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Jack The Giant-killer

from The Best Popular Stories Selected And Rendered Anew

In the reign of the famous King Arthur, there lived, near the Land's
End of England, in the county of Cornwall, a worthy farmer, who had an
only son named Jack. Jack was a boy of a bold temper; he took pleasure
in hearing or reading stories of wizards, conjurors, giants, and
fairies; and used to listen eagerly while his father talked of the
great deeds of the brave knights of King Arthur's Round Table. When
Jack was sent to take care of the sheep and oxen in the fields, he
used to amuse himself with planning battles, sieges, and the means to
conquer or surprise a foe. He was above the common sports of children,
but hardly any one could equal him at wrestling; or, if he met with a
match for himself in strength, his skill and address always made him
the victor. In those days there lived on St. Michael's Mount, of
Cornwall, which rises out of the sea at some distance from the
mainland, a huge giant. He was eighteen feet high, and three yards
round; and his fierce and savage looks were the terror of all his
neighbors. He dwelt in a gloomy cavern on the very top of the
mountain, and used to wade over to the mainland in search of his prey.
When he came near, the people left their houses; and, after he had
glutted his appetite upon their cattle, he would throw half a dozen
oxen upon his back, and tie three times as many sheep and hogs round
his waist, and so march back to his own abode. The giant had done this
for many years, and the coast of Cornwall was greatly hurt by his
thefts, when Jack boldly resolved to destroy him. He therefore took a
horn, a shovel, a pickaxe, and a dark lantern, and, early in a long
winter's evening, he swam to the Mount. There he fell to work at once,
and before morning he had dug a pit twenty-two feet deep, and almost
as many broad. He covered it over with sticks and straw, and strewed
some of the earth over them, to make it look just like solid ground.
He then put his horn to his mouth, and blew such a loud and long
tantivy, that the giant awoke, and came towards Jack, roaring like
thunder: You saucy villain, you shall pay dearly for breaking my
rest; I will broil you for my breakfast. He had scarcely spoken these
words, when he came advancing one step further; but then he tumbled
headlong into the pit, and his fall shook the very mountain.

O ho, Mr. Giant! said Jack, looking into the pit, have you found
your way so soon to the bottom? How is your appetite now? Will nothing
serve you for breakfast this cold morning but broiling poor Jack?

The giant now tried to rise, but Jack struck him a blow on the crown
of the head with his pickaxe, which killed him at once. Jack then made
haste back, to rejoice his friends with the news of the giant's
death. When the justices of Cornwall heard of this valiant action,
they sent for Jack, and declared that he should always be called Jack
the Giant Killer; and they also gave him a sword and belt, upon which
was written, in letters of gold:--

This is the valiant Cornishman
Who slew the giant Cormoran.

The news of Jack's exploits soon spread over the western parts of
England: and another giant, called Old Blunderbore, vowed to have
revenge on Jack, if it should ever be his fortune to get him into his
power. The giant kept an enchanted castle in the midst of a lonely
wood. About four months after the death of Cormoran, as Jack was
taking a journey into Wales, he passed through this wood; and, as he
was very weary, he sat down to rest by the side of a pleasant
fountain, and there he fell into a deep sleep. The giant came to the
fountain for water just at this time, and found Jack there; and as the
lines on Jack's belt showed who he was, the giant lifted him up and
laid him gently upon his shoulder, to carry him to his castle; but, as
he passed through the thicket, the rustling of the leaves waked Jack;
and he was sadly afraid when he found himself in the clutches of
Blunderbore. Yet this was nothing to his fright soon after; for, when
they reached the castle, he beheld the floor covered all over with the
skulls and bones of men and women. The giant took him into a large
room, where lay the hearts and limbs of persons who had been lately
killed; and he told Jack, with a horrid grin, that men's hearts, eaten
with pepper and vinegar, were his nicest food, and also, that he
thought he should make a dainty meal on his heart. When he had said
this, he locked Jack up in that room, while he went to fetch another
giant, who lived in the same wood, to enjoy a dinner off Jack's flesh
with him. While he was away, Jack heard dreadful shrieks, groans, and
cries from many parts of the castle; and soon after he heard a
mournful voice repeat these lines:--

Haste, valiant stranger, haste away,
Lest you become the giant's prey.
On his return he'll bring another,
Still more savage than his brother;
A horrid, cruel monster, who,
Before he kills, will torture you.
Oh valiant stranger! haste away,
Or you'll become these giants' prey.

This warning was so shocking to poor Jack, that he was ready to go
mad. He ran to the window, and saw the two giants coming along arm in
arm. This window was right over the gates of the castle. Now,
thought Jack, either my death or freedom is at hand.

There were two strong cords in the room. Jack made a large noose, with
a slip-knot at the ends of both these, and, as the giants were coming
through the gates, he threw the ropes over their heads. He then made
the other ends fast to a beam in the ceiling, and pulled with all his
might, till he had almost strangled them. When he saw that they were
both quite black in the face, and had not the least strength left, he
drew his sword, and slid down the ropes; he then killed the giants,
and thus saved himself from a cruel death. Jack next took a great
bunch of keys from the pocket of Blunderbore, and went into the castle
again. He made a strict search through all the rooms, and in them
found three ladies tied up by the hair of their heads, and almost
starved to death. They told him that their husbands had been killed by
the giants, who had then condemned them to be starved to death,
because they would not eat the flesh of their own dead husbands.

Ladies, said Jack, I have put an end to the monster and his wicked
brother; and I give you this castle and all the riches it contains, to
make you some amends for the dreadful pains you have felt. He then
very politely gave them the keys of the castle, and went further on
his journey to Wales.

As Jack had not taken any of the giant's riches for himself, and had
very little money of his own, he thought it best to travel as fast as
he could. At length he lost his way; and, when night came on, he was
in a lonely valley between two lofty mountains. There he walked about
for some hours, without seeing any dwelling-place, so he thought
himself very lucky at last in finding a large and handsome house. He
went up to it boldly, and knocked loudly at the gate; when, to his
great terror and surprise, there came forth a monstrous giant with two
heads. He spoke to Jack very civilly, for he was a Welsh giant, and
all the mischief he did was by private and secret malice, under the
show of friendship and kindness. Jack told him that he was a traveller
who had lost his way, on which the huge monster made him welcome, and
led him into a room, where there was a good bed in which to pass the
night. Jack took off his clothes quickly; but though he was so weary,
he could not go to sleep. Soon after this, he heard the giant walking
backward and forward in the next room, and saying to himself:--

Though here you lodge with me this night,
You shall not see the morning light;
My club shall dash your brains out quite.

Say you so? thought Jack. Are these your tricks upon travellers?
But I hope to prove as cunning as you. Then getting out of bed, he
groped about the room, and at last found a large thick billet of wood;
he laid it in his own place in the bed, and hid himself in a dark
corner of the room. In the middle of the night the giant came with his
great club, and struck many heavy blows on the bed, in the very place
where Jack had laid the billet, and then he went back to his own room,
thinking he had broken all his bones. Early in the morning, Jack put a
bold face upon the matter, and walked into the giant's room to thank
him for his lodging.

The giant started when he saw him, and he began to stammer out, Oh,
dear me! is it you? Pray how did you sleep last night? Did you hear or
see anything in the dead of the night?

Nothing worth speaking of, said Jack, carelessly; a rat, I
believe, gave me three or four slaps with his tail, and disturbed me a
little, but I soon went to sleep again.

The giant wondered more and more at this; yet he did not answer a
word, and went to bring two great bowls of hasty-pudding for their

Jack wished to make the giant believe that he could eat as much as
himself; so he contrived to button a leathern bag inside his coat, and
slipped the hasty-pudding into this bag, while he seemed to put it
into his mouth. When breakfast was over, he said to the giant, Now I
will show you a fine trick; I can cure all wounds with a touch; I
could cut off my head one minute, and the next put it sound again on
my shoulders: you shall see an example. He then took hold of the
knife, ripped up the leathern bag, and all the hasty-pudding tumbled
out upon the floor.

Ods splutter hur nails, cried the Welsh giant, who was ashamed to be
outdone by such a little fellow as Jack; hur can do that hurself. So
he snatched up the knife, plunged it into his stomach, and in a moment
dropped down dead.

As soon as Jack had thus tricked the Welsh monster, he went farther on
his journey; and, a few days after, he met with King Arthur's only
son, who had got his father's leave to travel into Wales, to deliver a
beautiful lady from the power of a wicked magician, by whom she was
held in enchantment. When Jack found that the young prince had no
servants with him, he begged leave to attend him; and the prince at
once agreed to this, and gave Jack many thanks for his kindness.

King Arthur's son was a handsome, polite, and brave knight, and so
good-natured, that he gave money to everybody he met. At length he
gave his last penny to an old woman, and then turned to Jack, How
shall we be able to get food for ourselves the rest of our journey?

Leave that to me, sir, replied Jack; I will provide for my prince.

Night now came on, and the prince began to grow uneasy at thinking
where they should lodge.

Sir, said Jack, be of good heart; two miles further there lives a
large giant, whom I know well; he has three heads, and will fight five
hundred men, and make them fly before him.

Alas! cried the king's son, we had better never have been born than
meet with such a monster.

My lord, leave me to manage him, and wait here in quiet till I

The prince now stayed behind, while Jack rode on at full speed; and
when he came to the gates of the castle, he gave a loud knock. The
giant, with a voice like thunder, roared out, Who is there?

Jack made answer, and said, No one but your poor cousin Jack.

Well, said the giant, what news, cousin Jack?

Dear uncle, said Jack, I have heavy news.

Pooh! said the giant, what heavy news can come to me? I am a giant
with three heads, and can fight five hundred men, and make them fly
before me.

Alas! said Jack, here's the king's son coming with two thousand men
to kill you, and to destroy the castle and all that you have.

Oh, cousin Jack, said the giant, this is heavy news indeed! But I
have a large cellar underground, where I will hide myself, and you
shall lock, bolt, and bar me in, and keep the keys till the king's son
is gone.

Now, when Jack had barred the giant fast in the vault, he went back
and fetched the prince to the castle; they both made themselves merry
with the wine and other dainties that were in the house. So that night
they rested very pleasantly while the poor giant lay trembling and
shaking with fear in the cellar underground. Early in the morning,
Jack gave the king's son gold and silver out of the giant's treasure,
and accompanied him three miles forward on his journey. The prince
then sent Jack to let his uncle out of the hole, who asked him what he
should give him as a reward for saving his castle.

Why, good uncle, said Jack, I desire nothing but the old coat and
cap, with the old rusty sword and slippers, which are hanging at your
bed's head.

Then, said the giant, you shall have them: and pray keep them for
my sake, for they are things of great use. The coat will keep you
invisible, the cap will give you knowledge, the sword will cut
through anything, and the shoes are of vast swiftness; they may be
useful to you in all times of danger, so take them with all my heart.

Jack gave many thanks to the giant, and then set off to the prince.
When he had come up to the king's son, they soon arrived at the
dwelling of the beautiful lady, who was under the power of a wicked
magician. She received the prince very politely, and made a noble
feast for him: when it was ended, she rose, and, wiping her mouth with
a fine handkerchief, said, My lord, you must submit to the custom of
my palace; to-morrow morning I command you to tell me on whom I bestow
this handkerchief, or lose your head. She then left the room.

The young prince went to bed very mournful, but Jack put on his cap of
knowledge, which told him that the lady was forced, by the power of
enchantment, to meet the wicked magician every night in the middle of
the forest. Jack now put on his coat of darkness, and his shoes of
swiftness, and was there before her. When the lady came, she gave the
handkerchief to the magician. Jack, with his sword of sharpness, at
one blow cut off his head; the enchantment was then ended in a moment,
and the lady was restored to her former virtue and goodness. She was
married to the prince on the next day, and soon after went back, with
her royal husband and a great company, to the court of King Arthur,
where they were received with loud and joyful welcomes; and the
valiant hero Jack, for the many great exploits he had done for the
good of his country, was made one of the knights of the Round Table.

As Jack had been so lucky in all his adventures, he resolved not to be
idle for the future, but still to do what services he could for the
honour of the king and the nation. He therefore humbly begged his
majesty to furnish him with a horse and money, that he might travel in
search of new and strange exploits. For, said he to the king, there
are many giants yet living in the remote parts of Wales, to the great
terror and distress of your majesty's subjects; therefore, if it
please you, sire, to favour me in my design, I will soon rid your
kingdom of these giants and monsters in human shape.

Now when the king heard this offer, and began to think of the cruel
deeds of these blood-thirsty giants and savage monsters, he gave Jack
everything proper for such a journey. After this, Jack took leave of
the king, the prince, and all the knights, and set off; taking with
him his cap of knowledge, his sword of sharpness, his shoes of
swiftness, and his invisible coat, the better to perform the great
exploits that might fall in his way. He went along over hills and
mountains; and on the third day he came to a wide forest. He had
hardly entered it, when on a sudden he heard dreadful shrieks and
cries; and forcing his way through the trees, saw a monstrous giant
dragging along by the hair of their heads, a handsome knight and a
beautiful lady. Their tears and cries melted the heart of honest
Jack; he alighted from his horse, and tying him to an oak-tree, put on
his invisible coat, under which he carried his sword of sharpness.

When he came up to the giant, he made several strokes at him, but
could not reach his body, on account of the enormous height of the
terrible creature; but he wounded his thighs in several places; and at
length, putting both hands to his sword, and aiming with all his
might, he cut off both the giant's legs just below the garter; and the
trunk of his body, tumbling to the ground, made not only the trees
shake, but the earth itself tremble with the force of his fall. Then
Jack, setting his foot upon his neck, exclaimed: Thou barbarous and
savage wretch, behold, I come to execute upon thee the just reward for
all thy crimes; and instantly plunged his sword into the giant's
body. The huge monster gave a groan, and yielded up his life into the
hands of the victorious Jack the Giant-Killer, whilst the noble knight
and the virtuous lady were both joyful spectators of his sudden death.
They not only returned Jack hearty thanks for their deliverance, but
also invited him to their house, to refresh himself after his dreadful
encounter, as likewise to receive a reward for his good services.

No, said Jack, I cannot be at ease till I find out the den that was
the monster's habitation.

The knight, on hearing this, grew very sorrowful, and replied: Noble
stranger, it is too much to run a second hazard; this monster lived
in a den under yonder mountain, with a brother of his, more fierce and
cruel than himself; therefore, if you should go thither, and perish in
the attempt, it would be a heart-breaking thing to me and my lady; so
let me persuade you to go back with us, and desist from any further

Nay, answered Jack, if there be another, even if there were twenty,
I would shed the last drop of blood in my body before one of them
should escape. When I have finished this task, I will come and pay my
respects to you.

So when they had told him where to find them again, he got on his
horse and went after the dead giant's brother.

Jack had not ridden a mile and a half before he came in sight of the
mouth of the cavern; and, nigh the entrance of it, he saw the other
giant sitting on a huge block of timber, with a knotted iron club
lying by his side, waiting for his brother. His eyes looked like
flames of fire, his face was grim and ugly, and his cheeks were like
two flitches of bacon; the bristles of his beard seemed to be thick
rods of iron wire; and his long locks of hair hung down upon his broad
shoulders like curling snakes. Jack got down from his horse, and
turned him into a thicket; then he put on his coat of darkness, and
drew a little nearer to behold this figure, and said softly, Oh,
monster! are you there? It will not be long before I shall take you
fast by the beard.

The giant all this while could not see him, by reason of his invisible
coat; so Jack came quite close to him, and struck a blow at his head
with his sword of sharpness; but he missed his aim, and only cut off
his nose, which made him roar like loud claps of thunder. He rolled
his glaring eyes round on every side, but could not see who had given
him the blow; so he took up his iron club, and began to lay about him
like one that was mad with pain and fury.

Nay, said Jack, if this be the case, I will kill you at once. So
saying, he slipped nimbly behind him, and jumping upon the block of
timber, as the giant rose from it, he stabbed him in the back; when,
after a few howls, he dropped down dead. Jack cut off his head, and
sent it, with the head of his brother, to King Arthur, by a waggon
which he had hired for that purpose. When Jack had thus killed these
two monsters, he went into their cave in search of their treasure. He
passed through many turnings and windings, which led him to a room
paved with freestone; at the end of it was a boiling cauldron, and on
the right hand stood a large table, where the giants used to dine. He
then came to a window that was secured with iron bars, through which
he saw a number of wretched captives, who cried out when they saw
Jack: Alas! alas! young man, you are come to be one among us in this
horrid den.

I hope, said Jack, you will not stay here long: but pray tell me
what is the meaning of your being here at all?

Alas! said one poor old man, I will tell you, sir. We are persons
that have been taken by the giants who hold this cave, and are kept
till they choose to have a feast; then one of us is to be killed, and
cooked to please their taste. It is not long since they took three for
the same purpose.

Well, said Jack, I have given them such a dinner, that it will be
long enough before they have any more.

The captives were amazed at his words.

You may believe me, said Jack, for I have killed them both with the
edge of this sword, and have sent their large heads to the court of
King Arthur, as marks of my great success.

To show that what he said was true, he unlocked the gate, and set the
captives all free. Then he led them to the great room, placed them
round the table, and placed before them two quarters of beef, with
bread and wine; upon which they feasted their fill. When supper was
over, they searched the giant's coffers, and Jack divided among them
all the treasures. The next morning they set off to their homes, and
Jack to the knight's house, whom he had left with his lady not long

He was received with the greatest joy by the thankful knight and his
lady, who, in honour of Jack's exploits, gave a grand feast, to which
all the nobles and gentry were invited. When the company were
assembled, the knight declared to them the great actions of Jack, and
gave him, as a mark of respect, a fine ring, on which was engraved the
picture of the giant dragging the knight and the lady by the hair,
with this motto round it:--

Behold in dire distress were we,
Under a giant's fierce command;
But gained our lives and liberty
From valiant Jack's victorious hand.

Among the guests then present were five aged gentlemen, who were
fathers to some of those captives who had been freed by Jack from the
dungeon of the giants. As soon as they heard that he was the person
who had done such wonders, they pressed round him with tears of joy,
to return him thanks for the happiness he had caused them. After this
the bowl went round, and every one drank the health and long life of
the gallant hero. Mirth increased, and the hall was filled with peals
of laughter. But, on a sudden, a herald, pale and breathless, rushed
into the midst of the company, and told them that Thundel, a savage
giant with two heads, had heard of the death of his two kinsmen, and
was come to take his revenge on Jack; and that he was now within a
mile of the house, the people flying before him like chaff before the
wind. At this news the very boldest of the guests trembled; but Jack
drew his sword, and said, Let him come, I have a rod for him also.
Pray, ladies and gentlemen, do me the favour to walk into the garden,
and you shall soon behold the giant's defeat and death.

To this they all agreed, and heartily wished him success in his
dangerous attempt.

The knight's house stood in the middle of a moat, thirty feet deep and
twenty wide, over which lay a drawbridge. Jack set men to work, to cut
the bridge on both sides, almost to the middle, and then dressed
himself in his coat of darkness, and went against the giant with his
sword of sharpness. As he came close to him, though the giant could
not see him for his invisible coat, yet he found some danger was near,
which made him cry out:--

Fa, fe, fi, fo, fum,
I smell the blood of an Englishman;
Let him be alive, or let him be dead,
I'll grind his bones to make me bread.

Say you so, my friend? said Jack; you are a monstrous miller,

Art thou, cried the giant, the villain that killed my kinsmen? Then
I will tear thee with my teeth, and grind thy bones to powder.

You must catch me first, said Jack; and throwing off his coat of
darkness, and putting on his shoes of swiftness, he began to run, the
giant following him like a walking castle, making the earth shake at
every step.

Jack led him round and round the walls of the house, that the company
might see the monster; then, to finish the work, he ran over the
drawbridge, the giant going after him with his club: but when he came
to the middle, where the bridge had been cut on both sides, the great
weight of his body made it break, and he tumbled into the water, where
he rolled about like a large whale. Jack now stood by the side of the
moat, and laughed and jeered at him, saying, I think you told me you
would grind my bones to powder; when will you begin?

The giant foamed at both his horrid mouths with fury, and plunged
from side to side of the moat; but he could not get out to have
revenge on his little foe. At last Jack ordered a cart-rope to be
brought to him; he then drew it over his two heads, and by the help of
a team of horses, dragged him to the edge of the moat, where he cut
off his heads: and before he either ate or drank, sent them both to
the court of King Arthur. He then went back to the table with the
company, and the rest of the day was spent in mirth and good cheer.

After staying with the knight for some time, Jack grew weary of such
an idle life, and set out again in search of new adventures. He went
over hills and dales without meeting any, till he came to the foot of
a very high mountain. Here he knocked at the door of a small and
lonely house, and an old man, with a head as white as snow, let him

Good father, said Jack, can you lodge a traveller who has lost his

Yes, said the hermit, I can, if you will accept such fare as my
poor house affords.

Jack entered, and the old man set before him some bread and fruit for
his supper. When Jack had eaten as much as he chose, the hermit said:
My son, I know you are the famous conqueror of giants; now, at the
top of this mountain is an enchanted castle, kept by a giant named
Galligantus, who, by the help of a vile magician, gets many knights
into his castle, where he changes them into the shape of beasts. Above
all, I lament the hard fate of a duke's daughter, whom they seized as
she was walking in her father's garden, and brought hither through the
air in a chariot drawn by two fiery dragons, and turned her into the
shape of a deer. Many knights have tried to destroy the enchantment
and deliver her, yet none have been able to do it, by reason of two
fiery griffins, who guard the gate of the castle, and destroy all who
come nigh; but as you, my son, have an invisible coat, you may pass by
them without being seen; and on the gates of the castle you will find
engraved by what means the enchantment may be broken.

Jack promised that in the morning, at the risk of his life, he would
break the enchantment; and after a sound sleep, he arose early, put on
his invisible coat, and got ready for the attempt. When he had climbed
to the top of the mountain, he saw the two fiery griffins; but he
passed between them without the least fear of danger for they could
not see him because of his invisible coat. On the castle-gate he found
a golden trumpet, under which were written these lines:--

Whoever can this trumpet blow,
Shall cause the giant's overthrow.

As soon as Jack had read this, he seized the trumpet, and blew a
shrill blast, which made the gates fly open, and the very castle
itself tremble. The giant and the conjuror now knew that their wicked
course was at an end, and they stood biting their thumbs and shaking
with fear. Jack with his sword of sharpness, soon killed the giant,
and the magician was then carried away by a whirlwind. All the
knights and beautiful ladies, who had been changed into birds and
beasts, returned to their proper shapes. The castle vanished away like
smoke, and the head of the giant Galligantus was sent to King Arthur.
The knights and ladies rested that night at the old man's hermitage,
and the next day they set out for the court. Jack then went up to the
king, and gave his majesty an account of all his fierce battles.
Jack's fame had spread through the whole country; and at the king's
desire, the duke gave him his daughter in marriage, to the joy of all
the kingdom. After this, the king gave him a large estate, on which he
and his lady lived the rest of their days in joy and content.

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