Jack and the Beanstalk begins with its titular character making a pact with the devil. This element of the story is largely overlooked, but undeniable; he sacrifices his family’s prize calf to a mysterious salesman in exchange for a handful of magic beans. The consequences of this Faustian bargain are left out of the legend’s most well-known rendition, but given other tales from the past with similar devices, it is safe to conclude that in some way or another, Jack has committed an act of self-damnation.

There is at least one alternative telling of Jack’s tale that demonstrates this, recently discovered in a curiously-bound book of fairy tales. In this version, the beanstalk rises not only perpendicular to the horizon, but also in parallel with the present; it is a complex, organic bridge connecting two separate islands in space-time. Jack, a simple boy from the English countryside, has no concept of time travel; from his perspective, he has simply found a castle in the clouds full of treasure that he can steal for himself.

Eventually, he is caught trespassing in a confrontation that results in the murder of the castle’s owner, who is described at first as an “ogre” or “giant.” Such a monster is only truly distinguishable from its observer’s species by its body’s relative size- which leads to significant misunderstanding. Through the veil of age and foolishness, Jack cannot recognize his own face on a separate body, and in a moment of impulsive greed (the same that resulted in his deal with the devil in the first place), he murders his own future self.

He then lives for many years in gold-drunk bliss, unaware of just what it is that he’s done- but over time, he begins to see his own semblance to the monster that he slew. Perhaps the most legendary treasure that he’s stolen is the goose that lays golden eggs- which he uses to maintain a steady salary in addition to the rest of his fortune. When it dies of old age, he allows one of its ingots to hatch in the hopes of obtaining another of her kind- yet what emerges surprises him. It’s the same damn goose, fully matured, and identical to the way it appeared on the day that he found it.

As the omens of something sinister at work become harder to ignore, Jack begins a search for answers. Through the practice of arts forbidden and profane, he becomes aware of the cosmic cycle that he has birthed through his own actions, a realization which consumes him with denial and paranoia. In an impotent attempt to prevent the inevitable, he seals himself away in an impossible fortress, a castle of stone on a field of cloud, along with the rest of his worldly possessions. Here, he slowly goes mad from isolation and fear, and eventually turns to cannibalism as his humanity fades away.

When his younger self at last arrives to slay him, he sees only a potential meal, and does not recognize his own face on a separate body. By this point, what was once Jack is completely gone from him: the devil has already claimed his soul long before the boy’s sword slides through his heart.