February 14 - 20, 2000

The Story of Jack and the Beanstalk (Retold by Dr. Ernestine Riggs)

Once upon a time there lived, in a very poor town, a boy name Jack and his mother. Now Jack was not the brightest boy, but he had a good disposition, told great jokes and was kind and loving. He was, however, extremely lazy. Some attributed his laziness to the fact that he was "brain challenged." Jack's mother, like most mothers, loved her son, but knew he had a few cards missing from the deck. 

One day, after the mother had given Jack the last piece of bread in the house, she looked around and realized, in an effort of trying to feed herself and her son, she had sold every possible possession they had in the world. All they had left of any value was the old, dried-out cow. So she gave Jack the responsibility of taking their last food source to town to sell. 

She explained to Jack the importance of getting the highest possible price for the cow. The more money he was able to get, the more food they could buy, and the longer they would be able to survive. Jack, happy that his mother trusted him with this significant task, set off for town with the old cow. He had not gotten very far because he encountered a strange looking little individual who, after talking to Jack for a few minutes, knew he had an easy mark. He talked Jack into trading the cow for five pretty beans. Jack ran home, proud and excited, thinking he had made a great deal. Of course you know what his mother thought! She was so angry that she threw the beans out of the window, where they landed in the back yard, and sent Jack to bed hungry.

Well, the next day when Jack woke up, to his great surprise, he found a gigantic beanstalk had grown from the beans his mother had thrown out of the window. Like most boys, he was curious, so he climbed up the beanstalk and stepped into a strange and different land. After checking out his surroundings, he spied a castle down the road. He approached the castle cautiously, walked up to the huge doors, knocked timidly, and asked for some food.

It so happened the castle belonged to a "cannibal giant." Luckily for Jack, the giant's wife came to the door. She informed him of the giant's fondness for "people stew" and begged him to leave. But Jack sweet-talked her into letting him in the house, whereby she fed him a delicious vegetarian meal.

Now the giant's wife had been married, as far as she was concerned, much too long. In fact, she was really tired of bulky, repulsive, gluttonous guys and longed to be free and single again. When the giant returned home unexpectedly early, she hid Jack in the oven where he remained until the giant fell asleep. When Jack was sure the giant was sleeping soundly, he stole the hen that produced golden eggs and ran home via the beanstalk. He and his mother lived quite well until the hen ceased laying the golden eggs. This turn of events created the need for another trip up the beanstalk.

Jack, again, convinced the wife to allow him entrance into the castle, where he proceeded to rummage around until he found a golden harp. However, when he attempted its theft, it played a "help me" song which woke the giant, causing Jack to run for his life. The giant tried to follow Jack down the beanstalk, but Jack managed to get down first, grab an ax, and chop it down with the giant swaying on it. Needless to say, the big guy was killed.

Jack and his mother, concerned about the legal consequences of the incident, went to the town's psychic, who assures them they would live rich and happy lives forever and ever.   

Think About It!

1. How would you characterize Jack? Was he?
A risk taker?
Why or why not? Explain and give our reasons.

2. How would you characterize Jack's mother? Why did you select the character traits you attribute to her?
3. How would you characterize the giant and his wife? Why? Give examples.
4. What do you think Jack wished for most in life?
5. What do you think his worst fear was?
6. In your opinion, was Jack acting in an ethical manner with the choices he made regarding the giant's most prized possessions?
7. If Jack had been apprehended by the police, do you think he would have gone to jail for his action? Why or why not? Justify your answer.
8. What do you think Jack's best character trait was?
9. Did Jack have the option of making other choices? Explain.
10. Was there a conspiracy between Jack and the giant's wife? Justify your answer. 

Jack and the Beanstalk Writing Activities

You are a reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times. You have interviewed the giant's wife after his death. Write her version of the incident, as she perceived it. (Narrative)

Using prior knowledge about plants and their growth cycle, explain the type of beans Jack obtained from the stranger. (Expository)

Jack was eventually caught and charged with breaking, entering and murder. You are his attorney. You must convince the jury that Jack is innocent of all changes. How will you accomplish this goal? (Persuasive)

In your summation, as Jack's lawyer, one strategy you will use is to create as much sympathy for your client as possible. Therefore, you will need to tell the jury about Jack's environment, (his single-parent home life, the neighborhood, his mother, etc.). As graphically as possible, create a picture of Jack's life that will have the jurors in tears. (Description and Creative Expression) 

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