Jack and the Dentists Daughter, Interpreting the story

This is a more contemporary, realistic story than some of the others in the series. But under the surface are age-old motifs of testing, ingenuity and persistence. The Grimms’ tale called “The Master Thief” (the source of the Appalachian tale from which this story is adapted) is a darker, more unresolved version of the same work. Jack, the hero of the tale, is a character “type” called the trickster, found in tales all over the world. Some people feel that this character type goes all the way back to the god Hermes in Greek mythology. Tricksters have to go outside the usual conventions of society in order to survive or attain their goals, and often they are very roguish or immoral. But in this film, Jack is a Robin Hood character, forced to steal when he cannot find an honest job. He steals from the robbers much as Jack steals from the giant in “Jack and the Beanstalk,” proving his mettle by outdoing a group of formidable opponents. His “trials” after that incident (there are three trials, as in many tales of this type) help him gain a place in the world and win his true love. But his ingenuity is also enjoyable in itself. Although the dentist is so respectable, he keeps breaking his word to Jack. He also uses his position in society to dominate poorer people like Jack. He thinks Jack is a common farm boy who won’t amount to anything. In fact, his attitude seems much like that of the princess toward the frog in “The Frog King.”