Making the familiar unfamiliar

Choose a folk tale or fairy tale that you know well.
Select one of the characters from the story for the
following exercise and write a few pages about them,
using one of the following prompts:
• Pretend you’re a therapist treating the character.
Write a scene in which you discuss the character’s
life and problems, then arrive at a diagnosis.
• Write a newspaper article describing the events
of the story. For example, Snow White—Woman
Hiding in Woods for Ten Years Found by Wealthy
Hiker. Then write a story for that headline using
journalistic objectivity.
• Have your character explain their actions to a jury.

Jack and the Beanstalk – Consequences

Jack couldn’t believe it had come to this. He had always thought he was the hero of the story because he had brought things to help his family. Now, he was on trial for theft and murder. To be honest, he had never considered the ogre as a living person who would leave things behind. Like a widow. He felt a new sorrow when he looked over the courtroom to see her giving testimony against him.

“On the first day he took a sack of gold. I would’ve forgiven this because it meant practically nothing to us and I knew that he would be okay for the rest of his life with that wealth. He didn’t stop there, which hardly seemed fair. The next day he stole a hen that laid golden eggs. That hen was special and my husband was less than happy. Neither was I because I had hidden the boy without realising what he would do. The last day was the worst. He broke into the house when no one was there and hid in an original location. Then he made off with a precious harp, ignoring the fact it was crying out for its owner to rescue it. My husband followed and then this boy, this Jack, chop down the Beanstalk even though my husband told him to have a care. Turned out he didn’t have a care because it killed my husband the second he hit the floor.”

That was all true. Jack knew he went never be able to explain why he felt the need to go back day after day. Maybe if he waited at the bottom on the last day, he could have been able to hand the harp back with no trouble. The harp was calling to its master when he was carrying it. He felt very guilty about that.

There was only one fact that he can think of that would get him out of trouble. He stood up and turned to face the widow. “Isn’t it true that your husband ate children?”

“How is that different from you eating meat? They breed the children in our kingdom for that purpose and live on a farm. It is not like we take children off the street. Why do you think I hid you?”

Admittedly, that thought had never crossed his mind. Jack just looked at her sadly as everything he thought was true turned out to be wrong. The ogre had done nothing wrong and did not deserve any punishment. The only one who deserved punishment in this situation was him.

His mother had already returned the hen and the harp. The widow had seen his family house and met his bedridden father before insisting that his mother keep the gold. Now all he wanted to do was return the husband, but he knew it was something beyond his power. He sat down heavily, feeling the weight of guilt press down on him.

It was impossible for him to meet her eyes again. Apologies would never be enough.


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