Jack And The Giants

: Popular Rhymes And Nursery Tales

[The present copy of this tale is taken, with a few necessary

alterations, from the original editions, which differ very considerably

from the modern versions; and it is worthy of preservation in its

antique costume, for the story is undoubtedly of Teutonic origin. "Jack,

commonly called the Giant Killer," says Sir W. Scott, "and Thomas Thumb

landed in England from the very same keels and war-ships which conveyed

t and Horsa, and Ebba the Saxon." One incident in the romance

exactly corresponds to a device played by the giant Skrimner, when he

and Thor travelled to Utgard Castle, related in the Edda of Snorro.

Skrimner placed an immense rock on the leafy couch where Thor supposed

he was sleeping, and when the latter, desiring to rid himself of his

companion, heard the giant snore, he struck the rock with his tremendous

hammer, thinking it was the monster's head. "Hath a leaf fallen upon me

from the tree?" exclaimed the awakened giant. He went to sleep again,

and snoring louder than ever, Thor gave a blow which he thought must

have cracked his skull. "What is the matter?" quoth Skrimner, "hath an

acorn fallen on my head?" A third time the snore was heard, and a third

time the hammer fell with redoubled force, insomuch that Thor weened the

iron had buried itself in Skrimner's temples. "Methinks," quoth the

giant, rubbing his cheek, "some moss hath fallen on my face!" Jack's

invisible coat, his magic sword, and his shoes of swiftness, are also

undoubtedly borrowed from Northern romance.[20]

[Footnote 20: The last is also found in the

second relation of Ssidi Kur, a Calmuck romance.]

An incident very similar to the blows with the rat's tail occurs in the

story of the Brave Little Tailor, in Grimm; who outwits a giant in

several ingenious ways, one of which may be described. On one occasion

the giant wished to try the strength of the tailor, by challenging him

to carry a tree. The latter said, "Very well, you carry the butt-end,

while I will carry all the branches, by far the heaviest part of the

tree." So the giant lifted the tree up on his shoulders, and the tailor

very coolly sat on the branches while the giant carried the tree. At

length he was so tired with his load, he was obliged to drop it, and the

tailor, nimbly jumping off, made belief as if he had been carrying the

branches all the time, and said: "A pretty fellow you are, that can't

carry a tree!"

The edition of Jack the Giant-killer here used was printed at

Newcastle-on-Tyne in 1711. The earliest in the British Museum is dated

1809, nor does the Bodleian, I believe, contain a copy of a more ancient


Jack and the Bean-stalk may be added to the series of English

nursery-tales derived from the Teutonic. The bean-stalk is a descendant

of the wonderful ash in the Edda. The distich put into the mouth of the


Snouk but, snouk ben,

I find the smell of earthly men;

is, says Scott, scarcely inferior to the keen-scented anthropophaginian

in Jack the Giant-killer.]

In the reign of King Arthur, and in the county of Cornwall, near to the

Land's End of England, there lived a wealthy farmer, who had an only son

named Jack. He was brisk, and of a lively ready wit, so that whatever he

could not perform by force and strength, he accomplished by ingenious

wit and policy. Never was any person heard of that could worst him, and

he very often even baffled the learned by his sharp and ready


In those days the Mount of Cornwall was kept by a huge and monstrous

giant of eighteen feet in height, and about three yards in compass, of a

fierce and grim countenance, the terror of all the neighbouring towns

and villages. He inhabited a cave in the middle of the mount, and he was

such a selfish monster that he would not suffer any one to live near

him. He fed on other men's cattle, which often became his prey, for

whensoever he wanted food, he would wade over to the main land, where he

would furnish himself with whatever came in his way. The inhabitants, at

his approach, forsook their habitations, 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 bandoleers.[21] This course he had followed for many

years, so that a great part of the county was impoverished by his


[Footnote 21: Bandoleers were little wooden

cases covered with leather, each of them

containing the charge of powder for a musket, and

fastened to a broad band of leather, which the

person who was to use them put round his neck.]

This was the state of affairs, when Jack, happening one day to be

present at the town-hall when the authorities were consulting about the

giant, had the curiosity to ask what reward would be given to the person

who destroyed him. The giant's treasure was declared as the recompense,

and Jack at once undertook the task.

In order to accomplish his purpose, he furnished himself with 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 strewing a little mould upon it, it appeared

like plain ground. This accomplished, Jack placed himself on the side of

the pit which was furthest from the giant's lodging, and, just at the

break of day, he put the horn to his mouth, and blew with all his might,

Although Jack was a little fellow, and the powers of his voice are not

described as being very great, he managed to make noise enough to arouse

the giant, and excite his indignation. The monster accordingly rushed

from his cave, exclaiming, "You incorrigible villain, are you come here

to disturb my rest? you shall pay dearly for this. Satisfaction I will

have, for I will take you whole and broil you for breakfast." He had no

sooner uttered this cruel threat, than tumbling into the pit, he made

the very foundations of the Mount ring again. "Oh, giant," said Jack,

"where are you now? Oh faith, you are gotten now into Lob's Pound,[22]

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?" Thus did little Jack tantalize the big giant, as a

cat does a mouse when she knows it cannot escape, and when he had tired

of that amusement, he gave him a heavy blow with his pickaxe on the very

crown of his head, which "tumbled him down," and killed him on the spot.

When Jack saw he was dead, he filled up the pit with earth, and went to

search the cave, which he found contained much treasure. The

magistrates, in the exuberance of their joy, did not add to Jack's gains

from their own, but after the best and cheapest mode of payment, made a

declaration he should henceforth be termed Jack the Giant-killer, and

presented him with a sword and embroidered belt, on the latter of which

were inscribed these words in letters of gold:

Here's the right valiant Cornish man,

Who slew the giant Cormelian.

[Footnote 22: An old jocular term for a prison,

or any place of confinement.]

The news of Jack's victory, as might be expected, soon spread over all

the West of England, so that another giant, named Thunderbore, hearing

of it, and entertaining a partiality for his race, vowed to be revenged

on the little hero, if ever it was his fortune to light on him. This

giant was the lord of an enchanted castle, situated in the midst of a

lonely wood. Now Jack, about four months after his last exploit, walking

near this castle in his journey towards Wales, being weary, seated

himself near a pleasant fountain in the wood, "o'ercanopied with

luscious woodbine," and presently fell asleep. While he was enjoying his

repose, the giant, coming to the fountain for water, of course

discovered him, and recognised the hated individual by the lines written

on the belt. He immediately took Jack on his shoulders, and carried him

towards his enchanted castle. Now, as they passed through a thicket, the

rustling of the boughs awakened Jack, who was uncomfortably surprised to

find himself in the clutches of the giant. His terror was not diminished

when, on entering the castle, he saw the court-yard strewed with human

bones, the giant maliciously telling him his own would ere long increase

the hateful pile. After this assurance, the cannibal locked poor Jack in

an upper chamber, leaving him there while he went to fetch another giant

living in the same wood to keep him company in the anticipated

destruction of their enemy. While he was gone, dreadful shrieks and

lamentations affrighted Jack, especially a voice which continually


Do what you can to get away,

Or you'll become the giant's prey;

He's gone to fetch his brother, who

Will kill, and likewise torture you.

This warning, and the hideous tone in which it was delivered, almost

distracted poor Jack, who going to the window, and opening a casement,

beheld afar off the two giants approaching towards the castle. "Now,"

quoth Jack to himself, "my death or my deliverance is at hand." The

event proved that his anticipations were well founded, for the giants of

those days, however powerful, were at best very stupid fellows, and

readily conquered by stratagem, were it of the humblest kind. There

happened to be strong cords in the room in which Jack was confined, two

of which he took, and made a strong noose at the end of each; and while

the giant was unlocking the iron gate of the castle, he threw the ropes

over each of their heads, and then, before the giants knew what he was

about, he drew the other ends across a beam, and, pulling with all his

might, throttled them till they were black in the face. Then, sliding

down the rope, he came to their heads, and as they could not defend

themselves, easily despatched them with his sword. This business so

adroitly accomplished, Jack released the fair prisoners in the castle,

delivered the keys to them, and, like a true knight-errant, continued

his journey without condescending to improve the condition of his purse.

This plan, however honorable, was not without its disadvantages, and

owing to his slender stock of money, he was obliged to make the best of

his way by travelling as hard as he could. At length, losing his road,

he was belated, and could not get to any place of entertainment until,

coming to a lonesome valley, he found a large house, and by reason of

his present necessity, took courage to knock at the gate. But what was

his astonishment, 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 unfolded his condition to the

giant, was shown into a bedroom, where, in the dead of night, he heard

his host in another apartment uttering these formidable words:

Though here you lodge with me this night,

You shall not see the morning light:

My club shall dash your brains out quite!

"Say'st thou so," quoth Jack; "that is like one of your Welsh tricks,

yet I hope to be cunning enough for you." He immediately got out of bed,

and, feeling about in the dark, found a thick billet of wood, which he

laid in the bed in his stead, and hid himself in a dark corner of the

room. Shortly after he had done so, in came the Welsh giant, who

thoroughly pummelled the billet with his club, thinking, naturally

enough, he had broken every bone in Jack's skin. The next morning,

however, to the inexpressible surprise of the giant, Jack came down

stairs as if nothing had happened, and gave him thanks for his night's

lodging. "How have you rested," quoth the giant; "did you not feel

anything in the night?" Jack provokingly replied, "No, nothing but a rat

which gave me two or three flaps with her tail." This reply was totally

incomprehensible to the giant, who of course saw anything but a joke in

it. However, concealing his amazement as well as he could, he took Jack

in to breakfast, assigning to each a bowl containing four gallons of

hasty pudding. One would have thought that the greater portion of so

extravagant an allowance would have been declined by our hero, but he

was unwilling the giant should imagine his incapability to eat it, and

accordingly placed a large leather bag under his loose coat, in such a

position that he could convey the pudding into it without the deception

being perceived. Breakfast at length being finished, Jack excited the

giant's curiosity by offering to show him an extraordinary sleight of

hand; so taking a knife, he ripped the leather bag, and out of course

descended on the ground all the hasty pudding. The giant had not the

slightest suspicion of the trick, veritably believing the pudding came

from its natural receptacle; and having the same antipathy to being

beaten, exclaimed in true Welsh, "Odds splutters, hur can do that trick

hurself." The sequel may be readily guessed. The monster took the knife,

and thinking to follow Jack's example with impunity, killed himself on

the spot.[23]

[Footnote 23: The foregoing portion of this

wonderful history is that most generally known;

but the incidents now become more complicated,

and after the introduction of Arthur's son upon

the scene, we arrive at particulars which have

long been banished from the nursery library.]

King Arthur's only son requested his father to furnish him with 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 tried all he could do to persuade him to alter

his determination, but it was all in vain, so at last he granted his

request, 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 concourse of

people gathered together. The prince demanded 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

discharged." They accordingly came, but in such great numbers, that

before night he had almost left himself penniless.

Now Jack the Giant-killer happened to be in the town while these

transactions took place, and he was so pleased with the generosity

exhibited by the prince, that he offered to become his servant, an offer

which was immediately accepted. The next morning they set forward on

their journey, when, as they were just leaving 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." So reasonable and urgent a

demand could not be resisted, and the prince immediately discharged the

debt, but it took the last penny he had to accomplish it. This event,

though generally ridiculed by heroes, was one by no means overlooked by

the prince, who required all Jack's assuring eloquence to console him.

Jack himself, indeed, had a very poor exchequer, and after their day's

refreshment, they were entirely without money. When night drew on, the

prince was anxious to secure a lodging, but as they had no means to hire

one, Jack said, "Never mind, master, we shall 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 flee 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 his hollow tooth!" "It is no matter for that,"

quoth Jack; "I myself will go before, and prepare the way for you;

therefore tarry and wait till I return." Jack then rides off full speed,

and coming to the gate of the castle, he knocked so loud that the

neighbouring hills resounded like thunder. The giant, terribly vexed

with the liberty taken by Jack, roared out, "Who's there?" He was

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, "prithee 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 prince a-coming with a thousand men in armour to

kill you, and destroy all that you have!" "Oh, 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 till

the prince is gone." Jack joyfully complied with the giant's request,

and fetching his master, they feasted and made themselves merry whilst

the poor giant laid trembling in a vault under ground.

In the morning, Jack furnished the prince with a fresh supply of gold

and silver, and then sent him three miles forward on his journey,

concluding, according to the story-book, "he was then pretty well out of

the smell of the giant." Jack afterwards returned, and liberated the

giant from the vault, who asked what he should give him for preserving

the castle from destruction. "Why," quoth Jack, "I desire 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, "Thou shalt have them,

and pray keep them for my sake, for they are things of excellent use;

the coat will keep you invisible, the cap will furnish you with

knowledge, the sword cuts asunder whatever you strike, and the shoes are

of extraordinary swiftness. These may be serviceable to you: therefore

take them with all my heart."

Jack was delighted with these useful presents, and having overtaken his

master, they quickly arrived at the lady's house, who, finding the

prince to be a suitor, prepared a splendid banquet for him. After the

repast was concluded, she wiped his mouth with a handkerchief, and then

concealed it in her dress, saying, "You must show me that handkerchief

to-morrow morning, or else you will lose your head." The prince went to

bed in great sorrow at this hard condition, but fortunately Jack's cap

of knowledge instructed him how it was to be fulfilled. In the middle of

the night she called upon her familiar[24] to carry her to the evil

spirit. Jack immediately put on his coat of darkness, and his shoes of

swiftness, and was there before her, his coat rendering him invisible.

When she entered the lower regions, she gave the handkerchief to the

spirit, who laid it upon a shelf, whence Jack took it, and brought it to

his master, who showed it to the lady the next day, and so saved his

life. The next evening at supper she saluted the prince, telling him he

must show her the lips tomorrow morning that she kissed last this night,

or lose his head. He replied, "If you kiss none but mine, I will." "That

is neither here nor there," said she, "if you do not, death is your

portion!" At midnight she went below as before, and was angry with the

spirit for letting the handkerchief go: "But now," quoth she, "I will be

too hard for the prince, for I will kiss thee, and he is to show me thy

lips." She did so, and Jack, who was standing by, cut off the spirit's

head, and brought it under his invisible coat to his master, who

produced it triumphantly the next morning before the lady. This feat

destroyed the enchantment, the evil spirits immediately forsook her, and

she appeared still more sweet and lovely, beautiful as she was before.

They were married the next morning, and shortly afterwards went to the

court of King Arthur, where Jack, for his eminent services, was created

one of the knights of the Round Table.

[Footnote 24: An attendant spirit.]

Our hero, having been successful in all his undertakings, and resolving

not to remain idle, but to perform what services he could for the honour

of his country, humbly besought his majesty to fit him out with a horse

and money to enable him to travel in search of new adventures; for, said

he, "there are many giants yet living in the remote part of Wales, to

the unspeakable damage of your majesty's subjects; wherefore may it

please you to encourage me, I do not doubt but in a short time to cut

them off root and branch, and so rid all the realm of those giants and

monsters in human shape." We need scarcely say that Jack's generous

offer was at once accepted. The king furnished him with the necessary

accoutrements, and Jack set out with his magical cap, sword, and shoes,

the better to perform the dangerous enterprises which now lay before


After travelling over several hills and mountains, the country through

which he passed offering many impediments to travellers, on the third

day he arrived at a very large wood, which he had no sooner entered than

his ears were assailed with piercing shrieks. Advancing softly towards

the place where the cries appeared to proceed from, he was horror-struck

at perceiving a huge giant dragging along a fair lady, and a knight her

husband, by the hair of their heads, "with as much ease," says the

original narrative, "as if they had been a pair of gloves." Jack shed

tears of pity on the fate of this hapless couple, but not suffering his

feelings to render him neglectful of action, he put on his invisible

coat, and taking with him his infallible sword, succeeded, after

considerable trouble, and many cuts, to despatch the monster, whose

dying groans were so terrible, that they made the whole wood ring again.

The courteous knight and his fair lady were overpowered with gratitude,

and, after returning Jack their best thanks, they invited him to their

residence, there to recruit his strength after the frightful encounter,

and receive more substantial demonstrations of their obligations to him.

Jack, however, declared that he would not rest until he had found out

the giant's habitation. The knight, on hearing this determination, was

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 more fierce and cruel than himself. Therefore, if you should go

thither, and perish in the attempt, it would be a heart-breaking to me

and my lady: let me persuade you to go with us, and desist from any

further pursuit." The knight's reasoning had the very opposite effect

that was intended, for Jack, hearing of another giant, eagerly embraced

the opportunity of displaying his skill, promising, however, to return

to the knight when he had accomplished his second labour.

He had not ridden more than a mile and a half, when the cave mentioned

by the knight appeared to view, near the entrance of which he beheld the

giant, sitting upon a block of timber, with a knotted iron club by his

side, waiting, as he supposed, for his brother's return with his

barbarous prey. This giant is described as having "goggle eyes like

flames of fire, a countenance grim and ugly, cheeks like a couple of

large flitches of bacon, the bristles of his beard resembling rods of

iron wire, and locks that hung down upon his brawny shoulders like

curled snakes or hissing adders." Jack alighted from his horse, and

putting on the invisible coat, approached near the giant, and said

softly, "Oh! are you there? it will not be long ere I shall 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 unfortunately

missing his aim, he cut off the nose instead. The giant, as we may

suppose, "roared like claps of thunder," and began to lay about him in

all directions with his iron club so desperately, that even Jack was

frightened, but exercising his usual ingenuity, he soon despatched him.

After this, Jack cut off the giant's head, and sent it, together with

that of his brother, to King Arthur, by a waggoner he hired for that

purpose, who gave an account of all his wonderful proceedings.

The redoubtable Jack next proceeded to search the giant's cave in search

of his treasure, and passing along through a great many winding

passages, 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 giants usually dined. After passing this

dining-room, he came to a large and well-secured den filled with human

captives, who were fattened and taken at intervals for food, as we do

poultry. Jack set the poor prisoners at liberty, and, to compensate them

for their sufferings and dreadful anticipations, shared the giant's

treasure equally amongst them, and sent them to their homes overjoyed at

their unexpected deliverance.

It was about sunrise when Jack, after the conclusion of this adventure,

having had a good night's rest, mounted his horse to proceed on his

journey, and, by the help of directions, reached the knight's house

about noon. He was received with the most extraordinary demonstrations

of joy, and his kind host, out of respect to Jack, prepared a feast

which lasted many days, all the nobility and gentry in the neighbourhood

being invited to it. The knight related the hero's adventures to his

assembled guests, and presented him with a beautiful ring, on which was

engraved a representation of the giant dragging the distressed knight

and his lady, with this motto:

We were in sad distress you see,

Under the giant's fierce command,

But gain'd our lives and liberty

By valiant Jack's victorious hand.

But earthly happiness is not generally of long duration, and so in some

respects it proved on the present occasion, for in the midst of the

festivities arrived a messenger with the dismal intelligence that one

Thunderdell, a giant with two heads, having heard of the death of his

two kinsmen, came from the north to be revenged on Jack, and was already

within a mile of the knight's house, the country people flying before

him in all directions. The intelligence had no effect on the dauntless

Jack, who immediately said, "Let him come! I have a tool to pick his

teeth;" and with this elegant assertion, he invited the guests to

witness his performance from a high terrace in the garden of the castle.

It is now necessary to inform the reader that the knight's house or

castle was situated in an island encompassed with a moat thirty feet

deep, and twenty feet wide, passable by a drawbridge. Now Jack,

intending to accomplish his purpose by a clever stratagem, employed men

to cut through this drawbridge on both sides nearly to the middle; and

then, dressing himself in his invisible coat, he marched against the

giant with his well-tried sword. As he approached his adversary,

although invisible, the giant, being, as it appears, an epicure in such

matters, was aware of his approach, and exclaimed, in a fearful tone of


Fi, fee, fo, fum![25]

I smell the blood of an English man!

Be he alive or be he dead,

I'll grind his bones to make me bread!

[Footnote 25: These lines are quoted by Edgar in

the tragedy of King Lear.]

"Say you so," said Jack; "then you are a monstrous miller indeed." The

giant, deeply incensed, replied, "Art thou that villain who killed my

kinsman? then I will tear thee with my teeth, and grind thy bones to

powder." "But," says Jack, still provoking him, "you must catch me

first, if you please:" so putting aside his invisible coat, so that the

giant might see him, and putting on his wonderful shoes, he enticed him

into a chase by just approaching near enough to give him an apparent

chance of capture. The giant, we are told, "followed like a walking

castle, so that the very foundations of the earth seemed to shake at

every step." Jack led him a good distance, in order that the wondering

guests at the castle might see him to advantage, but at last, to end the

matter, he ran over the drawbridge, the giant pursuing him with his

club; but coming to the place where the bridge was cut, the giant's

great weight burst it asunder, and he was precipitated into the moat,

where he rolled about, says the author, "like a vast whale." While the

monster was in this condition, Jack sadly bantered him about the boast

he had made of grinding his bones to powder, but at length, having

teased him sufficiently, a cart-rope was cast over the two heads of the

giant, and he was drawn ashore by a team of horses, where Jack served

him as he had done his relatives, cut off his heads, and sent them to

King Arthur.

It would seem that the giant-killer rested a short time after this

adventure, but he was soon tired of inactivity, and again went in search

of another giant, the last whose head he was destined to chop off. After

passing a long distance, he came at length to a large mountain, at the

foot of which was a very lonely house. Knocking at the door, it was

opened by "an ancient[26] man, with a head as white as snow," who

received Jack very courteously, and at once consented to his request for

a lodging. Whilst they were at supper, the old man, who appears to have

known more than was suspected, thus addressed the hero: "Son, I am

sensible you are a conqueror of giants, and I therefore inform you that

on the top of this mountain is an enchanted castle, maintained by a

giant named Galligantus, who, by the help of a conjuror, gets many

knights into his castle, where they are transformed into sundry shapes

and forms: but, above all, I especially lament a duke's daughter, whom

they took from her father's garden, bringing her through the air in a

chariot drawn by fiery dragons, and securing her within the castle

walls, transformed her into the shape of a hind. Now, though a great

many knights have endeavoured to break the enchantment, and work her

deliverance, yet no one has been able to accomplish it, on account of

two fiery griffins which are placed at the gate, and which destroyed

them at their approach; but you, my son, being furnished with an

invisible coat, may pass by them undiscovered, and on the gates of the

castle you will find engraven in large characters by what means the

enchantment may be broken." The undaunted Jack at once accepted the

commission, and pledged his faith to the old man to proceed early in the

morning on this new adventure.

[Footnote 26: An old man.]

In the morning, as soon as it was daylight, Jack put on his invisible

coat, and prepared himself for the enterprise. When he had reached the

top of the mountain, he discovered the two fiery griffins, but, being

invisible, he passed them without the slightest danger. When he had

reached the gate of the castle, he noticed a golden trumpet attached to

it, under which were written in large characters the following lines:

Whoever doth this trumpet blow,[27]

Shall soon the giant overthrow,

And break the black enchantment straight,

So all shall be in happy state.

[Footnote 27: Variations of this incident are

found in romances of all nations.]

Jack at once accepted the challenge, and putting the trumpet to his

mouth, gave a blast that made the hills re-echo. The castle trembled to

its foundations, and the giant and conjuror were overstricken with fear,

knowing that the reign of their enchantments was at an end. The former

was speedily slain by Jack, but the conjuror, mounting up into the air,

was carried away in a whirlwind, and never heard of more. The

enchantments were immediately broken, and all the lords and ladies, who

had so long been cruelly transformed, were standing on the native earth

in their natural shapes, the castle having vanished with the conjuror.

The only relic of the giant which was left was the head, which Jack cut

off in the first instance, and which we must suppose rolled away from

the influence of the enchanted castle, or it would have "vanished into

thin air" with the body. It was fortunate that it did so, for it proved

an inestimable trophy at the court of King Arthur, where Jack the

Giant-killer was shortly afterwards united to the duke's daughter whom

he had freed from enchantment, "not only to the joy of the court, but of

all the kingdom." To complete his happiness, he was endowed with a noble

house and estates, and his penchant for giant-killing having subsided,

or, what is more probable, no more monsters appearing to interrupt his

tranquillity, he accomplished the usual conclusion to these romantic

narratives, by passing the remainder of his life in the enjoyment of

every domestic felicity.

[I have alluded to the quotation from this primitive romance made by

Shakespeare in King Lear, but if the story of Rowland, published by Mr.

Jamieson, is to be trusted, it would seem that the great dramatist was

indebted to a ballad of the time. This position would, however, compel

us to adopt the belief that the words of the giant are also taken from

the ballad; a supposition to which I am most unwilling to assent. In

fact, I believe that Edgar quotes from two different compositions, the

first line from a ballad on Rowland, the second from Jack and the

Giants. "And Rowland into the castle came" is a line in the second

ballad of Rosmer Hafmand, or the Merman Rosmer, in the Danish Koempe

Viser, p. 165. The story alluded to above may be briefly given as


The sons of King Arthur were playing at ball in the merry town of

Carlisle, and their sister, "Burd[28] Ellen" was in the midst of them.

Now it happened that Child Rowland gave the ball such a powerful kick

with his foot that "o'er the kirk he gar'd it flee." Burd Ellen went

round about in search of the ball, but what was the consternation of her

brothers when they found that she did not return, although "they bade

lang and ay langer,"--

[Footnote 28: It is almost unnecessary to observe

that burd was an ancient term for lady.]

They sought her east, they sought her west,

They sought her up and down;

And wae were the hearts in merry Carlisle,

For she was nae gait found.

At last her eldest brother went to the Warlock or Wizard Merlin, and

asked him if he knew where his sister, the fair Burd Ellen, was. "The

fair Burd Ellen," said the Warlock Merlin, "is carried away by the

fairies, and is now in the castle of the King of Elfland; and it were

too bold an undertaking for the stoutest knight in Christendom to bring

her back." The brother, however, insisted upon undertaking the

enterprise, and after receiving proper instructions from Merlin, which

he failed in observing, he set out on his perilous expedition, and was

never more seen.

The other brothers took the same course, and shared a similar fate, till

it came to the turn of Child Rowland, who with great difficulty obtained

the consent of his mother, for Queen Guinever began to be afraid of

losing all her children. Rowland, having received her blessing, girt on

his father's celebrated sword Excaliber, that never struck in vain, and

repaired to Merlin's cave. The wizard gave him all necessary

instructions for his journey and conduct, the most important of which

were that he should kill every person he met with after entering the

land of Faerie, and should neither eat nor drink of what was offered him

in that country, whatever his hunger or thirst might be; for if he

tasted or touched in Elfland, he must remain in the power of the elves,

and never see middle-earth again.

Child Rowland faithfully promised to observe the instructions of Merlin,

and he accordingly went to Elfland, where he found, as the wizard had

foretold, the king's horseherd feeding his horses. "Canst thou tell me,"

said Rowland, "where the castle of the king of Elfland is?" "I cannot,"

replied the horseherd, "but go a little further, and thou wilt come to a

cowherd, and perhaps he will know." When he had made this answer,

Rowland, remembering his instructions, took his good sword, and cut off

the head of the horseherd. He then went a little further, and met with a

cowherd, to whom he repeated the same question, and obtained the same

answer. Child Rowland then cut off the cowherd's head, and having

pursued exactly the same course with a shepherd, goatherd, and a

swineherd, he is referred by the last to a hen-wife, who, in reply to

his question, said, "Go on yet a little farther till you come to a round

green hill, surrounded with terraces from the bottom to the top: go

round it three times widershins,[29] and every time say, "Open door,

open door, and let me come in!' and the third time the door will open,

and you may go in." Child Rowland immediately cut off the hen-wife's

head in return for her intelligence, and following her directions, a

door in the hill opened, and he went in. As soon as he entered, the door

closed behind him, and he traversed a long passage, which was dimly but

pleasantly lighted by crystallized rock, till he came to two wide and

lofty folding-doors, which stood ajar. He opened them, and entered an

immense hall, which seemed nearly as big as the hill itself. It was the

most magnificent apartment in all the land of Faerie, for the pillars

were of gold and silver, and the keystones ornamented with clusters of

diamonds. A gold chain hung from the middle of the roof, supporting an

enormous lamp composed of one hollowed transparent pearl, in the midst

of which was a large magical carbuncle that beautifully illumined the

whole of the hall.

[Footnote 29: The contrary way to the course of

the sun.]

At the upper end of the hall, seated on a splendid sofa, under a rich

canopy, was his sister the Burd Ellen, "kembing her yellow hair wi' a

silver kemb," who immediately perceiving him, was sorrow-struck at the

anticipation of his being destroyed by the king of Elfland,--

And hear ye this, my youngest brither,

Why badena ye not at hame?

Had ye a hunder and thousand lives,

Ye canna brook ane o' them.

And she informs him that he will certainly lose his life if the king

finds him in the hall. A long conversation then takes place, and Rowland

tells her all his adventures, concluding his narrative with the

observation that, after his long journey, he is very hungry.

On this the Burd Ellen shook her head, and looked sorrowfully at him;

but, impelled by her enchantment, she rose up, and procured him a golden

bowl full of bread and milk. It was then that the Child Rowland

remembered the instructions of the Warlock Merlin, and he passionately

exclaimed, "Burd Ellen, I will neither eat nor drink till I set thee

free!" Immediately this speech was uttered, the folding-doors of the

hall burst open with tremendous violence, and in came the king of


With, Fe, fi, fo, fum,

I smell the blood of a Christian man!

Be he dead, be he living, wi' my brand

I'll clash his harns frae his harn-pan![30]

[Footnote 30: Literally, "I will dash his brains

from his skull with my sword."]

"Strike, then, Bogle, if thou darest," exclaimed the undaunted Child

Rowland, and a furious combat ensued, but Rowland, by the help of his

good sword, conquered the elf-king, sparing his life on condition that

he would restore to him his two brothers and sister. The king joyfully

consented, and having disenchanted them by the anointment of a bright

red liquor, they all four returned in triumph to merry Carlisle.]