Jack and the Beanstalk
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]


1854 illustration of Jack climbing the beanstalk by George Cruikshank
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
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
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)

Film and TV

Live-action theatrical films

Live-action television films and series

Animated films

Foreign language animated films

Animated television series and films


Jack and the Beanstalk pantomime showing in Cambridge, England
Jack and the Beanstalk pantomime showing in Cambridge, England


Video games


See also


  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. ^ Tatar, Maria (2002). "Jack and the Beanstalk". The Annotated Classic Fairy Tales. New York: W. W. Norton & Co. pp. 131–144. ISBN 0-393-05163-3.
  9. ^ Anon., The History of Jack and the Bean-Stalk, at The Hockliffe Project. Archived 26 April 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ Silva, Sara; Tehrani, Jamshid (2016), "Comparative phylogenetic analyses uncover the ancient roots of Indo-European folktales", Royal Society Open Science, 3 (1): 150645, Bibcode:2016RSOS....350645D, doi:10.1098/rsos.150645, PMC 4736946, PMID 26909191
  11. ^ The Oxford Companion to Children's Literature. Oxford University Press. 2015. p. 305.
  12. ^ Tatar, The Annotated Classic Fairy Tales, p. 136.
  13. ^ Goldberg, Christine. "The composition of Jack and the beanstalk". Marvels and Tales. Retrieved 2011-05-28(a possible reference to the genre anomaly).((cite web)): CS1 maint: postscript (link)
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, "Devil With the Three Golden Hairs, The", in Grimm's Household Tales: Annotated Tale at SurLaLune Fairy Tales.
  16. ^ Maria Tatar, Off with Their Heads! p. 199. ISBN 0-691-06943-3
  17. ^ Tatar, Off with Their Heads! p. 198.
  18. ^ Annotations to "Jack & the Beanstalk: Annotated Tale" at SurLaLune Fairy Tales.
  19. ^ Joe Nazzaro, "Back to the Beanstalk", Starlog Fantasy Worlds, February 2002, pp. 56–59.
  20. ^ “Jack the Giant Slayer (2013)”. IMDb. Retrieved 18 November 2020
  21. ^ "Weetabix launches £10m campaign with Jack and the Beanstalk ad". Talking Retail. Retrieved 17 May 2017
  22. ^ Lenburg, Jeff (1999). The Encyclopedia of Animated Cartoons. Checkmark Books. p. 142. ISBN 0-8160-3831-7.
  23. ^ Grob, Gijs (2018). "Part Four: Mickey Mouse Superstar". Mickey's Movies: The Theatrical Films of Mickey Mouse. Theme Park Press. ISBN 978-1683901235.
  24. ^ Lenburg, Jeff (1999). The Encyclopedia of Animated Cartoons. Checkmark Books. pp. 108–109. ISBN 0-8160-3831-7. Retrieved 6 June 2020.
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  26. ^ Kit, Borys (October 10, 2017). "Disney Shelves 'Jack and the Beanstalk' Film 'Gigantic' (Exclusive)". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved October 10, 2017.
  27. ^ "Tom and Jerry's Giant Adventure Blu-ray". Blu-ray.com. April 25, 2013. Retrieved 2013-04-25.
  28. ^ Jack and the Beanstalk (1967 TV Movie), Full Cast & Crew, imdb.com
  29. ^ "Jack and the Beanstalk, 1967, YouTube". YouTube.com. Archived from the original on 2020-02-15. Retrieved 2018-02-06.
  30. ^ 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.
  31. ^ "Animated Hungarian folk tales". Magyar népmesék (TV Series 1980-2012). Magyar Televízió Müvelödési Föszerkesztöség (MTV) (I), Pannónia Filmstúdió. 27 November 1980. Retrieved 11 January 2021.
  32. ^ "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.
  33. ^ "Cast of Jack and the Beanstalk are ready for panto season". Bournemouth Echo. Retrieved 18 November 2020.
  34. ^ Jack and the wonder beans (Book, 1996). [WorldCat.org]. Retrieved on 2013-07-29.
  35. ^ What Jill Did While Jack Climbed the Beanstalk. Badger and Fox and Friends.
  36. ^ "Title name translation". SuperFamicom.org. Archived from the original on 2012-05-09. Retrieved 2011-05-24.
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