"Jack and the Devil." in The People Could Fly, Virginia Hamilton.


Ethnic Origin


US African American


Running Time

~11 minutes


Power Center

Jack tricking the Devil twice



Jack and the Devilthere is a mention of some other characters (Jack's

family and the Devil's family in Hell).




Jack is evil/the Devil appears

Jack tricks the devil/Receives More Time

Jack is evil/the Devil appears again

Jack tricks the Devil/Makes a deal to be left alone

Jack dies and has nowhere to go




Jack is an evil man with a bad drinking habit and cruel ways.  The Devil appears at his doorstep to take him away to hell. Jack tricks the devil into transforming himself into a ten-cent piece and then keeps that ten-cent piece in his pocket until the Devil agrees to leave Jack alone for one year. During the year, Jack does not repent like he told himself he would and the Devil visits him again to take him away.  Again, Jack tricks the devil into climbing a tree and won't let him down until the Devil promises to leave him alone for good. He does just that.  Eventually Jack dies and goes to heaven.  The angels don't want him in heaven because he is a bad man.   He is sent down to hell and the Devil abandons him because of Jack's trickery. Jack is now destined to wander around with no place to go and just the faint light of a burning coal to guide him.




The Devil's laugh (sound effect)

The magic trick of making one dime into two dimes

Falling from heaven to hell (physical effect)



There is nice repetition in the story with the Devil visit Jack twice and getting tricked both times.  It is a fairly dark story; one that middle school aged children would pay attention to, mostly because of the mention of the Devil.  The actual story uses the word "hell" and I opted not to in my telling.  Even though kids in middle school would have heard that word before, I just didn't think it quite appropriate to use it in this story, but rather to merely imply that is the place Jack would go.  In addition, if the magic trick is done well, that should excite them and catch them by surprise, just as the Devil did to Jack and Jack then in turn did to the Devil.



Storytellers Sourcebook


Bibliographic Information


There are many other versions of the story with Scottish and Irish origins.  These all include references to turnips, and when the Devil throws Jack the burning coal, Jack places it within his turnip and this is where the jack-o-lantern came from.  I read that to this day, Scottish children still carve turnips on Halloween to commemorate the occasion.  I enjoyed Hamilton's version more because it was darker and didn't directly relate to Halloween.  I felt that mentioning the Jack-o-lantern would almost be anticlimactic and make it more of a fun story than a chilling one.  I much prefer Jack wandering the Earth with no place to go as a punishment for wrongdoings, rather than making a hero out of Jack by claiming that is where Jack-o-lanterns came from.