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"Jack and the Beanstalk" is an English fairy tale. It appeared as "The Story of Jack Spriggins and the Enchanted Bean" in 1734 and as Benjamin Tabart's moralized "The History of Jack and the Bean-Stalk" in 1807. Henry Cole, publishing under pen nameFelix Summerly, popularized the tale in The Home Treasury (1845), and Joseph Jacobs rewrote it in English Fairy Tales (1890). Jacobs' version is most commonly reprinted today, and is believed to be closer to the oral versions than Tabart's because it lacks the moralizing.
According to researchers at Durham University and Universidade Nova de Lisboa, the story originated more than five millennia ago, based on a wide-spread archaic story form which is now classified by folklorists as ATU 328 The Boy Who Stole Ogre's Treasure.
Jack is a young, poor boy living with his widowed mother and a dairy cow on a farm cottage. The cow's milk was their only source of income. When the cow stops giving milk, Jack's mother tells him to take her to the market to be sold. On the way, Jack meets a bean dealer who offers magicbeans in exchange for the cow, and Jack makes the trade. When he arrives home without any money, his mother becomes angry, throws the beans out of the window, and sends Jack to bed without dinner.
During the night, the magic beans cause a gigantic beanstalk to grow outside Jack's window. The next morning, Jack climbs the beanstalk to a land high in the sky. He finds an enormous castle and sneaks in. Soon after, the castle's owner, a giant, returns home. He smells that Jack is nearby, and speaks a rhyme:
I smell the blood of an Englishman:
Be he alive, or be he dead,
I'll grind his bones to make my bread.
The giant's wife, (the giantess) persuades him that he is mistaken and helps Jack hide because the woman knows that he is poor. When the giant falls asleep, Jack steals a bag of gold coins and makes his escape down the beanstalk.
Jack climbs the beanstalk twice more. He learns of other treasures and steals them when the giant sleeps: first a goose that lays golden eggs, then a magic harp that plays by itself. The giant wakes when Jack leaves the house with the harp (who calls out to the giant) and chases Jack down the beanstalk. Jack calls to his mother for an axe and before the giant reaches the ground, cuts down the beanstalk, causing the giant to fall to his death.
Jack and his mother live happily ever after with the riches that Jack acquired.
In Walter Crane's woodcut the harp reaches out to cling to the vine.
"The Story of Jack Spriggins and the Enchanted Bean" was published in the 1734 second edition of Round About Our Coal-Fire. In 1807, Benjamin Tabart published The History of Jack and the Bean Stalk, but the story is certainly older than these accounts. According to researchers at Durham University and the Universidade Nova de Lisboa, the story originated more than five millennia ago. Sources point to the story as having originated from a pre-literate time in history; subsequently it was passed down through oral storytelling in many different cultures resulting in a number of versions distinct from the well-known English tale.
In some versions of the tale, the giant is unnamed, but many plays based on it name him Blunderbore (one giant of that name appears in the 18th-century tale "Jack the Giant Killer"). In "The Story of Jack Spriggins" the giant is named Gogmagog.
The giant's catchphrase "Fee! Fie! Toe! Fungus! I smell the blood of an Englishman" appears in William Shakespeare's King Lear (c 1606) in the form "Fie, foh, which is a sond of a giantess and fum, I smell the blood of a British man." (Act 3, Scene 4), and something similar also appears in "Jack the Giant Killer".
"Jack and the Beanstalk" is an Aarne-Thompson tale-type 328, The Treasures of the Giant, which includes the Italian "Thirteenth" and the French "How the Dragon was Tricked" tales. Christine Goldberg argues that the Aarne-Thompson system is inadequate for the tale because the others do not include the beanstalk, which has analogies in other types (a possible reference to the genre anomaly).
"Jack and the Beanstalk" is unusual in some versions in that the hero, although grown up, does not marry at the end but returns to his mother. In other versions he is said to have married a princess. This is found in few other tales, such as some variants of "Vasilisa the Beautiful".
The original story portrays a "hero" gaining the sympathy of a man's wife, hiding in his house, robbing him, and finally killing him. In Tabart's moralized version, a fairy woman explains to Jack that the giant had robbed and murdered his father justifying Jack's actions as retribution (Andrew Lang follows this version in the Red Fairy Book of 1890).
Jacobs gave no justification because there was none in the version he had heard as a child and maintained that children know that robbery and murder are wrong without being told in a fairy tale, but did give a subtle retributive tone to it by making reference to the giant's previous meals of stolen oxen and young children.
Many modern interpretations have followed Tabart and made the giant a villain, terrorizing smaller folk and stealing from them, so that Jack becomes a legitimate protagonist. For example, the 1952 film starring Abbott and Costello the giant is blamed for poverty at the foot of the beanstalk, as he has been stealing food and wealth and the hen that lays golden eggs originally belonged to Jack's family. In other versions, it is implied that the giant had stolen both the hen and the harp from Jack's father. Brian Henson's 2001 TV miniseries Jack and the Beanstalk: The Real Story not only abandons Tabart's additions but vilifies Jack, reflecting Jim Henson's disgust at Jack's unscrupulous actions.
Walt Disney made a short of the same name in 1922, and a separate adaptation titled Mickey and the Beanstalk in 1947 as part of Fun and Fancy Free. This adaptation of the story put Mickey Mouse in the role of Jack, accompanied by Donald Duck and Goofy. Mickey, Donald, and Goofy live on a farm in "Happy Valley", so called because it is always green and prosperous thanks to the magical singing from an enchanted golden harp in a castle, until one day it mysteriously disappears during a dark storm, resulting in the valley being plagued by a severe drought. Times become so hard for Mickey and his friends that soon they have nothing to eat except one loaf of bread. Mickey trades in the cow (which Donald was going to kill for food) for the magic beans. Donald throws the beans on the floor and down a knothole in a fit of rage, and the beanstalk sprouts that night, lifting the three of them into the sky while they sleep. In the magical kingdom, Mickey, Donald, and Goofy help themselves to a sumptuous feast. This rouses the ire of the giant (named "Willie" in this version), who captures Donald and Goofy and locks them in a box, and it is up to Mickey to find the keys to unlock the box and rescue them as well as the harp which they also find in the giant's possession. The film villainizes the giant by blaming Happy Valley's hard times on Willie's theft of the magic harp, without which song the land withers; unlike the harp of the original tale, this magic harp wants to be rescued from the giant, assists the heroes as best she can, and the hapless heroes return her to her rightful place and Happy Valley to its former glory. This version of the fairy tale was narrated (as a segment of Fun and Fancy Free) by Edgar Bergen, and later (by itself as a short) by Sterling Holloway.
Walt Disney Animation Studios wanted to do another adaptation of the fairy tale called Gigantic. Tangled director Nathan Greno was to direct and it was set to be released in late 2020, however, it was reported on October 10, 2017, that the studio had made the decision to cancel the film after struggling creatively with it.
The 1952 Abbott and Costello adaptation was not the only time a comedy team was involved with the story. The Three Stooges had their own five-minute animated retelling, titled Three Jacks and a Beanstalk (1965).
Gisaburo Sugii directed a feature-length anime telling of the story released in 1974, titled Jack to Mame no Ki. The film, a musical, was produced by Group TAC and released by Nippon Herald. The writers introduced a few new characters, including Jack's comic-relief dog, Crosby, and Margaret, a beautiful princess engaged to be married to the giant (named "Tulip" in this version) due to a spell being cast over her by the giant's mother (an evil witch called Madame Hecuba). Jack, however, develops a crush on Margaret, and one of his aims in returning to the magic kingdom is to rescue her. The film was dubbed into English, with legendary voice talent Billie Lou Watt voicing Jack, and received a very limited run in U.S. theaters in 1976. It was later released on VHS (now out of print) and aired several times on HBO in the 1980s. However, it is now available on DVD with both English and Japanese dialogue.
Wolves, Witches and Giants Episode 9 of Season 1, Jack and the Beanstalk, broadcast on 19 October 1995, has Jack's mother chop down the beanstalk and the giant plummet through the earth to Australia. The hen that Jack has stolen fails to lay any eggs and ends up "in the pot by Sunday", leaving Jack and his mother to live in reduced circumstances for the rest of their lives.
The Jim Henson Company did a TV miniseries adaptation of the story as Jim Henson's Jack and the Beanstalk: The Real Story (directed by Brian Henson) which reveals that Jack's theft from the giant was completely unmotivated, with the giant Thunderdell (played by Bill Barretta) being a friendly, welcoming individual, and the giant's subsequent death was caused by Jack's mother cutting the beanstalk down rather than Jack himself. The film focuses on Jack's modern-day descendant Jack Robinson (played by Matthew Modine) who learns the truth after the discovery of the giant's bones and the last of the five magic beans, Jack subsequently returning the goose and harp to the giants' kingdom.
In the 2014 film Into the Woods, and the musical of the same name, one of the main characters, Jack (Daniel Huttlestone) climbs a beanstalk, much like in the original version. He acquires a golden harp, a hen that lays golden eggs, and several gold pieces. The story goes on as it does in the original fairy tale, but continues afterwards showing what happens after you get your happy ending. In this adaptation, the giant's vengeful wife (Frances de la Tour) attacks the kingdom to find and kill Jack as revenge for him murdering her husband, where some characters were killed during her rampage. The giant's wife is eventually killed by the surviving characters in the story.
There is a Rugrats: Tales From the Crib episode named "Three Jacks and a Beanstalk" where Angelica plays the giant.
The story is the basis of the similarly titled traditional British pantomime, wherein the Giant is certainly a villain, Jack's mother the Dame, and Jack the Principal Boy.
Jack of Jack and the Beanstalk is the protagonist of the comic bookJack of Fables, a spin-off of Fables, which also features other elements from the story, such as giant beanstalks and giants living in the clouds. The Cloud Kingdoms first appear in issue #50 and is shown to exist in their own interdimensional way, being a world of their own but at the same time existing over all of the other worlds.
Gilligan's Island did a adaptation/dream sequence in the second-season episode "'V' for Vitamins" in which Gilligan tries to take oranges from a giant Skipper and fails. The part of the little Gilligan chased by the giant was played by Bob Denver's 7-year-old son Patrick Denver.
Roald Dahl rewrote the story in a more modern and gruesome way in his book Revolting Rhymes (1982), where Jack initially refuses to climb the beanstalk and his mother is thus eaten when she ascends to pick the golden leaves at the top, with Jack recovering the leaves himself after having a thorough wash so that the giant cannot smell him. In the 2016 television adaptation of Revolting Rhymes, Jack lives next door to Cinderella and is in love with her. The story of Jack and the Beanstalk is also referenced in Dahl's The BFG, in which the evil giants are all afraid of the "giant-killer" Jack, who is said to kill giants with his fearsome beanstalk (although none of the giants appear to know how Jack uses it against them, the context of a nightmare that one of the giants has about Jack suggesting that they think that he wields the beanstalk as a weapon).
James Still published Jack and the Wonder Beans (1977, republished 1996) an Appalachian variation on the Jack and the Beanstalk tale. Jack trades his old cow to a gypsy for three beans that are guaranteed to feed him for his entire life. It has been adapted as a play for performance by children.
An arcade video game, Jack the Giantkiller, was released by Cinematronics in 1982 and is based on the story. Players control Jack, and must retrieve a series of treasures - a harp, a sack of gold coins, a golden goose and a princess - and eventually defeat the giant by chopping down the beanstalk.
A Season 2 episode of The Hughleys titled "Two Jacks & a Beanstalk" shows a retelling of the story where Jack Jr. (Michael, Dee Jay Daniels) buys magical beans as a means of gaining wealth and giving his family happiness and health. He & Jack Sr. (Darryl, D.L. Hughley) climb the beanstalk to see what prosperity awaits them.
Stephen Sondheim's 1986 musical Into the Woods (and the 2014 film of the same name), features Jack, originally portrayed by Ben Wright, along with several other fairy tale characters. In the second half of the musical, the giant's wife climbs down a second (inadvertently planted) beanstalk to exact revenge for her husband's death, furious at Jack's betrayal of her hospitality. The Giantess then causes the deaths of Jack's mother and other important characters before being finally killed by Jack.
ABC's Once Upon a Time debuts their spin on the tale in the episode "Tiny" of Season Two, where Jack, now a female named Jacqueline (known as Jack) is played by Cassidy Freeman and the giant, named Anton, is played by Jorge Garcia. In this adaptation, Jack is portrayed as a villainous character. In Season Seven, a new iteration of Jack (portrayed by Nathan Parsons) is a recurring character and Henry Mills' first friend in the New Enchanted Forest. It was mentioned that he and Henry fought some giants. He debuts in "The Eighth Witch". In Hyperion Heights, he is cursed as Nick Branson and is a lawyer and Lucy's fake father. Later episodes revealed that his real name is Hansel, who is hunting witches.
The story was adapted in 2012 by software maker Net Entertainment and made into a slot machine game.
Snips, Snails, and Dragon Tails, an Order of the Stick print book, contains an adaptation in the Sticktales section. Elan is Jack, Roy is the giant, Belkar is the golden goose, and Vaarsuvius is the wizard who sells the beans. Haley also appears as an agent sent to steal the golden goose, and Durkin as a dwarf neighbor with the comic's stereotypical fear of tall plants.
The story was adapted in 2014 by Family Guy in the 10th episode of its 12th season, Grimm Job, where Peter Griffin takes his own spin on various fairy tales while reading bedtime stories to Stewie.
In the Season 3 premiere episode of Barney and Friends titled "Shawn and the Beanstalk", Barney the Dinosaur and the gang tell their version of Jack and the Beanstalk, which was all told in rhyme.
In the animated movie Puss in Boots, the classic theme appears again. The magic beans play a central role in that movie, culminating in the scene, in which Puss, Kitty and Humpty ride a magic beanstalk to find the giant's castle.
In a Happy Tree Friends episode called "Dunce Upon a Time", there was a strong resemblance as Giggles played a Jack-like role and Lumpy played a giant-like role.
The story appears in the 2017 commercial for the British breakfast cereal Weetabix, where the giant is scared off by an English boy who has had a bowl of Weetabix.
A children's picture book, What Jill Did While Jack Climbed the Beanstalk, was published in 2016 by Edward Zlotkowski. It takes place at the same time as Jack's adventure, but it tells the story of what his sister encounters when she ventures out to help the family and neighbors.
In an episode of Tweenies titled "Jake and the Beanstalk", the characters perform a pantomime based on the story with Jake as the role of Jack and Judy as the giant. The title "Jake and the Beanstalk" was also used for an episode of Jake and the Never Land Pirates.
In Season 1 of Animaniacs, an episode featured a parody of Jack and the Beanstalk titled "The Warners and the Beanstalk". All three Warners (Yakko, Wakko and Dot) take on Jack's role, while the giant is based on Ralph the Guard.
The AWS service Elastic Beanstalk, which allows developers to provision websites, is a reference to Jack and the Beanstalk.
^ abRound About Our Coal Fire, or Christmas Entertainments. J.Roberts. 1734. pp. 35-48. 4th edition On Commons
^Tabart, The History of Jack and the Bean-Stalk. in 1807 introduces a new character, a fairy who explains the moral of the tale to Jack (Matthew Orville Grenby, "Tame fairies make good teachers: the popularity of early British fairy tales", The Lion and the Unicorn30.1 (January 20201-24).
^In 1842 and 1844 Elizabeth Rigby, Lady Eastlake, reviewed children's books for the Quarterly "The House [sic] Treasury, by Felix Summerly, including The Traditional Nursery Songs of England, Beauty and the Beast, Jack and the Beanstalk, and other old friends, all charmingly done and beautifully illustrated." (noted by Geoffrey Summerfield, "The Making of The Home Treasury", Children's Literature8 (1980:35-52).