Jack and the Beanstalk (1897)
The children’s book, Jack and the Beanstalk, 1897, has many illustrations that outline the story’s main points. The selected image on the cover shows the protagonist of the story, Jack, holding a harp and the beanstalk. He is wearing red pants with a white shirt and a blue jacket over it. He is also wearing high socks with loafers. Readers can see in the illustration that Jack is pictured as if he is running. Jack steals from the giant, first, a hen, then a bag of money, and lastly, a harp that the giant played. Every time Jack would enter the house, the giant would roar, “I smell fresh meat!” (Jack 4). Jack’s bravery shown facing the giant was a sign that he wanted to help his family.
The image on the cover depicts Jack after stealing from the giant. Readers can infer that he is running fast back home to show his widowed mother what treasures he stole. This image symbolizes the bravery that Jack had in order to steal the belongings that the giant had. Since the farmer took Jack’s cow which he was trying to sell, he stole a hen from the giant so that he and his mother can have food. Each day Jack would climb up to the castle and talk to the fairy because she would feed him and the giant was mad that this kept happening. The giant was very demanding and needy. He would eat his supper and would then be tired and fall asleep, snoring loudly. When he snored that was Jack’s cue to steal something and leave. He saw the giant had played a song on the harp. “He stole from his hiding place on tiptoe, and seized the harp. But the harp was enchanted, and, as soon as Jack laid hands on it, it cried out in such a way that it woke up the giant, who started up with a loud roar” (Jack 8). The giant ran after the little boy, and Jack called his mother to give him an axe. “Jack cut the beanstalk and the monster fell to the ground, dead” (Jack 8). This shows that monsters are not always the winner at the end.
At the end of the story, Jack’s mother “was astonished to find that it was the cruel monster who had murdered her husband and robbed her of her wealth, and had now reaped the reward of his evil deeds” (Jack 8). The mother was mad at her son because he took the beans, so he helped her out by getting their money back. They end up wealthy and lived the rest of their lives happy while the giant and his wife suffer. The giant in Jack and the Beanstalk symbolized someone that withholds fortune. He was being selfish, having all the money while Jack and his family had none.
Jack and the Beanstalk. McLoughlin Bros., Inc. 1897. De Grummond Children’s Books Collections. The University of Southern Mississippi. www.digilib.usm.edu/cdm/ compoundobject/collection/dgbooks/id/757/show/7481 Accessed 1 Feb. 2017.
Text by Mackenzie Silva, undergraduate student at Southern Miss. This Item of the Month stems from the Digital Archives Research Group’s Save Our Stories project, a project designed to introduce Southern Miss students to our archival holdings. To learn more about SOS or the Digital Archives Research Group at USM, visit the Digital Archives Research Group website. Congratulations to Mackenzie Silva on her strong work.