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Interview 8 with Gail E. Haley

Haley, Gail E. (8)
Wright, Christina
Date of Interview: 
Haley, Gail E.; Hicks, Ray, 1922-2003; Acrylic painting; Children’s literature; Folk literature; Illustrations; Jack tales; Linoleum block-printing; Mountains--Folklore; Storytelling; Interviews (Sound recordings); Oral histories
Gail Haley, an author and illustrator of children’s literature born in Charlotte, N.C., recalls her continuing career as a children’s author. In this eighth of sixteen interviews, Ms. Haley describes two of her publications connected with the mythic character of Jack, Jack and the Bean Tree (1986) and Jack and the Fire Dragon (1988). Ms. Haley recounts how she first became involved with Jack while reading the work of Joseph Campbell as well as her interpretations of the character using the theories of Campbell and Carl Jung. In particular, she discusses Jack as an archetypal figure and “everyman” whose character spans cultures. Ms. Haley describes the two Jack tales she adapted in terms of popular folklore journeys, the journey to the upper world and the journey to the lower world. In addition, Ms. Haley notes the ubiquitous appearance of the symbol of the bean tree (or tree of life) which occurs in various storytelling traditions. Reflecting on the artistic techniques represented in these picture books, Ms. Haley notes that her choices were driven by the differing narratives. For Jack and the Bean Tree she employed primarily acrylic paints on wood in order to produce textures which emphasize the family’s poverty, whereas the artwork created for Jack and the Fire Dragon utilized linoleum cuts in order to accentuate black lines to highlight her use of color. Woven throughout her discussion of both texts, Ms. Haley recounts her experiences with Ray Hicks, a teller of Jack tales in the mountains of North Carolina. Other themes in this interview include storytelling, stories of Ms. Haley’s family, the importance of folklore and historical stories, and the changing roles of men and women in stories and society.
North Carolina--Blowing Rock; circa 1980s - 2007
Interview Setting: 
Charlotte, N.C.
Interviews with Gail E. Haley
Interview Audio: