Story of Jack Spriggins and the Enchanted Bean

Jack and the Beanstalk

By —— Bio and Archives--October 29, 2017

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Halloween with its customs and tales of ghosts, witches and their dreadful doings has its origins in Celtic times. Other still popular accounts date back 5,000 years according to folklorists, bringing them into the realm of that widespread tribe. One such is that of ‘Jack and the Beanstalk.’ The classic English fairy tale originally appeared as ‘The Story of Jack Spriggins and the Enchanted Bean’ in 1734 and as Benjamin Tabart’s moralized ‘The History of Jack and the Bean-Stalk’ in 1807.

According to researchers at the universities of Durham and Lisbon, the story originated more than 5,000 years ago, based on a widespread archaic story form which is now classified by folklorists as ‘The Boy Who Stole the Ogre’s Treasure.’ The first film adaptation was made in 1902 by Edwin S. Porter for the Edison Manufacturing Company. There have been many since. In essence Jack was instructed by his widowed mother to take their old, milkless cow and sell hr for what he could get. Alas, he swopped her for a ‘magic’ bean. His infuriated mother bunged the bean out of the window. By the next morning it had grown into a mighty plant, stretching up into the sky. Jack shinnies up, encounters a cannibalistic giant but manages to escape with a bankable proportion of the ogre’s treasure.

But botanically queries remain over that bean’s provenance. Today’s familiar garden bean arrived in the Old World only after Iberians invaded the Americas. Prior to that, from time immemorial, the classic bean was the ‘fava’ or what the insular English call the ‘broad’ bean. So, the legume that Jack scaled must have been a veritable Vigna, rather than the New World’s Phaseolus.

Either way, the edible results attracted the attention from the ancients to Mel Brooks Blazing Saddles.

Beans, beans the musical fruit
The more you eat, you more you toot
The more you toot, the better you feel
So eat beans for every meal.

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Wes Porter -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Wes Porter is a horticultural consultant and writer based in Toronto. Wes has over 40 years of experience in both temperate and tropical horticulture from three continents.

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