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Versions Of The Story

Versions and history of Jack and the Beanstalk

A brief history of Jack and the Beanstalk

Fairytales and stories have been passed down through generations of people for hundreds of years using only spoken word: For a very long time these stories were never written down. Jack and the Beanstalk is a story very much like this and because many people for hundreds of years have been telling the story of Jack and the Beanstalk some details have been ever so slightly changed and twisted. It is because of this that we often see or hear so many versions of the story today. In an early version of the story there is a fairy who tells Jack that the giant had killed and stolen from his father giving Jack a reason to steal from the unsuspecting giant. In another Jack steals from the giant simply because he is a trickster and a naughty boy and his father is never mentioned at all! – This is the version that people believe to be closest to the original story and is most likely the one that you are more familiar with. Ours is yet another version of the story is again!

A brief literary history of Jack and the Beanstalk

Jack and the Beanstalk is a tale of English origin although there have been many adaptations developed within different languages and cultures. Records show that the first version of the story was anonymously published in London by Benjamin Tabart and Jack Nicholson in 1807, titled ‘The History of Jack and the Beanstalk.’ According to Tabart his source was an original manuscript that was most likely based on an oral retelling. A similar tale called ‘Jack Spriggins and The Enchanted Bean’ (1734) as well as other beanstalk tales named ‘The History of Mother Twaddle, and the Marvellous achievements of her son Jack ‘ (1807) and ‘The History of Jack and the Giants’ (1711) have also been closely linked to the story as we know it now. In his writings regarding Jack and the Beanstalk in The Uses of Enchantment, Bettelheim (1976) argues that the stories’ primary concern is with a young boy’s rites of passage and his struggle to achieve maturity. For him it is much to do with the desirability of social and sexual self-assertion in a pubertal young boy.

Versions of the Story

In George Cruikshank’s version (1853) hard work is lauded and idleness, ignorance, cheating, lying and drunkenness are deprecated. This is similar in moral tone to Tabart’s original published version. Jack triumphs as he casts away his ‘slothful habit’ and becomes active, diligent and trustworthy. In the same manner within Tabart’s version Jack is also considered to be the ‘indolent and extravagant son’, however there are many other considerable differences to the story as many of us know it. In more detailed accounts of the story for example the fairy who warns Jack of the frightening giant at the top of the beanstalk and who asks him to avenge his father. Jack is to do this by reclaiming the giant’s wealth. Within Tabart’s version of the story Jack does not marry a beautiful princess, as it goes in many others, but instead lives as a dutiful and obedient son with his mother. Many literary critics have gone as far as to suggest oedipal references within the story: the giant representing Jack’s father. This may of course be inappropriate for our purposes, however is interesting nonetheless. This also aligns itself well with Bettelheim’s belief that the story also has much to do with the loss of infantile pleasure. Bettelheim further suggests many other Freudian connotations.

As we can see there are many, many versions of the story spanning hundreds of years and of course we will be telling our very own! Below are a select few of the many versions available that we have found interesting each with their own merits and significances. Perhaps you might ask your children what they remember of the story and see how their accounts differ? Indeed you might also play them a short video version to tell them one version of the story…

Video link to a version of Jack and the Beanstalk

Click here for a link to a shorter video version of Jack and the Beanstalk with text, designed to allow children to read along with the story. It is very different to our version however follows a largely traditional narrative.


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