JACK AND THE BEAN-STALK
N the days of King Alfred, there lived a poor woman, in a
remote country village in England, a great many miles
from London. She had been a widow some years, and had
an only son named Jack, whom she indulged in every
wish. The consequences of this was that Jack did not
pay the least attention to anything she said, but was
idle, careless, and wasteful. His follies were not
owing to a bad disposition, but to the fact that his
mother had never checked him. By degrees she spent all
that she had—scarcely anything was left to her but a
The poor woman one day met Jack with tears in her eyes.
Her distress was great, and for the first time in her
life she could not help scolding him, saying, "Oh! you
cruel child; you have at last brought me to beggary and
ruin. I have not money enough to purchase even a bit of
bread for another day. Nothing now remains to sell but
my poor cow. I am sorry to part with her. It grieves me
sadly, but we must not starve!"
For a few minutes Jack felt sorry, but this feeling
soon passed away, and he began teasing his mother to
let him sell the cow at the next village, and at last
she gave ner consent. As he was going along he met a
butcher, who inquired shy he was driving the cow from
home. Jack replied that he was going to sell it. Now
the butcher held some curious beans in his hat. They
were of various colors and attracted Jack's attention.
This the butcher noticed, and, knowing Jack's easy
 temper, thought this was the time to take advantage of
it. he could not let slip so good an opportunity, so he
asked what was the price of the cow, offering at the
same time all the beans in his hat for her.
The silly boy could not hide the joy he felt at what he
supposed was so good an offer, and the bargain was
struck at once. The cow was thus exchanged for a few
paltry beans. Jack made the best of his way back,
calling aloud to his mother before he reached home,
thinking in this way to surprise her.
When she saw the beans and heard Jack's story, her
patience quite forsook her. She was so angry that she
threw the beans out the window, and they were scattered
in all directions, some falling into the garden. Then
she threw her apron over her head and cried bitterly.
Not having anything to eat, they both went supperless
Jack awoke early in the morning, and seeing something
uncommon darkening the window of his bedchamber, ran
downstairs into the garden. Here he found that some of
the beans had taken root, and had sprung up in a
wonderful manner. The stalks were of an immense
thickness, and had so twined together that they formed
a ladder like a chain. Looking up he could not see the
top, it appeared to be lost in the clouds. He tried it,
and found it firm and not to be shaken.
He quickly made up his mind to climb to the top, in
order to seek his fortune, and ran to tell his mother
what he meant to do, not doubting but she would be as
pleased as he was. She declared he should not go; she
said it would break her heart if he did. She begged and
prayed him not to go, but all in vain, for Jack set
out, and after climbing for some hours reached to top
of the bean-stalk, tired and quite worn out. Looking
around he found himself in a strange country; it
appeared to be a barren desert, not a tree, shrub,
house, or living creature was to be seen. Here and
there were scattered fragments
 of stone, and at unequal distances small heaps of earth
were loosely thrown together.
Jack seated himself sadly upon a block of stone and
thought of his mother. He thought with sorrow upon his
disobedience in climbing the bean-stalk against her
will; and after a while began to fear that he must die
of hunger. However, he walked on, hoping to find a
house where he might beg something to eat and drink.
Presently he saw in the distance a handsome young
woman; as she approached, Jack could not help admiring
her for her beauty. She was dressed in the most elegant
style, and had a small white wand in her hand, on the
top of which was a peacock of pure gold.
While Jack was looking with the greatest surprise at
this charming person, she came up to him, and with a
sweet smile asked how he came there. Jack told her all
about the bean-stalk. She asked him if he remembered
his father. He replied that he did not; and added,
there must be some mystery about him, because when he
asked his mother about his father, she always would
weep and would tell him nothing. He could not help
noticing that she would never answer his questions, and
she even seemed afraid of speaking, as if there was
some secret connected with his father's history which
she must not tell.
The young woman replied: "I will tell the whole story;
your mother must not do so. But, before I begin, I
require a solemn promise on your part to do what I tell
you. I am a fairy, and if you do not perform exactly
what I desire, you will be destroyed." Jack was
frightened at her threats, but promised to do exactly
as she bade him, and the fairy then said:—
"Your father was a rich man. He was very good to the
poor and constantly helped them. He made it a rule
never to let a day pass without doing good to some one.
On one day in the week he kept open house and invited
only those who
 were poor but had once lived well. He always sat at the
head of the table himself, and did all in his power to
make his guests comfortable. The rich and the great,
however, were not invited. The servants were all happy,
and greatly loved their master and mistress. Now a
giant lived a great many miles off, and he was
altogether as wicked as your father was good. He was in
his heart envious, covetous, but he had the art of
hiding those vices.
"He was poor, and wished to get rich no matter how.
Hearing your father spoken of, he thought it would be a
good thing to make friends with him and get into his
good graces. He removed quickly into your neighborhood,
where he pretended that he was a gentleman who had just
lost all he had by an earthquake, and found it
difficult to escape with his life.
"Your father believed his story, and pitied him. He
gave him handsome rooms in his own house, and caused
him and his wife to be treated like visitors of
importance, little imagining that the giant was
planning to make him a horrid return for all his
"Things went on in this way for some time, the giant
becoming daily more impatient to carry out his plan. At
las his chance came. Your father's house was at some
distance from the seashore, but with a glass the coast
could be seen distinctly. The giant was one day using
the telescope. The wind was very high, and he saw a
fleet of ships in distress off the rock. He hastened to
your father, mentioned the circumstance, and eagerly
begged him to send all the servants he could spare to
help the sufferers.
"Every one was at once sent off, except the porter and
your nurse. The giant then joined your father in the
study, and appeared to be delighted—he really was so.
Your father recommended to him a favorite book, and was
handing it down, when the giant took the opportunity,
and stabbed him, killing
 him instantly. The giant left the body, found the
porter and nurse, and at once killed them, being
determined to have no living witnesses of his crimes.
"You were then only three months old. Your mother had
you in her arms in another part of the house, and did
not know what was going on. She went into the study,
but how was she shocked on finding your father a
corpse! She was overcome with horror and grief, and
could not move from the spot. The giant, who was
seeking her, found her in that state, and was about to
serve her and you as he had done your father, but she
fell at his feet, and begged him to spare your life and
"Your mother took you in her arms and fled as quickly
as possible. She was scarcely gone when the giant
repented that he had allowed her to escape. He would
have pursued her instantly, but he had to look out for
his own safety, as it was necessary he should be gone
before the servants returned. Having gained your
father's confidence, he knew where to find all his
treasure. Therefore, he soon loaded himself and his
wife with it, set the house on fire in several places,
and when the servants came back the house was burned
quite down to the ground.
"Your poor mother, forlorn, alone, and forsaken,
wandered with you a great many miles from her home. At
last she settled in the cottage where you were brought
up, and it was entirely owing to her fear of the giant
that she never spoke of your father to you. I became
your father's guardian at his birth; but fairies have
laws to which they are subject as well as
 mortals. A short time before the giant went to your
father's house, I did something wrong; to punish me my
power was taken away for a time—an unfortunate
circumstance, as it totally prevented my helping him.
"The day on which you met the butcher, as you went to
sell your mother's cow, my power was given me again. It
was I who made you take the beans in exchange for the
cow, though you did not know it. By my power the
bean-stalk grew to so great a height and became a
ladder. I need not add that I gave you the strong
desire to climb up the ladder.
"Now, the giant lives in this country, and you are the
person appointed to punish him for all his wickedness.
You will have dangers and difficulties, but you must
persevere in avenging the death of your father, or you
will not prosper in anything you do, but will always be
miserable. As to the giant's possessions, you may seize
on all you can; for everything he has is yours because
it belonged to your father, though now you are unjustly
deprived of it. One thing I desire,—do not let your
mother know you are acquainted with your father's
history till you see me again. Go along the direct
road, you will soon see the house where your cruel
enemy lives. While you do as I order you, I will
protect and guard you; but, remember, if you dare
disobey my orders, a most dreadful punishment awaits
When the fairy had ended she disappeared, leaving Jack
to pursue his journey. He walked on till after sunset,
when, to his great joy, he saw a large mansion. This
pleasant sight cheered him greatly; he walked as fast
as he could and soon reached it.
A plain-looking woman was at the door; he spoke to her
and begged that she would give him a morsel of bread
and a night's lodging.
She expressed the greatest surprise at seeing him, and
 it was quite uncommon to see a human being near their
house, for it was well known that her husband was a
large and very powerful giant, and that he would never
eat anything but human flesh if he could possibly get
it. She said, also, that he did not think anything of
walking fifty miles to get it, usually being out of the
whole day for that purpose.
This account greatly terrified Jack, but still he hoped
to escape from the giant; and therefore, again he
begged the woman to take him in for one night only, and
hide him where she thought he would be safe. The good
woman was at last persuaded, for she was of a kindly
and generous nature, and took him into the house.
First, they entered a fine large hall, magnificently
furnished; they then passed through several spacious
rooms, all in the same style or grandeur; but the rooms
appeared to be quite forsaken and desolate. A long
gallery was next; it was very dark—just light enough
to show that instead of a wall on one side, there was a
grating of iron, which parted off a dismal dungeon,
from whence issued the groans of those poor victims
whom the cruel giant kept in confinement.
Poor Jack was half dead with fear, and would have given
the world to have been with his mother again, for he
now began to fear that he should have never see her
more, and gave himself up for lost. He even did not
trust the good woman, and thought she had let him into
the house for no other purpose than to lock him up
among the poor people in the dungeon.
At the farther end of the long gallery there was a very
large kitchen, and a good fire was burning in the
grate. The good woman told Jack to sit down, and gave
him plenty to eat and drink. Jack, not seeing anything
here to make him uncomfortable, soon forgot his fear,
and was just beginning to enjoy himself when he was
aroused by a loud knocking at the street door, which
made the whole house shake. The giant's
 wife ran to hide him in the oven, and then went to let
her husband in. Jack heard him accost her in a voice
like thunder, saying, "Wife, I smell fresh neat."
"Oh! my dear," replied she, "it is nothing but the
people in the dungeon."
The giant appeared to believe her, and walked into the
very kitchen where poor Jack was hidden, who was more
frightened than he had yet been.
At last the monster seated himself quietly by the
fireside, while his wife made the supper. Little by
little Jack got over has fright so far as to be able to
look at the giant through a small crack, and he was
quite astonished to see what an enormous quantity he at
it; it seemed as if he never would have done eating and
When supper was ended, the giant desired his wife to
bring him his hen. A very beautiful hen was then
brought and placed on the table before him. Jack's
desire to see what would happen was very great, and
soon he saw that every time the giant said "Lay!" the
hen laid an egg of solid gold. The giant amused himself
a long time with his hen, and meanwhile his wife went
to bed. At length the giant fell asleep by the fireside
and snored like the roaring of a cannon.
At daybreak, Jack, finding the giant still asleep, and
not likely to awaken soon, crept softly out of his
hiding-place, seized the hen, and ran off with her. He
met with some difficulty in finding his way out of the
house, but at last he reached the road in safety. He
easily found the way to the bean-stalk, and contrived
to get down it better and quicker than he expected.
He found his mother crying bitterly over his hard fate,
for she was certain he had come to some sad end through
his rashness. Jack was impatient to show his hen, and
inform his mother how valuable it was.
"And now, mother," said Jack, "I have brought home
 which will quickly make us rich; and I hope to make up
for the sorrow I have caused you through my idleness,
wastefulness, and folly."
The hen laid as many golden eggs as they wished; they
sold them, and in a little time they became possessed
of as much riches as they wanted.
For some months Jack and his mother lived very happily
together; but he was very desirous of traveling; he
remembered the fairy's commands, and he feared that if
he delayed she would put her threats into execution.
Jack longed also to climb the bean-stalk and pay the
giant another visit, in order to carry away some more
of his treasures. For during the time that Jack was in
the giant's mansion, and while he lay concealed in the
oven, he learned form the talk between the giant and
his wife that he had many wonderful things in his
house. Jack thought of his journey again and again, but
still he could not make up his mind to speak of it to
his mother, being quite sure that she would try to
prevent his going.
However, one day he told her boldly that he must take a
journey up the bean-stalk; but she begged and prayed
him not to think of it, and tried all in her power to
keep him from doing so. She told him that the giant's
wife would certainly know him again, and that the giant
would desire nothing better than to get him into his
power, that he might put him to a cruel death in order
to be revenged for the loss of his hen. Jack, finding
that all he said was useless, pretended to give it up,
though he made up his mind to go at all events. So he
had a dress made which would disguise him, and found
something to color his skin in such a way that he
thought it would be impossible for any one to know him
A few mornings after this, he arose very early, colored
[should only be one the] the skin of his face, and,
unseen by any one, climbed the bean-stalk a second
time. He was very tired when he reached the
 top, and very hungry. But after resting some time on
one of the stones, he went on his way to the giant's
mansion. He reached it late in the evening, and found
the woman at the door as before. Jack told her a
pitiful take, and begged of her to give him some
victuals and drink, and also a night's lodging.
She told him (what he knew before very well) what a
powerful and cruel giant her husband was; and also that
one night she took into her house a poor, hungry,
friendless boy, who was half dead with traveling; but
the little ungrateful fellow had stolen one of the
giant's treasures, and ever since that her husband had
been worse than before, using her very cruelly and
continually scolding her for being the cause of his
Jack at once knew that he was listening to a story in
which he was the chief actor; he did his best to
persuade the good woman to take him in, but he found it
a very hard task. At last she consented; and as she led
the way Jack saw that everything was just as he had
found it before. She took him into the kitchen, and
after he had done eating and drinking, she hid him in
an old lumber closet. The giant returned at the usual
time, and walked in so heavily that the house was
shaken to its foundation.
He seated himself by the fire and soon after exclaimed,
" Wife, I smell fresh meat! "
The wife replied it was the crows, who had brought a
piece of raw meat and left it on the top of the house.
Whilst supper was preparing, the giant was very cross
and impatient, frequently scolding his wife for the
loss of his wonderful hen.
The giant at last having eaten till he was quite
satisfied, said to his wife, "I must have something to
amuse me: either my bags of money or my harp."
 After a great deal of ill humor, and having teased his
wife some time, he told her to bring down his bags of
gold and silver. Jack, as before, peeped out of his
hiding-place, and presently the giant's wife brought
two very large bags into the room. One was filled with
gold and the other with silver pieces. They were both
placed before the giant, who began scolding his poor
wife most severely for being so long away. She replied,
trembling with fear, that the bags were so heavy that
she could scarcely lift them, and ended by saying that
she would never again bring them downstairs, adding
that she had nearly fainted, owing to their weight.
This so enraged the giant that he raised his hand to
strike her, but she ran away and went to bed, leaving
him to count his treasure by way of amusement.
The giant took his bags, and after turning them over
and over to see that they were in the same state as he
left them, began to count their contents. First, the
bag which contained the silver was emptied, and the
contents placed upon the table. Jack saw the glittering
heaps with delight and most heartily wished they were
his own. The giant (little thinking he was so closely
watched) counted the silver over several times; and
then, having satisfied himself that all was safe, put
it into the bag again, which he made very secure.
The other bag was opened next, and the golden pieces
placed upon the table. If Jack was pleased at the sight
of the silver, how much more delighted he felt when he
saw such a heap of glittering gold! He even had the
boldness to think of gaining both bags; but suddenly
recollecting himself, he began to fear that the giant
would sham sleep, the better to catch any one who might
be hidden in the house. When the giant had counted over
the gold till he was tired, he put it up more secure if
possible than he had put up the silver before. Then he
leaned back on his chair by the fireside and fell
asleep. He snored so loud
 that Jack compared his noise to the roaring of the sea
in a high wind, when the tide is coming in.
At last Jack, feeling sure the giant was asleep, stole
out of his hiding-place and went near him, in order to
carry off the two bags of money; but just as he laid
his hand upon one of the bags, a little dog which he
had not seen before started from under the giant's
chair and barked at Jack most furiously. Jack now gave
himself up for lost. Fear chained him to the spot.
Instead of trying to escape, he stood still, though
expecting the giant to wake every instant. Strange to
say, however, the giant did not wake from his sound
sleep, and the dog grew tired of barking.
Jack now began to have his wits about him, and on
looking round he saw a large piece of meat. This he
threw to the dog, which seized it at once and took it
into the lumber closet which Jack had just left.
Finding himself free from a noisy and troublesome
enemy, and seeing the giant did not awake, Jack boldly
seized the bags, and throwing them over his shoulders
ran out of the kitchen. He reached the street door in
safety and found it was quite daylight. On his way to
the top of the bean-stalk he found it hard work to
carry the heavy money-bags.
Jack was delighted when he found himself near the
bean-stalk. When he reached it he soon went to the
bottom, and at once ran to seek his mother. To his
great surprise there was no one in the cottage. He ran
from one room to another, but found no one. At las he
ran into the village, hoping to see some of the
neighbors, who might be able to tell him where he could
find his mother. An old woman at last directed him to a
house near by, where he found his mother ill of a
fever. He was greatly shocked, for she seemed to be
dying, and he could scarcely bear his own thoughts of
knowing himself to be the cause of her sickness. But on
being told of her son's safe return, his mother began
to improve and at last became quite well again.
 Jack at once gave her his two valuable bags, and with
the money the cottage was rebuilt and well furnished,
and they lived happily and comfortable for a long time
For three years Jack heard no more of the bean-stalk,
but he could not forget it, although he would not
mention it for he feared to make his mother unhappy.
She, too, would not mention the hated bean-stalk, lest
it should remind her son of taking another journey. In
spite of the comforts Jack enjoyed at home, he often
thought about the bean-stalk; for the fairy's threats,
in case of his disobedience, was ever present to his
mind, and prevented him from being happy. The idea grew
upon him so that he could think of nothing else. He
vainly tried to amuse himself; he became quiet and
sullen, and would arise at the dawn of day and look at
the bean-stalk for hours together. His mother saw that
something lay heavy upon his mind, and tried to
discover the cause; but Jack knew too well what the
consequence would be, should she succeed. He did his
utmost, therefore, to conquer the great desire he had
for another journey up the bean-stalk.
Finding, however, that his desire grew too strong for
him, he began to make secret preparations for his
journey; and, on the longest day of the year, he arose
as soon as it was light and climbed the bean-stalk,
reaching the top with some little trouble. He found the
road journey much as it was on the two former times. He
arrived at the giant's mansion in the evening, and
found his wife standing, as usual, at the door. Jack
had disguised himself so completely that she did not
appear to have the least recollection of him. However,
when he told her of his hunger and poverty, in order to
be allowed to enter the mansion, he found it very
difficult indeed to persuade her. At last he succeeded,
and was hidden in the copper again this time.
When the giant returned, he said, "I smell fresh
But Jack felt quite easy in his mind, as the giant had
 so before, and had been soon satisfied. However, the
giant started up all at once, and his wife could not
prevent him from searching all round the room.
Whilst this was going on, Jack was exceedingly
frightened, and wished himself at home a thousand
times. When the giant came near the copper and put his
hand upon the lid, Jack thought his death was certain.
The giant ended his search there, though, without
moving the lid, and seated himself quietly by the
fireside. This fright nearly killed poor Jack; he was
afraid to move or even to breathe, lest he should be
discovered. The giant at las ate a hearty supper, and
when he had finished he commanded his wife to fetch
down his harp.
Jack peeped under the copper lid, and soon saw the most
beautiful harp that could be thought of; it was placed
on the table by the giant, who said, "Play!" and it
instantly played of its own accord without being
touched. The music was wonderfully fine.
Jack was delighted, and felt more anxious to get the
harp into his possession than either of the former
treasures; fortunately for him the music soon lulled
the giant into a sound sleep. Now, therefore, was the
time to carry off the harp, as the giant appeared to be
in a deeper sleep than usual.
Jack soon made up his mind, got out of the copper, and
seized the harp. But the harp, being enchanted by a
fairy, called out loudly, "Master! master!"
The giant awoke, stood up, and tried to run after Jack;
but he had drank so much that he could hardly stand.
Poor Jack ran as fast as he could, and in a little time
the giant recovered sufficiently to walk slowly, or
rather to reel after him. Had he been sober, he must
have overtaken Jack instantly; but as he then was Jack
contrived to be first at the top of the bean-stalk. The
giant called after him a a voice like thunder, and
sometimes was very near him.
 The moment Jack got down the bean-stalk he called out
for a hatchet, and one was brought him directly. Now,
just at that instant, the giant was beginning to
descent; but Jack cut the bean-stalk with his hatchet
close off at the root, which made the giant fall
headlong into the garden. The fall was so great that it
killed him, thereby releasing the world from a
At this instant the fairy appeared, and first addressed
Jack's mother, explaining every circumstance relating
to the journeys up the bean-stalk. The fairy charged
Jack to be dutiful to his mother, and to follow his
father's good example, which was the only way to be
happy. She then disappeared. Jack heartily begged his
mother's pardon for all the sorrow and affliction he
had caused her, promising most faithfully to be very
dutiful and obedient to her for the future.