Study Guide

Jack the Giant-Killer

by Henri Diederick Hoefsmit

Jack the Giant-Killer Essay - Critical Essays

Analysis

Originally meant for an adult audience, fairy tales in their earliest forms were often sensual and violent. “Jack and the Beanstalk,” from Scottish folklore, was the basis for Jack the Giant-Killer.

During the nineteenth century, the Victorians altered many fairy tales to make them suitable for children. These gentler versions often were written by the best-known authors of the time. Many of the resulting collections of childrens stories were beautifully illustrated, so the books were also collected by adults. As a result of the success of these childrens books, more fantasy stories were written over the years. Some are based on ancient legends, such as T. H. Whites The Once and Future King (1958); countless others were original. Furthermore, these stories were not meant for children alone; they were grouped in the category of adult fantasy. Some works entered the mainstream because many authors not known for fantasy work enjoy turning to this genre occasionally. It allows authors to escape the harsh realities depicted in real-world novels and enter a world in which basic principles such as good and evil can be examined in different idioms. Some authors prefer using language and symbolism found in old stories to build new ones. Others, such as de Lint, base their novels directly on old stories, as in the Fairy Tale Series.

De Lint is a member of the Science Fiction Writers of America and has been a juror for the William L. Crawford Award, the Nebula Award, and the World Fantasy Award. In 1988, Jack the Giant-Killer earned for him one of many honors, the Canadian SF/Fantasy Award for the best work in English.

De Lint became a full-time writer in 1983. Jack the Giant-Killer may be considered one of his earlier works; he began writing it in the same year his first fantasy novel, The Riddle of the Wren (1984), was published. He is well known for writing high fantasy placed in a contemporary setting, usually his native Ontario. De Lint believed that his short efforts prior to Jack the Giant-Killer, such as Moonheart (1984), were enjoyable but not entirely successful. Contributing to the Fairy Tale Series gave him a chance to present the realm of Faery as something that is always present but invisible to the casual glance—not as an intrusion into the everyday world.