Sop Doll


Bibliographic Information (best version for telling): 

Chase, Richard, “Sop Doll,” In The Jack Tales, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1943.


Ethnic Origin:  Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina and Virginia


Running Time: 11-12 minutes


Power Center(s):

·         Jack’s calmness, casualness, and bravery,

·         Eeriness of the appearance of the twelve cats,

·         Old man’s surprise and sadness at finding his wife is the witch leader.



·         Jack

·         Old Man who owns the mill

·         One-eyed man with the silver knife

·         Old Man’s wife/Cat leader (leader of the witch gang)

·         Eleven other cats/Witch women in the settlement



·         Jack looking for work

·         Jack meeting the one-eyed man at the mill

·         Jack cutting off the cat’s paw

·         The next morning, Jack telling the mill owner of the previous night’s activities

·         Burning the witches




Jack comes to a settlement in search of work and meets a man who owns a grinding mill, but has no time to run it.  Jack is warned that the previous mill workers have been killed their first night on the job.  Jack takes the job anyway.  In the course of his first day’s work, Jack does a kindness for an old one-eyed man, and receives a gift of a silver knife.  While Jack is cooking his supper over the fire late that first night, a gang of witches shows up in the form of cats.  One of the cats tries to sop her paw in Jack’s supper skillet in order to poison him, but Jack cuts off the cats paw with the silver knife.  The cat’s paw turns into a woman’s hand.  The next morning the old man who owns the mill recognizes the ring on the hand as belonging to his wife.  She has remained in the bed that morning and asked the old man to send for eleven women of the settlement to help tend her.  The old man discovers that she no longer has a hand, and that the eleven women who have been sent for are her witch followers.  When all eleven of the women show up, they are locked in the house and burned to their deaths.



Rhymes/Special Phrases/"Flavor":

While there are no rhymes or repeating patterns I plan to use in this story, I do hope to capture the flavor of the Appalachian speech patterns.  There are turns of phrase such as “lookin’ for a job of work,” “yonder down the road a piece,” and “feelin’ right peaked,” along with many others that I plan to incorporate.


Audience (why is this story appropriate for the audience? developmental characteristics?):


I have chosen this story for a middle school audience for a number of reasons, most importantly because it is fun.  I believe that Jack tales are great for instilling a sense of cultural history (especially in the state of North Carolina) in a lively and entertaining way.


I feel it is especially applicable to these early adolescents because of the personal characteristics that Jack demonstrates.  Jack (in this story and many other Jack tales) is a confident and self-reliant individual.  These characteristics exhibiting self-worth are ones for which early adolescents are striving. 


Jack also shows constructive curiosity.  According to the Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development, this is an “essential requirement for healthy adolescence.”  Jack rarely runs from anything, and in “Sop Doll” it is his curiosity, as much as anything, about what is killing the mill workers on their first night that convinces him to take the job.


Another of the Carnegie Council’s “essential requirements for healthy adolescence” is finding ways of being useful to others.  In looking to do the best for himself, Jack is continually finding ways to help others in the process. He uses his wits and wisdom to see a problem through and solve it.  Cultivating problem-solving habits is another of those “essential requirements.”


Bibliographic information on other versions/variants (at least two)


Leach, Maria, “Sop, Doll!” In The Thing at the Foot of the Bed and Other Scary Tales, New York: Philomel Books, 1959.

This version of “Sop Doll” seems to be a very condensed one when compared to the Richard Chase version I have chosen to tell.  There is no flavor of the Appalachian dialect, and components of the story are missing, like the mysterious one-eyed man who seems to know Jack and who gives him the silver knife.  There is no retribution for the witches in this version either.  The story ends when the old man discovers his wife is a witch.  I find this version unsatisfying since all the flavor of Appalachia seems to be “sopped” out of it.



Hoke, Helen, “Sop Doll” In Spooks, Spooks, Spooks. New York: F. Watts, 1966.

Unfortunately, I was not able to get my hands on this version.  The book is out of print and the only copy in the Wake County Public Library System is reported as missing.  The UNC Library System does not have a copy.