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 in Benjamin 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]


1854 illustration of Jack climbing the beanstalk by George Cruikshank Jack and the Beanstalk Cruikshank 1854.jpg
1854 illustration of Jack climbing the beanstalk by George Cruikshank

Jack, a poor country boy, trades the family cow for a handful of magic beans, which grow into a massive, towering 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,

I smell the blood of an Englishman.
Be he alive, or be he dead,
I'll grind his bones to make my bread. [8]

Outwitting the giant, Jack is able to retrieve many goods once stolen from his family, including a bag of gold, an enchanted goose that lays golden eggs and a magic golden harp that plays and sings by itself. 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 Walter Crane19.jpg
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 London by J. Roberts in the 1734 second edition of Round About Our Coal-Fire. [1] In 1807, English writer Benjamin Tabart published The History of Jack and the Bean Stalk, possibly actually edited by William and/or Mary Jane Godwin. [9]

The story is older than these accounts. 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), [10] 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. [11]

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), [12] 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 [13] [14]

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. [15]

"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". [16]

Moral perspectives

Jack running from the giant in the Red Fairy Book (1890) by Andrew Lang The Red Fairy Book-141.jpg
Jack running from the giant in the Red Fairy Book (1890) by Andrew Lang

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 [17] (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. [18]

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. [19]


Jack and the Beanstalk (1917) Jack and the Beanstalk 1917.jpg
Jack and the Beanstalk (1917)

Film and TV

Live-action theatrical films

Live-action television films and series

  • 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 , in the BBC television comedy series The Goodies .
  • In Season 2 Episode 4 aired September 8, 1983, [Shelley Duvall's] Faerie Tale Theatre made an adaptation of the story titled "Jack and the Beanstalk." It starred Dennis Christopher as Jack, Elliott Gould as the Giant, Jean Stapleton as the Giantess, Katherine Helmond as Jack's Mother, and Mark Blankfield as the Strange Little Man. It was written by Rod Ash and Mark Curtiss and directed by Lamont Johnson.
  • In the Season 3 premiere 1995 episode of Barney & 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 a 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, while the giant Thunderdell (played by Bill Barretta) was 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 returns 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.
  • The story appears in a 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: "Fee fi fo fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman", with the boy responding: "Fee fi fo fix, I’ve just had my Weetabix". [21]
  • The 2020 Japanese tokusatsu series Kamen Rider Saber adopts the story as a "Wonder Ride Book" called Jackun-to-domamenoki, which is originally used by one of the protagonists, Kamen Rider Saber, but later becomes one of Kamen Rider Buster's main Wonder Ride Books.

Animated films

Foreign language animated films

  • 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 television series and films

  • The Three Stooges had their own five-minute animated retelling, titled Jack and the Beanstalk (1965).
  • In 1967, Hanna-Barbera produced a live action version of Jack and the Beanstalk , with Gene Kelly as Jeremy the Peddler (who trades his magic beans for Jack's cow), Bobby Riha as Jack, Dick Beals as Jack's singing voice, Ted Cassidy as the voice of the animated giant, Janet Waldo as the voice of the animated Princess Serena, Marni Nixon as Serena's singing voice, and Marian McKnight as Jack's mother. [28] The songs were written by Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen. [29] Kelly also directed the Emmy Award-winning film. [30]
  • A Hungarian variant of the tale was adapted into an episode of the Hungarian television series Magyar népmesék ("Hungarian Folk Tales") (hu) in 1977, with the title Az égig érő paszuly ("The Giant Beanstalk"). [31]
  • An 1978 episode of Challenge of the Super Friends titled "Fairy Tale of Doom" has the Legion of Doom using the Toyman's newest invention, a projector-like device to trap the Super Friends inside pages of children's fairy tales. The Toyman traps Hawkman in this story.
  • An 1989 episode of The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! , entitled "Mario and the Beanstalk", does a retelling with Bowser as the giant (there is no explanation as to how he becomes a giant).
  • In Season 1 of Animaniacs (1993), an episode featured a parody of both Jack and the Beanstalk and Green Eggs and Ham 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.
  • 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.
  • Jack and Beanstalk were featured in Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child (1995-2000) where Jack is voiced by Wayne Collins and the giant is voiced by Tone Loc. The story is told in an African-American style.
  • In The Magic School Bus 1996 episode "Gets Planted", the class put on a school production of Jack and the Beanstalk, with Phoebe starring as the beanstalk after Ms. Frizzle turned her into a bean plant.
  • In a Rugrats: Tales From the Crib episode 2006 named "Three Jacks and a Beanstalk" where Angelica plays the giant.
  • In a Happy Tree Friends 2006 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.
  • In an 2006 episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse called "Donald and the Beanstalk", Donald Duck accidentally swapped his pet chicken with Willie the Giant for a handful of magic beans.
  • In the PBS Kids television series Super Why! (2007-2016) the main protagonist Whyatt Beanstalk is the middle brother of the protagonist of Jack and The Beanstalk. Whyatt changes into Super Why with The Power to Read.
  • 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 2016 a television adaptation of Revolting Rhymes based on Roald Dahl's modernisation of the tale was released, were Jack lives next door to Cinderella and is in love with her. [32]


Jack and the Beanstalk pantomime showing in Cambridge, England Cambridge panto season - geograph.org.uk - 1133677.jpg
Jack and the Beanstalk pantomime showing in Cambridge, England


Video games


See also

Related Research Articles

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  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 Literature8 (1980:35–52).
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