Sunday, October 3, 2021

Jack & the Beanstalk, Revisited

When I was young I used to enjoy watching Fractured Fairy Tales on the Rocky & Bullwinkle Show. For some reason when I woke in the wee hours of the morning last night my mind began composing a re-telling of the classic tale of Jack and the Beanstalk. Not being able to get back to sleep, I wrote a first draft just to get it out of my head. Upon waking, I polished it a bit and am releasing it here for your enjoyment.

For the record, this is my revision of Flora Anna Steele's version that appeared in her 1918 edition of English Fairy Tales. The original, published in 1734 was titled Jack Spriggins and the Enchanted Bean.

Jack and the Beanstalk, Revisited

Our boy Jack.
Once upon a time there lived a poor widow and her son Jack. One day, Jack’s mother told him, "You need to get a job. We need money and you just sit there on Facebook all day."

"No I don't. Sometimes I'm on Instagram, Twitter, YouTube or Tik Tok," he replied. 

"Well, listen up. If we don't find an income stream we'll have to hawk your Mac. I'd like you to take our cow into town and see what you can get for it."

Jack headed to the market, and on the way he met a man who offered to buy his cow. Jack said, “Great! What will you give me in return for my cow?” 

The man raised his hand, spread his fingers and said, “I will give you five magic beans!” 

This sounded like a bargain to Jack, who took the magic beans in exchange for the cow. As they went their own ways after the transaction, both were chuckling to themselves . "What a steal," each was thinking.

When Jack got home and told what happened, his mother exploded. “You bonehead!" she said as she threw the beans out the window. 

Jack was confused. He went online and found a chat room where he could get his head straight on whether he or his mother was right. His friends comforted him and suggested that in the morning he should find the beans and place them in moist soil under grow lamps. "Maybe they really are magic," one of his friends said.

The next day, when Jack awoke and looked out the window, his eyes popped out of his head. A huge beanstalk had grown from one of his beans. It climbed up to the stratosphere. He was grateful to have haggled for five instead of three, since only one of the five was really any good. "What if I'd gotten only rummy ones," he said to himself.

He, being still young and able, decided to climb the beanstalk to see where it went. To his surprise, there was a giant's kingdom up there, and a giant castle with giant doors. One of the doors was ajar and because he was curious, he went inside.

As it turns out, the giant had a wife who appeared to be busy in the kitchen. Jack went there and said, “Could you please give me something to eat? I'm so hungry I could eat a cow.” The kind wife gave him a slice of seven-grain bread and a delicious bowl of stew.

While he was eating, the giant came home. This giant was not only huge, but looked terrifying. He'd been a fighter when he was young so his face was marred and his deepset eyes yellow and cloudy. Jack trembled and his knees knocked as he scurried to find a place to hide. 

The giant bellowed, “Fee-fi-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!” 

The wife said, “Relax. There's nobody here!” 

So, the giant ate his food, then lumbered off to his room to pursue his favorite pasttime, counting his money. First, he started with his bags of gold coins. Then he turned on his computer and reviewed his investments. Finally, he fell asleep.

That's when Jack crept out of his hiding place, snuck in and took a small bag of gold coins and climbed down the beanstalk. (The larger bags were to heavy to lift.) Once home, he gave the coins to his mother. 

"You're such a clever boy," his mother said. "Thank you, Jack."

A week or so went by, whereupon Jack decided to visit the giant's castle again and see the giant's wife. Once again she brought him food, but while he was eating the giant returned and Jack ran through a door into the bedroom where he hid under the bed.

"Fee-fi-fo-fum," the giant bellowed once more. "I smell the--" 

"Oh knock it off," his wife said. "You're just imagining things."

After the giant ate, he went outside, fetched a goose and brought it to the bedroom. "Lay!" he commanded, and the goose laid a golden egg. It was immense, the size of three chicken eggs, but solid gold. When the giant fell asleep Jack crawled out from under the bed. 

When he started to pick up the egg he was surprised at how heavy it was. After a moment's hesitation, he went for the goose instead, chasing it down the hallway and cornering it in the living room.

It was a challenge climbing down the beanstalk carrying a goose, but it would have been impossible to carry both the egg and the goose. When he reached the ground he was glad he made it down at all. 

"What's this?" his mother said.

Jack told the whole story about the kindness of the giant's wife, about hiding under the bed, and watching the goose lay a golden egg. Jack then proceeded to build a small pen next to the house. After spreading a little hay for the goose to build a nest, he began looking forward to the morrow.

Meanwhile, his mother had other plans. 

When Jack awoke the next morning, the aroma in the house was unfamiliar to him. As he entered the kitchen he noticed goose feathers on the counter and knives with blood smeared on them.  

"Mother! How could you?"

"I knew those gold coins didn't come from a goose, and whoever heard of geese laying golden eggs?"

His mother had always been a wonderful cook, but for some reason the goose breasts and goose confit tasted flat that day. Jack finished his milk, left the table and went outside. 

To be continued?

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