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1001 Stories Collection

Jack and the Beanstalk

Added on 29th June 2020

Oral tradition English folktale

Fee-fi-fo-fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman! A mysterious stranger, magic beans and a fearsome giant together help to create this popular story about a plucky lad called Jack.


When their cow stops producing milk, Jack’s poor mother sends him to sell the animal at market. Jack is persuaded to trade the cow for a handful of magic beans. His mother is furious and throws the beans out the window. That night, the beans grow into a giant beanstalk stretching up to the sky. Curious, Jack climbs into the clouds…

Why we chose it

Jack and the Beanstalk is one of the most popular traditional tales and one of the most popular pantomimes. It is a great story for dramatic retelling.

Where it came from

Tales of boys who steal giants’ treasure have apparently been told for over 5000 years. “Fee-fi-fo-fum” is an ancient gaelic rhyme and appears in many other stories, including Shakespeare’s King Lear (c.1605). Despite this, the first known publication of the English fairy tale wasn’t until 1734, in a Christmas pamphlet by Dick Merryman called Round about our Coal Fire. The version best known today is from Joseph Jacobs’ English Fairy Tales (1890).

Where it went next

Jack and the Beanstalk has featured in countless books, plays, TV shows and films. Famous adaptations include Roald Dahl’s 1982 Revolting Rhymes, Colin Stimpson’s Jack and the Baked Beanstalk (2013), and Raymond Briggs’ Jim and the Beanstalk (1973). The story is also central to Stephen Sondheim’s musical Into the Woods, although it is intertwined with other fairy stories.

It is one of the most popular pantomimes performed regularly in British theatres.

Associated stories

The story is the best known of the Jack Tales, a series of English stories and nursery rhymes featuring heroes called Jack. Other examples include Jack the Giant Killer and Jack Frost. Jack the Giant Killer also features in Jacobs’ English Fairy Tales, along with The Story of the Three Bears and Dick Wittington and his Cat.

Added on 29th June 2020

Oral tradition English folktale