Stingy Jack, Jack o’-lantern and Faust: the beginnings of Halloween tradition by Martin Cid

Stingy Jack, Jack o’-lantern and Faust: the beginnings of Halloween tradition by Martin Cid

Trick or treat? Sitingy Jack is the origin of Jack o’-latern. But we can go back to find a very ancient origin of this myth: Faust

Illustration by Harry Clarke for Goethe's Faust

Illustration by Harry Clarke for Goethe’s Faust

Ireland myth: the beginning of the Halloween tradition of the pumpkin.: Jack was a drunkard and he wasn’t the best of men. Let’s meet Jack, let’s meet with his story.

In Ireland there was a drunkard called Jack –sorry for kidding but… just him? I don’t think so. Sorry, let’s continue-. Jack deceived the Devil (there are two different versions) with a deal and, because of that deal, he couldn’t go either to heaven or hell. Now, he roams between the two worlds. The two different versions are not very important, in fact (you can read better here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stingy_Jack) and we can go on with much more interesting words.

Now, the literary myth: Faust (and note that I will simplify a lot). This time is not a drunkard –what a pity-. He signs a deal with the Devil to achieve power and success. Note that not only Goethe has written about the myth, there are many different versions of it, like (C/P, lol): Das Wagnerbuch (1593), Das Wagnerbuch (1714) or Doctor Faustus by Marlowe (1592). We can even go back to the year 1400 to connect Faust with Johan Fust! It’s a long way. Take a look here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faust

Aren’t they the same story narrated in two different contexts? Of course, Goethe’s Faust is more… German (?!?!?!) and the philosophical narration by Goethe bring us to a world of ancient myths and transcendental meanings about the Good and the Evil. But, in fact, there are no many great differences between the two stories and, one adapted for kids another for Kant, have the same roots that Oscar Wilde took borrowed for The Portrait of Dorian Gray. Stingy Jack for his meanness, Dorian Gray to preserve his eternal youth… and Faust for the success and the glory. For kids or for no kids, this myth has been seducing generation after generation.

(Note: there are another special and German book written by Thomas Mann based on this, Doctor Faustus. It’s about Adrian Leverkühn and maybe it’s based on the life of Arnold Schoenberg, the creator of the dodecaphonic music. I’ve read it and I’m not the same person after that. Really scaring book! –Take care about the irony, please-).

(Note II: And ever we can go back more and more and think about one very ancient book. Do you remember an apple and a woman and a snake and a man called Adam? I think you do).

Maybe you don’t but… I find a special irony comparing Thomas Mann with a tale for children. Yes, the Nobel Prize is great, magnificent and whatever you want but… aren’t both myths sharing the same dark origin? Yes, of course if you go to Ireland you have to adapt the story for the common people –then we have to talk about a drunkard- and if you are a German mustached man you would prefer to talk about Schopenhauer.

And, sometimes and some days and maybe… Hasn’t everybody got a soul of kid? If Thomas Mann had, we can be sure everybody has.

Have a great Halloween day!

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