Thursday, October 27, 2011

The 31 Days of Halloween: Day 27

Halloween is the best time of the year. It's a wonderfully indulgent time, where your inner ghoul is given societal license to be put on display. To celebrate it to it's wicked fullest, the Midnight Cheese will be posting every day in October with excellent ways to enjoy the season. Whether it's horror films, video games, books or activities, check back every day for some new Halloween fun.

The Legend of Stingy Jack

The roots of our modern day tradition of carving Jack 'o Lanterns are buried in the soil of Ireland with the folk tale of Stingy Jack. There is a horror flick staring Kane Hodder and Tiffany Shepis coming out bearing that name this weekend. Rather than discuss that, I'm going to instead recount the folk tale for you here, as I remember it. It's not overly long (I'm transcribing it from memory here) and is perfect to perform on Halloween night. Share it with your friends and family.

The Legend of Stingy Jack
Stingy Jack was a wicked and deceitful man, who lived in a small town in Ireland several hundred years ago. He loved playing spiteful tricks on innocent folks. He loved drinking himself stupid even more than playing his tricks. Jack never worked a day in his foul life. He filled his belly with food and ale through theft and by manipulating innocent folks.

On a Halloween night much like this one, the townsfolk took to the public house as a means to steady themselves against the cold. As was common, Jack was also there and he was deep into his cup. The Devil, envious of the tales' of Jack's silver tongue and evil ways, joined him at the tavern that night intending to punish the foolish man. Ever the quick thinking, Jack asked if he could drink some ale before departing, offering to buy the second and third rounds if the Devil bought the first.

The Devil was impressed by Jack's suggestion and his calm demeanor facing death. He transformed himself into a coin with which to pay the bartender for two tankards of ale. No sooner had the Devil become a sixpence then did Jack snatch up the coin and place it into his pocket, next to a silver cross he had been carrying. The Devil could not change shape thus trapped and Jack refused to let him go until the Devil agreed not to take his soul for ten years. Begrudgingly the devil relented and was freed, promising not to return for ten years.

Now your or I might use that decade to turn from our wicked ways, hoping that we've time to save our souls from hell. Oh but not old Jack. He continued his wicked ways until one night, as he was walking drunkenly down a country road, he came across the devil himself coming to collect what was due him. Appearing to accept his fate, Jack asked the Devil just one favor before accompanying him to the underworld: "May I have an apple for me rumbling belly? The journey to hell is likely long on an empty stomach". Seeing no reason to deny the request, the Devil foolishly climbed a nearby apple tree to pick one. As he climbed, Jack sprung into action, placing crosses around the base of the tree, thus trapping the furious Devil once again.
This time, Jack made the Devil agree to never take his soul into hell. And having no recourse, the Devil agreed and was set free.

Now life is not long for someone who lives the hard way as Jack did. After some time, he died. His soul approached the gates of Heaven but he was turned away due to his wicked and sinful ways. Rebuffed and downtrodden, Jack approached the Devil to ask if he might be allowed a place in Hell. The Devil, smiling with gleeful malice, proclaimed that he must fulfill his promise to never take Jack's soul into Hell. "But where will I go?!" asked Jack. To make an example of him and to help him find his way back to Earth in the dark, the Devil tossed Jack a single ember straight from the fires of Hell. Jack place this ember into a hollowed out turnip and was doomed to wander the earth until the end of time, never finding rest, with only his Jack o'Lantern to light his way!

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