. He gave him a very special wedding gift. “You and your sweetheart need never worry about going hungry. You shall have my magic table. After all, the wife wants me to make a bigger table that will feed all my family and friends.”
“Why thank you!” said Jack. And he went to the kitchen to fetch the magic table. He set off for his village, but it wasn’t easy carrying it on his back, and he went slowly. Towards evening, he reached an inn where he decided to rest for the night. The Innkeeper asked him what he would like to order for supper, and the boy replied: “I don’t need to order any food. I can provide myself with a six course meal.”
The innkeeper saw the boy take the table up to his room, and he was curious to see how he was going to feed himself. He spied through the keyhole of the room. He saw the boy address the furniture and say: “Table, I’ve been carrying you on my back all day, and the walk has made me hungry.”
Immediately, a scrumptious meal appeared on the table, with rough bread, butter, chicken liver pate, pheasant, fish, roast potatoes, carrots, green beans, chocolate cake and lemonade.
“Well now,” thought the innkeeper, “If I had a wonderful table like that, I could sack my cook, and never have to buy any food again. I could feed the whole village, charge a fortune at the inn, and never pay a penny. My need for such a table is clearly greater than the lad’s.”
And so when Jack was fast asleep, the innkeeper crept into his room and swapped the magic table for an ordinary one.
Jack rose at the crack of dawn, picked up the table, left the inn, and headed off to his village, eager to win the hand of his sweetheart. He went straight to her house, where he met the girl’s mother.
“Good Morning Ma'am. I’ve come to ask once more for permission to marry Anny,” said Jack.
“And what makes you think I will change my mind this time when you are just as poor, scruffy, and as good-for-nothing as you were on the last two occasions?”
“Because,” said Jack, “I have a magic table that will be covered in food any time I give the word.”
“Oh,” said the mother. “That’s why they call you Jack the Liar.”
“I’m no liar,” retorted Jack, “You’ll see in a moment.”
And then he went outside to fetch the table which he placed down in the middle of the parlor.
“Good morning Table,” he said as the mother looked on with her glassy, expressionless eyes. “I’m feeling rather peckish. I think it’s time for breakfast don’t you?” But the table was not the magic one - it was a table from the inn that smelt of spilt beer.
“Table,” he said, frustrated, “we need food, now!”
But still nothing happened.
“Magic table, my foot!” exclaimed his sweetheart’s mother, “ You lying scoundrel, get out of here before I beat you with this rolling pin, and never darken our door again!”
Jack, who did not fancy a beating with the rolling pin, ran off as fast as his legs could carry him. Eventually he came to a stream, where a man was trying to build a bridge. Jack helped him by climbing up a tree and pulling it down across the stream so that it bent over onto the opposite bank. The man thanked Jack for his help saying that an honest lad deserved an honest reward.
He took out his knife and cut a stick for him. Then he gave the stick to Jack saying, “Any time anyone gives you any trouble, just say, “Stick, Beat my enemies,” and it will do the job for you. You need never put up with any dishonest or bad person again.”
“Why thank you kindly!” said the boy, who took the stick and headed back in the direction of his village. On the way he came to the inn where he had stayed two years earlier. He went inside, and found the Innkeeper who asked:
“What can I do for you?”
“Give me back Alchemy, my magic-money -making donkey,” demanded the boy.
“Are you accusing me of being a thief?” demanded the Innkeeper, “Get out of here before I throw you out, you lying scoundrel!”
“We’ll see about that!” retorted Jack - and spoke to the stick saying, “Stick, I need your help!” and when the innkeeper saw the stick fly out of the boy’s hand and point at him threateningly, he grew very afraid of the boy wizard and agreed to let him take Alchemy from the stable.
In the best of spirits, the boy rode on to the next inn, where the stick soon persuaded the innkeeper to hand over the magic table.
Now the boy was ready to return to his village in triumph. But he did not head straight for his sweetheart’s house. Instead he went to his parents where he showed them his wonderful gold-and silver pooping donkey, and his magic table that was filled with food as soon as he gave the word. But he did not tell a soul about the magic stick that would punish his enemies. The word soon got around that Jack had returned home with some powerful magic that had made him very rich. Now all the families with daughters wanted him for a son-in-law. The parents visited his house every day, offering to give him their cows, their pigs, and all their money if he would marry their daughter. But he turned them all away.
The only people who did not believe the story about Jack’s magical triumph were Anny’s parents. “Everyone has lost their minds believing these crazy stories. We and we alone know what a shameless liar that boy is,” said the mother.
That night, Anny wept tears, and when they landed on her pillow, they turned into diamonds. In the morning, Jack visited the house to ask once more for her hand in marriage. As soon as Anny’s parents saw the lad at their garden gate, the father rushed out brandishing a hammer.
“Stick defend me!’ cried the boy. And when the father saw the stick fly out of the boy’s hand and come for him, he ran back straight away into the house and bolted the door.
“What are you afraid of, husband?” demanded his wife. But the man was too petrified to speak a word. “Oh, well, a woman’s work is never done,” said his wife, taking her mop and planning to give the boy a beating. But it was not long before she too came running back into the house.
Meanwhile, Anny was watching Jack and waving to him from her window. Jack brought a ladder so that she could climb down - and of course she brought the diamond tears in her apron pocket.
That afternoon, they went to the church to be married. When Anny said “I do,” the donkey, who was standing outside the church, pooped enough gold and silver coins for all the villagers to have as presents.
After the ceremony, jack set the table out on the village green, and it produced a wonderful banquet including a white wedding cake - and everyone ate their fill.
And then Anny and Jack bought a big house on the hill and lived as happily ever after as Cinderella and Prince Charming. And Jack was always honest, generous, and kind, and was never again so naive as to let anyone steal his wonderful possessions.
And that was ‘Honest Jack’ read by me Jana, for Storynory.com
And we are delighted to dedicate this story to Edwyn in Los Angeles California, who is turning 11 years old this month. His mother Heidi tells us,
Edwyn's been listening to your podcast nearly daily since he was 6. There are too many favorites to list, but some outstanding tales are The Goblin Spider, Finnette, The Evil Mouse, 1001 Nights and the Ramayana tales. Thank you for spreading joy, creativity and a love for stories
Well Edwyn we wish you a very happy Birthday - and and a big thank you to your family for supporting Storynory on Patreon.
Tune in soon for more fabulous stories.
Bye for now!