Jack and His Colonialist Beanstalk
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a piece about how Goldilocks was Criming While White. It got me thinking about how some of the fairytales we’ve heard countless times really offer horrible lessons about their protagonists. Many of them were terrible people but somehow, they got to live happily ever after. I might be starting a “Fairytales Are Terrible” series. Or “Our Childhood was a lie” series.
We gotta talk about Jack and the Beanstalk. That’s another one that just never curled all the way over for me.
Jack was a boy who lived with his mother, and their town was going through a famine. All they had left to their name was a cow named Old Bess. After desperation sets in, his mom sends him to go sell the cow so they could buy some seed to grow some crop. On the way to the market, Jack meets an old man who tells him he has a deal for him. This is where his goofass started down the path of wrongness. In exchange for the cow, the man would give him three magic beans that he promises will grow to the sky by morning. And the return policy is that if it doesn’t, he’ll give him his cow back. Jack agrees to the sale. Although I’m not sure what receipts he has.
Jack takes his jolly ass home and tells his mom he traded the cow for three black eyed peas. Mama bursts into tears and Jack was shamed. He ran to his room and threw his tantrum by throwing the beans out the window.
Morning comes and Jack looks out the window. Sure enough, there is now a beanstalk that goes all the way up to the sky. Because he is team bad decisions, he decides to climb it into the clouds. There, he finds a castle. A giant woman pulls him in and says she’ll make him a good breakfast. She hands him milk and cheese when the house rumbles and her even more giant husband approaches the kitchen.
She hides Jack in a big pot and tells him that little boys are her husband’s fave snack (dirt must be his fave seasoning then. Little boys are filthy). He needs to wait til Gulliver takes a nap before he can leave. Hubby smells Englishman but she distracts him like “Hey boo. No you don’t. Eat this egg.” They happened to be golden eggs laid by a hen they own. The giant eats and then pulls out a golden harp when he finishes. The thing starts playing, and it lulls the giant to sleep.
Jack gets out the pot he’s been hiding in so he can leave. But he grabs the hen and the harp as he leaves the house. Because not only do you visit a stranger’s house but you steal as you go. The hen makes a noise and the giant wakes up. He looks around and sees they’re missing and he runs out the door. Meanwhile, Jack is running for his life down the beanstalk. The giant smells him and follows him down the beanstalk. Jack gets to the bottom, calls his mom to bring him an axe and then chops down the giant asparagus. The giant, who was on it, falls to his death.
Apparently, the singing harp thanked Jack for rescuing her from the closet of the giants. And the hen gained more weight because it was eating more carbs and Jack and his mama lived happily ever after.
BRUUUUUUUHHHH. Jack was such an asshole. That dude did not deserve nary a nice thing. First of all, he traded a whole cow for three beans. At the minimum, Old Bess coulda made a good ass dinner. Come on, beef! What if the beans were fake? What receipt did he have to get a refund? Where was he gonna find the weird old man? Who told him to be this dumb?
Then, the beanstalk sprouted. This goofy decided to climb it to the sky. This is the curiosity that horror movie victims are made of. You do not go exploring strange lands. NAWL.
But what is most terrible about Jack is how he treated the woman who welcomed him into her house. The lady giant was the biggest victim here. Sure, she shouldn’t drag random English boys in for breakfast but maybe she’s just really kind. She did, though, and she gave him breakfast and protected him from her husband. She shielded the boy from harm, and what did he do in return? He stole her things (the hen and the harp), he sent her husband into a rage, and then killed him.
Jack and the Beanstalk is colonialism in story form. You go to a place you don’t own, then pilfer and pillage it, and then kill the people. When all they offered you was hospitality and shelter. It’s the story of many African countries. It’s the story of the United States of America. It is the global tale of white people behaving badly. And then you think you were somehow helping the people even though you destroyed everything they hold dear. You do it without recourse. Jack and the Beanstalk is an English fairytale, which should make all the sense, considering the role that the United Kingdom has played around the world as perpetual Columbusses.
This is another fairy tale where I never really grasped the moral of the story. Was it to believe in little old men who promise you magic beans? Was it to go exploring boldly (and stupidly)? Was it “If you’re a white boy, you can do fuckshit without consequences?” I truly never understood what it was trying to tell us. Because Jack was a thief and a murderer. Yet we were supposed to cheer for his happy ending. Maybe this is why we should all aspire to have the confidence of a mediocre white man. It’s been foretold over and over again in random stories.
Jack and his beanstalk weren’t shit. DO NOT BE LIKE JACK. Cuz that dude was also criming while white.
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“You go to a place you don’t own, then pilfer and pillage it, and then kill the people.” while claiming you’re doing it the name of religion because everybody else is “behaving like savages” without a moral compass. This is why a lot of people have difficulty just going to church
Cannot wait to read the re-telling of Cinderella and all her DarthBecky victimhood and unrealistic expectations of womanhood!
OMG that would be so true. I never really liked Cinderella too much cause it was like “what if the step sisters didn’t like her because she was spoiled & entitled & thought she was better than every one else. lol” And don’t get me started on Rapunzel and her parents.
And I was like a re-telling of Rapunzel ’cause come on dad was stealing from the garden cause mom had some pregnancy cravings lol. And that woman kept Rapunzel and raised her all for her to bounce as soon as a good looking dude showed up.
Don’t forget the character assassination in this tale! In the versions I’ve been told/seen, the Giant is characterized as not only a cannibal but as a thief–the Giant stole the harp and hen first, so Jack is just stealing them back…except they were never Jack’s to begin with. Truth is, no matter who the Giant is/was and what he did, Jack was a thief who tried to cover his crime by murdering the Giant and I don’t seem to recall Jack being at all concerned about returning the harp and hen to their rightful owners. Forget about setting the harp and hen free. That is a whole other can of worms.
Okay, I was raised by white hippies, but I always thought it was like a class-struggle thing. I can just imagine Bernie Sanders telling it like this: So here we have these giants in a castle in the sky with all this power and wealth (they are the 1%), and we have poor Jack and his family who are starving. And they can’t even see or know about the giant world, because the giants are invisible to them, and they don’t have any means of access. But even a tiny fraction of the giants’ wealth (the goose) would mean a huge change in quality of life for Jack and his mother. So then somehow access opens up via a pathway to the 1% giant world (admittedly Jack is too dumb-as-a-stump to be a scholarship kid, so the analogy kinda breaks down here). Then Jack goes in all Robin Hood and takes some of their wealth to bring back to his family.
Still, you have the stealing and the killing though, so I dunno. Jack isn’t exactly a wholly sympathetic proletariat hero. Your way is good too. I’m buying it.
So I have questions about this whole Brer Rabbit Tar Baby thing. The whole Brer family (rabbit, fox, bear) are a bit suspect ’cause who tryna kill yo cousin and eat him?( But then Becky ‘nem don’t really have cousins anyway, do they?) Then Brer Fox makes this Tar Baby and what? He doesn’t speak so Brer Rabbit beats him? Whatchootrynasay? Tar Baby gets torn to pieces and Brer Rabbit ends up happy in the briar patch and Brer Fox still hungry and Brer Bear laughing and smacking his lips. Naw, bruh.
Jack= The Mythical White Working Class
Old Man Shifty Dealmaker = The Entire GOP (I”ll take your cow and here are three magic beans. Bye!) Also, the magic beans will in fact grow, but what it grows will kill you (c/f Trumpcare and Countless Legislations to come)
Jack’s Mom = Every Democrat with a Brain.
The Giant’s Wife = Bernie Sanders: Living for years with a people-eating Giant but powerless and ineffective
The Giant = A cross between Trump (brain) Paul Ryan (“Fee Fie Foe Fum. Emphasis on the Foe) and Mitch McConnell
Jack Steals the Goose & Get’s Rewarded for Stealing & Killing. (See: WWC. Also, “Fervid Delusions of the WWC “I will be rich just like Trump”)
Now read the Sequel: The Goose that Laid the Golden Egg. Because that’s where Jack and his MAGA friends are all headed.
I like this analysis
OK, y’all are way farther ahead than I am with this…I’m still stuck on how the hell a random plant that grows to the sky was ever supposed to be a solution to Jack’s hunger issue, anyway. He traded good meat and dairy for an aggressive weed, and I’m perplexed.
Another version of the story is Jack went up more then once. The first time he only took one egg. His mother saw it and got greedy after the money from selling it ran out.
Second time he decided to just take the whole dang goose and got away.
Third time he took the harp and that’s when the giant chased him and got killed. The wife of the giant in the story at that point was not so kind to Jack by then because he kept taking shit.
There is even a version where Jack stabbed out the Giants eyes and another where being the dummy he is cuts the goose open thinking to get all the eggs.
This was not a story that I read more then once as a child since it made no sense.
These are certainly delightful, as ur-prototype versions of these tales re-told as shady enterprises by the late Toni Cade Bambara were some years back at many speaking engagements. Is she acknowledged somewhere, or is this the purest of pure coincidence?
I heard/read today that Little Red Riding Hood was about an identity theft and a double murder. True.
The only moral I ever heard for this story was “the bigger they are, the harder they fall.”