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Here Be Dragons co-curated by Cressida Cowell and Toothless - opens 13 July. Admission included with ticket to the Galleries

1001 lazyjack
Added on 30th June 2020

Oral tradition British folktale

UK and Ireland Family Funny
1001 , Audio , Text

In this British folktale poor Jack tries so hard to do as his mother tells him, but nothing seems to work out quite right.


Jack’s mother, tired of his laziness, sends him out to work. On the first day he is given a penny but loses it on the way home. His mother tells him he should have put it in his pocket. On the next day he is paid in milk which he puts in his pocket. Each day he follows his mother’s advice with disastrous results until the day he is carrying a donkey home on his shoulders, the sight of which causes the deaf and dumb daughter of a rich man to laugh and thus recover her lost speech and hearing. Jack is rewarded.

Why we chose it

Lazy Jack was one of the stories in our original audio stories collection. These stories are particularly suitable for learning to retell.

Where it came from

This story comes from the North of England. It appeared in Joseph Jacob’s English Fairy Tales in 1890. Jacobs was a great collector of English folklore. Inspired by the work of the Brothers Grimm in Germany, he collected and retold oral folk stories to keep them alive so that children in Britain could read British folk stories.

Where it went next

Tony Ross brought out an excellent picture book version of the story.

Associated stories

In traditional stories Jack is often a simple character, well-meaning but prone to misunderstanding and comic disaster. Jack’s exchange of the cow for magic beans in Jack and the Beanstalk is probably the most famous example. A number of pantomimes have a stock character called Jack whose comic role is to misunderstand.

Added on 30th June 2020

Oral tradition British folktale

UK and Ireland Family Funny
1001 , Audio , Text

Story Resources

  • Lazy Jack story text PDF (198.291 KB)