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Desmonde, W.H. (1951). Jack and the Beanstalk. Am. Imago, 8(3):287-288.

(1951). American Imago, 8(3):287-288

Jack and the Beanstalk

William H. Desmonde, Ph.D.

The following psychoanalytic interpretation of the English folk-tale is suggested by the fact that the terms “beans” and “stalk” are common symbols for the testicles and penis.2

The story relates that Jack and his mother lived together in a small country cottage. Lazy, irresponsible, and pleasure-seeking, the boy was incapable of earning his living, since “his mother had almost never corrected him as he grew up.” Jack's mother supported herself and her child by selling her property, until eventually all that remained between them and starvation was their last asset, the cow. However, instead of getting a fair price, Jack traded the cow for some magic beans. Upon his return, Jack's mother burst into tears at his folly, and in exasperation threw the beans out of the window.

Jack awakened the next morning to find a huge beanstalk growing up into the clouds. Climbing to the top, he stepped off into a strange country, where he met a “queer little old lady” with a wand, who told him that his father was imprisoned in a nearby castle by a cannibalistic ogre. Jack stole the giant's treasures, and was finally pursued down the beanstalk by the ogre. Taking a hatchet, he chopped at the root of the beanstalk. “No sooner had he done so, than of a sudden, the whole beanstalk shrivelled up and the giant burst like a monstrous bubble.”5

We may interpret Jack psychoanalytically as an oral dependent. Incapable of competing successfully in the market, he returned home, the tale tells, feeling depressed and inferior, and went to bed without any supper. We may regard the remainder of the story as an incestuous masturbation fantasy or dream, of a regressive nature.

The miraculous stalk growing from the beans is the erect phallus, and the little old lady with the fairy wand is the phallic mother-image.

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