Reblogged from HuffPost Entertainment
By Stephen Winick
With Bryan Singer’s blockbuster Jack the Giant Slayer in theaters, it might be useful to ask ourselves: who is this Jack? In English-language fairy tales, Jack is the central figure in a wide variety of adventures. He’s known for slaying giants, so Singer’s film doesn’t stray too far from folklore. But Jack does a lot more, too.
Jack’s tradition goes back surprisingly far; the earliest known Jack Tale was written down in the 15th century. In this story, “Jack and His Stepdame,” Jack is a farmer’s son whose stepmother wants to send him into indentured servitude. Jack’s father compromises by sending him to a far pasture to watch the cattle. There Jack meets a beggar, with whom he shares his meager lunch. In return, the beggar offers him gifts. Jack asks for a bow and arrows; the beggar gives him a magical bow which never misses its mark. Jack asks for a pipe, to make music and be merry. The beggar gives him a magical pipe, which compels all who hear it to dance. When the beggar insists on giving a third gift, Jack remembers his stepmother’s look of hatred whenever she sees him eat; he wishes that, when she looks at him that way, she’ll fart thunderously.