MacDonald, Margaret Read. Compiler. “Old Joe and the Carpenter.” In Peace Tales, World Folktales To Talk About. Retold by Pleasant DeSpain.  Hamden, Connecticut:  Linnet Books, 1992.


Ethnic Origin:

United States, first known recording by Manly Wade Wellman as told to him by an old man named Green, a bee hunter, living near Bat Cave, Henderson County, NC in 1951.


Running Time:  7 minutes


Power Centers:

Power of forgiveness and friendship, not to let something little stand in the way of friendship.



Molly, Anna, and the Carpenter



Molly living alone in a cabin on mountain.  Molly has argument with neighbor over calf. Carpenter knocks on the door and has tea with Molly.  Carpenter works outside.  Molly returns, finds bridge and makes up with neighbor.



Molly a widow lady is living alone in a cabin on side of mountain and has silly argument with best friend and neighbor, Anna.  Anna has a creek dug between their property. A carpenter stops by looking for work. Anna asks carpenter to build fence to hide creek and Anna’s property. Carpenter says he thinks he can build something she will like. Molly leaves for town and comes back to find a bridge instead of a fence. Molly and Anna make up. Carpenter leaves saying he has more bridges to build.


Rhymes/Special Phrases/ “Flavor”:

“I believe I can give you something you will like."

“I’ve got more bridges to build.”



This story was chosen for middle adolescence (ages 14-17) to show them the importance of friendship and not to let something little break up a friendship. Sometimes it is better to be the bigger person and let bygones be bygones. The developmental characteristics that it focuses on is achieving more mature relationships, emotional independence and achieving socially responsible behavior.  The story is important to middle adolescence because it includes “self-discovery”, its “performance oriented” and shows “relationships are vital”. 

I think the story is also important because it speaks to the values one has. What do you value more, material possessions, “the cow” or friendship? These are questions that adolescence need to decide. They also need to decide on appropriate behavior. Is it appropriate to act on your need to get back at someone for something they have done? Should Anna have built the creek? Should Molly have the fence built?  Molly reacted because she was hurt that Anna dug the creek and took it as a personal affront to her. Molly still wanted to be friends and probably would have eventually made up if Anna had not dug the creek. Then she was too hurt and her pride wouldn’t let her. Adolescence need to see that there are consequences to their words and actions and how they have the power to hurt or help others. Even though “Molly and the Carpenter’ is about older people, I think that adolescence can see the lessons and maybe even discuss them without showing their vulnerability of talking about their own peer group


Bibliographic information of other versions/variants:


Pleasant DeSpain, storyteller. “Old Joe and the Carpenter.” In Thirty-three Multicultural Tales to Tell.  Little Rock:  August House, 1993.


Wellman, Manly Wade, retold.  “A Job of Work.”  North Carolina Folklore, vol. III, No. 1, July 1955.


MacDonald, Margaret Read. Compiler. “Looking Your Enemy in the Eye.” In Peace Tales, World Folktales To Talk About. Hamden, Connecticut:  Linnet Books, 1992.


MacDonald, Margaret Read. Compiler. “The Battle.” In Peace Tales, World Folktales To Talk About. Coyote Story by Peter Blue Cloud.  Hamden, Connecticut:  Linnet Books, 1992.


MacDonald, Margaret Read. Compiler. “Buddha Prevents a War.” In Peace Tales, World Folktales To Talk About. Hamden, Connecticut:  Linnet Books, 1992.


MacDonald, Margaret Read. Compiler. “The Rose Prince.” In Peace Tales, World Folktales To Talk About.   Retold by Sharon Creedon.  Hamden, Connecticut:  Linnet Books, 1992.


Brief comparison of all versions/variants:


The original story, “A Job of Work” is written in the Appalachian dialect more like it was transcribed directly from “old man Green.”  I really enjoyed the Appalachian flavor and I could just see this old man Green sitting on his front porch, spitting chewing tobacco and telling this writer from Chapel Hill the story.  The theme of the story about the bridge is similar to both “Old Joe and the Carpenter” versions with one major difference. 


“A Job of Work” has a spiritual theme and the carpenter symbolizes Jesus. In this story Old Joe has a crippled son that the Carpenter heals before he leaves. I think the story is not only showing the power of forgiving one another, but the power of spiritual forgiveness and faith.


Both versions of “Old Joe and the Carpenter” are credited to Pleasant DeSpain. There are differences in the two tales probably because a true storyteller never tells the story the same two times in a row.  The version in Peace Tales has more flesh on the story and the Multicultural Tales to Tell is more of a bare bones edition. DeSpain adds more warmth with her language in Peace Tales and also adds some of the Appalachian flavor with her words and expression. For example the use of “crick” versus “creek”.  The story just flows better in Peace Tales.  The Multicultural Tales to Tell reminds me of the politically correct fairy tales where all the ethnicity is taking out of it. You would think they would have wanted to keep the ethnicity when compiling multicultural tales.


“Looking Your Enemy in the Eye” is listed as a variant, but it is not applicable because it is really more of a peacemaking technique instead of a story so it is hard to compare.


In “Buddha Prevents a War,” the story is totally different, but the theme is throwing away something of great value, friendship, for something so little, water. It is the same theme, letting a silly argument break up a friendship. “The Battle” variant is similar in its use of dialogue.  It also uses a surprise ending like “Old Joe and the Carpenter” to bring about the realization that friendship is more important than who’s right and who’s wrong.  The narrative and story line though is totally different even though it is conveying a similar theme.


The “Rose Prince is listed as a variant and in the same way as the other stories it tells of choosing peace over conflict.  All of the variants have a major string that run through them, that we have control over our actions and we can choose peace or conflict.  The stories all show that good things happen if you choose peace versus conflict.  The Rose Prince is more fanciful, but it does appeal to the spiritual like “A Job of Work”, but in a supernatural world.