Jack and the Beanstalk

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Jack and the Beanstalk
Jack and the Beanstalk Giant - Project Gutenberg eText 17034.jpg
Illustration by Arthur Rackham, 1918, in English Fairy Tales by Flora Annie Steel
Folk tale
NameJack and the Beanstalk
Also known asJack and the Giant man
Aarne-Thompson groupingAT 328 ("The Treasures of the Giant")
CountryUnited Kingdom
Published inBenjamin Tabart, The History of Jack and the Bean-Stalk (1807)
Joseph Jacobs, English Fairy Tales (1890)
Related"Jack the Giant Killer"

"Jack and the Beanstalk" is an English fairy tale. It appeared as "The Story of Jack Spriggins and the Enchanted Bean" in 1734[1] and as Benjamin Tabart's moralized "The History of Jack and the Bean-Stalk" in 1807.[2] Henry Cole, publishing under pen name Felix Summerly, popularized the tale in The Home Treasury (1845),[3] and Joseph Jacobs rewrote it in English Fairy Tales (1890).[4] 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.[5]

"Jack and the Beanstalk" is the best known of the "Jack tales", a series of stories featuring the archetypal Cornish and English hero and stock character Jack.[6]

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.[7]


A fake work - Jack, a poor country boy, trades the family cow for a handful of magic beans, which grow into an enormous beanstalk reaching up into the clouds. Jack climbs the beanstalk and finds himself in the castle of an unfriendly giant. The giant senses Jack's presence and cries, "Fee, fie, fo, fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman! Be he alive, or be he dead, I'll grind his bones to make my bread!" Outwitting the giant, Jack is able to retrieve many goods once stolen from his family, including an enchanted goose that lays golden eggs. Jack then escapes by chopping down the beanstalk. The giant, who is pursuing him, falls to his death, and Jack and his family prosper.


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.[1] In 1807, Benjamin Tabart published The History of Jack and the Bean Stalk, but the story is certainly older than these accounts.[citation needed]

According to researchers at Durham University and the Universidade Nova de Lisboa, the tale type (AT 328, The Boy Steals Ogre's Treasure) to which the Jack story belongs may have had a Proto-Indo-European language (PIE) origin (the same tale also has Proto-Indo-Iranian variants),[8] and so some think that the story would have originated millennia ago. (4500 BC to 2500 BC)[7]

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-fi-fo-fum! I smell the blood of an Englishman" appears in William Shakespeare's King Lear (c 1606) in the form "Fie, foh, and fum, I smell the blood of a British man." (Act 3, Scene 4),[9] 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[10] (a possible reference to the genre anomaly).[11]

The Brothers Grimm drew an analogy between this tale and a German fairy tale, "The Devil With the Three Golden Hairs". The devil's mother or grandmother acts much like the giant's wife, a female figure protecting the child from the evil male figure.[12]

"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".[13]

Moral perspectives[edit]

Jack climbs the beanstalk to the Giant's house.

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[14] (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.[15]

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.[16]


Jack and the Beanstalk (1917)

Film and TV[edit]

Live-Action theatrical films[edit]

Live-Action Television films and series[edit]

  • Gilligan's Island did in 1965 an 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.
  • In 1973 the story was adapted, as The Goodies and the Beanstalk, by the BBC television series The Goodies.
  • In the Season 3 premiere 1995 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.
  • Beanstalks and Bad Eggs an 1997, episode of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys episode
  • A Season 2 1999 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.
  • The Jim Henson Company did a TV miniseries adaptation of the story as Jim Henson's Jack and the Beanstalk: The Real Story in 2001 (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 an episode of Tweenies (1999-2002) 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.
  • ABC's Once Upon a Time (2011-2018) debuts their spin on the tale in the episode "Tiny" of Season Two,Tallahassee 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.

Animated films[edit]

Foreign Animated films[edit]

  • 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.

Animated Televison series and films[edit]


  • 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 book Jack 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.
  • 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. 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.[29]
  • 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.
  • A children's book, What Jill Did While Jack Climbed the Beanstalk, was published in 2020 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.[30]
  • In the One Piece Skypiea Arc, there is a huge twisted beanstalk that connects Upper Yard and God's Shrine, which is called "Giant Jack".

Video Games[edit]


  • Stephen Sondheim's 1986 musical Into the Woods 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.
  • Swedish melody hardcore band Venerea adapts the story in the song "Beanstalk" on their 1997 album Both ends burning.
  • Mark Knopfler sang a song, "After the Beanstalk", in his 2012 album Privateering.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Round About Our Coal Fire, or Christmas Entertainments. J.Roberts. 1734. pp. 35–48. 4th edition On Commons
  2. ^ 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 Unicorn 30.1 (January 20201–24).
  3. ^ 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 Literature 8 (1980:35–52).
  4. ^ Joseph Jacobs (1890). English Fairy Tales. London: David Nutt. pp. 59–67, 233.
  5. ^ Maria Tatar, The Annotated Classic Fairy Tales, p. 132. ISBN 0-393-05163-3
  6. ^ "The Folklore Tradition of Jack Tales". The Center for Children's Books. Graduate School of Library and Information Science University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 15 Jan 2004. Archived from the original on 10 April 2014. Retrieved 11 June 2014.
  7. ^ a b BBC. "Fairy tale origins thousands of years old, researchers say". BBC News. BBC. Retrieved 20 January 2016.
  8. ^ Silva, Sara; Tehrani, Jamshid (2016), Comparative phylogenetic analyses uncover the ancient roots of Indo-European folktales, 3, Royal Society Open Science, doi:10.1098/rsos.150645
  9. ^ Tatar, The Annotated Classic Fairy Tales, p. 136.
  10. ^ Goldberg, Christine. "The composition of Jack and the beanstalk". Marvels and Tales. Retrieved 2011-05-28.
  11. ^ D. L. Ashliman, ed. "Jack and the Bensalk: eight versions of an English fairy tale (Aarne-Thompson-Uther type 328)". 2002–2010. Folklore and Mythology: Electronic Texts. University of Pittsburgh. 1996–2013.
  12. ^ Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, "The Devil With the Three Golden Hairs", Grimm's Fairy Tales.
  13. ^ Maria Tatar, Off with Their Heads! p. 199. ISBN 0-691-06943-3
  14. ^ Tatar, Off with Their Heads! p. 198.
  15. ^ Joseph Jacobs, Notes to "Jack and the Bensalk", English Fairy Tales.
  16. ^ Joe Nazzaro, "Back to the Beanstalk", Starlog Fantasy Worlds, February 2002, pp. 56–59.
  17. ^ https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1351685/
  18. ^ "Weetabix launches £10m campaign with Jack and the Beanstalk ad". Talking Retail. Retrieved 17 May 2017
  19. ^ Lenburg, Jeff (1999). The Encyclopedia of Animated Cartoons. Checkmark Books. p. 142. ISBN 0-8160-3831-7.
  20. ^ Grob, Gijs (2018). "Part Four: Mickey Mouse Superstar". Mickey's Movies: The Theatrical Films of Mickey Mouse. Theme Park Press. ISBN 1683901231.
  21. ^ Lenburg, Jeff (1999). The Encyclopedia of Animated Cartoons. Checkmark Books. pp. 108–109. ISBN 0-8160-3831-7. Retrieved 6 June 2020.
  22. ^ [1][dead link]
  23. ^ Kit, Borys (October 10, 2017). "Disney Shelves 'Jack and the Beanstalk' Film 'Gigantic' (Exclusive)". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved October 10, 2017.
  24. ^ "Tom and Jerry's Giant Adventure Blu-ray". Blu-ray.com. April 25, 2013. Retrieved 2013-04-25.
  25. ^ Jack and the Beanstalk (1967 TV Movie), Full Cast & Crew, imdb.com
  26. ^ "Jack and the Beanstalk, 1967, YouTube". YouTube.com. Retrieved 2018-02-06.
  27. ^ Barbera, Joseph (1994). My Life in "Toons": From Flatbush to Bedrock in Under a Century. Atlanta, GA: Turner Publishing. pp. 162–65. ISBN 1-57036-042-1.
  28. ^ "Revolting Rhymes: Two half-hour animated films based on the much-loved rhymes written by Roald Dahl and illustrated by Quentin Blake". BBC Media Centre. Retrieved 2018-02-26.
  29. ^ Jack and the wonder beans (Book, 1996). [WorldCat.org]. Retrieved on 2013-07-29.
  30. ^ What Jill Did While Jack Climbed the Beanstalk. Badger and Fox and Friends.
  31. ^ "Title name translation". SuperFamicom.org. Archived from the original on 2012-05-09. Retrieved 2011-05-24.
  32. ^ "Game Data". GameFAQs. Retrieved 2008-04-21.
  33. ^ Jack and the Beanstalk Slots. [SlotsForMoney.com]. Retrieved on 2014-09-18.

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