Jack the Giant-Killer

It was just at the time of sunrise that Jack mounted his horse to proceed on his journey. He arrived at the knight’s house, where 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. When the company were assembled, the knight declared to them the great actions of Jack, and gave him a fine ring, on which was engraved the picture of the giant dragging the knight and the lady by the hair, with this motto:

Behold in dire distress were we,
Under a giant’s fierce command,
But gain’d our lives and liberty
From valiant Jack’s victorious hand.

On a sudden, a herald, pale and breathless with haste and terror, rushed into the midst of the company, told them that Thundel, a savage giant with two heads, had heard of the death of his kinsmen, and was come to take his revenge on Jack, and that he was now within a mile of the house, the people all 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, “Pray, do me the favour to walk into the garden, and you shall soon see the giant’s defeat and death.” To this they all agreed, and wished him success in his 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, yet he found some danger was near, and he cried:

“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 indeed.” “Art thou,” cried the giant, “the villain who 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 ground shake at every step.

Jack leads the giant round and round the walls of the house, that the company might see the monster

Jack led him round and round the walls of the house, that the company might see the monster and, to finish the work, Jack ran over the drawbridge, the giant going after him with his club. But when the giant 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, and rolled about like a large whale.

Jack now stood by the side of the moat, 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 upon his little foe. At last Jack ordered a cart-rope to be brought to him. He then threw it over his two heads, and, by the help of horses, dragged him to the edge of the moat, when he cut off the monster’s heads.

Jack showing the heads he just cut

Jack afterward knocked at the door of a small and lonely house, and an old man, with a head as white as snow, let him in. “Good father,” said Jack “can you lodge a traveller who has lost his way?” “Yes,” said the hermit, “I can, if you will accept such fare as my poor house affords.”

After supper the hermit said, “I know you are the famous conqueror of giants; now, on 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 birds and beasts. Many knights have tried to destroy the enchantment, yet none have been able to do it, by reason of two fiery griffins, which destroy all who come nigh.” Jack promised that in the morning, at the risk of his life, he would break the enchantment; after a sound sleep, he put on his invisible coat.

Jack arrives at the castle, meeting the two griffins

When he had climbed to the top of the mountain, he saw the two fiery griffins, but they could not see him, because of his invisible coat. On the castle-gate he found a trumpet, under which was written:

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. Jack, with his sword of sharpness, soon killed the giant, and the magician was carried away by a whirlwind; and every knight and beautiful lady, who had been changed into beasts, returned to their shapes.

Jack at last at the king’s desire received a duke’s daughter in marriage, to the joy of all his kingdom. After this, the king gave him a large estate, on which he and his lady lived the rest of their days in joy.

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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