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Online links to stories/info about Limberjack - Limberjacks
SOS: Searching Out Stories/Info - Limberjack - Limberjacks
Advice, Comments and References from Storytellers,
Teachers and Librarians


Made by Frank Sunseri 2009

Online links are in blue and underlined. Click on them to get more information.
Short descriptions included for your convenience and to save you research time.
My husband, Frank, makes Limberjacks, Limberjack Dogs (see image above) and (soon) Limberjack Frogs out of red oak. He's thinking about a pumpkin and bat for this Halloween, too.
MaryLee and Frank Sunseri
Creating a Bluegrass Limberjack.
Limberjack from Wikipedia.
Traditional Music and Instruments of Appalachia.
How to play a limberjack.
Low tech toys (scroll down or key in "limberjack").
Making a Dancing Limberjack.
Dancing Man Toy bibliography.
Grandpa Gene's American Folk Toys.

Advice, Comments and References from Storytellers, Teachers and Librarians

(excerpts from Storytell posts plus original research)

Book titles, movie titles and online links are in blue and underlined. Click on them to get more information.
Story and song titles are in italics.
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Posts are added chronologically as they are received by Story Lovers World.

1) I don't know if you know what the doll is called. I have a collection in all sizes and designs including a number of dancing animals. Two of the names for this folk toy are "Dancing Dan" and "Limberjack." A female version is known as a "Limber Jill." Origin is attributed mainly to the Appalachian area of the U.S., but I'm sure, like most folk toys, it can be traced back to Europe, or Asia, etc. I think the best thing to use would be a song or nursery rhyme with dancing as a theme like "Dance to your daddy, My little Laddie" I don't remember the rest. Or: "Boatman sing, boatman dance, boatman loves Miss MaryAnn. Dance, boatman, dance. Dance, boatman, dance." "Sur le pont d'Avignon, l'on y danse, l'on y danse. Sur le pont, d'Avignon,l'on y danse tous en ronde." (please excuse my French) Maybe recite an appropriate poem like Mr. Bojangles (probably too mature for these kids), or create a rap.

What you have is sometimes called a Limberjack. I have seen some people just play banjo music on their tape recorder and let him dance and the kids are just mesmerized. The only story that really goes well is Gingerbread Man and when he is on the fox, he can sit down on the paddle and then gets flipped upside down and lands in the fox's mouth, how sad.

I use the Limberjack with preschoolers and it's always a hit. They just laugh and laugh as the limberjack dances. I sing a song to go with it, and then (try) get the kids to sing while I play a kazoo and have the limberjack dance.

Limberjack has been a big hit at my school assemblies in Japan. The challenge is to get the principal to sit on the board and make the doll dance. Even the stuffed shirts ("umeboshi," literally pickled plum) get a kick out of it. Trouble is, they can't pronounce the doll's name (Rinbu-jaku?).

I know Graham Langley of the UK uses one like that. He was here in Perth several years ago and demontrated it and told stories and sang. So if you can locate his email address, you might like to ask him.

I have used Limberjacks of all sorts for a lot of years. Besides the dancing man; I have also used a dog (a great addition to any story or song that has a running dog in it such as the Split Dog story), dancing roosters (Henny Penny), frog, and others. Most often, I set a rhythm with their feet and sing to the beat. I use them in stories that show the character running. Instead of the now-traditional buga-da buga-da, using the limberjack to show movement is a great way to
add a whole new dimension to a story. Humor flows easily from limberjacks. When Jack is tired from running from the purple boogies, he can visually sit down as a limberjack. Limber dogs can roll over and play dead or limber roosters can lay an egg (anitomically wrong, but funny.) Like any prop, if used too much, they lose their punch. I do not use them for every show, and often do not even travel with them. But, a limberjack will light up any audience.

Limberjacks - Musical Rhythm Toy
This seems like a bargain...

Any idea where they can be purchased? I live in Michigan, so any storytellers in Michigan, can you tell me where I may purchase a limberjack? Also, what types of songs are there for them?
Response: We sell them at Linden Tree in Los Altos, California

Stories with two characters that can be adapted to limberjacks or puppets.
Does anyone know of anyone else that makes them?
Debby 12/19/07


a) Here is a link to someone who makes limberjacks.
Limberjacks by Keith Young

Here is another:
Limberjacks - Appalachian dancing dolls are entertaining high quality toys for children and adults.

Lark In the Morning has one for sale:

As for stories, there are many with two characters but what are the particular characteristics you need for it to work with limberjacks?
Karen C. 12/19/07

b) Another source:
My husband, Frank, makes Limberjacks, Limberjack Dogs (see image above) and (soon) Limberjack Frogs out of red oak. He's thinking about a pumpkin and bat for this Halloween, too.
MaryLee and Frank Sunseri

c) A relatively inexpensive kit for making your own limberjacks is available from the Hughes Dulcimer Company in Denver, CO. Unfortunately, they have not joined the online community. I haven't gotten anything in a number of years, but I have purchased many of their kits. They make kits so anyone who can follow directions can create something from their kits. I've made dulcimers with 3rd graders using their kits. The dulcimers may not have looked as professional as adults' kits might look, but everyone one of them played just fine.

As I remember it, they have kits for dulcimers, limberjacks, kalimbas, lutes, and some other "folk" instruments. They also sell finished products. The only tools needed to assemble their kits are common household tools like a coping saw, a rasp, a file, a utility knife, and white glue.

When I first worked with them, they would come to your site and do a "Free" workshop. They provided all the tools, etc. You had to buy one of their kits to participate. The first time they came to my high school we made 75 dulcimers. The next year we made about 35. After that I felt confident enough to buy the necessary sets of tools and hold the workshops myself. I went through them to get the kits.

If the quality is as good now as it was then--about 20 + years ago--I would highly recommend them. Now if they would only set up a website!

Sylvia O. --who is looking for a supply of limberjacks to use with children also. 12/19/07

10) The Beers Family with Psalter, Old Time Fiddle, Limberjacks, Mountain Dulcimer, Fiddlesticks and Fourteen Wonderful Songs - An American Folk Tradition by the Beers Family.

Created 2003; last update 10/20/10

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