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De Origin o’ de Jack o’ de Lantern

De Origin o' de Jack o' de Lantern on De Origin o' de Jack o' de Lantern on

American Folklore has been passed down for generations. Read like a Mark Twain story in original “back-woods-country-talkin” dialect, here is a reprint from ‘Folk-Lore from Maryland,’ collected by Annie Weston Whitney and Caroline Canfield Bullock, Memoirs of the American Folk-Lore Society, volume XVIII, 1925, pp. 181-183. New York

How deh Jack O de Lantern Came tuh Be.

One day wuz a man name Jack. He wuz a mighty wicked man, an’ treat his wife and chil’en like a dawg. He didn’ do nuthin’ but drink from mawin’ tell night, an’ twarn’ no use to say nuthin’ ‘tall to ‘im ‘cause he wuz jus’ es ambitious es a mad dawg.

Well suh, he drink an’ he drink tel whiskey couldn’ mek ‘im drunk; but et las’ hit bu’n ‘im up inside, an’ den de Debble come fur ‘im. When Jack see the Debble, he wuz so skeart he leetle mo’n er drapt in der flo’. Den he bague de Debble to let ‘im off jes’ a leetle while longer, but de Debble say:

“Naw, Jack, I ain’ gwine wait no longer; I’s speckin’ yo’.  So de Debble start off pretty bis’ an Jack wuz bleeged to foller tell dey come to a grog shop.

‘Mr. Debble’, said Jack, ‘don’ yo wan’ a drink?’ “Well” said de Debble, “I b’leeve I does, but ain’ got no change’ we don’ keep no change down dyah.”

“Tell you wotcher do, Mr. Debble,” said Jack, “I got one doller en my pocket; yo’ change yerself inter’nurr doller, and we kin git two drink, and den yo’ kin change yo’ self back again.”

So De Debble chane hisse’f inter a doller, and Jack pick ‘im put, but ‘ tid o’ gwine de grog shop, Jack clap de doller inter he pocket-book dat he hadn’t took outen he pocket befo’, ‘cause he didn’t wan’ de Debble to see dat de ketch wuz in de shape ob a cross.

He shet it tight, an’ dyah he had de Bebble, an’ twarn’ no use for ‘im to struggle, ‘cause he couldn’ git by dat cross!

Well suh; fus he swar and threat’n Jack wid wat he wuz going to do to ‘im and den he begun to bague, but Jack jes’ ta’n round an’ start to go home. Den de Debble say:

“Jack, ef yo’ll lemme out o’ hyah, I’ll let yo’ off fur a whold year. I will, fur trufe. Lemme go, Jack, ‘cause my wife is jes too lazy to put the bresh on de fire, an’ hit’ll all go black out ef I ain’t dyah fo’ long ten’ to it.”

Den Jack say ter hisse’f, “I gret min’ to let ‘im go, cause in a whole year, I kin ‘pendt and git ‘ligion, an’ git shet in ‘im dat er way.”

Den he say, “Mr. Debble, I’ll letcher out ef yo’ ‘clar fo’ gracious yo’ won’t come after me fur tweel month.”

Den de Debble promise befo’ Jack undo de clasp, an’ by de time Jack got the pocket-book open he wuz gone. Den Jack say to hisse’f. “Well, now I gwine to ‘pent and git ‘ligion sho’; but ‘haint no use bein’ in no hurry; de las six mont’ will be plenty o’ time. Whar dat ten cent? Hyah it is. I gwine git me a drink”

Soes when de six mont’ was gone, Jack ‘lowed one mont would be time ‘nuff to ‘pent and find ‘ligion, and when de las’mont’ come, Jack ‘lowed he gwine hab one mo’ spree, and den he would have a week or ten days lef’, and dat was plenty of time, ‘cause ‘e donehearn o’ folks ‘penting on dey death bade.

Den he went on a spree for sho’, and when de las’ week come, Jack had ‘lirium trimblins, and de fus’ ting he knowed, dyah wuz de Debble at de do’, and Jack had to git outen he bade and go ‘lon wid ‘im. After a while, dey pass a tree full o’ gret big apples.

“Doin’ yo’ want some apples, Mr. Debble?” said Jack.

“Yo’ kin git some ef yo’wan’ ‘em,’ sad de Debble and he stop and look up in de tree.

“How yo’ spec’ a man wid ‘lirium trimblins to climb a tree?” said Jack. “Yo’ catch hol’ de bough, an’ I’ll pussh yer up in de crotch, an’ den yo’ kin git all yo’ wants’”

So, Jack push de Debble in de crotch, an’ de Debble ‘gin to feel de apples to git a meller one. While he wuz doin’ dat, Jack, he whip he knife outen he pocket, an’ cut a cross in de bark ob de tree jes’ under de Debble, and de Debble he holler, “Tzip! Sumpi’ nurr heet me den. Wothcer doin’ down dyah, Jack? I gwine cut yo’ heart out!”

But he couldn’ git down while dat cross wuz dyah, an’ Jack jes’ sat down on de grass, an’ watch ‘im ragin’ an’ swarin’ an cussin’. Jack keep ‘im dyahall night, tell ‘twuz gret big day, an’ de Debble chang he chune an’ he say:

“Jack, lemme git down hyah an’ I’ll gib yo’ nurr year.”

“Gimme nuttin’,” said Jack, an’ he stretch hisse’f out on de grass. After a while, ‘ bout sun up, de Debble say:

Jack, cut dis ting offen hyah, an lemme git down, an’ I’ll gib yo’ ten year,”

“Naw, surre,” said Jack, “I won’ letcher git down less yo’ clar fo’ gracious dat yo’ won’ never com arfter me no mo’.’

When de Debble fin’ Jack wuz es hard as rock, he ‘greed, an’ lclared fo’ gracious dat he wouldn’ never come fur Jack agin, an’ Jack cut de cross offen the tree, an’ de Debble lef’ widout a word.

Arfter dat Jack never thought no mo’ ‘bout ‘pentin, and finding ‘ligion, cause he warn’ feared ob de Debble, an’ he didn’ wan’ to go whar dey warn’ no whiskey.

Den, he lib on tell he body war out, an he wuz bleeged to die. Fus’ he wen to de gate o’ heaven, but de angel jes’ shake he hade. Den he went to de gato’ hell, but when it would come dat Jack wuz dyah, de Debble holler to de imps:

“Shet de do’ an don’ let dat man come in hyah; he done treat me scan’lous. Tell ‘im to go long back whar he come from.”

Den Jack say:

“How I gwine fine my way back in de dark? Gimme a lantern.”

Den de Debble tek a chunk outen de fire, an’ say, “Hyah, tek dis, an’ doncher nuver come back hyah no mo’.”

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