Article/page published: 09 January 2017
Last updated: 14 January 2017
Of course there’s a story about it. But it’s not for you. Not at this time of night. Why, it would frighten the life out of you. Look at the cat, skimbled out of his wits. No, it’s not for you, that tale.
The Famous Adventures of Jack is dedicated to the memory of Katherine M Briggs, who was a novelist and a collector of British folk stories. She published an enormous encyclopaedia of folk stories that she had collected from all kinds of sources, sometimes just by sitting by the fire listening to an old country person telling the tale that their grandparents had told them. Without her, some wonderful stories would have been lost forever. Quite a few of these stories are about a character called Jack. He’s our British folk hero, just as stories (sometimes the same ones) are told about Hans in Germany or Ivan in Russia. Sometimes he’s rich, and sometimes he’s brave, and sometimes he’s foolish, but he’s always called Jack. Everybody knows the story of Jack and the Beanstalk, and many people shiver at the tale of Jack the Giant Killer, but not many of the other Jack stories are still told. So I decided to retell some of them, but I’ve set them inside a story of my own, where Jill, a black cat, and Old Mother Greenwood, set off in search of brave young Jack and the gruesome giant Cormoran in Cornwall. Before long, Jill gets drawn into an adventure which might make her even braver than Jack himself.