Jack the Giant-Killer

Now when Jack had made the giant fast in the vault, he went back and fetched the prince to the castle, and they both made themselves merry with the giant’s wine and other dainties: so that night they rested very pleasantly, while the poor giant lay trembling in the cellar. Early in the morning, Jack gave the king’s son gold and silver out of the giant’s treasure, and set him on his journey. He then went back to let his uncle out of the hole, who asked Jack what he should give him for saving his castle.

“I desire nothing,” said Jack, “but the old coat and cap, with the old rusty sword and slippers, that are hanging at your bed’s head.” “Then,” said the giant, “you shall have them, and they are of great use. The coat will keep you invisible; the cap will give you knowledge; the sword cut through any thing; and the shoes are of vast swiftness: these may be useful to you in all times of danger.” Jack then gave many thanks to the giant.

When he had come up with 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 after some time she said, “My lord, you must submit to the custom of my palace: to-morrow morning tell me on whom I bestow this handkerchief, or lose your head.” She then went out of 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 to meet the wicked magician every night in the middle of the forest. Jack 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. She was married to the prince on the next day, and soon after went back with her husband to the court of King Arthur, where they were received with joyful welcomes; and Jack, for the many great exploits he had done, was made a knight of the round table.

After this, Jack took leave of the king, and set off; taking with him his cap of knowledge, his sword of sharpness, his shoes of swiftness, and his invisible coat. He went along over high hills and came to a large forest, through which his road lay. He had hardly entered the forest, when on a sudden, he heard very dreadful shrieks, and saw a giant carrying away a handsome knight from his beautiful lady.

A giant carrying away a handsome knight from his beautiful lady

Jack got down 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 many strokes at him, but could not reach his body, on account of his great height. But he wounded his thighs in many places; and, putting both hands to his sword, he cut off one of the giant’s legs, so that he made the earth tremble with the force of his fall. Then Jack set one foot upon his neck, and cried out, “Thou savage wretch, behold, I am come to give thee the just reward of all thy crimes.” And so plunging his sword into the giant’s body, the monster gave a groan, and died.

Jack plunging his sword into the giant’s body

Jack had not rode a mile and a half before he came in sight of a cavern; and near the entrance he saw a giant sitting on a huge block of fine timber, with an iron club in his hand. His eyes looked like flames of fire, his face was grim and his cheeks seemed 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 like curling snakes.

The Giant sitting near the entrance of the cavern, with his iron club

Jack got down from his horse, and turned him into a thicket; then he put on his coat of darkness, and, drawing nearer, said softly, “O 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; 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. He then roared like loud claps of thunder. He could not see who had given him the blow; yet he took up his iron club, and began to lay about him like one mad with pain and fury. “Nay,” said Jack “if this is the case, I will kill you at once.” So he slipped behind him, and stabbed him, when, after a few howls, he dropped down dead.

He then came to a window secured with iron bars, through which he saw a number of captives, who cried out, when they saw Jack, “Alas! alas! are you come to be one among us in this horrid den?” “I hope,” said Jack, “you will not stay here long; but tell me why you are here at all?” “Alas!” said one old man, “We are persons that have been taken by a giant and are kept till he has a feast, then one of us is killed, and cooked to please his horrid taste.”

Jack discovers the captives behind the window secured with iron bars

“Well,” said Jack, “I have given him such a dinner, that it will be long enough before he requires any more. For I have sent his monstrous head to the court of King Arthur.” He then unlocked the gate, and set them all free. He placed them round a table, and set before them beef, with bread and wine, upon which they feasted. When supper was over, they searched the giant’s coffers, and Jack shared the store.

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.

Classics Fairy tales


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