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Jack, The Beanstalk, and the Marketing Scam

A Twisted Fairytale Short Story

By Natasja RosePublished 7 months ago 6 min read

You’ve probably all heard of Jack and his Beanstalk: how he traded a cow for magic beans, travelled to the land of Giants in the sky and became rich overnight.

You probably haven’t heard of the countless other Jacks, Toms, Richards and Harolds who planned on doing the same thing, but didn’t even get an inch off the ground.

We had con-artists back then, too, you know, and no shortage of foolish young men desperate to get into easy riches and a life of doing whatever they pleased, rather than working dawn to dusk. Me, I was just desperate to get off the farm and into a more exciting career, but knew that there was no way my parents would pay for an apprenticeship, despite having three other sons still at home.

The scam only worked for a few years before people caught on, but for a while there, every country town and peasants’ quarter of every small city was flooded with magicians and ‘holy men’, trading money or goods for one-of-a-kind ‘magic beans’.

I was one of those many Jacks, trading something valuable for a handful of dried beans dyed a pretty color.




Yeah, shut up, I already admitted that none of us were the sharpest sword in the armory. Don’t expect me to say it twice.

My family were farmers, but we ran a stall every market day, selling the best squash this side of the capitol city. The only thing my mother couldn’t grow were beans.

So there I was, minding the stall while the rest of the family wandered off to the food stalls or taverns for lunch, when this man in the robes of a wandering priest appears, clutching a small bag protectively. From the lines at the food stalls, the rest of my family wasn’t going to be back in a hurry, so I was bored, hungry and more than willing to strike up a conversation with anyone who stuck around long enough to listen.

The perfect mark for a con-man looking for a target willing to tolerate his presence long enough to gain a foothold.

Like I said, the tale of Jack and the Beanstalk had been spreading like wildfire. Besides, he was dressed as a holy man, and who is going to call one of them a liar?

Sure, I was a bit skeptical, because if those beans had come into my possession, I wouldn’t be selling them to just anyone. On the other hand, there was no shortage of reasons that the holy man might forego an adventure.

Desperate times mean desperate measures, and the holy man didn’t look well-fed. Not everyone had my thirst for adventure, and he wasn’t exactly in the first blush of youth. It wasn’t totally beyond reason that he had a realistic expectation of his ability to climb beanstalks or outrun giants, and was willing to pass on the risk with the reward, in exchange for a smaller, immediate reward, if it meant keeping his feet safely on the ground.

It could even have been as simple as a fear of heights; you won’t get my sister Jill up any higher than the city wall for love or money. She gets weak-kneed at even going to the well at the top of a hill near our farm.

Half the time she’d take me down with her, the fast way, and claim it was my fault.

The thought of climbing giant beanstalk above the clouds would send her running to the next city or reaching for the nearest axe, no matter what rewards lay at the top, so it wasn’t totally beyond reason to think that the holy man was not of a similar bend.

Wipe that look off your face.

Yes, I know I’m not the brightest star in the sky, the sharpest tool in the shed, etc, etc. Believe me, I’ve heard them all before. Multiple times, from multiple people. But he made it seem so reasonable, saying what I wanted to hear, calling me brave and encouraging my ambition for more, where everyone else had called me a stupid dreamer.

In a way, perhaps my desire to repeat Jack’s story was more of a desire to prove that being simple, or not intelligent in a way that my family though mattered, didn’t make me useless.

The first Jack hadn’t exactly been a genius, either, and I had spent enough time dreaming to form a plan. Go up the beanstalk while my family harvested the pods, enough to keep us in beans for years, chop off the tendrils as I came down with enough gold coins to improve our lives, but not enough that a giant with entire rooms of wealth would care, and water the beanstalk with vinegar and salt, the mixture that my mother uses on weeds to kill them at the roots.

Money, food, and a decent firewood substitute to last us a good long while. Easy, right? All I needed were the magic beans. I gave the holy man two squash, in exchange for the beans, and he left just as my family started to return.

I won’t repeat what my family said when we returned home, tallying the day’s profits, and they found out what I’d done. The word ‘idiot’, along with various synonyms, featured prominently. Most of the rest of it was language fit to strip the plaster off the walls, and this account may fall into the hands of children.

As it stands, I think Father is going to regret it when Jill and her husband get back from their journey and realise that Baby Simon has picked up a number of new words. Maybe she’ll start taking the child with her when they have to travel, and I can have my bed back.

Silver lining to every thundercloud, I suppose.

By Tijana Drndarski on Unsplash

It took a week or two before I admitted defeat, or at least that I should have asked for more detail on growing times of magic beanstalks.

The one Jack had traded for was said to have sprung up overnight, but the growing times of various types of beans could vary, so who was to say that these beans weren’t the same?

No one else shared my opinion, and it took another week before I conceded that they probably had a point. I did learn two valuable lessons, though.

One, that if something sounded too good to be true, it probably was.

Two, that no matter how little people expect of you, it is always possible for their expectations to get lower.

There was one unexpected bonus, though. After my family decided that I was too stupid to be trusted with the stall and left me at home, my father overheard a travelling theatre group discussing the need for their playwright to get a scribe and possible replacement.

It wasn’t the life of riches I had dreamed of (the term ‘starving artist’ exists for a reason), but there was travel, adventure, and I was with people who listened to my dreams and discussed how we could make them happen on stage.

That was close enough.

OK, so this is a bit less of a retold fairytale and a bit more of the aftermath of a fairytale, where everyone and their Uncle Jim is trying to replicate the heroes success (and failing).

Look, for every abandoned kid who find's a witch's hut or a kind stranger, there are dozens who die of exposure trying to get home, OK?

If you liked this story, leave a heart, a comment or a tip and share it around, and check out my other work on Medium and Amazon.

If you like Twisted Fairytales, you can check out my novella-length ones at the link below.

Short StoryYoung AdultHumorFableClassical

About the Creator

Natasja Rose

I've been writing since I learned how, but those have been lost and will never see daylight (I hope).

I'm an Indie Author, with 30+ books published.

I live in Sydney, Australia

Follow me on Facebook or Medium if you like my work!

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Comments (6)

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  • Brendan Parker7 months ago

    Great story! We've all been a Jack at one time or another

  • Babs Iverson7 months ago

    Natasha, loved your twisted tale!!! Was thinking about the Jack & The Beanstalk too!!! Your story was a fun & enjoyable adventure!!! Loved this💕❤️❤️

  • K.H. Obergfoll7 months ago

    ooooooohhhhhhhhhhhhh, my dear!!! I love this entirely, in its entirety. Wonderful story telling and imagery. Keep it up. Please!!!

  • Emma Kate Coleman7 months ago

    Your voice (or Jack's, in this case) is so strong! And enjoyable read, Natasja!

  • Mariann Carroll7 months ago

    I love your tale and also the pictures for the imagery and some moral lessons in the story . 💗

  • Clever, engaging, fun & quite timely with all the hucksters emailing every five minutes.

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