Let's discuss the subtext and unanswered questions of the Jack and the Beanstalk story

Presumably everybody knows the story, though there are different versions. Jack and the Beanstalk has more unanswered and half told component stories than any tale since the Book of Exodus.

For starters, why did the peddler, hereinafter referred to as “The Beanseller” or as B, trade beans that would allow an invasion of Giantland for a cow? Not even a nice cow, a cow owned by starving peasants. I have theories. Perhaps “these are magic beans” was a sales pitch that just coincidentally happened to be right, or the Beanseller was honest and really knew they were magic beans. Occams Razor would imply the latter- what are the chances that if he was making up something about the beans to talk a kid out of a cow that the elaborate infeasible tale he made up would just happen to be true?

So assuming that B knew they were beans that would sprout fast and strong enough to allow a not particularly bright boy (or was he? But I digress) to enter Giantland, a place with such insufficient defenses that even a boy could plunder it, why doesn’t B just plant them himself, loot the Giant’s castle, steal the gold, and use a mere fraction of it to buy a whole herd of cows and still have enough left over to buy a high rise pied a terre, a suburban mansion and a vacation house and still have money left over?


1- The Beanseller has no interest in money


2- He somehow isn’t able to conduct the raid himself

If he has no interest in money, why does he have interest in a puny cow?

My theory: the Beanseller has a personal beef (no cow pun intended) with the giant but is unable to invade Giantland himself. He wants the Giant dead, but needs a patsy.


He plans to rob Jack. But that presents so many other problems I’m going to ignore it for now. Perhaps somebody else will take it.

As for Jack and the Giant, what right did he have to the Giant’s treasure? Why is the Giant seen as evil for trying to kill him?

Imagine this scenario: you’re woken up in the middle of the night by an intruder, and when you turn on the lights you see that the intruder is a 2 foot tall adolescent little person who is trying to rob you. Do you say “Oooh, isn’t he adorable! Let’s see if I can find some baby clothes that match what I’m wearing and make some Mini-Me pictures!”, or do you grab the first available weapon (without regard to whether it’s size appropriate) and say “Get back mo-fooker you don’t know me like that!” and hold him prisoner til the police come. I suspect you’d do the latter: the fact he’s a Little Person is strange but the fact he’s broken in and robbing you is the important part. The Giant is no different: however he earned his gold we can be sure he didn’t steal it from Jack, Jack has no more claims to it than anybody else, he’s completely in his rights and justifiable in all ways in imprisoning Jack. Jack is a thief and an invader, and if the giant were evil, he’d have killed Jack right off the bat wouldn’t he?

Perhaps B knew the beans were magic but had no idea exactly what magical properties the beans had.

Then there’s Jack’s mom. She is, according to the story, penniless and starving and has only one asset: a cow which she tells jack to sell to buy food. Now presumably the entire land is not doing well, but even if the local economy is booming a so-so cow is not now nor has it ever been able to bring enough to really tide you over more than a few weeks and that’s if you get top dollar and eat cheaply; you’re as well off slaughtering it and then trading meat for vegetables to go with it. If you can hold off any time at all the best thing to do would be to breed it to a bull and in a few months you’ll have milk that you can use to make cheese, veal if you just really need a beef hit (and even a calf can make a lot of sausage), and all the while manure to plant things.

Instead Jack’s mom does one of the stupidest possible things with her one asset: gives it to a halfwitted son who trades it for a handful of beans. She apparently doesn’t even think of going with him. What is she thinking?

I’m starting to wonder if there ever even was a cow. Two theories about his mother come to mind:

1- His mother (hereinafter M) is a Mary Surratt figure who may not have been in on a plot with her son and or the beanseller to kill the giant and they all invented the cow story later to explain sudden wealth or else concocted it beforehand for plausible deniability sake


2 His mother is like Angela Lansbury’s character in THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE and is working with the Beanseller to get her son to be an unwitting assassin of the Giant

Or is he unwitting? Perhaps he’s less a Manchurian Candidate than a conspirator with Beanseller all along. Or perhaps it’s middle ground: he’s gullible and easily swayed ala Leon Czolgosz. Either way, this could be something he and the Beanseller have been cooking up in their basement for some while ala Lenin and Trotsky.

There’s a profounder side to this whole thing and I won’t rest until we know the truth. I suspect it’s a combination Bolshevik parable with the Giant as the Romanov Dynasty (except that makes little sense the story is older than the Russian Revolution) or it’s a code that will lead us to the Last Scion.

Either way, interested to read your thoughts and conspiracy theories.

So 4 Theories So Far:
M= Mother/J= Jack/B=Beanseller

1- M gives J cow in good faith, J trades to B in good faith, neither J or M knows B before hand

  1. J and B are working together, M is in the dark

  2. M and B are working together, J is in the dark

  3. J and M and B all know each other and are all working together

As for the beanstalk: what possible advantage could a gigantic beanstalk have to a regular sized person? Approximately none. BUT it would be only logical that a giant’s beanstalks would be, in a word, giant, or otherwise it would be like a …regular sized person harvesting beans the size of BBs. (Sidenote: Truman Capote once observed that his favorite thing about very rich people was how smaller their food was- “potatoes the size of peas and bananas the size of okra.”) So, these probably were not so much magic beans as just giant’s beans. Clearly the beanseller had obtained them, directly or indirectly, from the Giant’s land, implying either he had been there himself or he had a mole in Giant Land.

Now I’m wondering who had the most to gain by the Giant’s death.

In essence, Jack is really stupid, accepting alleged magic beans for a cow. He strikes lucky, for some reason that we can’t understand - as summarised by Sampiro.

The beans grow - on the face of it, several plants grow from them, in an intertwined fashion. It is not made clear what is supporting them, as beans need to grow on something like another plant or wire. Implausible indeed.

Then this idiot actually climbs up the plants in a totally dangerous fashion. He could not rationally expect anything from doing this, and is just being stupid. By chance, he gets lucky again, and finds a giant’s country. Ultimately he steals money and goods from the giant, who seems to be a normal law-abiding resident of the cloud country. After this, he escapes, and causes the innocent resident to fall to his death.

I think we need to enquire further into this story about how he acquired his gold. the beans and giant story is frankly not believable.

So it diverges into two more camps:

1- The gold and goods really did come from a Giant


2- The Giant is a ruse, there never was one

Although with 2, surely somebody would think to ask “so where is this beanstalk? Or the remains of this giant?”

Either you’re unaware of the versions of the tale that include the fact that the Giant had a wife, or you have some motive for covering up her existence and partitipation in the events that led to the Giant’s demise.

Perhaps you are a scion of The Widder Giantess’s second marriage (to the beanseller, of course), a hypothesis I find far more plausible than any that involve you being ignorant of even the most obscure versions of this bit of folklore.

Let’s open the floor back up for some more discussion…

Did anybody ever see the Giant’s wife before his death other than Jack? Because what I hear of is a woman who suddenly shows up saying “Oh, I was his wife… no, no marriage license, but we were married in our hearts in an 'I inherit what’s left of his earthly estate” sort of way.

I wonder if his ‘wife’ bore a strong resemblance to Jack’s mother.

Or if she had indeed been caught with the Beanseller, whoever he was before he sold beans, and spirited him the beans. Which I suspect weren’t beans at all but bamboo which grows very fast and doesn’t need a pole to support it, in which case either she or the giant one may well have been Asian.

Does a castle in the sky count as an “earthly estate?”

Wait, did you say the Giant was Aslan???

nm. For a minute, I forgot that this wasn’t a Skald the Rhymer thread.

People, people, people! You’re being far too literal here. Clearly Jack and The Beanstalk is a thinly veiled adolescent sex fantasy.

First, the boy rids himself of the cow. Cow. Milk. Mothers. He trades away this sign of maternal warmth and nourishment for a “stalk” which grows to enormous proportions in the night while he sleeps. Grasping this “stalk,” he climbs until he comes to the home of the Giant’s Wife. She services him, feeds him dinner and generally finds him to be good company until her husband comes home. Startled, she hides the adulterer in her chest - a traditional symbol of a girl’s hopes and dreams of marriage.

Jack makes his escape, sliding down that giant stalk, until he’s safe and sound at home again. But it he satisfied with cuckolding the Giant once? Nope. He returns to steal everything that’s not nailed down, slides back down the stalk and, sated at last, cuts it off!

Now that his adolescent adventures are over, he vows never to return to Giant Country again and he retires to a life of luxury, spent and impotent.

The beanseller is actually Gandalf, and he can’t use the beans himself because the Giant has wards up against wizardly invasion.

Why on earth can’t the beanseller be benevolent?

From the Wiki article, regarding the telling of the story that all subsequent tellings have used as a basis:

The plot thickens…

I won’t say it’s impossible, but I will ask your honest answer (and we’ll know if you lie): of the beansellers you’ve known who accept livestock for beans, were ANY of them benevolent?

Oh as if! Homeless old bags will tell you any sob story they think will make you feel sympathy and a connection to them to get a handout and that’s clearly what this old “transgressed fairy” was doing IF she even existed.

You’re all forgetting the origin of the Giant’s wealth (and Jack and his mother’s poverty) the Giant pinched it all from Jack’s father in the first place. Of course this could just be a post facto justification since the Giant isn’t around anymore to tell his side of the story so I’ll bring in the absolute proof of the boy’s right to do as he did. His mother named him Jack and Jacks are born to be giant killers.

edited to add posted before seeing Bob Ducca’s post.

So, you’re suggesting there was a mole in the Giant’s garden?

So if the Giant stole Jack’s father’s money, did that mean Jack’s father lived in the sky or that the Giant once lived on the land? Either way I’m not buying it- there’s a reason they live in two different environments and I’m thinking it’s because they couldn’t both live in the same type of place.