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Merit

Merit

Ancient kings and rulers once purposely constructed their castles, thrones, and great meeting halls to intimidate and humble those who sought their audience. It would appear that times had not changed all that much as Corey Jessik stared blankly out of a wall of windows in the large reception area.

He looked up and drifted his tired gaze into the black marble desk that stood centerpiece in a room that was obese given its function and purpose. Corey might have thought he had traveled into the future given the decor of the place. However, he was constantly stressing over the ticking sound that his sedan started to make this morning. The Porsche Enthusiast Magazine that lay on the chic coffee table served as a reminder that he was very much still in the modern era. He forced a casual posture onto himself and leaned back into the leather sofa. The black material was soft, relaxing and probably more expensive than all of his belongings combined. Corey looked to the reception desk for any sign of progress from the assistant as she diligently typed into a faint electronic glow behind the black-marble barrier.

Corey squirmed about, trying to get comfortable as he looked to his watch again. He had always been a soft-spoken and a fairly-timid individual, but like everyone else, he had limits to his patience. The wait-time to speak to one of the Chief Officers stretched on for over an hour. Normally, this meeting would be a mundane task that could have been handled by his manager, or even his department manager.  As fate would have it, one was sick and the other was on vacation. He was willing to allow the appointment to be pushed off, but since the Vice President of the entire company just so happened to receive all the e-mails and requests going up the chain of absent command, Corey would have to ask for a salary increase from one of the few men that ran the entire company.

The sun sets early on the twenty-something floor in a glass tower. The bright glob sank through industrial city smog and poked at Corey’s retinas. It was now 6:00 pm. He had already worked a long shift and was already losing time with his daughter, he was getting agitated and at the same time more confident. If he would be granted his merit increase, then it would all be fine and well, and for Corey, a long time coming. His fiery mental confidence that entered the room with him had been quickly extinguished when the receptionist had finally said; “Mr. Jessik, he will see you now. Please check-in with the secretary at the end of the hall.”

“Thank you.” Corey replied plainly. He stood and began his journey down a large corridor lined with ebony accented stone pillars. The hallway was larger than the workspace afforded to his entire sales team down on the fourth floor. Nervousness subsided to disapproval as he approached an atrium, which was simply another waiting room illuminated by skylights. The centerpiece of the second waiting room housed another voluptuous blonde secretary behind another black marble desk.  She beckoned him silently to sit in one of three small chairs next to a lavish green and purple potted plant, perhaps the only sign of true life on the entire floor of the building.  At least the plant did not live in constant fear of losing its job, or perhaps it did.

Before he could get accustomed to his new chair, the secretary placed her hand to her ear and told Corey to go ahead and just walk in.  The large double doors fit the design motif of black and gold as they dauntingly towered over him. He pulled on the handle surprised on how light the door felt as he walked into Mr. Randvall’s office.  The office was massive and modern, but furnished by cherry wood bookshelves, tables and cabinets.  Soft green carpet replaced cold tile, and scenic paintings fastened the southern walls. A red sofa lay to the side of Mr. Randvall’s desk, which was surprisingly small and quaint given the décor of the twentieth-floor outside of the office. Standing behind the desk was a tall, stalking middle-aged gentleman looking into a electronic tablet. He pushed digital documents aside with his fingers and then put the device down on the desk with his free hand out stretched.

“Mr. Jessik, I apologize that your superiors lack the professionalism and dependability to handle this meeting themselves, please have a seat.” His voice was deep and full. A voice if raised could perhaps command armies.

“No sir, it is no trouble, actually I am the one who should apologize, I told your secretary that we could reschedule this meeting to avoid bothering you.” Corey sat down after shaking his hand, he made a mental note to receive his hand with a firm and strong grip, he must of lost the note somewhere due to the long wait.

“It is no trouble at all Mr. Jessik. It is very important to hear the concerns and requests of our workforce, you are the lifeblood of this company, do not let anyone tell you otherwise. What can I help you with?” His voice contained a faint odor of whisky.

“Mr. Randvall I…” Corey was cut off as Mr. Randvall stood and said, “How rude, it is after office hours, let me offer you a drink, I am no stranger to how Mondays and every other day go around here, how about a Scotch?”

“Um, sure that would be great.” Corey replied thrown off a bit by the offer. Corey was not a drinking man but he did not mind a taste from time-to-time. Normally he would refuse, but in the company of such seniority; he did not entirely know how to react.

“Do you mind if I predict your reasons for coming here Mr. Jessik? I have read your entire file, and I think I might know what you’re after.” Randvall stood over Corey with a glass of one-hundred dollar alcohol.

Corey’s tension eased and his muscles relaxed, maybe this will be easier than he imagined.  Could it be the stone-cold Mr. Randvall was merely a myth? Here he stood, offering a member of lower-management a rare scotch with a hardy smile on his face. Corey accepted the drink.

“Of course Mr. Randvall go ahead.” Corey took a sip of the scotch, it was smooth, and though it was strong it flowed seamlessly down his throat without a burn.

“I see you have been with us for ten years now, and you were promoted a few years back to a team leader. You were the star performer in sales within your team, and now your team is leading the department in sales and revenue. Am I correct so far?”

“Yes Mr. Randvall, spot on.”

“You do not feel that your current leaders are deserving of their positions and you could do their job better, and above all, you want a raise. Am I still correct Mr. Jessik?”

Corey shrugged.

“More-or-less, specifically the merit increase sir, I feel that. . . ”

“Ah-ah-ah,” Randvall raised his finger, “I’m not quite done yet.” The vice president looked to his tablet briefly and continued.

“You have recently fallen on hard times, your insurance premiums are maxed, and your current benefit package is now lacking. You do not spend enough time with your family and it is beginning to affect your work. Your team is beginning to slip, and you are now lacking the youthful motivation that acquired you the position in the first place. Am I . . . still correct Mr. Jessik?” Randvall smile grew. He appeared  to enjoy his profiling accuracy of Corey’s personal and professional life.

The team leader swallowed and sipped his scotch before responding.

“Yes sir . . . more . . . or less.”

Mr. Randvall slowly stood and arched towards Corey from the other side of the desk as he spoke placing his palms down to support himself, he then leaned in closer to Corey’s proximity.

“So to sum it up, you lack the spine to ask for an increase in pay when you spearheaded your department to success, but now that you have become downtrodden and your performance is faltering, you ask for further compensation?” Randvall’s smile no longer carried the light-hearted impression Corey had received. Blood rushed through Corey’s body and weighed on his veins.

“I would not look at it that way sir.” Corey attempted to rebuttal.

“Oh, and exactly how should I look at it Mr. Jessik,” Randvall asked sternly.

“Well, first off, you are correct sir, when I was on top of my game, I received a small increase, and I should’ve asked for another increase when business peaking, but I didn’t want to overstep my bounds. Please look at the request it like this: A dedicated employee needs help from his employers to get him through a rough time, and that employee deserves it, because he is loyal, dependable, and good at his job.” Randvall was polite allowing Corey to say his piece.

“Deserves it you say? You just admitted a lack of competency of your managers to one of the Chief Officers of this company, instead of relaying feedback through the proper channels.”  Randvall began to pace, he seemed to be truly enjoying himself now. He then animated quotation marks with his fingers as he continued.

“Also I believe you ‘more-or-less,’ admitted to decreased performance and a lack of motivation. How would I look, if I rewarded such behavior Mr. Jessik? How would I look to your superiors and my colleagues?”

Corey searched his scattered thoughts. His eyebrows narrowed and sweat began to bead. He wanted to explode on Randvall and blame him for how irresponsibly the company wasted money on worthless luxuries why everyone else appeared to suffer. As much as his eyes may have shouted that he loathed the actions of the chief officers, he did not speak to any of those thoughts, instead he said; “I suppose it would look like you’re rewarding failure, I will not waste anymore of your time.” Corey began to rise from his chair.

“I do not believe that I have excused you from my office Mr. Jessik. It is important to show respect for our superior’s time if we want to move forward and succeed with the company. Perhaps you need another drink?” Randvall shuffled around his desk and snatched the empty glass from Corey’s hands.

“Thank you, but I need to drive home tonight.”

“Actually, you will be taking a cab home tonight.”

Corey looked to Randvall with a craned necked and disconnected eyes, but he did not respond to his confused look, even though Mr. Randvall caught his uneasy motions from the corner of his eye as he poured two more glasses.

“Oh, and why is that?” asked Corey.

“You are the owner of a 1996 Red Dodge Sedan are you not?” Mr. Randvall handed Corey his second drink.

“That’s right, why would you care about what I drive?”

Mr. Randvall did not answer immediately. He returned to his side of his finely polished cherry-wood desk and opened his center drawer to peer at its contents.  Then shut the drawer and funneled another sip of whisky and finally answered.

“I don’t care what you drive, but what you drive was leaking oil in the parking garage, so I had it towed. . .company policy.”

“What?! . . .Wh, why? Why the hell do you care? Mr. Randvall, this is . . .this is just wrong, and cruel.” Corey became flush with emotion and stood up.

“Oh god, I have to take of this.”  Corey ran to open the door to the office, and the handle was firmly locked, even a forceful shake did not show any sign of the door responding.

“Like I said Mr. Jessik, I have not excused you yet . . ., now sit the fuck down and finish your drink.”  Mr. Randvall’s face formed a scowl.

Corey obeyed, now timid and cautious, maybe even a little scared. Corey looked into the dark foreboding eyes of his superior, the rest of his face covered by a rocks glass. Corey Jessik, team leader and struggling lower-middle class single parent collected his thoughts and decided to play whatever game Randvall had laid out for him.

“I do not believe I can continue working for this company Mr. Randvall. I will have to proceed with my resignation, I will be happy to provide a full 30-days-notice so that you may find a suitable replacement.” Corey swallowed another shot of whisky and his bluff.

Randvall chuckled and peered into his center desk drawer once again, and then closed it.

“You got respect for yourself Corey, and pride. I think that is admirable, but pride will not feed your daughter now will it? You have a family to think about Mr. Jessik, your actions are greater than yourself.” The Chief Officer lectured.

“Again sir, you are correct, but I will not be intimidated by a man who takes an uncomfortable interest in my personal life.” Corey said, his voice cracked slightly.

Mr. Randvall nodded his head in respect and pursed his lower lip forward.

“You know what we have in common Mr. Jessik?” Randvall leaned  back and swiveled his chair to watch the descending sun.

“I couldn’t imagine anything.” Corey replied his voice now calm.

“Our wives. They have both left us because we have simply spent too many days within these walls. Your blubbering in one of the bathrooms had been reported to your managers out of concern for your well-being, It is right there in your file. Do you remember the human resources sending you that e-mail offering free counseling?”

Corey did not reply.

“It is hard to keep painful details of our lives a secret in such a place, is it not?”

“It would appear so.” Corey looked to his glass taking another drink, this time to forget about his shameful sign of weakness.

“The big difference is Mr. Jessik, your wife left you scraping by, and my wife left me as she swam in a pool of my money. I suppose that speaks horrible of my character.”

For a moment Corey almost felt a connection with Mr. Randvall, but was more concerned about what he was planning, why the show? Why the game? Corey looked back to the office door handle, then returned to the perplexing conversation with the vice president of the company.

“I am sorry to hear that, sir,” Corey lied.

“You must think lives as officers in this company are akin to gluttonous pigs. In some cases you may be right. It is not an easy life Mr. Jessik. Every time I take a vacation, play a round of golf, or eat a nice dinner in a five-star restaurant, I am doing so to appease a partner, or client, or just some stupid asshole.  Randvall stared in to his glass and shook around the melting cubes.

“It is no way to live Mr. Jessik. I would not wish that upon you, not for someone who actually deserves to be sitting where I am.”

Again, Corey’s thoughts began to disperse. What is he getting at? It was as if Corey was a mouse and Mr. Randvall was hanging him by his tail over a wheel of cheese.

“I have a confession to make.” Once again Randvall opened his desk drawer.

“Your manager and your department manager are not sick or on vacation; I fired them both. They were absent-minded and abusive of their authority, even more-so than myself.” Randvall took a sip and Corey could only think he was next in line to visit the corporate electric chair.

“This meeting has been a little test of mine. I apologize for putting you under such stress. The fact that you still have respect for yourself, and that assholes like me do not intimidate you tells me all that I need to know. So many would of groveled and ate every line of bullshit fed them, and they would have begged to keep their jobs; but not you.”

“I do not understand sir.” Corey said.

“I cannot justify your merit increase without a promotion, so I have no choice but to make you the new Sales and Service department manager. Well I suppose that is two promotions technically.” Mr. Randvall looked up to Corey with a look that appeared genuine.

“Is, this a part of the test, or are you being serious?” Corey spoke delaying any elation in his voice due to disbelief of a legitimate offer.

“Hah, yes the test is over, but I did tow your car . . . to your home. I have been looking in my drawer trying to figure out which set of keys to hand over to you for your new company car. I cannot have my upper-management driving around in something so… well, working class. Ah, here, a classic, the 1996 911S. Same year, but quite an upgrade. Make sure to honk the horn when picking up your daughter tonight and also make sure your wife takes a look at what she left behind.” Randvall scrapped the keys across the desk.

Still a bit apprehensive, Corey slowly grabbed the keys. He smiled in joy and disbelief. Mr. Randvall buzzed to his secretary.

“I have made my decision. Show Mr. Jessik to the company vehicle garage and to his new office on the 12th floor.”

“Yes, at once Mr. Randvall.” The small voice replied over the speaker as Mr. Randvall pressed a few buttons on his digital device that magically seemed to control the company.

“Ok, Mr. Jessik, I think you will find your raise quite suitable. Just so you know, your file shows more dedication and hard work than any that I have viewed since the termination of your immediate leadership team. Now get to your little girl, take the rest of the week off to enjoy her. You have a big day next Monday, but I have confidence that you require little training for your new responsibilities.”

“Mr. Randvall… thank you, I don’t know what to say except, I will do my best.” Corey stood with confidence and excitement.

“You picked a good day to ask for a raise Corey. The only thing is that I feel sorry for you now. . . because you have to report to me. I can be difficult to work with as you may imagine.” Mr. Randvall said with a smile that appeared to grow in size.

Corey laughed and opened the door to his new position and his new life, but as he was halfway through Mr. Randvall said one more thing.

“Oh Mr. Jessik, one piece of advice, don’t work too hard out there. Otherwise, you might end up like me: Incredibly successful and horribly unhappy. Sitting behind this desk is no way for a man to live out his golden years, so enjoy your life outside of this place while you still can.”

“Thank you sir, I will remember that. I truly will sir.” Corey replied softly and shut the door in the same manner.

Mr. Randvall’s center desk drawer creped open unassisted. Within the drawer were sets of keys to extravagant motor vehicles, a photo of his wife and son who had disavowed him, and a nine-millimeter pistol. Now alone, Mr. Randvall took the pistol by the hilt and pressed the barrel to his temple pulling the hammer back. He winced and breathed fighting with the images of a wife and child who wanted nothing to do with him for the majority of his life despite his best efforts.

As the sun filled Mr. Randvall’s office with hues or bright oranges and reds, alcohol induced tears streamed down his clenched lids. The love of his life, his only offspring, and people he called friends, had all forgotten him. Pulling the trigger would make no difference to anyone or anything, except maybe his cherry-wood desk.

Corey was now greeted with sleek smiles and congratulations. The cold assistants of Mr. Randvall’s personal office came to life. They instructed him on his new office and supplied him with new keys, pass codes and more. Corey was in disbelief when he was even assigned an assistant of his own. The receptionist returned to her large marble perch in the main waiting room as Mr. Randvall’s personal secretary escorted Corey to the private garage.

As the elevator doors opened the sun had finally set on the city skyline and the room’s warm tone pleasantly faded into a mild violet. The day was done. The receptionist politely waved a goodbye to Corey through the closing curtains that were elevator doors.. Corey and Mr. Randvall’s secretary were well on their way to the garage filled with distinguished model cars when a loud pop echoed through the marble hallways of the twentieth floor. The receptionist jumped in fear, the walls-of-windows trembled in vibration, and Mr. Randvall’s cherry-wood desk became a terrible mess.

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I find it humor…

I find it humorous that you are so determined to rattle your cage at me, it is still and always will be your cage, not mine.

The hands of pi…

The hands of piety and rationale seldom shake.

If men possesse…

If men possessed the capacity to give birth, there would be an abortion clinic in every town funded by the government.

Kurt Vonnegut

Wise words from a wise man.

Horseplay in the Office

paper

Horseplay in the Office

Flash fiction from the perspective Jason Alexander Phoenix Kern

            Seething with rage from my latest customer interaction I decide to relieve my anger via a crumbled post-it note. I throw the projectile at my desk mate, Josh.

“Take that you godless bastard.” I yell at him in jest as the purple post-it ricochets off of his computer monitor.

Josh has very little time to react before another large snow-ball shaped wad of letter head narrowly misses his head. The maniacal office manager springs forth from her private quarters to continue the hazing initiated by myself.

She laughs and says.

“All I heard was bastard, and I felt the need to indulge. Also, Josh you need to increase your productivity your sales are slipping.” With a flip of her long black hair she returns to her personal office.

Josh responds only with a confused look on his face. I can only imagine what questions are popping up in his head.

What the hell did I do to deserve this?  He probably thought.

It’s fucking Friday, I have dealt with everyone’s shit all week long all I want to do is go home and raise my alcohol addiction to new heights.

Josh more than likely pondered thoughts such as these as the agitating actions of his coworkers continued.

The admin assistants decide to follow course and they emerge from their cubicles.

“Hey Josh can you process this mindless paperwork between your already strenuous duties?” One of the assistants asks him.

“I have been tweeting and playing with my new Iphone all day and lost track of time?”

Before Josh could reply with a snarky comment regarding her work ethic, a pile of folders had already plummeted into his inbox.

“Boy it sure is cold in here,” said the assistant as returned to her corner of the office and blasted her personal heater to uncomfortable levels.

What have I done to this poor man? I begin to think of the ramifications of my actions.

A light-hearted gesture committed with the purpose of invoking enthralling conversation with a fellow coworker has now caused an avalanche of abuse and misery. I wonder what might be going on in Josh’s head right now. I can imagine such angry musings like:

Fuck this place.

Or.

Oh good, it’s that Sublime and Drop Kick Murphy’s song playing from someone’s Pandora again. That’s great, I wouldn’t know what I would do If I didn’t hear those bands every single hour of every single work day.

Or, maybe he is diffusing his mental anguish with such thoughts like:

Hey, its ok, I should be grateful that I have a job in this tough economy.

Or.

I am happy to eat the paltry bread crumbs that this tyrannous corporation leaves for me to consume.

No, not likely. If I know Josh he is probably mentally choosing what bottle of whisky to drink tonight and picking what gun to blow his head off with after he is done drinking it. Josh looks to another colleague reading a book in the cubicle next to him. He looks up and simply claims;

“Neuroscience!” His colleague smiles and returns to his book and Josh simply sags his head wearing a frown that fit frightfully well.

The work day finally ends.

On Monday, the local press’ obituaries tell of Josh’s suicide on Sunday evening, it would seem that he could not bear to return to the office. It would also seem that he chose the nine-millimeter, classy. Perhaps I should not have thrown that paper. Maybe next time I will think twice before starting horseplay in the office.

The Tale of Two Villians: Jack and the Giant

Jack and the Beanstalk has been a beloved fairy-tale for centuries that has shifted into several renditions spanning two massive continents. To explore this treasured folklore in it’s entirety, the history of Jack’s Arthurian roots must be explored, motifs that persist through the most popular versions of the tale should be examined and the protagonist’s character Jack himself demands a closer look. The numerous retelling of Jack’s adventures and exploits have been generally perceived as an act of revenge, and thus his actions justified, but older versions of this tale paint a darker picture of Jack.

Before the “Jack in the Beanstalk was written by Benjamin Tabart in 1807, an Arthurian oral tradition was told under the title of “The History of Jack and the Giants.” In Thomas Green’s essay, “Tom Thumb and Jack the Giant-Killer: Two Arthurian Fairytales?” The author summarizes oral traditions put later into print in a popular chapbook titled Jack and the Giants. Though, the author regresses the lack of solid information of Jack’s true origin,  “Unfortunately, the origin of this text has been lost, and folklorists principally rely on two transcriptions of this text: Halliwell’s transcription published in 1711 and the Opies’ transcription of a Shrewsbury chapbook in 1760” (124). These tales began in England with “The History of Jack and the Giants,” under the reign of King Arthur. The story begins with Jack’s defeat in a great battle against a giant, referred to as a Cormilian. This Cormillian was a destructive being that was eighteen feet tall who lived in a cave. This giant ate the livestock of local villages and terrorized the populous. In the end of the this tale, Jack digs a hole and traps the giant, killing him off with a pick axe. Jack is then dubbed, “the Giant Killer,” and is granted the giant’s treasure. Other tales include Jack allying with King Arthur’s runaway son. Together they trick giants into giving up their treasure, or Jack betraying entire families of peaceful giants to steal the riches they hoarded.

In Tabart’s version published in 1807, Jack’s behavior is justified by a giant that comes from another kingdom to wreak havoc on the villagers that led to the demise of Jack’s father. Jack who lives with his mother is very poor, and the young trickster uses cunning to steal from this giant to survive. Ultimately, Jack chops down the beanstalk sprouted by magical beans as the giant pursues the young thief. This leads to the giant’s death, a happy village and a heroic Jack. This is the summary of the “Jack and the Beanstalk” that is most commonly known worldwide.

Most of Jack’s fables center around the English countryside, but renditions of Jack’s antics travel outside of the continent into the Americas. In the book, The Jack Tales from the Southern Appalachians, author and historian Richard Chase Americanizes many of the story’s terms, settings and dialogues of Jack’s classic adventures. Thus, making Jack and his titular beanstalk popular in America. Many of these tales combine staples from both Tabart’s version and European oral tradition. In this collection of tales however, Jack takes on more pioneering and enterprising roles. Sometimes Jack would work with the giants, or seek a job instead of magical beans for payment of his last remaining cow. These rendition of Jack’s adventures lend to a more traditional ideal of the hardworking American man.

Another popular telling ofJack and the Beanstalk,” comes in the form of a film. With the birth of American cinema, one infamous duo had popularized Jack’s adventure and doused the story in humor. These two actors go by the name of William “Bud” Abbott and Lou Costello. In the 1952 film titled Jack and the Beanstalk, written and produced by Pat Costello, the duo adds the exploration of romance and other human relationships to a more modern telling of the story. Adding in slapstick situations and musical numbers, this version of Jack and the Beanstalk was often criticized for adding many of the same storytelling techniques used in the 1939 film, The Wizard of Oz.

Nonetheless, the movie was very successful and even paid respects to the Arthurian elements of Jack’s giant killing beginnings by adding in a young humanized prince by the name of Arthur.  The prince teamed up with the peasant Jack to take on the cruel giant. While the giant fell from the beanstalk as Jack chopped it down, the violence was conveyed through silly, family-appropriate humor. This film deserves merit in the fable’s canon, as it cleverly combines elements from Tabart’s traditional story and folklore from the Arthurian era.

Whether Jack was paling around with Prince Arthur or just scavenging for his next meal, there is always some motifs and symbolism that carry over in not only the popular versions of this fairytale, but with the many renditions that exist in the European and American writings. The most prominent is actually not the beanstalk, as it inconsistent. However, journalist and author Petra Trumbull states that the beanstalk does bear the most symbolism in her article, “Symbolism in the Book, ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ for children.” “The beanstalk bears symbolism from Biblical creation myths. . . all the way to Jack growing as man and becoming more socially adequate in the eyes of his peers” (Trumbull). While Jack wanting to be look adequate to his peers does bear some notable insight, the religious references may be viewed as somewhat of a stretch.

The author discusses in the article that the beanstalk bears meaning to a, ladder to heaven, Jacob’s Ladder, or even the Tree of Life. Albeit many can see this symbolism in the beanstalk as it reaches to the sky, if any reader looks hard enough in several different fairytales, one will more than likely find some kind of religious comparison. It is noteworthy to state that in spite of the author’s interpretation, religious allegories may not have been intended, especially considering the tale’s elusive origin.

What is more consistent and tangible within the bevy of different tales is the object of treasure that drives Jack to a goal. Most popular of the treasure objects is that of a hen that lays golden eggs. Also, there is always a giant that is ultimately deceived or killed by Jack, regardless of the giant’s motivations. Perhaps the most steadfast and symbolic element of”Jack and the Beanstalk,” is Jack himself.  In most fables, even outside of the English countryside, Jack is a symbolic name that relates to peasantry and simple mindedness. Jack always grows, learns, survives and improves as a person in any of the tales he stars in. Though, it may be obvious, the protagonist Jack is the most iconic leading role in his own adventures, and the adventures of other European fairytales.

Since you simply cannot have magical beanstalks, cruel giants, or gold producing poultry without a simple peasant-born farmhand named Jack, perhaps one need not look further than Jack himself to gain a new understanding of this age old tale.

Jack is an unlikely hero in contrast to others in fairy-tales popularized by modern culture. He is simple, poor, the woman in his life is his mother instead of a love interest, and in the beginning of most common iterations of Jack’s quest, he makes a foolish gamble on some paltry beans.  Generally speaking, Jack is not very engaging to most audiences.

Joseph Jacobs was a folklorist, literary critic and a historian that felt Tabart’s “Jack and the Beanstalk was a misrepresented version of the oral tradition. The folklorist rewrote the tale and many others in honor of their oral traditions in 1890. After this Jack’s actions fell under scrutiny and he was cast in a dimmer light. To summarize: Jack was a poor man who made a foolish mistake. He utilized lies and trickery to obtain wealth, and in the end Jack kills the giant from whom he stole. Even in examination of the three main versions presented prior, Jack may appear as more of a villain than the giant.

The oral traditions never tell of a giant personally hurting Jack or his family, thus making his actions of theft and giant slaying amoral. In almost every rendition of the story, Jack generally starts by lying to the giant’s wife and takes advantage of her kind nature, she even hides him from the giant as she lies to her husband. Instead of Jack accepting his luck, he pushes it by stealing either a golden egg-laying hen, bags of gold, or a talking harp. In some tales, Jack steals the bags of gold and then returns years later and tricks the giant’s wife a second or third time.

In the last line of Joseph’ Jacobs “Jack in the Beanstalk,” the author reveals an interesting motivation for the thefts, “Then Jack showed his mother the golden harp, and what with showing that and selling the golden eggs Jack and his mother became very rich. . . they lived happily ever after” (35).  Some might say that poor Jack simply wished to be approved of, for no one thought much of him. Writer and poet Lisa Abraham’s poem titled “Jack and the Beanstalk,” reflects on the aftermath of a dead giant and how it adds to Jack’s personal growth. She writes, “At each meal she studies her boy, no longer starved, he grows taller, and each day more inclined to look past her. Jack studies the clouds as he chews. . .” (508). The poem is written from the perspective of Jack’s mother and how the giant’s blood makes their farm fertile and successful.

Jack’s furtive actions in the giant’s home ultimately left him with no choice but to strike down the giant. Be it a faithful singing harp or a clucking hen, the giant wakes up at one point or another to pursue Jack down the beanstalk. Jack chops it down as the giant descends, causing the giant to fall to his death. Jack sought out and invaded this giant’s home, deceived his wife, stole his prized possessions, and ultimately killed him in self defense. When Jack’s behavior is emphasized and brought to the forefront, it can add a new perspective to a once light-hearted rags-to-riches story.

Jack and his journeys has seen two commonly repeated versions of his adventure.  He has even crossed oceans and found a home in American culture. He has graced the silver screen and will do so again. Regardless of translation, Jack will always fight giants and garner their treasures. Yet, now with a new understanding of oral tradition, a moral question arises: What will Jack do to get what he wants?

In conclusion, no matter which version one prefers of Jack and his catalyst to a kingdom of treasures and giants, his behaviors and choices are often overlooked. Even if the giant is vilified for snatching cattle, or murdering Jack’s father, at best, this fairytale hero is either a cunning killer or a seeker of revenge.

3Jack_and_the_Beanstalk

 

Works Cited

Abraham, Lisa D. “Jack and the Beanstalk.” Southern Review 47.3 (2011): 508. Academic Search             Complete. Web. 11 Dec. 2012.

Costello, Pat, prod. Jack and the Beanstalk. 1952. Warner Brothers. DVD-ROM

Green, Thomas. “Tom Thumb and Jack the Giant-Killer.” Folklore 118 (2007): 129-31.      EBSCOHost. Web. 1 Dec. 2012

Joseph Jacobs, “Jack and the Beanstalk”, English Fairy Tales p 35.

Richard Chase, The Jack Tales: Folk Tales from the Southern Appalachians. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt,    2003), pp. 29-37. 1943.

Trumbull, Petra. “Symbolism in the Book “Jack and the Beanstalk” for Children.” Symbolism in    the Book “Jack and the Beanstalk” for Children. Demand Media, circa,1989. Web. 3 Dec.         2012. <http://entertainmentguide.local.com/symbolism-book-jack-beanstalk-children-      5317.html>.

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