The Tale of Cinder Jack
There was once a farmer who had three sons. One morning he noticed a considerable amount of damage had been done to the vines in his vineyard so he asked his eldest son to guard it. The eldest cheerfully complied and took a cake with him to eat for his lunch. At lunchtime as he was eating the cake a frog appeared and asked him for a piece.
“Never!” cried the boy, “Go away!” he shouted and threw a stone at the creature. The frog hopped off saying no more and in the hot afternoon sun the boy fell asleep. When he woke up he discovered someone had been in the vineyard destroying many grape vines.
Of course his father was not very happy and the next day sent his second eldest son to guard the vineyard. Exactly the same thing happened with him, the frog came and asked him to shade his food. He gave it nothing and chased it away and fell asleep and when he woke up found the vineyard had been vandalized.
His father was furious and at a loss to know what to do. His youngest son, who they called Cinder Jack because he always sat with his feet in the ashes of the fire to keep them warm, spoke up saying, “Father, my two brothers have tried and failed therefore trust me and I will not fail you and the vineyard will remain safe.”
This caused his father and two brothers to laugh and make fun of him because they thought him something of a simpleton. Nevertheless, Cinder Jack was adamant and at last his father allowed him to guard the vineyard. So the next morning Cinder Jack went into the vineyard taking a cake with him for his lunch.
The Hungry Frog
After spending all morning alertly patrolling the vineyard he grew hungry so he sat down took out the cake and began to eat. As he ate the frog appeared and hopped up to him and sat staring at him with a questioning look on his face and then asked for a piece of the cake. Cinder Jack immediately broke of a generous portion and gave it to the frog.
After they had finished eating the frog gratefully gave the boy three rods. One was made copper, one of silver and the other of gold. The frog then told him that three horses would appear pretty soon and begin to trample the vineyard. Like the rods the horses would be copper, gold and silver in color. Then he told him that if he pointed the appropriately colored rods at the horses they would become as tame as can be and obey his commands.
Just as the frog foretold the horses arrived and began to trample over the grapes. Cinder Jack pointed the rods at them and told them to stop. Just as the frog had said, they did and obeyed his every command. That year the vineyard produced beautiful grapes that made the most wonderful wine. Cinder Jack never told his father nor his brothers what happened just resumed his usual position by the fire with his feet in the ashes keeping them warm.
The king of the land had a beautiful daughter and he decided it was time she was married. To find what he thought of as a suitable husband he decided he would hold a competition with her as the prize. He had his servants erect a tall fir pole before the church with a golden wreath of rosemary tied to the top. Then he made proclamation saying that any man who could retrieve the rosemary from the top of the fir pole in one jump would win the hand of his daughter in marriage.
The Copper Knight
The news spread far and wide and all of the best and most noble knights of the land came to try their luck but all failed. As the last one rode sadly away a knight suddenly appeared dressed in copper armor riding upon a copper horse with his visor covering his face. Racing up to the fir pole spurred his horse into a jump and easily snatched the rosemary wreath from the top of the fir pole and rode off before anyone could move.
His two brothers had witnessed the scene and when they returned home they told their father about the mysterious copper knight and his massive jump. Cinder Jack was sat with his feet in the ashes as usual and told them that he had seen the entire scene much better than they. When they asked him where he had been to see it all he told them, ’On top of the fence.” Therefore the two brothers went and pulled down the fence to prevent their younger brother using it to see from again.
The Silver Knight
The following Sunday, because the copper knight had not claimed his daughter’s hand, the King ordered that a higher pole be erected with a golden apple on top and announced that whoever could pluck the golden apple from the top of the pole could have his daughter’s hand in marriage.
Once again all of the knights of the realm tried to pluck the apple and all failed. As the last one failed there came riding a knight all in silver armor riding upon a silver horse who spurred it to a massive jump and plucked the golden apple from the top of the pole and rode away before anyone could approach him.
Again his brothers came home with the news of what they had seen. Again, Cinder Jack told them he had witnessed the event much better than they by standing on the pig shed. This annoyed his brothers so they demolished it so that he would not be able to use it again for that purpose.
The Golden Knight
The third Sunday, the king ordered an even higher pole to be erected and this time one of his daughter’s silk handkerchief was placed at the top. Once again all the knights in the land came and tried their luck and all failed and at the very last there came a knight clad in golden armor riding upon a golden horse. The golden knight spurred his horse to a magnificent jump and took the handkerchief and rode off.
Again the two brothers went home to report what they had seen but this time Cinder Jack told them he had witnessed the scene from on top of the roof. Furious, the two brothers took off the roof of their house to prevent Cinder Jack using it again.
The following Sunday the King announced the knights who had taken the rosemary, the apple and the handkerchief should bring these prizes to him to prove their worth in a final competition. When none of those knights presented themselves the King ordered every man in his kingdom to appear before him but still he could not identify any of the winners. As everyone was about to go home in the distance a knight riding a golden charger clad in a suit of armor of shining gold came galloping towards them. Seeing this the King ordered the cannons to be fired in his honor and the church bells to be rung.
The knight galloped up and seeing the princess by her father handed to her the rosemary wreath, the golden apple and the handkerchief. Then he dismounted and politely and respectfully told the King he had come to claim his daughter’s hand in marriage. Lifting his visor he revealed his face and the townsfolk were astonished to see it was none other than Cinder Jack.
The King kept his promise and Cinder Jack married his daughter. All of his people loved and respected him and he had a long and happy reign. Now you would think that Cinder Jack would perhaps want revenge for his treatment by his brothers, but instead he rebuilt the house completely and gave them and his father riches and presents. He invited his father to live with him and his wife in their palace. When the King died, because of his kind nature and generosity they made Cinder Jack their King.
© 25/07/2018 zteve t evans
References, Attribution and Further Reading
Copyright July 25th, 2018 zteve t evans
- The Folk-Tales of the Magyars by Erdélyi, Kriza, Pap, Jones, and Kropf
- Image by Anthony van Dyck [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons