English Pantomime Tradition
Jack and the Beanstalk
18th century, English fairy tale.
Jack climbs up to the very top of one of the beans when it has grown and finds himself in giantland.
'Fe, Fi, Fo, Fum! I smell the blood of an Englishman!'
'Very good,' said Miranda, coolly.
'And what a story!' said Quintin.
'A magic beanstalk!' replied Miranda, with a mixture of surprise and contempt.
'Forget about the beanstalk,' said Quintin, seriously.
'Forget about it? A boy exchanges a cow for a bag of beans and gets seriously told off for it. He plants the beans in his garden and discovers that they are magic ones. He climbs up to the very top of one of the beans when they have grown and finds himself in giantland.'
'A boy goes up to heaven, where people are supposed to go when they die, and instead of meeting with God he meets with a giant instead.'
'Heaven lies at the top of a beanstalk?' asked Miranda.
'How else is a boy supposed to get there?' replied Quintin. 'There were no aeroplanes in those days. Spaceflight hadn’t been invented! And it needed to be a means of travel that suggested nature. The natural world. He could have been wafted up on a cloud, of course. Aristophanes would probably have written that into the script. Or taken up in the claws of an eagle, like Geoffrey Chaucer in the House of Fame, or across the sea to giantland hanging from the claws of a vulture, like the Scandinavian saga hero Arrow-Odd. But tradition has it otherwise.'