Little Jack an' de Tax-Man and Other Acadian Stories from Prince Edward Island
P.J. Hammel is a professor of Education at the University of
Antoinette Gallant has brought together 28 stories which are part of the oral tradition of her Acadian French heritage in Prince Edward Island. In an attempt to preserve the flavour of the original mode of expression, she presents them in the “fractured English which we children used when communicating with others who were unable to speak French.”
Six of the stories, which Gallant refers to as the Little Jack series, are of the morality folk tale or fairy tale type and, as Gallant suggests, have their origin in France or in the broader European tradition.
Certainly, the familiar themes are there: Little Jack and the beanstalk, for example, with a good witch and a bad witch instead of a giant; Little Jack decapitating “de beast wit’ seven heads” in order to win the hand of the beautiful princess; and Little Jack who, after having performed a good deed for a lion, an eagle, and an ant, receives the magical powers to turn himself into a powerful lion, soaring eagle, or tiny ant in order to save and marry the beautiful princess.
The greater majority of the stories, however, have their origins in the austere and difficult life of the Acadian farmer in Prince Edward Island. Here are the typical ghost stories, haunted house stories, graveyard at midnight stories, and stories of misadventure with farm animals and machinery. Typically they reflect, in the simple and spare style of rural life, man’s eternal wisdom, man’s childlike naivete and simplicity, man’s duplicity and vulgarity, and, indeed, man’s need for humour in the midst of adversity. In short, a reflection of life.
These stories will obviously have greatest appeal for those who have a nostalgic or historical interest in Acadian French rural life. Other readers will find rather difficult the dialect which the author has attempted to render as phonetically accurate as possible. For greatest enjoyment these stories should be read aloud by someone who can authentically reproduce the dialect.