A Giant, An Imp, and Two Jacks; Children's Tales from Scotland, Ireland, and England
You never know what Jack will do next--from bringing his mother a dancing cockroach to carrying a calf upside down. Whatever he does will make you giggle! And you will gasp as a giant kidnaps princesses and an imp spins his tail and flies.
Stories: Peerifolk (Scottish) 12:43; Tom Tit Tot (English) 10:37; Silly Jack (Irish) 12:09; Lazy Jack (English-American) 11:53
Here are several reviews:
"Storyteller Harlynne Geisler tells four folktales from Scotland, Ireland, and England in this immensely appealing collection....Harlynne Geisler's rich voice and natural pacing bring the stock characters of the folktales to life....The dialogue is expressive, and Geisler adds just a dash of contemporary touches for humor while maintaining the authenticity of the tales. School and public libraries will find this an outstanding choice for folklore collections."
-Nancy L. Chu, Western Illinois University, Macomb, in School Library Journal March 2001
"Who has been eating the cabbages of the struggling queen and her three princess daughters? Who are the Peerifolk and why do they carry knitting needles? Will the young Queen save her head by guessing the real name of the Imp who saved her skin? Will Jack ever make his mother truly happy? Will the other Jack ever make the dour princess laugh?
Harlynne Geisler answers these questions and more in her entertaining and very funny recording, A Giant, An Imp and Two Jacks. Based on well-known and well-loved Scottish, Irish and English folktales, Harlynne adds her own uniquely American twist - to sidesplitting results!
With the rich, low voice of a seasoned performer, Harlynne gives life to her characters by changing pitch and range. This gives the listener a real treat - your brain tells you you are listening to one person, but your ear hears several others. Each of these stories differs in style. A Giant is told in a traditional vein - here, we have a Queen who has fallen out of favor trying to raise her three daughters as best she can when she discovers that her cabbages are being stolen. Each of her three children allows herself to be kidnapped by a grouchy giant and placed in slavery. Each meets the winsome and needle-wielding Peerifolk. Each deals with these little people on her own terms, two to less-than-desired results, the last with great fortune.
An Imp, my personal favorite, is told with an almost medieval flair. The Imp is referred to as "That." A pie-loving, not-too-brainy girl has the good fortune, due to her mother's trickery, to marry a King. The King thinks he has married a gifted weaver - NOT! In comes "That" who, with a flick of That's tail, helps her out of her jam and then threatens to expose her for the fraud that she is. Only by chance does she save her life.
It amazes me how Silly Jack can get out of bed in the morning! When his mother becomes so poor that she has to sell the family cow, Jack cannot resist being hoodwinked. With his trio of unlikely companions (a harp-playing bee, a mouse and - Yuck! - a cockroach), he finds immeasurable wealth by making a princess laugh. This is told in a very contemporary way, and Harlynne makes the most of her voice's range in this one.
Lazy Jack, the funniest story of the bunch, is a traditional English tale, but as Harlynne mentions at the very beginning, she tells it in a Midwestern twang. The result is perfection - a well-crafted, tight story with each part fitting neatly inside the other. Jack goes off to town to sell a cow at market. His mother (who seems very wise but could have saved herself and Jack a whole lot of trouble by speaking plainly) asks him to bring back something that will "make me happy". Jack attempts to bring home various things, like gold, calves, cats, etc., but nothing seems to work because in this case, the means justify the end and Jack just doesn't have the knack.
If laughter is the best medicine, this CD is worth much more than its asking price. Give yourself a treat and a chuckle - Enjoy!
-Joan Wolff in the Patchwork Newsletter, Pennsylvania
"These traditional tales resonate with a newfound luster under the careful crafting of Harlynne Geisler. It's easy to imagine the twinkle in her eye and impish grin on her face as you willingly follow her lead down this freshly swept story trail. Harlynne's rich voice and subtle wit make this collection of tales a must have for storytelling libraries. My ten-year-old daughter and I were mesmerized.
-Teresa Clark in The Storytellers newsletter, Idaho
"Here you will find solid versions of four solid traditional tales, each with a bit of the wry personality and sly comment of the teller.
She tells "Peerifolk," featuring three princesses cast out of the palace when their father died, ad each in turn trying to overcome the giant who is eating the cabbages they grow to survive on. Very satisfying.
This if followed by a traditional "Tom Tit Tot," and an Irish "Silly Jack" who keeps trading their cow for a bee and a harp, a mouse, and a cockroach. Their skill at making people laugh eventually soles all the problems. The last is "Lazy Jack," losing his pay each day, and each day doing what he should have the previous day.
Each tale is preceded by a bit of the music of the country it came from. These are well chosen versions, told fully and well. And, if you're like me, you'll realize it's been a long time since you have heard these tales told this well.
-Kate Frankel. Storyline; A Publication of the Storytelling Association of Alta California, Fall, 2000
Review in Story Art Magazine April, May, June 2001:
Harlynne Geisler has provided us with a quartet of highly tellable and listenable to tales. Her crisp, well-modulated and articulate tones can suddenly become the voice of wee peerifolks (Scottish fairies) asking, "We be hungry, spare a little food," or in "Tom Tit Tot" she becomes the mother of the "gatless" girl and sings in deep, earthy tones the song that sets the tale in motion. In the same story, her Imp voice is, indeed, impish! In "Lazy Jack," Harlynne treats us to a wonderful range of humor-induced sounds. Her "giggle, chortle, chuckle, laugh" and finally a "guffaw" are infectious. Be prepared to join in!
Harlynne's story choices are interesting and most entertaining. "Silly Jack," perhaps known to some audiences as "The Bee, the Harp, the Mouse, and the Bum Clock" (cockroach) follows the text of Seumas MacManus very closely. The changes such as "Do you think that was a good trade?" involves direct address which gives a feeling of audience consultation. MacManus has the princess laugh once in his version. Harlynne uses a gradation of laughs, as she does in "Lazy Jack"--this time a giggle, a chuckle, and a guffaw! Perhaps the most prominent "era change" in when Harlynne describes the princess as one who has "been there, done that, didn't like reruns." The folktale purist might be momentarily taken aback, but Harlynne's skillful handling of the totality of the tale leaves no lingering sense of violation.
There is a wonderfully mischievous feminist strand apparent in the three other tales. In "Peerifolk," we have a blended mix of "Jack the Giant Killer" or "Jack and the Beanstalk" and a little bit of "Rumpelstiltskin." This engaging tale emphasizes female sagacity on the part of the third daughter-no male youngest simpleton son here! Instead of repeating the exchange between the second sister and the giant, the teller steps from her story and says, "You know what happens!" At the end of the story, the two elder sisters pour boiling water on the giant. "That was the end of him," says the teller. Death is not mentioned-an anti-violence protester would have to admit that!
"Tom Tit Tot," an English "parallel tale" wit the German tale, "Rumpelstiltskin," follows the text of Katharine Briggs' British Folktales very closely. Harlynne wisely does not tell in the Suffolk dialect. Her own voice is splendidly appropriate. To find out what happened to the "gatless" girl who "ate the pies" and had to spin five skeins of flax, refer to "The Gypsy Woman" (Briggs). The mindless girl winds out when her husband the king refuses to ever again allow her to touch a spinning wheel. I'd enjoy hearing Harlynne bring the tale full circle! Teachers would find a comparison/contrast study of "Tom Tit Tot" and "Rumpelstiltskin" an excellent story pair!
The fourth tale of the quartet is "pure Harlynne." "Lazy Jack," an English folktale, might be recognized as "Epamininondas," a Southern United States tale, or as "Prudent Hans," a German tale. As a child, I learned it as "Careful Hans." Harlynne tells us that in this tale she will be speaking in her Southern Illinois dialect. The tale takes a new life from a feminine stance. Jack words for a farmer, a baker, and a butcher -all female! The cattle rancher is the only male employer! Again, Harlynne engages the audience! For example, "I know what you are thinking, and you could be right," and "This, being a fairy tale, he just naturally...." This Jack, as in "Jack and the Golden Goose," makes a princess laugh, but with a calf not a goose. The princess can choose to marry Jack or not! She did marry him, and Harlynne tells us "with a wife to TELL him what to do, Jack's worries are over!"
I have often heard it said that the teller must fade into the background and allow the story to speak for itself. If that were so, then we would require only one generic teller for all tales. Harlynne infuses these thought provoking and fun-filled tales with liveliness and laughter while skillfully developing each character. I recommend that you take these five-star story transfusions!
"Her pleasant clear voice is easy to listen to. Without theatricals she uses voice tone and inflection to create her characters. The stories come to life as Harlynne shares her joy of those old tales....This is a CD worth adding to a storyteller's library."
-Swag of Yarns; Australia's National Storytelling Magazine Summer 2000