Friday, October 29, 2010

Jack of the Lantern -- a story for the season


A retelling of a traditional Irish story....

Long ago in the old country

in days when the Gael were just startin' to follow in the path of Good Patrick

there lived the meanest man in Christendom...

well...truth be told, the meanest man of any land

and his name was Jack

he was so mean his neighbors all feared him

he kicked wee dogs, he yelled at the young'uns

he played dreadful jokes on everyone

once he even snuck up on the divil himself and tied a knot in his tail

he was so wicked it seemed he would live forever

... as pricks tend to do

but sure enough along came the day when even he died

so there he was

"well this is bloody lovely, here I am dead and all"

"I guess I'll be takin' me self off to hell then...I know they won't want me upstairs"

so he trudges off to the gates of Hades

But the divil bars the door an waves a pitchfork at him

says he

"where do ye think yer goin?"

Jack replies

"in there, Scratch, tis where I belong ain't it?"

but the divil shakes his head no

"you're too mean for even in here!...and don't ye go thinkin I don't know who put that kink in me tail!"

says Jack in reply,

"well, where shall I go?"

The divil sneered and waved his hand,

"pah, ye can go to heaven for all I care!"

so Jack sets off fer the pearly gates and is still a half mile off, when up comes a runnin' ol Peter himself, his sandals flappin', his long beard trialin behind him in the wind and his holy bathrobe floppin'

says the blessed Saint,

"where do ye think yer a goin', Bucko?"

Jack looked perplexed,

"The divil wouldna let me in downstairs so I came here and..."

But Good Peter holds up his hand and scowls

"OH NO yer NOT, laddie! If they wouldna let ye in down below, yer certainly not a-passin' though these gates!""

and Jack, he looked about...he couldna go to Hell he couldna go to heaven

so he set down to ...

...well... he took to weepin'

...for the first time, in his sorry existence, live or dead, he wept

an' the ol Saint's heart softened, and says he,

"Arright, laddie me buck...chin up... I tell ye what...I'll send ye back to earth as a spirit"

"and ye can wander an think upon yer wicked deeds and maybe in a few thousand years, I'll look at the tick sheet and see if we can let you in, eh?"

So off Jack goes... and he wanders the earth, and he was so lonely as the centuries went by...

thus, he took a turnip and hollowed it out...and carved a wee face on it

and put a candle inside, to make a little lantern, to carry and to keep him company

and people would see his light comin' o'er the hills at night, especially on the nights when the spirits come forth, like all hallows eve...

and the livin' folk still feared him. so beastly was his reputation

and they would say

"look out! for here comes Jack of the lantern"

So they took to making their own hollowed out turnip lanterns, with wee grimacing faces on them to scare Jack away from their doors

And when the folk came to amerikay...

they found the Indian squash..the big round poompkins

those were far easier to hollow out and cut a face into it

and they began the makin' o' their lanterns for the nights when the spirits all walk about in the land

an' they call em jack o' lanterns

for among the spirits that wander abroad on those nights like all hallows eve..they know that Jack is among the shades that walk

and they fear his evil tricks still

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