“Fee fi fo fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman. Be he alive or be he dead, I’ll grind his bones to make my bread.”
I remember these lines from the story Jack & the Beanstalk, even though I haven’t heard them for decades, because my mom used to read this story to me a lot as a child. It was one of my favorites. It was a frightening story, yet held the allure of riches. I wanted to climb a beanstalk (even though I couldn’t climb a regular friggin’ tree) and I wanted to be a tiny person in a cloud world of giants, hiding in crevices and behind the legs of enormous tables, while trying to find a bag of gold coins or the goose that laid golden eggs. The harp I could do without, because as I remember the story, she tried to get Jack caught by yelling for the giant when Jack snatched her. At the time, this seemed traitorous. However I now realize that if I were a magical harp and some stranger tried stealing me, I’d put up a fuss as well.
I often attribute my love of horror to things like seeing the Steve McQueen version of The Blob at such a young age – watching it by peaking out from behind a big easy chair – but perhaps it was this story that first inserted its little barbed hooks of horror into my psyche.
“Fee fi fo fum...” – the rhyme that the giant in the story repeated whenever Jack reappeared to steal something was my favorite part, because I knew it by heart and would say it along with my mom, both of us lowering our voices to a growl to be more menacing as we said it. But the imagery it evokes is quite violent. “I smell the blood...” – the giant can actually smell blood? Has he got a taste for it? If he catches you will he rip your head off and drink from your neck? “I’ll grind his bones to make my bread.” Again, not only will he drink your blood, he’ll tear out all your bones, as well. And not just remove them, but grind them. What does the giant do with your skin? Use it as toilet paper after he shits you out?
So Mr. Blob – you may have to relinquish your crown to the giant of Jack & the Beanstalk for the genesis of my love of all things that go bump in the night. But I still love you, anyway.
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