The golden egg from Jack and the Beanstalk
The tale as we know it
Jack is a simple, boy hen pecked by his mean and bad tempered mother. They are so very poor that one day his mother tells him to take their old and very malnourished cow to market to sell her. Rather than haggling for gold, Jack happily swaps the cow for some ‘magic beans’.
Needless to say his mother is less than impressed when he returns and tells her his incredible news. She throws the beans out of the window and hey presto, in the morning they have turned into an enormous beanstalk which reaches all the way up to the heavens.
Jack climbs up to discover a giants castle full of riches beyond his wildest dreams. He plunders the giants treasures (including a goose that lays golden eggs and a singing harp) on several occasions, being sniffed out by the enormous beast ‘Fi Fi Fo Fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman’.
Each time he manages to get away and finally, after being chased all the way back to the beanstalk, he slides back down, gets an axe and chops it to pieces with the giant tumbling down to the ground. It’s a miracle he doesn’t squash Jack in the decent.
History and Trivia
Believed to be one of the oldest fairytales, ‘The Boy Steals Ogres Treasure’ is thought to have originated over 5000 years ago being passed down through generations of storytellers through spoken word.
In 1734, The Story of Jack Spriggins and the Enchanted Bean” was anonymously published as part of short stories. In 1807, Benjamin Tarbart published The History of Jack and the Beanstalk’
The first pantomime in Birmingham was ‘The House that Jack Built’ in 1859 performed at the Theatre Royal.
Though traditionally a British form of entertainment, pantos actually have their roots firmly established in the sixteenth century Italian ‘Commedia dell’Arte’. Dancers, musicians, acrobats and tumblers all formed the troop of mischievous characters which eventually found their way to the British stage in the early eighteenth century.
The infamous catchphrase, “Fi, Fi, Fo Fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman” is actually an adaptation of a line from William Shakespeare’s King Lear spoken by Edgar: “Fie foh and fum, I smell the blood of a Britishman” Act 3 scene 4.
The first pantomime version of Jack and the Beanstalk (or Harlequin and the Ogre) was in 1819 at Drury Lane theatre. This was also the first appearance of a woman (Eliza Povey) playing ‘Principal Boy’ performing as Jack.