JACK THE GIANT-KILLER
HEN good King Arthur reigned, there lived near the Land's
End of England, in the county of Cornwall, a farmer who had
one only son called Jack. He was brisk and of ready, lively
wit, so that nobody or nothing could worst him.
In those days the Mount of Cornwall was kept by a huge giant
named Cormoran. He was eighteen feet in height and about
three yards round the waist, of a fierce and grim
countenance, the terror of all the neighbouring towns and
villages. He lived in a cave in the midst of the Mount, and
whenever he wanted food he would wade over to the mainland,
where he would furnish himself with whatever came in his
way. Everybody at his approach ran out of their houses,
while he seized on their cattle, making nothing of carrying
 oxen on his back at a time; and as for their
sheep and hogs, he would tie them round his waist like a
bunch of tallow-dips. He had done this for many years, so
that all Cornwall was in despair.
One day Jack happened to be at the town-hall when the
magistrates were sitting in council about the giant. He
"What reward will be given to the man who kills Cormoran?"
"The giant's treasure," they said, "will be the reward."
Quoth Jack: "Then let me undertake it."
So he got a horn, shovel, and pickaxe, and went over to the
Mount in the beginning of a dark winter's evening, when he
fell to work, and before morning had dug a pit twenty-two
feet deep, and nearly as broad, covering it over with long
sticks and straw. Then he strewed a little mould over it, so
that it appeared like plain ground. Jack then placed himself
on the opposite side of the pit, farthest from the giant's
lodging, and, just at the break of day, he put the horn to
his mouth, and blew, Tantivy, Tantivy. This noise roused the
giant, who rushed from his cave, crying: "You incorrigible
villain, are you come here to disturb my rest? You shall pay
dearly for this. Satisfaction I will have, and this it shall
be, I will take you whole and broil you for breakfast." He
had no sooner uttered this, than he tumbled into the pit,
and made the very foundations of the Mount to shake. "Oh,
Giant," quoth Jack, "where are you now? Oh, faith, you are
gotten now into Lob's Pound, where I will surely plague you
for your threatening words; what do you think now of
broiling me for your breakfast? Will no other diet serve you
but poor Jack?" Then having tantalised the giant for a
while, he gave him a most
 weighty knock with his pickaxe on
the very crown of his head, and killed him on the spot.
Jack then filled up the pit with earth, and went to search
the cave, which he found contained much treasure. When the
magistrates heard of this they made a declaration he should
henceforth be termed
JACK THE GIANT-KILLER,
and presented him with a sword and a belt, on which were
written these words embroidered in letters of gold:
"Here's the right valiant Cornish man,
Who slew the giant Cormoran."
The news of Jack's victory soon spread over all the West of
England, so that another giant, named Blunderbore, hearing
of it, vowed to be revenged on Jack, if ever he should light
on him. This giant was the lord of an enchanted castle
situated in the midst of a lonesome wood. Now Jack, about
four months afterwards, walking near this wood in his
journey to Wales, being weary, seated himself near a
pleasant fountain and fell fast asleep. While he was
sleeping the giant, coming there for water, discovered him,
and knew him to be the far-famed Jack the Giant-Killer by
the lines written on the belt. Without ado, he took Jack on
his shoulders and carried him towards his castle. Now, as
they passed through a thicket, the rustling of the boughs
awakened Jack, who was strangely surprised to find himself
in the clutches of the giant. His terror was only begun,
for, on entering the castle, he saw the ground strewed with
human bones, and the giant told him his own would ere long
be among them. After this the giant locked poor Jack in an
 immense chamber, leaving him there while he went to fetch
another giant, his brother, living in the same wood, who
might share in the meal on Jack.
After waiting some time Jack, on going to the window, beheld
afar off the two giants coming towards the castle. "Now,"
quoth Jack to himself, "my death or my deliverance is at
hand." Now, there were strong cords in a corner of the room
in which Jack was, and two of these he took, and made a
strong noose at the end; and while the giants were unlocking
the iron gate of the castle he threw the ropes over each of
their heads. Then he drew the other ends across a beam, and
pulled with all his might, so that he throttled them. Then,
when he saw they were black in the face, he slid down the
rope, and drawing his sword, slew them both. Then, taking
the giant's keys, and unlocking the rooms, he found three
fair ladies tied by the hair of their heads, almost starved
to death. "Sweet ladies," quoth Jack, "I have destroyed this
monster and his brutish brother, and obtained your
liberties." This said he presented them with the keys, and
so proceeded on his journey to Wales.
Jack made the best of his way by travelling as fast as he
could, but lost his road, and was benighted, and could find
no habitation until, coming into a narrow valley, he found a
large house, and in order to get shelter took courage to
knock at the gate. But what was his surprise when there came
forth a monstrous giant with two heads; yet he did not
appear so fiery as the others were, for he was a Welsh
giant, and what he did was by private and secret malice
under the false show of friendship. Jack, having told his
condition to the giant, was shown into a bedroom, where, in
the dead of
 night, he heard his host in another apartment
muttering these words:
"Though here you lodge with me this night,
You shall not see the morning light:
My club shall dash your brains outright!"
"Say'st thou so," quoth Jack; "that is like one of your
Welsh tricks, yet I hope to be cunning enough for you."
Then, getting out of bed, he laid a billet in the bed in his
stead, and hid himself in a corner of the room. At the dead
time of the night in came the Welsh giant, who struck
several heavy blows on the bed with his club, thinking he
had broken every bone in Jack's skin. The next morning Jack,
laughing in his sleeve, gave him hearty thanks for his
night's lodging. "How have you rested?" quoth the giant;
"did you not feel anything in the night?" "No," quoth Jack,
"nothing but a rat, which gave me two or three slaps with
her tail." With that, greatly wondering, the giant led Jack
to breakfast, bringing him a bowl containing four gallons of
hasty pudding. Being loth to let the giant think it too much
for him, Jack put a large leather bag under his loose coat,
in such a way that he could convey the pudding into it
without its being perceived. Then, telling the giant he
would show him a trick, taking a knife, Jack ripped open the
bag, and out came all the hasty pudding. Whereupon, saying,
"Odds splutters her nails, hur can do that trick hurself",
the monster took the knife, and ripping open his belly, fell
Now, it happened in these days that King Arthur's only son
asked his father to give him a large sum of money, in order
that he might go and seek his fortune in the principality of
Wales, where lived a beautiful lady
 possessed with seven
evil spirits. The king did his best to persuade his son from
it, but in vain; so at last gave way and the prince set out
with two horses, one loaded with money, the other for
himself to ride upon. Now, after several days" travel, he
came to a market-town in Wales, where he beheld a vast crowd
of people gathered together. The prince asked the reason of
it, and was told that they had arrested a corpse for several
large sums of money which the deceased owed when he died.
The prince replied that it was a pity creditors should be so
cruel, and said: "Go bury the dead, and let his creditors
come to my lodging, and there their debts shall be paid."
They came, in such great numbers that before night he had
only twopence left for himself.
Now Jack the Giant-Killer, coming that way, was so taken
with the generosity of the prince that he desired to be his
servant. This being agreed upon, the next morning they set
forward on their journey together, when, as they were riding
out of the town, an old woman called after the prince,
saying, "He has owed me twopence these seven years; pray pay
me as well as the rest." Putting his hand into his pocket,
the prince gave the woman all he had left, so that after
their day's food, which cost what small store Jack had by
him, they were without a penny between them.
When the sun got low, the king's son said: "Jack, since we
have no money, where can we lodge this night?"
But Jack replied: "Master, we'll do well enough, for I have
an uncle lives within two miles of this place; he is a huge
and monstrous giant with three heads; he'll fight five
hundred men in armour, and make them to fly before him."
 "Alas!" quoth the prince, "what shall we do there? He'll
certainly chop us up at a mouthful. Nay, we are scarce
enough to fill one of his hollow teeth!"
"It is no matter for that," quoth Jack; "I myself will go
before and prepare the way for you; therefore stop here and
wait till I return." Jack then rode away at full speed, and
coming to the gate of the castle, he knocked so loud that he
made the neighbouring hills resound. The giant roared out at
this like thunder: "Who's there?"
Jack answered: "None but your poor cousin Jack."
Quoth he: "What news with my poor cousin Jack?"
He replied: "Dear uncle, heavy news, God wot!"
"Prithee," quoth the giant, "what heavy news can come to me?
I am a giant with three heads, and besides thou knowest I
can fight five hundred men in armour, and make them fly like
chaff before the wind."
"Oh, but," quoth Jack, "here's the king's son a-coming with
a thousand men in armour to kill you and destroy all that
"Oh, cousin Jack," said the giant, "this is heavy news
indeed! I will immediately run and hide myself, and thou
shalt lock, bolt, and bar me in, and keep the keys until the
prince is gone." Having secured the giant, Jack fetched his
master, when they made themselves heartily merry whilst the
poor giant lay trembling in a vault under the ground.
Early in the morning Jack furnished his master with a fresh
supply of gold and silver, and then sent him three miles
forward on his journey, at which time the prince was pretty
well out of the smell of the giant. Jack then returned, and
let the giant out of the vault, who asked
 what he should
give him for keeping the castle from destruction. "Why,"
quoth Jack, "I want nothing but the old coat and cap,
together with the old rusty sword and slippers which are at
your bed's head." Quoth the giant: "You know not what you
ask; they are the most precious things I have. The coat will
keep you invisible, the cap will tell you all you want to
know, the sword cuts asunder whatever you strike, and the
shoes are of extraordinary swiftness. But you have been very
serviceable to me, therefore take them with all my heart."
Jack thanked his uncle, and then went off with them. He soon
overtook his master and they quickly arrived at the house of
the lady the prince sought, who, finding the prince to be a
suitor, prepared a splendid banquet for him. After the
repast was concluded, she told him she had a task for him.
She wiped his mouth with a handkerchief, saying: "You must
show me that handkerchief to-morrow morning, or else you will
lose your head." With that she put it in her bosom. The
prince went to bed in great sorrow, but Jack's cap of
knowledge informed him how it was to be obtained. In the
middle of the night she called upon her familiar spirit to
carry her to Lucifer. But Jack put on his coat of darkness
and his shoes of swiftness, and was there as soon as she
was. When she entered the place of the demon, she gave the
handkerchief to him, and he laid it upon a shelf, whence
Jack took it and brought it to his master, who showed it to
the lady next day, and so saved his life. On that day, she
gave the prince a kiss and told him he must show her the
lips to-morrow morning that she kissed last night, or lose
 "Ah!" he replied, "if you kiss none but mine, I will."
"That is neither here nor there," said she; "if you do not,
death's your portion!"
At midnight she went as before, and was angry with the demon
for letting the handkerchief go. "But now," quoth she, "I
will be too hard for the king's son, for I will kiss thee,
and he is to show me thy lips." Which she did, and Jack,
when she was not standing by, cut off Lucifer's head and
brought it under his invisible coat to his master, who the
next morning pulled it out by the horns before the lady.
This broke the enchantment and the evil spirit left her, and
she appeared in all her beauty. They were married the next
morning, and soon after went to the Court of King Arthur,
where Jack for his many exploits, was made one of the
Knights of the Round Table.
Jack soon went searching for giants again, but he had not
ridden far, when he saw a cave, near the entrance of which
he beheld a giant sitting upon a block of timber, with a
knotted iron club by his side. His goggle eyes were like
flames of fire, his countenance grim and ugly, and his
cheeks like a couple of large flitches of bacon, while the
bristles of his beard resembled rods of iron wire, and the
locks that hung down upon his brawny shoulders were like
curled snakes or hissing adders. Jack alighted from his
horse, and, putting on the coat of darkness, went up close
to the giant, and said softly: "Oh! are you there? It will
not be long before I take you fast by the beard." The giant
all this while could not see him, on account of his
invisible coat, so that Jack, coming up close to the
monster, struck a blow
 with his sword at his head, but,
missing his aim, he cut off the nose instead. At this, the
giant roared like claps of thunder, and began to lay about
him with his iron club like one stark mad. But Jack, running
behind, drove his sword up to the hilt in the giant's head
so that it fell down dead. This done, Jack cut off the
giant's head, and sent it, with his brother's also, to King
Arthur, by a waggoner he hired for that purpose.
Jack now resolved to enter the giant's cave in search of his
treasure, and, passing along through a great many windings
and turnings, he came at length to a large room paved with
freestone, at the upper end of which was a boiling caldron,
and on the right hand a large table, at which the giant used
to dine. Then he came to a window, barred with iron, through
which he looked and beheld a vast number of miserable
captives, who, seeing him, cried out: "Alas! Young man, art
thou come to be one amongst us in this miserable den?"
"Ay," quoth Jack, "but pray tell me what is the meaning of
"We are kept here," said one, "till such time as the giants
have a wish to feast, and then the fattest among us is
slaughtered! And many are the times they have dined upon
"Say you so," quoth Jack, and straightway unlocked the gate
and let them free, who all rejoiced like condemned men at
sight of a pardon. Then searching the giant's coffer, he
shared the gold and silver equally amongst them and took
them to a neigbouring castle, where they all feasted and
made merry over their deliverance.
But in the midst of all this mirth a messenger brought
 news that one Thunderdell, a giant with two heads, having heard
of the death of his kinsmen, had come from the northern
dales to be revenged on Jack, and was within a mile of the
castle, the country people flying before him like chaff. But
Jack was not a bit daunted, and said: "Let him come! I have
a tool to pick his teeth; and you, ladies and gentlemen,
walk out into the garden, and you shall witness this giant
Thunderdell's death and destruction."
The castle was situated in the midst of a small island
surrounded by a moat thirty feet deep and twenty feet wide,
over which lay a drawbridge. So Jack employed men to cut
through this bridge on both sides, nearly to the middle; and
then, dressing himself in his invisible coat, he marched
against the giant with his sword of sharpness. Although the
giant could not see Jack, he smelt his approach, and cried
out in these words:
"Fee, fi, fo,fum!
I smell the blood of an Englishman!
Be he alive or be he dead,
I'll grind his bones to make me bread!"
"Say'st thou so," said Jack; "then thou art a monstrous
The giant cried out again: "Art thou that villain who killed
my kinsmen? Then I will tear thee with my teeth, suck thy
blood, and grind thy bones to powder."
"You'll have to catch me first," quoth Jack, and throwing
off his invisible coat, so that the giant might see him, and
putting on his shoes of swiftness, he ran from the giant,
who followed like a walking castle, so that the very
foundations of the earth seemed to shake at every step.
led him a long dance, in order that the gentlemen and ladies
might see; and at last to end the matter, ran lightly over
the drawbridge, the giant, in full speed, pursuing him with
his club. Then, coming to the middle of the bridge, the
giant's great weight broke it down, and he tumbled headlong
into the water, where he rolled and wallowed like a whale.
Jack, standing by the moat, laughed at him all the while;
but though the giant foamed to hear him scoff, and plunged
from place to place in the moat, yet he could not get out to
be revenged. Jack at length got a cart rope and cast it over
the two heads of the giant and drew him ashore by a team of
horses, and then cut off both his heads with his sword of
sharpness, and sent them to King Arthur.
After some time spent in mirth and pastime, Jack, taking
leave of the knights and ladies, set out for new adventures.
Through many woods he passed and came at length to the foot
of a high mountain. Here, late at night, he found a lonesome
house, and knocked at the door, which was opened by an aged
man with a head as white as snow. "Father," said Jack, "can
you lodge a benighted traveller that has lost his way?"
"Yes," said the old man; "you. are right welcome to my poor
cottage." Whereupon Jack entered, and down they sat
together, and the old man began to speak as follows: "Son, I
see by your belt you are the great conqueror of giants, and
behold, my son, on the top of the mountain is an enchanted
castle; this is kept by a giant named Galligantua, and he,
by the help of an old conjurer, betrays many knight and
ladies into his castle, where by magic art they are
 transformed into sundry shapes and forms. But above all, I
grieve for a duke's daughter, whom they fetched from her
father's garden, carrying her through the air in a burning
chariot drawn by fiery dragons, when they secured her within
the castle, and transformed her into a white hind. And
though many knights have tried to break the enchantment, and
work her deliverance, yet no one could accomplish it, on
account of two dreadful griffins which are placed at the
castle gate and which destroy everyone who comes near. But
you, my son, may pass by them undiscovered, where on the
gates of the castle you will find engraven in large letters
how the spell may be broken." Jack gave the old man his
hand, and promised that in the morning he would venture his
life to free the lady.
In the morning Jack arose and put on his invisible coat and
magic cap and shoes, and prepared himself for the fray. Now,
when he had reached the top of the mountain he soon
discover4 the two fiery griffins, but passed them without
fear, because of his invisible coat. When he had got beyond
them, he found upon the gates of the castle a golden trumpet
hung by a silver chain, under which these lines were
"Whoever shall this trumpet blow,
Shall soon the giant overthrow,
And break the black enchantment straight;
So all shall be in happy state."
Jack had no sooner read this but he blew the trumpet, at
which the castle trembled to its vast foundations, and the
giant and conjurer were in horrid confusion, biting their
thumbs and tearing their hair, knowing their wicked
was at an end. Then the giant stooping to take up his club,
Jack at one blow cut off his head; whereupon the conjurer,
mounting up into the air, was carried away in a whirlwind.
Then the enchantment was broken, and all the lords and
ladies who "had so long been transformed into birds and
beasts returned to their proper shapes, and the castle
vanished away in a cloud of smoke. This being done, the head
of Galligantua was likewise, in the usual manner, conveyed
to the Court of King Arthur, where, the very next day, Jack
followed, with the knights and ladies who had been
Whereupon, as a reward for his good services, the king
prevailed upon the duke to bestow his daughter in marriage
on honest Jack. So married they were, and the whole kingdom
was filled with joy at the wedding. Furthermore, the king
bestowed on Jack a noble castle, with a very beautiful
estate thereto belonging, where he and his lady lived in
great joy and happiness all the rest of their days.
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