Friday, July 16, 2010

Fractured Fairy Tales: Jack and the Beanstalk 4 (The Giant Killer)

Strange feeling to have both my skull clunked off the hardwood floor and my lungs empty of air with the bailiff laid out on top of me - like suffocating in water with my mind sinking into a hazy daze.

Can hear my Ma groaning after waking up from the hit by the giant’s wife. Can hear the judge pounding his gavel on his desk, the pounding matching what’s going on in my head. Can hear the courtroom babbling and the jury making their fuss and the giant’s wife demanding justice. Then everything just stops. I blink eyes, knowing the haziness I’m seeing now is more than just from the fall. Music fills my ears, fills everyone’s ears, as the harp comes alive.

She doesn’t look happy.

The harp glances around the courtroom, wooden eyes fixing on everyone’s features in an accusing nature as if she can stare right through them into their heart of hearts - knowing what they are about and knowing she doesn’t like what she sees. Her arms bend back in an unnatural way with wooden pins in shoulder sockets squeaking as she rests fingers on her harp strings and strums across. As if each string were coated in flour, white mist floats into the air, hanging over everyone in an eerie pall.

The harp opens wooden lips.

A trial such as this should have never come to pass
involving a poor English boy and the Castle Giant.
But these events I truly must relate, alas,
concerning Jack Spriggins, the Thief Defiant...

At her words, images appear in the pall, playing out before our eyes. The harp’s magic wraps around, keeping us immobile, unable even to turn faces away. The bailiff still lays across my chest as I take gasps of air to keep conscious. The first scenes show me as a young lad doing those mischievous things all boys do: throwing stones at old barn windows, slipping toads in girls’ skirts, having mud fights while still dressed in my best Sunday church clothes. I was a normal boy having a normal life with his parents. Then things changed.

After my Pa ran off, I got worse. The harp shows the courtroom of my thieving of wine from ol’ King Cole’s cellars, of swiping cooling bowls of curds and whey from Miss Muffett’s windowsill, of hiding pieces of broken eggshell as the king’s horses and men tried to put that scrambled fellow back together after he fell off his wall.

I can feel the wince inside me although my features don’t move. I dread my Ma’s reaction and her mounting disappointment in me. Yet it’s even worse. I know my actions were my own, but the courtroom will always have a few people eager to blame the parent for her child’s actions. Thankfully those images end as the harp's singing calls up new ones.

In time, Jack would travel to the land of the clouds,
for this was his chosen fate.
Yet an evil scheme hung over the Giant’s castle in deadly shrouds,
and, unfortunately, Jack was the unsuspecting bait...

The next images show things I never expected. The old man I met by the road sat within the Giant’s castle, arguing with the wife of the house. She shoved the bag of beans toward him in command, and he grudgingly nodded before going his way. The Giant’s wife tied a magical rope around his waist and lowered the old man to the ground, invisible to the naked eyes, right on the roadway as I came trudging along with my cow Blue. Once the man untied the rope, he appeared and began his rambling speech, taking me by surprise. The trade went down, and I made my way home with the beans.

Everyone in the courtroom knows the next scenes: the beanstalk, the gold coins, and the hen. It is left to their own interpretation on whether the giant’s wife graciously gave me the things or if I deliberately stole them. My sneaking in the giant’s pantry for food and the gleam of desire when I carried off the hen didn’t speak well of me. This was still a whole new kettle of fish I would have to deal with, and I had the feeling my days of sitting at the witness stand would not end with this trial.

The harp’s fingers stop over the strings as the final notes drift into the air. Her shoulders swivel back to rest at her sides as the last verse whispers from her mouth.

A death came flashing in the night
heard throughout the countryside in a resounding boom.
This signaled the end of a Giant’s might
and the beginning of Jack’s doom.

Tension builds inside me, and I suspect everyone else at the scenes. The mist showed my scramble down the beanstalk and grabbing the axe from the shed. It showed my arms swinging back, ready.

It showed my arms swinging around, making three good chops at the beanstalk’s stem.

Then, within the fading of the mist, the images reveal the Giant at the top of the beanstalk, feeling the vibrations from the axe as he scrambled back up to the safety of the clouds. Just as he placed palms onto that cloudy floor for one last heave up, the Giant’s wife snuck up behind, plunging the butcher’s knife into her husband’s back. With a scream, the Giant fell, snapping the already damaged beanstalk apart as he struck the ground.

The harp’s last notes fade. Shuffling sounds in the courtroom as the spell releases everyone. The bailiff lifts off my body as I finally draw in full breaths of air. Then a raging bellow sets my nerves shaking into immobility again.

“LIES,” The Giant’s wife screams and dashes toward the front of the courtroom. My Ma barely scrambles out of the way in the aisle as the 20-foot tall woman splays her arms out, catching both lawyers in the chests and sending them out of her way. The tiny door separating the front of the courtroom from the spectators’ seating splinters apart at the one solid kick. The Giant’s wife upturns the evidence table sending the harp clanging to the floor. She nears me.

With my chains rattling, I lift my bound arms and legs while trying to cover up as much of my body. Yet I know it’s feeble protection from the angry woman’s large descending fist.


  1. I love how you incorporate age old fairytales in your writing!

  2. I just subscribed to you blog - I love these subscribe things and facebook blog alert things - they help me to quickly see the post and come visit! yayy!

  3. I love it when a surprise witness destroys the perp's plan.

  4. hooboy....just when things might be looking up a bit...

  5. Oh boy, this kid desrves a break!

    You are a magical story-teller, Michelle, I am totally captivated.

  6. You totally rocked this classic.

  7. Wow Michelle. This is riveting stuff. Another awesome entry in this series. Nice job!

  8. Wonderful as always! Can't wait for the next part!

  9. Have you ever read 'The Big Over Easy?' My daughter is reading it for her summer reading school project.

  10. Cocotte: No, I've never read it, but I'm always looking for summer reading books too.


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