Hello all

Yesterday I was reminded of the fairytale, Jack and the Beanstalk when Geoff showed me a bean seed sprouting in a tiny pot given to me by my granddaughter Alice (11). The fact was, Alice gave me the pot with a seed already in it, but it grew so spindly and sickly that it soon died.

So Geoff, who is always efficiency plus, planted a bean seed in the pot to make Alice feel better. What we hadn’t counted on was the seed germinating so quickly that now, four days later, it’s looking a bit like the magic bean plant that Jack climbed in the fairy story. Our little bean plant is  growing at the rate of knots even as we watch it throughout the day! It IS amazing!

The bean plant

The bean plant

In fact, I think I know how Jack felt when he woke up the morning after he swapped his cow for some magic beans and saw the gigantic bean stalk growing up into the heavens. This is how we are beginning to feel about our one bean seed that appears to be magical.

I am sure you all would know the story of Jack and the Beanstalk? Well, in case you don’t, let’s recap quickly:

Young Jack was poor and then he made some bad choices and ended up losing the family cow in exchange for a bag of magic beans. His mother was most unhappy and put him in his room without any supper and then threw the beans out the window.

When Jack awoke the next day, he looked out and saw the giant bean stalk reaching up into the heavens outside his window so he climbed it until he reached a Giant’s House. To sum it all up, after a lot of huffing and puffing by the Giant, Jack ended up stealing the Giant’s gold and coming down the stalk in a hurry with the giant chasing him.

However, that Giant was doomed when Jack chopped down the beanstalk and the Giant went THUD onto the ground and died! The mother and son lived happily ever after thanks to the gold Jack stole.

The Giant coming down after Jack

The Giant coming down after Jack

Now friends, I ask you this? Who makes up these fairy tales? What gain is it to tell your children stories that involve bad decisions, disobeying mothers, stealing money and killing giants? And until I went and re-read the story of Jack and the Beanstalk I had forgotten how bizarre it really was.

And who could ever forget the Giant singing (as Jack hid from him): “Fee-fi-fo-fum!; I smell the blood of an Englishman. Be he alive, or be he dead, I’ll have his bones to grind my bread”

It is believed that the tale came to England via the Vikings and they would have been only too happy to grind those Englishman’s bones and eat them alive! But then the twist comes when the Giant is the one who is decimated not the Englishman. Now that doesn’t make sense does it? Perhaps the twist was added later by the English? But, after many years, the story that began as folklore was published … favouring the Englishman of course:

“The earliest printed edition which has survived is the 1807 book The History of Jack and the Bean Stalk, printed by Benjamin Tabart, although the story was already in existence sometime before this, as a burlesque of the story entitled The Story of Jack Spriggins and the Enchanted Bean was included in the 1734 second edition of Round About Our Coal-Fire.”

Also, since the early 1900s , the film media has had a field day with this story, producing movies, cartoons, min-series and the latest being a movie Jack the Giant Slayer which is due for release in March 2013. So there! despite the crazy story, it seems to appeal to young ones and will not easily go away.

But do we want it to go away? According to my research, fairy tales are good for young children. We can all sigh with relief about that. Here is the explanation:

“Folk lore, fairy tales and mythology are essential for children. Besides providing entertainment at a young age, these tales “hide a wealth of insights just below the surface” (Young, 1997) which are discovered as the stories are remembered as the child grows, they also provide children with a sense of imagination.


The word you can’t read is ‘smallest’

Feel better now? And if you want to feel better also about the Giant dying, let this reassure you: “In Tabart’s moralized version, a fairy woman explains to Jack that the giant had robbed and killed his father, thus transforming the acts into justified retribution.”

Don’t you just love that folks? In the end it was all about justified retribution! Besides all this though, what practical lessons can we take from Jack and the Beanstalk? Here are some interesting ones I found online:

  •  If you do stupid things, it will all turn out OK in the end
  • When the heart is pure, there will be a happy ending, even in the worst of situations
  • Don’t accept things from total strangers, you never know where it will lead
  • While the Magic Beans gave Jack his start, his own ingenuity lead to his ultimate success
  • Even though an initial decision which is bad can put you in a tailspin of chaos the end result may end up being alright.

So folks, you have this story today thanks  to one green bean in a small pot that continues to grow ever onwards and upwards … where will it end?

The shooting bean appeals to that part of us that was once a small child; it brings back fond memories of our mothers (or fathers) reading us fairy stories that sparked our imagination and entertained us in the bedtime hours – just before sleep captured us –  as we snuggled in our mother’s arms and dreamt of adventure …