Jack o’ the Lantern

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  • Teideal (Title): Jack o’ the Lantern.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 840121.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): none.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): none.
  • Cnuasach (Collection): Joe Heaney Collection, University of Washington, Seattle.
  • Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): story.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): unavailable.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 31/01/1984.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): University of Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): evening Class.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Will o’ the Wisp

A version of the well-known tale, which purports to explain the phenomenon of ignis fatuus, the ghostly light sometimes seen in country areas, especially where there are peat bogs.

Jack is a poor blacksmith. One day he gives food to an old man who turns up at the forge, and in return, the stranger (who is eventually revealed to be St Joseph) gives him three wishes. Jack’s wishes don’t please the old man, but the reason for them becomes clear in due course, as he uses them to outwit the Devil.

In the end, Jack having made himself unacceptable in heaven because of his deal with the Devil, and unwelcome in hell because of his success in outwitting the Devil, he is condemned to wander the night world as a spirit, with only a small light or ‘wisp’ for guidance.


This story corresponds to an international tale-type, AT 330.