The Magic of Beanstalk Jack


Released on September 30, 2021



"Magic beans?"

Mom gave me a puzzled look, as I held out the beans that I got.

"Yep!" I said, giving her a wide smile, "they said that these beans would grow so fast, that it would be better than any money that we could get from the cow!"

Mom's eyes went wide open, and then she became angry.

"Jack, you foolish child!" she yelled, "They were tricking you! Those beans are worthless, and now we have nothing left!"

Mom's sudden anger surprised me. Tears started to well up in my eyes.

I started to cry, "I-I-I-I'm sorry, mommy!"

As I bawled, my mom's face started to soften.

She kneeled down and hugged me.

"I'm sorry, Jack," she said, "You're too young to know, and I should gone with you."

I continued crying, "I'm sorry!"

"It's alright," Mom said, as she tried to comfort me, "it's alright."

As my mom hugged me, I could hear her muttering to herself, "Now what? The farm is dead, and we barely have any money left at all..."

***

That night, after Mom had gone to sleep, I snuck outside.

I walked into the field that we had, and started planting the beans.

After I had finished, I looked down at the field.

Closing my eyes and clasping my hands together, I wished really hard, "Please really be magic! Please really be magic!"

I slowly opened my eyes, and looked at the mounds of dirt where I had planted the beans.

Nothing happened.

I waited some more.

Still, nothing happened.

Disappointed, I snuck back inside.

As I fell asleep, I was still hoping, "Please really be magic!"

***

"Jack! Wake up!"

Mom's voice woke me up.

As I sat up in my bed, I rubbed my eyes, "Mommy?"

Mom was sitting on my bed, looking at me, really excited.

"Did you plant the beans outside last night?" she asked.

That woke up me completely, "Y-Yes, I did. Please don't be mad..."

"It's okay," she said, "just come outside with me!"

My heart leaped.

Go outside, what did that mean?!

She didn't seem angry, but-

Mom picked me up, and began to carry me outside.

"W-Wait, mommy," I said, "I'm sorry, I won't do it again!"

Mom opened the door, and set me down.

Turning me around, she pointed at the field and said, "Look!"

And there they were - beanstalks!

"Wow!" I yelled out, as I rushed into the field, with Mom following me.

In awe, we looked at the beanstalks that had suddenly sprouted from the beans that I had planted.

Mom took a closer look at some of the plants, "Look, they are already bearing beans as well!"

She picked one of the bean pods from a stalk, and opened it.

"And there are really beans in them too!" she said, excitedly.

She reached down and hugged me, "I'm sorry, Jack. It looks like those beans might really be magic!"

I smiled and hugged my mom back, happy that she was so happy.

***

Over the next week and a bit, we replanted most of the beans, while taking some for food.

"We can even start selling some of them," Mom had said, "if the beans continue growing this fast!"

And they did!

Every day, we planted a new batch of beans in the field. Then, every night, I would go to sleep, hoping that they would grow just as fast. And every morning, we would wake up to see new beanstalks in the field!

"Are you alright, Jack?" Mom asked me.

We were out in the field again, working on the beans.

I yawned, "Sorry, mommy. I'm just tired."

Every morning since the night I had planted the bean, I started to feel more and more tired. But, that was probably just because we had been working so hard over the last few days.

"Oh, you poor dear," Mom said, giving me a hug, "Why don't you go back inside and take a break? I think I can do the rest."

"Okay, momm-"

"So, this is the place!" an angry voice yelled out.

Mom and I walked out of our field, and saw two angry men approaching our home.

"It's them, mommy!" I said, "The two men that gave me the magic beans for the cow!"

Alarmed, Mom nervously asked the two men, "H-Hello. How can we help you today?"

"You can start by compensating us for the magic beans!" one of the men said, "We knew that there was something was funny going on, when we saw you starting to sell so many beans so quickly!"

"B-But, we already gave you our cow for them!" Mom replied.

The man yelled, "And I'm saying that isn't enough! A cow is hardly worth these magic beans!"

"But, that's all you asked for...," Mom pointed out.

The man's face turned red, "And if we had known that the beans were magic, we would have asked for more!"

Mom stood her ground, "W-Well, I think that the cow is more than fair, considering that you were trying to trick us! Not to mention that we're the ones who are actually doing the hard work of growing the beans!"

"Oh, is that how you feel?" the other man took out a giant knife.

Mom gasped.

"Then I guess no one will have these beans!" the man with the giant knife yelled, as he grabbed one of the beanstalks.

The man started to swing his giant knife at our beanstalk.

"Stop!" Mom yelled, as she rushed up and held his arm back.

The first man rushed over and pulled Mom off his friend.

Taking out his own giant knife, he held it close to Mom's face, "Now, why don't you go and-"

"Mommy!" I yelled out.

With all my might, I wished that I could protect my mommy, and that the bad men would go away!

Suddenly, some of the beanstalks sprung to life!

They reached out and struck the bad men.

"Augh!" the bad men yelled, as the beanstalks hit them.

Mom managed to struggle out of their grasp, and she rushed over to me.

Suddenly, I felt very tired, and I began to fall.

As I fell, the beanstalks fell and stopped moving too.

"Jack!" Mom yelled, as she caught me before I hit the ground, "Are you alright?!"

"Mommy...," I managed to say.

The two men glared at us.

"I don't know what you did," one of them said, angrily, "but now you're asking for it!"

They started to charge at us, with their giant knives.

Suddenly, a white wolf jumped in between us, and it howled.

The two bad men stopped.

A woman with a red hood walked up to the white wolf.

Looking at the bad men, the woman said, "You had best put your machetes away, and leave."

One of them growled, "And what are you and your wolf going to do?"

Not answering, the woman drew a thin sword.

"L-Look!" one of the men got the other's attention.

Another wolf, a grey one, had appeared behind the two men.

The two men looked around them.

"W-We'll be back!" one of them yelled.

And then they ran away with their giant kni- machetes.

"T-Thank you," Mom said to the stranger.

The woman in the red hood turned around, and began to walk towards us.

"Thank you...," I also began to say, before I fell asleep.

***

I slowly woke up, still feeling very tired.

Glancing over at the window, I could see that it was morning.

I looked over, and saw that Mom had fallen asleep by my bed.

"Mommy?" I said.

Mom woke up. She took a look at me before she rushed over to me.

"Oh, Jack!" she said, as she hugged me, "Are you alright? How are you feeling?"

"I'm okay, mommy," I said, "Just very tired."

"Let him rest," the woman in the red hood said, walking up to us, "he should be fine now."

"O-Okay," Mom said to the woman. Turning back to me, she said, "I'll bring you something to eat, and then you can rest some more. How does that sound, Jack?"

"Okay, mommy," I said.

And so, I rested for most of the day, only getting up a little to have some food.

It wasn't until around evening that I felt well enough to get out of my bed.

Having nothing else to do, I joined the woman with the red hood at the table, while waiting for Mom to finish cooking dinner.

"T-Thank you for saving us from those bad men," I said, a little shy, to the woman.

"Hmph," the woman said, with disgust, "Those grifters."

"What's a grifter?" I asked.

The woman looked at me with a stern look, before relenting, "Someone who tricks people for evil reasons."

"Oh!" I said, "Thank you!"

"I'm Jack," I said, "What's your name?"

"Red Riding Hood," she said, "You can call me Red for short."

"Oh, that's a funny name!" I said.

Red gave me a look, before saying, "I hadn't noticed."

Feeling bad, I said, "I-I'm sorry."

After a pause, she said, "It's alright."

I smiled.

"You have a cool sword," I said, "Can I see it?"

Red looked at me, and then gave Mom a look.

Mom gave Red a nod, and said to me, "Only looking, Jack. No touching."

"Yes, mommy," I said, happily.

Hesitating, Red unsheathed her sword.

Holding it out, she said, "It's a type of sword called a rapier."

"Wow, cool!" I said, looking at the marvellous sword.

While I was looking at the rapier, Mom brought some food over to the table.

"Dinner time!" she said, with a smile.

***

"M-Magic?!" Mom said, surprised.

It was after dinner, and we had begun to talk about what had happened last night.

"Yes," Red said, "magic."

"Some people in this land are born with magic - magic that's unique to them," Red explained, "My magic is my wolves, while Jack's seems to be manipulating plant life."

"Manipulating?" I asked.

"To control," Red said.

"Oh!" I said.

"You said that you had been feeling more and more tired every day, as new beanstalks sprouted each day, correct?" Red asked me, "And that you had wished really hard for them to grow every night, yes?"

I nodded, "Yep."

"That was you subco- using your magic without knowing," Red said.

"Oh!" I said, "Now that I know, I can make even more beans, right?"

I smiled happily at Mom.

Red shook her head, "No, Jack. That could ki- I mean, hurt you."

"What?!" Mom said, scared, "Will he be alright?!"

"He will," Red said, "as long as he doesn't use too much magic at once."

"You see," Red explained, "using magic takes a lot of mana - er, energy - from a person."

"A person can recover their energy, with rest and food," she continued, "But, using too much magic at once is dangerous, and can ki- really hurt you if you aren't careful."

"That's why you were getting more and more tired every day," she said, "And that's why you fainted after you used the beanstalks to chase away the grifters."

It took me and Mom a few moments to absorb all of that.

Mom began to cry.

"Mommy?" I said, worried.

Mom grabbed me and pulled me into a hug, "I'm so sorry, Jack! I-I-I nearly..."

"Mommy?" I said, "I don't understand..."

Red sighed and stood up.

Putting a hand on Mom's shoulder, she said, "It's alright. His body would have naturally stopped him from using any more mana, when he got too exhausted. And he wouldn't have known how to force it."

Mom wiped away her tears, and pulled back a little.

Still looking at me, with her hands on my shoulders, she said to Red, "Can you help him control it, so that he won't hurt himself?"

Red didn't answer for a few moments.

Finally, Red said, "I can't stay for long, but I can teach him the basics over the next few days. That should be enough for him to practice by himself."

Mom stood up and hugged Red, "Oh, thank you, Red! I don't know how we can repay you for everything!"

I looked at Red, whose face was... well, red.

"Just a place to sleep and food while I'm here is fine," Red said.

"Of course!" Mom said, "Thank you, thank you!"

***

The next night, after working in the fields and having dinner, Red was teaching me how to control my magic.

A little sprout came out from the bean in my hands.

"I did it!" I yelled, excitedly.

"Good," Red said, "Now, remember, slowly let your mana-"

"There, it's them!" a voice yelled out.

We looked over, and it was the bad me- grifters!

This time, they had a large man with them, who was holding a huge axe that he leaned on his shoulder.

"J-Jack!" Mom, who had been watching Red and me, yelled, "Come over here!"

I looked up at Red, "Y-You'll protect me and mommy, right?"

Red looked down at me, "Go to your mother, Jack."

I nodded, and ran over to Mom.

Red turned to face the grifters. She took out her rapier, while her white wolf and her grey wolf appeared next to her.

"They're the ones that tricked us!" one of the grifters said to the large man with the axe, while pointing at us. Then, pointing at Red, he said, "And she's the one that attacked us with those wolves!"

"W-Wait," Mom suddenly yelled out, "Sheri-"

The man with the axe held up his hand, as he came to a stop in front of Red.

"What are you waiting for?" one of the grifters yelled, "Those wolves are dange-"

"Quiet!" the man with the axe said.

He shifted his axe into his hands, ready to attack.

And for a long time, Red and the man stared at each other.

Suddenly, the man with the axe gave Red a puzzled look, "Wait, don't I know you?"

I saw Red grip her rapier even tighter, before saying, "Do you?"

"Oh!" the man said, "You're that grandkid of that old lady in the woods, right? What was your name again?"

After a tiny pause, the man exclaimed, "Ah, it's-"

Red interrupted him, "Just call me Red. Sorry, but, who are you?"

"Oh, okay, Red," the man said, a little confused, "Well, I guess it has been a long time. I used to be a woodcutter, and I used to live close to your grandma, remember?"

Red squinted at the man, before saying, "I do remember you. But, if you wish to do Jack and his mother harm, then I will have no mercy."

"Oh! Sorry!" the woodcutter lowered his axe.

"W-What are you doing?!" one of the grifters yelled, "She still attacked us wi-"

"Did you?" the woodcutter asked Red.

"Only because they were trying to hurt Jack and his mother," Red said.

"W-What?!" the grifter yelled, "We only came here because we were tricked by-"

"Enough!" the woodcutter yelled, "I may not be very smart, but do you really expect me to believe that that kid somehow tricked you by claiming to have a magic cow to trade for your magic beans?"

He scoffed, "Magic cow, magic beans - what nonsense!"

"I only came along because a woman with two wolves and a sword sounded dangerous, but now..." the woodcutter turned to the grifters, "Now, travellers, I'm afraid that you two are no longer welcomed in our village!"

One of the grifters took out his machete, "I don't-"

Red's wolves snarled, while the woodcutter raised his axe up again.

The other grifter backed away, and said to his partner, "I-I think we should go!"

Yelling out in frustration, the grifters ran away.

"Oh, thank you, sheriff!" Mom said to the woodcutter.

Red put her sword away, and her wolves disappeared, "You're a sheriff now?"

The sheriff chuckled, "That's right. A few years ago, I left my job as a woodcutter and moved to this village, where I eventually became the sheriff."

"Now," the sheriff said, "will someone please tell me what actually happened?"

***

A few days later, Red was about to leave.

"Thanks for teaching me how to use my magic, Red!" I said to her, as she was putting on her riding hood.

"Remember to practice," Red said, giving me a pat on my head.

"I will!" I said, smiling.

Mom gave Red a hug, "Thank you again, so much, for everything that you've done."

I gave Red a hug too, though I could only hug her legs.

"Y-You're welcome," Red said, embarrassed.

Soon, we let go of Red, so that she could be on her way.

"Bye, Red!" I said, waving goodbye, "Come back and visit sometime!"

Without looking back at us, Red held up a hand and waved goodbye.

We watched as she left, her red riding hood gently billowing in the wind.



Commentary:
And there it is, the first part of what I'm tentatively calling the "Red Riding Hood Saga"!
We're starting off with a retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk, with a little bit of Little Red Riding Hood thrown in there.
I had thought about having a big fight as the climax, but I decided against it, since there's no guarantee that the grifters wouldn't come back after Red had left, unless if Red killed them. But, I didn't feel like the bloodshed would have been right for this story, so, instead, I had the woodcutter show up as the sheriff to make it a little more concrete that the grifters wouldn't be returning.
Next month, another tale featuring Red!


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