Authors: Jacqueline Wilson
About the Book
When Rapunzel is banished to a tall tower in the middle of the woods, escape seems impossible. Can she use her long locks to escape from her evil stepmother and find her prince?Â
This story is a magic bean. It may not look much like a bean, but I can promise you that it is. For if you plant it in a young mind, it will grow into a love of story and reading. These beans are favourite fairytales and legends that will delight, thrill and thoroughly entertain. Each story has been brilliantly crafted by one of the best-loved writers for children. How many magic beans have you read?
A Magic Beans Story
Retold by Jacqueline Wilson
Illustrated by Nick Sharratt
THERE WAS ONCE
a husband and wife who longed for a child. The man made a cradle out of oak and carved buttercups and daisies round the side. The woman sewed many silk outfits and embroidered flocks of lovebirds and butterflies on every single baby garment.
The years went by. The cradle gathered dust in a corner because the woman couldn't bear to go near it. The baby clothes stayed shut in a drawer,
bright birds and butterflies trapped in the dark.
The husband hoped his wife might accept her lot as she grew older but if anything her longing grew worse. Sometimes he saw her fold her arms and rock them as if she were holding an invisible baby. He couldn't stand seeing her aching so badly.
The couple lived in a cottage at the edge of the village. The very last house was a forbidding dark dwelling with dragons painted on the door and a glowering griffin weathervane on the roof. The garden was surrounded by a high wall but the husband and wife could peep down into it when they were upstairs in their cottage.
It was no ordinary garden of cornflowers and cabbages. They recognized some of the plants, lavender, mint, camomile, foxglove â¦ but there were many strange herbs they'd never seen before.
They rarely spied their neighbour, a wild-looking old woman with tangled grey hair and stark black clothing. She sold herbal remedies and acted as a midwife â but most of the villagers shunned her, whispering that she was a witch. One stupid small boy dared torment her, climbing her wall and pulling up some of her plants. That night he had a fit, fell into a trance, and never walked or talked again.
The husband and wife steered well clear of their neighbour â but the husband couldn't help wondering if she might have some magic potion that could help them have a child. She was a midwife, after all. She might know some special secrets.
One morning the wife discovered a strand of grey in her fair hair. She started weeping because she knew she was almost too old to have a baby now. The sound of her sobs spurred the husband on.
He walked out of the cottage, down the garden path, out of his wooden gate â and through the sharply spiked iron arch belonging to his neighbour. He stood still in the strange garden, staring all around him. The cobbled path seemed to tilt first one way, then the other, making him dizzy. He forced himself towards the house, plants brushing against his ankles with their bristly leaves, creepers coiling round his calves as if they had a life of their own.
It took him all his courage to seize the leering
knocker. It was horribly hot to the touch so that he only dared one timid rap before snatching his hand away. The door opened almost immediately. The bent old woman stood before him, squinting up at him from behind her grey hanks of hair.
âI'm so sorry to disturb you, Madam,' the husband said. âIt's just that I couldn't help wondering â¦ You seem so learned in matters of magic â¦' His voice tailed away.
The old woman waited, rubbing her dry old hands together so that they made a rasping noise.
âIt's my wife,' the husband continued desperately. âShe's always longed for a child and now I'm so scared this longing is driving her demented. Is there any way at all you can help? Some pill, some potion, some secret spell? I'm not a rich man but I'd be willing to give you all my savings â a purse of gold â if you will help us.'
The old woman's mouth tightened until
dry lips disappeared.
âI have always longed for a daughter myself,' she said, her old eyes watering.
The husband stared at her in astonishment, amazed that a weird old witch woman could want a child.
âDo not look so surprised,' she said bitterly. She sniffed and composed herself. âHowever, you have been courteous. I do know a few secret tricks that might work.' She whispered in his ear. âAnd make your wife a special rapunzel salad tonight.'
âRapunzel?' said the husband.
âYou might call it rampion. It's a salad delicacy.'
âWe haven't got any rampion in our vegetable garden. Would lettuce do instead?' said the husband.
âIt won't do at all,' said the old woman. âHere, I have a special rampion patch myself. I will pick you a bunch. But I can only spare you a little.'
âIt's very kind of you to spare me any,' said the husband gratefully. âWhat do I owe you?' He rather hoped she wasn't going to charge him too many pieces of gold for a couple of tips and a bunch of green leaves.
âYou don't owe me anything, neighbour. But do not come back and trouble me again,' said the old woman, and she shut her door.
The husband went back to his wife and told her he'd consulted with the old woman. She was impressed by his courage, but did not think the witch's tricks would work â though she ate all her rampion salad supper with great relish.
Weeks passed. The husband and wife dared
hoping. Months passed. The wife's gown grew tight around her waist. She clasped her rounded stomach, her face soft with joy.
âI am going to have a baby!' she said.
The husband put his arms around his dear wife and they both wept with happiness.
The wife was not very well during the months she carried her child. She had to rest in her bed many days and she was often sick.
âYou must eat something, my love. You have to nourish our baby as well as yourself,' said the husband.
âI can't fancy any food at all â except that strange rampion,' said the wife. âOh, I so long for
sweet delicious fresh tangy taste. Can't you ask the old witch for some more?'
âShe said she could only spare me a little. And she warned me not to trouble her again.' The husband hesitated. âBut I could try telling her just how much it would mean to you.'
So he went round to the old woman. She glared at him when she opened her door. He told her his wife was now with child and begged for another bunch of rampion.
âI told you, I cannot spare you any more.'
âShe craves the taste so.'
âThen she must go on craving,' said the old woman sharply. âI'm warning you! You will bitterly regret it if you disturb me again.'
The wife wept when told of the old woman's refusal. She sat up in bed all day and half the night, looking down into the garden where she could see the green rampion patch. Her stomach was still round, but her face grew pale and
and the flesh fell away from her arms and legs. The husband was tormented with this new worry, scared his wife would not survive her pregnancy.
He knew there was no point begging the old woman once more. He decided to take matters into his own hands. He knew what he had to do.
He waited until long past midnight when the moon was hidden by clouds. Then he crept out of his house in his stockinged feet. The iron arch was locked but he climbed up and over it, though hidden spikes tore great grooves in his hands. He sucked his bloody fingers and stumbled up and down the cobbled path, trying to locate the rampion patch. A huge creeper wound itself right round his neck like a cobra and gave him such a shock he fell headlong. He lay stunned for a moment â and then realized he had fallen right into the rampion patch.
He plucked as many leaves as he could,
to his feet, and was just stumbling back to the gate when he heard the front door open.
The moon came out, a huge pearly full moon that cast an eerie silver glow upon the garden. The old woman stood right in front of him, her eyes glittering, her face contorted, her mouth open. Her few teeth were filed into points. She looked as if she could tear out his throat with one bite.
âHow dare you steal from me!' she shrieked.
âOh please, have mercy! I know I shouldn't have tried â but my wife is so ill and craves your rampion so very badly, you have no idea.'
âYes, I have no idea,' said the old woman,
her bent old body tight with her crooked hands.
âCan't you take pity on us?' the husband begged. âIf my wife cannot eat your rampion she will surely die.'