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A Johnny-cake is a small flat cake (akin to a little pancake) made out of cornmeal, water and salt. They were widely eaten in the U.S. in the 19th century.  Johnny-cakes are called hoecakes in the South.

The folk tale "Johnny-cake" is almost the same story as "The Gingerbread Man" except that a Johnny-cake is the main character instead of a Gingerbread Man. 

As far as I can tell, "Johnny-cake" came first.  I found reference to the Johnnycake tale in the "Journal of American Folklore" in 1888.  The earliest reference I’ve found to The Gingerbread Man tale is in the early 1900’s in The Beacon first-sixth reader, Book 1 (1913) by James Hiram Fassett. 

I welcome more info on this. If anyone has further information, please comment below!

Here’s a recording of the Johnny-cakes Tale followed by the text…

MP3 Recording of Johnny-Cake

Johnny-Cake

Once upon a time, a little old woman, a little old man, and a little boy, all lived in a little old house. One morning the old woman made a Johnny-cake. She put it into the oven.

Then she said to the boy, "You watch the Johnny-cake. Don’t let it burn. Father and I will go into the garden. So the old woman and the old man went out to the garden.

The little boy watched the oven for a little while. Then he grew sleepy. His head went nid, nod, nid.

Suddenly! He heard a noise. He looked up just in time to see Johnny Cake jump out of the oven. The little boy ran to the door, but Johnny Cake was too quick for him. Out of the door and down the road ran Johnny Cake. The little boy ran after him. "Johnny Cake is running away," he cried.

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Then the old man and the old woman began to run after Johnny Cake, but they could not catch him.

On went Johnny Cake. Soon he met two well diggers. Johnny Cake made up a face at the well diggers and called to them:

“I’ve run away from a little boy, an old man and an old woman, and I can run away from you too!”

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"You can, can you?" said the well diggers. "We will see about that."

They left the well and ran after Johnny Cake. But they could not catch him.

On went Johnny Cake. Soon he came to two ditch diggers. Johnny Cake laughed at the ditch diggers, and cried, "I outran a little boy, an old man, an old woman and two well diggers, and I can outrun you too!"

"You can, can you?" said the ditch diggers. "We will see about that."

They ran after Johnny Cake.  They ran and ran. But they could not catch him.

On went Johnny Cake till he met a bear. Johnny Cake growled at the bear and said, "I outran a little boy, an old man, an old woman, two well diggers and two ditch diggers and I can outrun you too!"

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"You can, can you?" said he. "We will see about that."

He started after Johnny Cake.  He ran and ran. But it was of no use.

On went Johnny Cake till he met a wolf. Johnny Cake danced up to the wolf and said, "I outran a little boy, an old man, an old woman, two well diggers, two ditch diggers and a bear, and I can outrun you too!"

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"You can, can you?" said the wolf. "We will see about that."

The wolf started after Johnny Cake. He ran and ran. But he could not catch him.

On went Johnny Cake. At last he met a fox. "Hey, where are you going?" said the fox.

Johnny Cake put out his tongue and said, "I outran a little boy, an old man, an old woman, two well diggers, two ditch diggers, a bear and a wolf, and I can outrun you too!"

"I cannot hear you," said the fox. "Come closer."

Johnny Cake went closer and said in a loud voice, "I outran a little boy, an old man, an old woman, two well diggers, two ditch diggers, a bear and a wolf, and I can outrun you too!"

"Ah, come just a little bit closer please," said the fox. "I do not hear well."

Johnny Cake went very close and said as loud as he could, "I outran a little boy, an old man, an old woman, two well diggers, two ditch diggers, a bear and a wolf, and I can outrun you too!"

“Oh, you can, can you?" said the fox, "Then run down my throat."

Then the fox gobbled Johnny Cake as quick as that.

johnnycakes fox

"Goodbye!" said Johnny Cake, "I ran well anyway!"

*****

Here’s a link to a Recipe for Johnny-cakes (aka Hoecakes)

Story Credits:

Read by Jason Pomerantz
Images and Text from The American School Readers, Book 1 (1911) by Kate Forrest Oswell and Charles Benajah Gilber.  Images graphically edited by Lisa Yannucci.

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This artilce was posted on Sunday, January 20th, 2013 at 8:37 pm and is filed under Arts and Crafts, Books & Stories, Folk Tales, Hoecakes, Illustrations, Johnny Cakes, Johnny-Cake, MP3's, Recipes of the World, Recordings, Recordings of Stories, Side Dishes, The Gingerbread Man. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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