Fee-fi-fo-fum! I smell the blood of a really cool hero. And they are . . .
For years I thought the story of Jack and the Beanstalk and Jack the Giant Killer were one and the same. After all, they're both stories about a boy named Jack who kills a giant. However, I recently learned that they're actually not the same at all.
Jack the Giant Killer is the eldest of the two, dating back to the Arthurian legends. Though he's a mere farmer's son, Jack is clever and quick-witted, using his brain rather than brawn to get him out of various scrapes. His keen intellect saves him from giant foe, as he lures them to their deaths and earning himself the monicker "The Giant Killer". He rescues many –including a princess and King Arthur's son – and is rewarded with riches, a seat at the famed Round Table, and a Duke's daughter for a wife.
Jack and the Beanstalk would be something like the Giant Killer's son, Jack, Jr. He follows his own path, but finds many of his origins in the previous tale, most notably the name of the Giant he eventually kills. However, where the first Jack is the epitome of Arthurian honor, rewarded for his good deeds, this Jack can be considered more of an anti-hero. He rashly exchanges his cow (his family's one and only source of income) for magic beans and steals his riches from the giant he finds at the top of the beanstalk. Though of course he does have to use his own cunning to evade and kill the giant now bent on revenge.
But regardless of the two Jacks' differences, the stories share a common theme in that they're both tales of upward mobility. The two Jacks rise above their humble roots through resourcefulness and (this should go without saying) giant slaying, rather than marriage, the most common means of social climbing for that time period.
My favorite version:
Jack the Giant Slayer (2013 film)
This post is part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. My theme (in case you didn't already guess) is Fairy Tales. Stay tuned for the rest of the alphabet, and if you'd like to check out the other participants, simply click here.