Jack the Giant-Killer

In the reign of King Arthur, there lived near the Land’s-end of England, a worthy farmer, who had an only son, named Jack. Jack was a boy of a bold temper, and he took pleasure in hearing or reading stories of giants and fairies.

In those days there lived on St. Michael’s Mount of Cornwall, which rises out of the sea, at some distance from the main land, a huge giant. He was eighteen feet high, and three yards round; and his fierce and savage looks were the terror of all his neighbours.

He dwelt in a gloomy cavern on the very top of the mountain, and used to wade over to the main-land 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. The giant had done this for years when Jack resolved to destroy him.

Jack took a horn, a shovel, a pickaxe, and a dark lantern; and early in a long winters evening, he swam to the mount. There he dug a pit twenty-two feet deep, and almost as many broad. He covered it at the top with sticks and straw, and strewed some of the earth over them, to make them resemble 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—in a voice like thunder,—“You saucy villain, you shall pay dearly for breaking my rest. I will broil you for my breakfast.”

He had hardly 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? 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 head with his pickaxe, which killed him. Jack then made haste back to rejoice his friends.

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, in letters of gold,

This is the valiant Cornish man,
Who slew the giant Cormoran.

The news of Jack’s exploit was soon spread over England; and another giant, called Old Blunderbore, vowed to have his revenge on Jack, if he should ever get him into his power.

This giant kept an enchanted castle in a lonely wood. As Jack was once taking a journey to Wales, he passed through this wood; and as he was weary, he sat down beside a fountain, and there he fell asleep. The giant came to the fountain for water 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 on his shoulder to carry him to the castle.

Jack is asleep by the fountain, the Giant approaches

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; but still more when they reached the castle, for the floor was covered with the sculls and bones of men. The giant took him into a large room, where there lay the hearts and limbs of persons that 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. He locked Jack up in that room, while he went to fetch another giant. While he was away, Jack heard dreadful shrieks 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.”

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.” Now, 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 iron 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.

From Jack the giant-killer: being the history of all his wonderful exploits against the giants; embellished with beautiful coloured plates. Glasgow: J. Lumsden & Son. 1815.

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