Most versions of Jack and the beanstalk are shelved at 398.20942 ( the classification for English folklore) or among British legends at 398. 210941. It is one of the few well-known fairytales in the western world that owe nothing to either Grimm or Perrault. Our hero Jack is descended over 2000 years from Cornish King Corineus, whose story, already ancient, is mentioned in Shakespeare’s King Lear. Unfriendly giants have been around since the beginning of time—the Cyclops in Homer’s Odyssey (circa 500BC) is possibly the earliest Big Bully in written form to achieve world fame. Fool/ trickster tales like this can be found in most cultures, including New Zealand’s, where Maui is a classic trickster example.
The Maori giantkiller myth-- Matakauri the giantkiller (Bacon); Matau the giant of Wakatipu (Cartwright)-- echoes the earliest versions of the story, the actual beanstalk being a comparatively recent addition. First recorded instance of the ‘bean connection’ is in 1734 in a collection of English Christmas stories .
Possible curriculum uses outside the usual area of Social Sciences include
Technology: the large format version by Albert Lorenz has a detailed section on constructing miniature pulleys and levers
Science : a lighthearted addition to junior level units on seeds and growth generally
Maths : trade and barter; measurement (see Beanstalk : the measure of a giant at 513.24)
Health: bullying and how to deal with it. Comparisons with the Biblical story of David and Goliath are another possibility here.
In general the important elements of the story, once Jack has climbed the beanstalk, are the items he steals from the giant—the most traditional versions list a bag of gold, a golden harp, and a hen (occasionally a goose) that lays golden eggs--the attitude of the giant’s wife to Jack, and the eventual fate of both Mr and Mrs Giant. The level of variation in the different versions is indicated in square brackets.
398.20942 BEC Jack and the beanstalk
Re-told and ill. Ian Beck. A goose, rather than a hen, lays the golden eggs, and gives Jack considerable help before flying away to take up residence with him and his Mum. Trimmed of many of the other elements (2004)
398.20942 BEN Jack and the beanstalk
Re-told by Ann Keay Beneduce; ill. Gennady Spirin
Elements of Aesop’s The goose that laid golden eggs (here a hen) are included [hen, harp, unwitting help from giant’s wife] (1999)
398.20942 HAR Jack and the giant : a story full of beans
Written and ill. by Jim Harris. This distinctly twisted version is set in Arizona. The giant is called Wild Bill Hiccup, Jack’s mother is Annie Okey-Dokey, and a buffalo “lays” fragments of solid gold…The worst hazard is the giant’s powerful breath. “Fee-fi-fo-fum…” becomes “Yippy yi yay…” (1997) [buffalo, banjo, help from male cook]
398.20942 JAC Jack and the beanstalk
Jacobs, Joseph; ill. Margery Gill.
Joseph Jacobs’ version is used as a model by many of the later re-tellers. [Cow called Milky-white, helpful wife, possible first use of ‘Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum’ in this particular story, bag of gold, hen, harp] Jack gets greedy again, but this giant is a genuinely scary ogre, so it doesn’t seem quite so important that he has to die... Jacobs remembers being told the story when he was a boy in Australia in the 1860s. His is the ideal read-aloud version (1974)
398.20942 MCK Jack and the beanstalk
Adapted by Sindy McKay; ill. Lydia Halvorsen
Like the following version, this is intended for very junior readers. One of the We Both Read series, it has simplified pages interspersed with pages designed to be read aloud by an adult. Both junior-level adaptations retain the delightfully grim elements of the story, including the ‘Fee-fi-fo-fum…’verse (1998) [hen (goose cf Aesop), harp, sack of gold, unhelpful giant’s wife]
398.20942 MOO Jack and the beanstalk
Written by Maggie Moore; ill. Stephen Cox
A limited vocabulary version in the Read-it! series, suitable for beginning readers or for ESOL use. The story is considerably simplified (2001) [hen only]
398.20942 NES Jack and the beanstalk
In this long version by classic storyteller E. Nesbit, illustrated by Matt Tavares, Jack is helped and guided by a fairy, and later by the giant’s (normal-sized) wife. Hen, money-bags and harp are all stolen from the giant , but tradition is broken by the absence of ‘Fee-fi-fo-fum.’ The author has contributed a substantial back-story, presumably of her own devising, which draws on elements of Greek mythology.
398.20942 OSB Kate and the beanstalk
Ill. Giselle Potter [Hen, harp, help from giant’s wife] Mary Pope Osborne’s feminist slant on the story has Kate helping, and being helped by, the giant’s put-upon wife. Hen, harp and money-bag had all been previously stolen by the Giant from Kate’s knightly father—an element added to many versions in Victorian times so that the story should not be seen as encouraging children to steal!! (2000)
398.20942 POO Jack and the beanstalk
Re-told by Josephine Poole; ill. Paul Hess
[Help from giant’s wife; hen; money bags; harp] This Jack is a bit of a spoilt brat! But he develops some character during his adventures, and is happy to let the giant’s kindly wife have the treasure he wasn’t able to carry down (1997)
F 398.2094202 LOR Jack and the beanstalk : how a small fellow solved a big problem
Re-told and ill. Albert Lorenz with Joy Schleh. This large format edition would be a useful addition to a junior technology/physics class, as Jack improvises pulleys and levers to transport the ENORMOUS hen that lays the golden eggs and the equally large harp that he steals--- unlike most versions, this one has all the giant’s belongings drawn to scale! Easy to follow instructions for making Jack’s miniature pulleys, levers, block and tackle etc are given at the back of the book. As if this weren’t enough, there are also ‘Where’s Wally?’-type puzzle pictures. [hen, harp, money-bag , help from giant’s wife, both giant and his wife perish] (2002)
398.210941 HAL Jack and the bean tree : a mountain tale re-told
Re-told and ill. Gail E. Haley
This Jack is a mountain man, in a dialect tale featuring a Giant Jackrabbit. New slant--they actually eat the beans. Unlike most Jacks, this one at least spares a thought for the giant’s wife up in ‘skyland’ after her husband has come to grief. However, in this story there is a whole colony of giants up there, so presumably she will be taken care of…[Cow called Milky- White—Joseph Jacobs appears to have been the first to actually give the cow a name, and American versions in particular have adopted this-- helpful giant’s wife; magic tablecloth; hen; harp]
398.210941 KEL Jack and the beanstalk Re-told and ill. Steven Kellogg
A really scarey giant/ogre in interestingly elegant surroundings.
[Cow called Milky-white, bag of gold,hen, harp, help from giant’s wife unrewarded] (1991)
398.210941 HOW Jack and the beanstalk
Re-told and ill. John Howe
Mediaeval costume, rain-drenched Celtic setting [hen, harp, help from giant’s wife unrewarded] (1989)
398.210941 STO Jack and the beanstalk
Re-told by Rita Storey; ill. Amelia Rosato
Simple modern dress version emphasises the lack of need for Jack’s third trip, the one that spelled the giant’s doom. In several versions Jack makes this third trip because he is bored, or has become greedy—and the giant dies… [Helpful giant’s wife, bags of gold, hen, harp] (1991)
513.24 MCC Beanstalk : the measure of a giant (A Math Adventure).
Ann McCallum; ill. James Balkovek.
The logistics of interaction between Jack and a (friendly) giant five times his height are dealt with in this maths/technology take on the story. Includes list of activities for developing both maths and language concepts
Versions without the beanstalk:
398.2097569 COM Jack the giant chaser : an Appalachian tale
Compton, Kenn; ill. Joanne Compton
And without Jack either..
398.20943 BLA The brave little tailor : a retelling of the Grimms’ fairy tale
Blair, Eric; ill. David Shaw
398.20943 GRI Seven with one blow (video)
398.20943 KIM Seven at one blow : a tale from the Brothers Grimm
Kimmel, Eric A.; ill. Megan Lloyd
398.20943 WAT The brave little tailor
Re-told and ill. Bernadette Watts
New Zealand giantkiller : two variations on the same story
M 398.20993 NZ BAC Matakauri the giant killer
Bacon, Ron; ill. Manu Smith
M 398.20993 NZ CAR Matau the giant of Wakatipu
Cartwright, Pauline; ill. Te Maari Gardiner
(Here a maiden is rescued from the giant’s clutches—similar to dragonslayer stories)
Some Fractured Fairytale Versions
Jack and the beanstalk has several chapter book variations aimed at older children. These are shelved in the Fiction section of the library. They include:
FIC ANH Anholt, Laurence Daft Jack and the bean stack
FIC DON Donaldson, Julia The giants and the Joneses
FIC CAT Catanese, P.W. The thief and the beanstalk
FIC NAP Napoli, Donna Jo Crazy Jack
Picture book versions include:
PICT ANH Anholt, Laurence; ill. Ross Collins Jack and the dreamsack
PICT ASL Aslund, Tatiana; ill. Vasanti Unka The bean’s story (2007)
PICT BRI Briggs, Raymond Jim and the beanstalk
PICT BUT Butterworth, Nick; ill. Mick Inkpen Jasper’s beanstalk (2008)
PICT WIL Wildsmith, Brian and Rebecca Jack and the meanstalk
Useful website: www.surlalunefairytales.com/jackbeanstalk/history.html