Lessons from “Jack and the Beanstalk”

The other day as I was snapping my daughter into her car seat, I noticed a strange bulge.

In her pants.

“‘Don’t look!” she wailed, covering the bulge.

I ignored her and pulled out…a golf ball.

Weird, yes. Out of the ordinary? Quite.

“Where did you get this?” I asked.

“From [name of playmate].”

“Does she know you have it?”

A guilty look, “No.”

“Emily! When you take something that doesn’t belong to you, without someone giving you permission, that is stealing! And stealing is bad.” She promptly burst into tears.

A few minutes later, we had returned the ball and apologized for taking something that was not ours. But the discussion was not over, and as we drove home, Emily and I talked about how it must feel to have something taken from you, how it hurts people’s feelings, and on and on.

How ironic is it that she should choose “Jack and the Beanstalk” for her bedtime story that night.

For those who have not read this little gem recently, I will recap it for you:

Jack and his mother are dirt poor and they sell their cow. In return they get magic beans which Jack’s mother throws out the window. The next morning Jack finds a beanstalk. He climbs it, goes into the giant’s castle [a classic case of breaking and entering], steals the giant’s gold coins [felony] and runs away. After Jack and his mother blow through the gold he returns and steals the golden goose [misdemeanor?]. After a while, he returns and steals a golden harp [felony] and the giant, having already been stolen from and trespassed upon twice, gives chase. Jack shimmies down the beanstalk and the giant tries to follow, instead of catching Jack, he falls to his death [involuntary manslaughter].

For all of this mischief, Jack and his mother [his accomplice and/or mentor] live happily ever after – having stolen repeatedly from and then having killed the giant.

So what if the giant eats Englishmen or likes the smell of their blood? He sure as heck never got a chance to eat Jack who is, after all, a classic repeat offender and overall malcontent.

I mistakenly thought that these old fairy tales were supposed to encourage children to be better behaved, not turn to larceny. Silly me!

Needless to say, I’ll be avoiding “Jack and the Beanstalk” for a little while. I don’t think it is giving my impressionable young daughter any more reason to turn towards a life of crime.

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