|English Fairy Tales
JACK THE GIANT-KILLER
good King Arthur reigned, there lived near the Land's End of England,
in the county of Cornwall, a farmer who had one only son called Jack.
He was brisk and of a ready lively wit, so that nobody or nothing could
those days the Mount of Cornwall was kept by a huge giant named
Cormoran. He was eighteen feet in height, and about three yards round
the waist, of a fierce and grim countenance, the terror of all the
neighbouring towns and villages. He lived in a cave in the midst of the
Mount, and whenever he wanted food he would wade over to the main-
land, where he would furnish himself with whatever came in his way.
Everybody at his approach ran out of their houses, while he seized on
their cattle, making nothing of carrying half-a-dozen oxen on his back
at a time; and as for their sheep and hogs, he would tie them round his
waist like a bunch of tallow-dips. He had done this for many years, so
that all Cornwall was in despair.
day Jack happened to be at the town-hall when the magistrates were
sitting in council about the Giant. He asked: "What reward will be
given to the man who kills Cormoran?" "The giant's treasure," they
said, "will be the reward." Quoth Jack: "Then let me undertake it."
he got a horn, shovel, and pickaxe, and went over to the Mount in the
beginning of a dark winter's evening, when he fell to work, and before
morning had dug a pit twenty-two feet deep, and nearly as broad,
covering it over with long sticks and straw. Then he strewed a little
mould over it, so that it appeared like plain ground. Jack then placed
himself on the opposite side of the pit, farthest from the giant's
lodging, and, just at the break of day, he put the horn to his mouth,
and blew, Tantivy, Tantivy. This noise roused the giant, who rushed
from his cave, crying: "You incorrigible villain, are you come here to
disturb my rest? You shall pay dearly for this. Satisfaction I will
have, and this it shall be, I will take you whole and broil you for
breakfast." He had no sooner uttered this, than he tumbled into the
pit, and made the very foundations of the Mount to shake. "Oh, Giant,"
quoth Jack, "where are you now? Oh, faith, you are gotten now into
Lob's Pound, where I will surely plague you for your threatening words:
what do you think now of broiling me for your breakfast? Will no other
diet serve you but poor Jack?" Then having tantalised the giant for a
while, he gave him a most weighty knock with his pickaxe on the very
crown of his head, and killed him on the spot.
then filled up the pit with earth, and went to search the cave, which
he found contained much treasure. When the magistrates heard of this
they made a declaration he should henceforth be termed
JACK THE GIANT-KILLER
and presented him with a sword and a belt, on which were written these words embroidered in letters of gold:
"Here's the right valiant Cornish man,
Who slew the giant Cormoran."
news of Jack's victory soon spread over all the West of England, so
that another giant, named Blunderbore, hearing of it, vowed to be
revenged on Jack, if ever he should light on him. This giant was the
lord of an enchanted castle situated in the midst of a lonesome wood.
Now Jack, about four months afterwards, walking near this wood in his
journey to Wales, being weary, seated himself near a pleasant fountain
and fell fast asleep. While he was sleeping, the giant, coming there
for water, discovered him, and knew him to be the far-famed Jack the
Giant-killer by the lines written on the belt. Without ado, he took
Jack on his shoulders and carried him towards his castle. Now, as they
passed through a thicket, the rustling of the boughs awakened Jack, who
was strangely surprised to find himself in the clutches of the giant.
His terror was only begun, for, on entering the castle, he saw the
ground strewed with human bones, and the giant told him his own would
ere long be among them. After this the giant locked poor Jack in an
immense chamber, leaving him there while he went to fetch another
giant, his brother, living in the same wood, who might share in the
meal on Jack.
waiting some time Jack, on going to the window beheld afar off the two
giants coming towards the castle. "Now," quoth Jack to himself, "my
death or my deliverance is at hand." Now, there were strong cords in a
corner of the room in which Jack was, and two of these he took, and
made a strong noose at the end; and while the giants were unlocking the
iron gate of the castle he threw the ropes over each of their heads.
Then he drew the other ends across a beam, and pulled with all his
might, so that he throttled them. Then, when he saw they were black in
the face, he slid down the rope, and drawing his sword, slew them both.
Then, taking the giant's keys, and unlocking the rooms, he found three
fair ladies tied by the hair of their heads, almost starved to death.
"Sweet ladies," quoth Jack, "I have destroyed this monster and his
brutish brother, and obtained your liberties." This said he presented
them with the keys, and so proceeded on his journey to Wales.
made the best of his way by travelling as fast as he could, but lost
his road, and was benighted, and could find any habitation until,
coming into a narrow valley, he found a large house, and in order to
get shelter took courage to knock at the gate. But what was his
surprise when there came forth a monstrous giant with two heads; yet he
did not appear so fiery as the others were, for he was a Welsh giant,
and what he did was by private and secret malice under the false show
of friendship. Jack, having told his condition to the giant, was shown
into a bedroom, where, in the dead of night, he heard his host in
another apartment muttering these words:
"Though here you lodge with me this night,
You shall not see the morning light
My club shall dash your brains outright!"
thou so," quoth Jack; "that is like one of your Welsh tricks, yet I
hope to be cunning enough for you." Then, getting out of bed, he laid a
billet in the bed in his stead, and hid himself in a corner of the
room. At the dead time of the night in came the Welsh giant, who struck
several heavy blows on the bed with his club, thinking he had broken
every bone in Jack's skin. The next morning Jack, laughing in his
sleeve, gave him hearty thanks for his night's lodging. "How have you
rested?" quoth the giant; "did you not feel anything in the night?"
"No," quoth Jack, "nothing but a rat, which gave me two or three slaps
with her tail." With that, greatly wondering, the giant led Jack to
breakfast, bringing him a bowl containing four gallons of hasty
pudding. Being loth to let the giant think it too much for him, Jack
put a large leather bag under his loose coat, in such a way that he
could convey the pudding into it without its being perceived. Then,
telling the giant he would show him a trick, taking a knife, Jack
ripped open the bag, and out came all the hasty pudding. Whereupon,
saying, "Odds splutters hur nails, hur can do that trick hurself," the
monster took the knife, and ripping open his belly, fell down dead.
it happened in these days that King Arthur's only son asked his father
to give him a large sum of money, in order that he might go and seek
his fortune in the principality of Wales, where lived a beautiful lady
possessed with seven evil spirits. The king did his best to persuade
his son from it, but in vain; so at last gave way and the prince set
out with two horses, one loaded with money, the other for himself to
ride upon. Now, after several days' travel, he came to a market-town in
Wales, where he beheld a vast crowd of people gathered together. The
prince asked the reason of it, and was told that they had arrested a
corpse for several large sums of money which the deceased owed when he
died. The prince replied that it was a pity creditors should be so
cruel, and said: "Go bury the dead, and let his creditors come to my
lodging, and there their debts shall be paid." They came, in such great
numbers that before night he had only twopence left for himself.
Jack the Giant-Killer, coming that way, was so taken with the
generosity of the prince, that he desired to be his servant. This being
agreed upon, the next morning they set forward on their journey
together, when, as they were riding out of the town, an old woman
called after the prince, saying, "He has owed me twopence these seven
years; pray pay me as well as the rest." Putting his hand to his
pocket, the prince gave the woman all he had left, so that after their
day's food, which cost what small spell Jack had by him, they were
without a penny between them.
When the sun got low, the king's son said: "Jack, since we have no money, where can we lodge this night?"
Jack replied: "Master, we'll do well enough, for I have an uncle lives
within two miles of this place; he is a huge and monstrous giant with
three heads; he'll fight five hundred men in armour, and make them to
fly before him." "Alas!" quoth the prince, "what shall we do there?
He'll certainly chop us up at a mouthful. Nay, we are scarce enough to
fill one of his hollow teeth!"
is no matter for that," quoth Jack; "I myself will go before and
prepare the way for you; therefore stop here and wait till I return."
Jack then rode away at full speed, and coming to the gate of the
castle, he knocked so loud that he made the neighbouring hills resound.
The giant roared out at this like thunder: "Who's there?"
Jack answered: "None but your poor cousin Jack."
Quoth he: "What news with my poor cousin Jack?"
He replied: "Dear uncle, heavy news, God wot!"
quoth the giant, "what heavy news can come to me? I am a giant with
three heads, and besides thou knowest I can fight five hundred men in
armour, and make them fly like chaff before the wind."
"Oh, but," quoth Jack, "here's the king's son a-coming with a thousand men in armour to kill you and destroy all that you have!"
cousin Jack," said the giant, "this is heavy news indeed! I will
immediately run and hide myself, and thou shalt lock, bolt, and bar me
in, and keep the keys until the prince is gone." Having secured the
giant, Jack fetched his master, when they made themselves heartily
merry whilst the poor giant lay trembling in a vault under the ground.
in the morning Jack furnished his master with a fresh supply of gold
and silver, and then sent him three miles forward on his journey, at
which time the prince was pretty well out of the smell of the giant.
Jack then returned, and let the giant out of the vault, who asked what
he should give him for keeping the castle from destruction. "Why,"
quoth Jack, "I want nothing but the old coat and cap, together with the
old rusty sword and slippers which are at your bed's head." Quoth the
giant: "You know not what you ask; they are the most precious things I
have. The coat will keep you invisible, the cap will tell you all you
want to know, the sword cuts asunder whatever you strike, and the shoes
are of extraordinary swiftness. But you have been very serviceable to
me, therefore take them with all my heart." Jack thanked his uncle, and
then went off with them. He soon overtook his master and they quickly
arrived at the house of the lady the prince sought, who, finding the
prince to be a suitor, prepared a splendid banquet for him. After the
repast was concluded, she told him she had a task for him. She wiped
his mouth with a handkerchief, saying: "You must show me that
handkerchief to-morrow morning, or else you will lose your head." With
that she put it in her bosom. The prince went to bed in great sorrow,
but Jack's cap of knowledge informed him how it was to be obtained. In
the middle of the night she called upon her familiar spirit to carry
her to Lucifer. But Jack put on his coat of darkness and his shoes of
swiftness, and was there as soon as she was. When she entered the place
of the Old One, she gave the handkerchief to old Lucifer, who laid it
upon a shelf, whence Jack took it and brought it to his master, who
showed it to the lady next day, and so saved his life. On that day, she
gave the prince a kiss and told him he must show her the lips to-morrow
morning that she kissed last night, or lose his head.
"Ah!" he replied, "if you kiss none but mine, I will."
"That is neither here nor there," said she; "if you do not, death's your portion!"
midnight she went as before, and was angry with old Lucifer for letting
the handkerchief go. "But now," quoth she, "I will be too hard for the
king's son, for I will kiss thee, and he is to show me thy lips." Which
she did, and Jack, when she was not standing by, cut off Lucifer's head
and brought it under his invisible coat to his master, who the next
morning pulled it out by the horns before the lady. This broke the
enchantment and the evil spirit left her, and she appeared in all her
beauty. They were married the next morning, and soon after went to the
court of King Arthur, where Jack for his many great exploits, was made
one of the Knights of the Round Table.
soon went searching for giants again, but he had not ridden far, when
he saw a cave, near the entrance of which he beheld a giant sitting
upon a block of timber, with a knotted iron club by his side. His
goggle eyes were like flames of fire, his countenance grim and ugly,
and his cheeks like a couple of large flitches of bacon, while the
bristles of his beard resembled rods of iron wire, and the locks that
hung down upon his brawny shoulders were like curled snakes or hissing
adders. Jack alighted from his horse, and, putting on the coat of
darkness, went up close to the giant, and said softly: "Oh! are you
there? It will not be long before I take you fast by the beard." The
giant all this while could not see him, on account of his invisible
coat, so that Jack, coming up close to the monster, struck a blow with
his sword at his head, but, missing his aim, he cut off the nose
instead. At this, the giant roared like claps of thunder, and began to
lay about him with his iron club like one stark mad. But Jack, running
behind, drove his sword up to the hilt in the giant's back, so that he
fell down dead. This done, Jack cut off the giant's head, and sent it,
with his brother's also, to King Arthur, by a waggoner he hired for
now resolved to enter the giant's cave in search of his treasure, and,
passing along through a great many windings and turnings, he came at
length to a large room paved with freestone, at the upper end of which
was a boiling caldron, and on the right hand a large table, at which
the giant used to dine. Then he came to a window, barred with iron,
through which he looked and beheld a vast number of miserable captives,
who, seeing him, cried out: "Alas! young man, art thou come to be one
amongst us in this miserable den?"
"Ay," quoth Jack, "but pray tell me what is the meaning of your captivity?"
are kept here," said one, "till such time as the giants have a wish to
feast, and then the fattest among us is slaughtered! And many are the
times they have dined upon murdered men!"
you so," quoth Jack, and straightway unlocked the gate and let them
free, who all rejoiced like condemned men at sight of a pardon. Then
searching the giant's coffers, he shared the gold and silver equally
amongst them and took them to a neighbouring castle, where they all
feasted and made merry over their deliverance.
in the midst of all this mirth a messenger brought news that one
Thunderdell, a giant with two heads, having heard of the death of his
kinsmen, had come from the northern dales to be revenged on Jack, and
was within a mile of the castle, the country people flying before him
like chaff. But Jack was not a bit daunted, and said: "Let him come! I
have a tool to pick his teeth; and you, ladies and gentlemen, walk out
into the garden, and you shall witness this giant Thunderdell's death
castle was situated in the midst of a small island surrounded by a moat
thirty feet deep and twenty feet wide, over which lay a drawbridge. So
Jack employed men to cut through this bridge on both sides, nearly to
the middle; and then, dressing himself in his invisible coat, he
marched against the giant with his sword of sharpness. Although the
giant could not see Jack, he smelt his approach, and cried out in these
"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 me bread!"
"Say'st thou so," said Jack; "then thou art a monstrous miller indeed."
giant cried out again: "Art thou that villain who killed my kinsmen?
Then I will tear thee with my teeth, suck thy blood, and grind thy
bones to powder."
have to catch me first," quoth Jack, and throwing off his invisible
coat, so that the giant might see him, and putting on his shoes of
swiftness, he ran from the giant, who followed like a walking castle,
so that the very foundations of the earth seemed to shake at every
step. Jack led him a long dance, in order that the gentlemen and ladies
might see; and at last to end the matter, ran lightly over the
drawbridge, the giant, in full speed, pursuing him with his club. Then,
coming to the middle of the bridge, the giant's great weight broke it
down, and he tumbled headlong into the water, where he rolled and
wallowed like a whale. Jack, standing by the moat, laughed at him all
the while; but though the giant foamed to hear him scoff, and plunged
from place to place in the moat, yet he could not get out to be
revenged. Jack at length got a cart-rope and cast it over the two heads
of the giant, and drew him ashore by a team of horses, and then cut off
both his heads with his sword of sharpness, and sent them to King
some time spent in mirth and pastime, Jack, taking leave of the knights
and ladies, set out for new adventures. Through many woods he passed,
and came at length to the foot of a high mountain. Here, late at night,
he found a lonesome house, and knocked at the door, which was opened by
an aged man with a head as white as snow. "Father," said Jack, "can you
lodge a benighted traveller that has lost his way?" "Yes," said the old
man; "you are right welcome to my poor cottage." Whereupon Jack
entered, and down they sat together, and the old man began to speak as
follows: "Son, I see by your belt you are the great conqueror of
giants, and behold, my son, on the top of this mountain is an enchanted
castle, this is kept by a giant named Galligantua, and he by the help
of an old conjurer, betrays many knights and ladies into his castle,
where by magic art they are transformed into sundry shapes and forms.
But above all, I grieve for a duke's daughter, whom they fetched from
her father's garden, carrying her through the air in a burning chariot
drawn by fiery dragons, when they secured her within the castle, and
transformed her into a white hind. And though many knights have tried
to break the enchantment, and work her deliverance, yet no one could
accomplish it, on account of two dreadful griffins which are placed at
the castle gate and which destroy every one who comes near. But you, my
son, may pass by them undiscovered, where on the gates of the castle
you will find engraven in large letters how the spell may be broken."
Jack gave the old man his hand, and promised that in the morning he
would venture his life to free the lady.
the morning Jack arose and put on his invisible coat and magic cap and
shoes, and prepared himself for the fray. Now, when he had reached the
top of the mountain he soon discovered the two fiery griffins, but
passed them without fear, because of his invisible coat. When he had
got beyond them, he found upon the gates of the castle a golden trumpet
hung by a silver chain, under which these lines were engraved:
"Whoever shall this trumpet blow,
Shall soon the giant overthrow,
And break the black enchantment straight;
So all shall be in happy state."
had no sooner read this but he blew the trumpet, at which the castle
trembled to its vast foundations, and the giant and conjurer were in
horrid confusion, biting their thumbs and tearing their hair, knowing
their wicked reign was at an end. Then the giant stooping to take up
his club, Jack at one blow cut off his head; whereupon the conjurer,
mounting up into the air, was carried away in a whirlwind. Then the
enchantment was broken, and all the lords and ladies who had so long
been transformed into birds and beasts returned to their proper shapes,
and the castle vanished away in a cloud of smoke. This being done, the
head of Galligantua was likewise, in the usual manner, conveyed to the
Court of King Arthur, where, the very next day, Jack followed, with the
knights and ladies who had been delivered. Whereupon, as a reward for
his good services, the king prevailed upon the duke to bestow his
daughter in marriage on honest Jack. So married they were, and the
whole kingdom was filled with joy at the wedding. Furthermore, the king
bestowed on Jack a noble castle, with a very beautiful estate thereto
belonging, where he and his lady lived in great joy and happiness all
the rest of their days.