Jack The Giant-killer

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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