Andersen Fairy Tales, Andersen-Hans Christian

Jack the Dullard-an Old Story Told Anew

Jack the Dullard-an Old Story Told AnewJack the Dullard-an Old Story Told Anew

There was once a princess who declared that she would marry any man who could come before her and have a proper conversation. Many men had tried, but when they got into the presence of the princess they became shy and tongue twister.

Two brothers decided they would go and try for the hand of the princess. Both were learned and considered themselves to have a good chance. One of them even had the Latin dictionary memorized. Their father gave each of them a nice horse to ride to the castle on, but they forgot about their youngest brother.

The youngest brother was named Jack and no one talked about him because he wasn’t the brightest crayon in the box. Jack wanted to try for the princess too. The brothers thought he was stupid and the father declared that he would not give Jack a horse. Jack decided to ride the goat.

On the way to the castle, Jack found several things he said he was going to give to the princess–a dead crow, a piece of a shoe, and some clay, which is said was of the finest sort and put in his pockets.

All three brothers arrived at the castle. The first went in. The princess said she was going to have dinner and the first brother couldn’t think of anything to say. The princess ordered him out.

Next went the second brother. The princess said she was having dinner and the second brother likewise didn’t have much to say; he did manage to sputter a few words and sounds though.

It was Jack’s turn now. The princess said she was going to have dinner, maybe peasant. Jack asked if he might roast his crow at the same time. The princess said he certainly could. The conversation evolved and ended up with Jack using the shoe piece as a platter and the clay as gravy.

The princess finally asked Jack what he would do about the men judging his conversation and writing everything down. Jack pulled some of the mud out of his pocket and flung it at one of the men. The princess thought this was wonderful and married Jack, who eventually became king.


It’s not very likely that a king would let his daughter marry anybody who fulfilled some contest requirement. King’s daughters were for strategic alliances, not fun and games. So this concept is a little far-fetched, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t make for a good story.

There are many variations of this story. There are multiple Grimm’s fairy tales that have a similar story line. There is always that one brother whom no one thinks can accomplish the task, but it turns out he is the only one who can because he is blessed in his simplicity and lack of skill in such a way that is fortuitous.

"Carlo VI di Francia, Maestro di Boucicaut, codice Ms. Français 165 della Biblioteca Universitaria di Ginevra" by Meister des Maréchal de Boucicaut - De Vecchi-Cerchiari, I tempi dell'arte, volume 2, Bompiani, Milano 1999.. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -,_Maestro_di_Boucicaut,_codice_Ms._Fran%C3%A7ais_165_della_Biblioteca_Universitaria_di_Ginevra.jpg#/media/File:Carlo_VI_di_Francia,_Maestro_di_Boucicaut,_codice_Ms._Fran%C3%A7ais_165_della_Biblioteca_Universitaria_di_Ginevra.jpgThemes

The whole idea here is to count that person whom you think doesn’t count. You would be surprised what he/she can actually do. Does it matter that Jack may have had a mental handicap? Well, for this story, no; in a matter of a man ruling a country, yeah, probably; it probably matters a lot, but countries have had mentally unstable rulers before. Who was that guy that thought he was a glass animal? Ah, yes, Charles VI of France; the dude needed help.

This story is about the underdog. Don’t count that guy out.


Was this princess like five? Why would you marry a man who threw mud in some guy’s face unless you were five?

Weigh In

What do you think happened to the brothers after this story?

What do you imagine happened to the country under Jack’s leadership?


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