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Home » Children's Stories » Jack the Giant Killer

 

Jack the Giant Killer

English Fairy Tale

Once upon a time, in a cave on the top of a mountain in Cornwall, in England, there lived a giant named Cormoran. If three tall men stood one on top of another, they would be the height of this giant.

He was so fat, too, that it would take some time to walk around him. At the foot of this mountain where the giant lived there were several farms. When the giant wanted a meal, he strode down the hillside and robbed the farmers. Sometimes he carried off half a dozen oxen and a dozen sheep at a time. The oxen he slung over his shoulders and the sheep he tied around his waist.

The poor farmers were almost ruined, when a brave boy, called Jack, the son of one of them, determined to put an end to the giant's visits. One dark night, Jack dug a pit at the foot of the mountain. Across the mouth of the pit he laid sticks, and mud, and straw, until no one could know there was a pit beneath. Early the next morning, Jack blew his cowhorn loudly and the giant woke with a start.

"Who is disturbing me at this time of day?" he asked, and, dressing quickly, he strode down the mountainside. At the foot of the mountain, on a big stone, sat Jack.

"It was you who woke me, was it?" roared the giant, catching sight of the farmer's son. "Well, you shall pay for it," and he dashed forward. But the earth gave way beneath him and in a moment he was lying at the bottom of the pit.

Jack came to the edge of the pit, sat down, and laughed at the despair of the giant, who slowly picked himself up. When he stood on tiptoe, only his head appeared above the pit. This was Jack's chance. He seized his axe and with one blow struck off the giant's head.

Soon all around the countryside it was known how clever and brave Jack had been. The people were all very proud of him and gave him a sword and a belt. On the belt was embroidered, in letters of gold:

This is the valiant Cornishman

Who slew the giant Cormoran.

And this is how Jack got the name Jack the Giant-Killer.

After this adventure, Jack made up his mind to kill as many wicked giants as he could.

One day, a few weeks later, Jack set out on his travels. Late that afternoon he reached a forest. Through the trees he spied a castle. He asked to whom it belonged, and was told that the giant Blunderbore owned it and was living in it. This was good news for Jack, but since he was tired he sat down to rest before going- to the caste. kJe was trying to plan an attack upon the giant when he fell fast asleep.

Jack had not been asleep very long when Blunderbore came by. Since he had just

had dinner he might have passed the sleeping boy, but he noticed the writing on his belt.

"This is the valiant Cornishman Who slew the giant Cormoran," read Blunderbore. "Ha-ha!" he said, as he picked Jack up and put him in his pocket.

When Jack woke, and found himself there, he was so terrified that he shook from top to toe. When the giant felt him tremble, he knew he was awake.

"Ha-ha, he-he, ho-ho! So you killed my brother Cormoran, did you? Now I'll kill you. Ha-ha, he-he, ho-ho!" And the giant laughed so loudly that Jack felt as if he were in the middle of an earthquake.

When they reached the castle, Blunderbore locked Jack in an upstairs room. Then he went off to fetch another giant who lived in the same forest. Left alone, Jack looked around the room, determined to find some way of escape. But he could not. However, in one corner of the room there was a bundle of rope. An idea struck Jack. He unrolled the rope and made two slip knots. Then he stood at the window and watched.

At last he saw what he was waiting for. The two giants were coming along slowly, arm in arm. The path along which they walked passed close under Jack's window.

As they drew near, Jack heard Blunderbore say, "I found a plump lad in the forest this morning. We'll have him for breakfast tomorrow."

Will you indeed? thought Jack, and at that moment the two giants were beneath his window. Jack, quick as lightning, flung down the rope with its slip knots. One knot passed over the head of Blunderbore, and one over the head of his friend. Jack pulled with might and main and in two minutes both giants were strangled.

Then Jack let himself down from the window by the remainder of the rope. He took the keys from Blunderbore's pockets and unlocked the doors of the rooms where many knights and ladies were imprisoned. As he opened each door he made a low bow, and said, "My lords and ladies, the castle is now yours." Then he went on his way.

After Jack passed through the forest and climbed over a mountain he found himself in a lonely valley. He was hoping a cottage was near, where he might rest for the night, when, turning a corner, he found himself in front of a castle. He was too tired to go farther so he knocked at the door. It was opened by a giant with two heads.

When Jack saw this two-headed giant he remembered he had heard that he was the owner of four valuable things—a wonderful coat, a remarkable cap, an amazing sword, and a fantastic pair of shoes. The coat made the wearer invisible. The cap told him whatever he wanted to know. The sword could cut through anything. The shoes could rush as quickly as the wind. Jack made up his mind to get them.

"It is worthwhile risking a good deal to possess these marvelous things," said Jack to himself. Jack told the giant that he was a traveler who had lost his way.

The giant welcomed him kindly and led him to a room where there was a good bed.

Tired as he was, Jack could not go to sleep. Soon he heard the giant walking about in the next room and repeating to himself:

"Though here with me you lodge tonight,

You shall not see the morning light;

My club shall dash your brains outright."

"We'll see about that," said Jack to himself. He got out of bed and groped round the dark room. In the fireplace he found a log. He put the log in the bed and hid himself in a corner.

Soon the door opened and the two-headed giant came in. "I'll make short work of you," he said, and he brought down his club upon Jack's pillow. "Now I've battered his brains," the giant muttered and left the room satisfied.

The next morning, Jack walked into the room where the giant sat at breakfast. Of course the giant could hardly believe his four eyes when he saw him, but he pretended not to be surprised.

"I hope you slept well," he said.

"Pretty well, thank you," answered Jack. "I was disturbed a little. Perhaps there were rats in the room. Certainly I 1-icarcl something."

The giant was very puzzled. How could he have delivered that blow with his club, and yet not have killed Jack? That was a question he could not answer, but he hoped to find out.

Jack was right in thinking he might be invited to breakfast. He had fastened a leather bag beneath his coat, for he supposed the giant would expect him to eat a good deal. He sat opposite his host, who helped him to a large plateful of hasty pudding, then another, and another. Now Jack ate very little and put most of the pudding into his leather bag when the giant was not looking.

After breakfast Jack said to the giant, "Can you cut yourself open without harm?" and he ripped open the leather bag with a knife, and the pudding fell out.

The giant did not like to be outdone, so he said, "Of course I can cut myself open, if you can." With these words, he plunged his knife into himself and fell down dead. And so it was that Jack became the possessor of the wonderful coat, the remarkable cap, the amazing sword, and the fantastic shoes.

Once more Jack started on his travels, and once more he reached a lonely castle and asked for a night's lodging. This time he was welcomed by many knights and ladies, who invited him to have supper with them. It was a merry company and Jack was enjoying himself thoroughly when a messenger rushed in to say that a two-headed giant was on his way to the castle.

Now this castle was surrounded by a deep moat. To reach it or to leave the nioat had to be crossed by going over a drawbridge. Jack quickly set men to work to saw the drawbridge nearly through, so that it could bear no heavy weight. Next he put on his wonderful coat that made him invisible, and his fantastic shoes that could carry him as fast as the wind. Then he crossed the bridge to meet the giant, carrying in his hand the amazing sword that could cut through anything.

The giant could not see Jack because he wore his invisible coat. But he sniffed the air, and sang in a loud voice:

"Fe, fi, fo, fum,

I smell the blood of an Englishman;

Be he alive, or he he dead,

I'll grind his bones to make my bread."

"Oh, will you indeed. You must catch me first," said Jack. Then throwing off his coat, he ran before the giant, and every now and again he all but let himself be caught. Then he made good use of his shoes of swiftness and in a moment was beyond reach. The giant grew more and more furious as he chased Jack all around the castle.

The lords and ladies watched the chase from one of the towers. They clapped their hands with delight as they saw Jack lead the giant such a dance.

At last Jack crossed the drawbridge. The giant followed, but beneath his heavy weight the sawn bridge snapped and he was hurled headlong into the moat below. Jack now stood on the edge of the moat, laughing.

"I thought you were going to grind my bones to make your bread, eh?" asked Jack.

The giant foamed with rage, but could say nothing.

Then Jack ordered a strong rope to be brought. He threw it over the two heads of the giant, and with the help of a team of horses dragged him to the edge of the moat. Next Jack drew his magic sword and cut off both heads.

Ringing cheers of "Long live Jack the Giant-Killer!" echoed through the castle.

After spending some time with the knights and ladies, Jack set out on his last adventure. He went over hills and dales without meeting anyone. Finally, he came to a little hut at the foot of a high mountain. Jack knocked at the door. It was opened by an old man with hair as white as snow.

"I have lost my way, good father," said Jack. "I wonder if you can give me a night's lodging."

"Come in," said the old man, "if you can be content with humble fare." Jack said he would be grateful for a meal of any kind, and gladly ate the bread and fruit which were set before him.

After supper the old man said solemnly, "A task lies before you, my son, for your belt tells me that you are Jack the Giant-Killer. At the top of this mountain is an enchanted castle. It belongs to a giant called Galligantus. He, with the help of a magician, changes into a beast each knight and fair lady who approaches his castle, and those who are not so changed are devoured by two fiery dragons which guard the gates. But, worse still, some time ago Galligantus and the magician strolled into the garden of a duke who lives in a neighboring valley. There they saw the duke's beautiful daughter gathering honeysuckle flowers. The magician spoke a magic word, and instantly a chariot, drawn by the two fiery dragons, appeared in the garden. The giant seized the lady, placed her in the chariot, and the dragons drew her through the air to the enchanted castle. There she was changed into a deer, and a deer she must remain until the enchantment is broken. This is the task that lies before you, my son."

"And I go to it gladly'," said Jack.

The next morning Jack put on his remarkable cap, his wonderful coat, his fantastic shoes, and carried his amazing sword. Then he wished himself at the castle gate. He was there in a moment, but because of his invisible coat the fiery dragons did not see him. On the gate hung a golden trumpet. Under it were written these words:

Whoever can this trumpet blow

Shall cause the giant's overthrow.

As soon as Jack read this, he seized the trumpet and blew a shrill blast. The gates at once flew open and Jack entered the castle.

The giant and the magician were speechless, and unable to move, for they knew that the blast of the golden horn heralded their doom.

Jack lost no time in drawing his magic sword and in a moment the giant Galligantus lay dead before him.

Just as he fell, a whirlwind rushed through the castle, carrying away the magician. And a moment later all the birds and beasts in the castle became the knights and ladies that they had been before, and the sad-looking deer was again the duke's beautiful daughter who had been gathering honeysuckle flowers in her father's garden.

Then all the knights and ladies and the duke's daughter and Jack came bounding down the mountainside in delight. When they looked around, the castle had vanished.

At the foot of the mountain, the old man welcomed them joyfully. After he had given them refreshment, they all traveled together to the court of the king. There Jack told of his wonderful adventures with Cormoran, with Blunderbore, with the two-headed giant who killed himself, with the two-headed giant who fell into the moat, and with Galligantus.

Jack's fame soon spread through the whole country and not long afterward the duke said to him, "I should like you to marry my daughter." Since this was what Jack wanted to do more than anything in the world, he was very happy. For the rest of his life he lived in peace, although he was always known far and wide as Jack the Giant-Killer.

 

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 Copyright © 1997 by Grisewood & Dempsey Ltd 1988, 1989. 1990. All rights reserved. No part of this production may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means - electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise withot prior written permission.