Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics
JACK AND THE BEAN-STALK
ONG, long ago there lived a poor widow who had a
little boy named Jack. It was not easy for the woman to
get a living; but she owned a cow that gave a great
deal of milk, and some of the milk they drank and some
she sold. So they contrived to get along until at last
the cow went dry.
"What shall I do now?" said the woman sorrowfully, and
she was ready to weep.
"Cheer up, mother," said Jack; "I will go and get
"You are too small," replied his mother. "No one would
hire you. Ah, well, I must take our cow to market and
So the woman tied a rope to the cow's horns and led her
away; but she had not gone far when she met a
funny-looking old man who stopped and said,
"Good-morning to you," was her response.
 "And where are you off to this morning?" asked the old
"I am going to market to sell my cow," the woman
"If that is the case," said the old man, "I'll save you
the trouble of going any farther, for I will buy your
cow right here."
"And how much will you give me for her>" inquired the
Then the old man took a little bag from his pocket and
opened it for her to look inside; but all she saw in
the bag was a handful of beans. "I will give you these
beans for your cow," said the old man.
"I would rather not make such an exchange as that," the
woman said. "Those beans would not be enough for one
"Oh, they are not for you to eat! exclaimed the old
man. "You must plant them. They are magic beans that
will bring you good luck, and they are worth much more
than your cow."
The woman looked again, and she saw that the beans were
very curious and of many pretty colors; and at last she
said she would take them and let the old man have the
cow. But on her way home, the more she thought about
 had done the more foolish she thought she had
been, and when she reached the house she poured the
beans out into her hand to look at them, and then threw
them into the fireplace.
"I can't bear the sight of them," said she, "and now we
shall soon starve, I suppose."
She thought that was the last of the beans, but one of
them had rolled out across the floor, and the next day
as she was sweeping she swept up the little bean. She
did not notice it, and she swept it along and along and
might have swept it into the fireplace; but her little
boy Jack saw it and picked it up and said, "I'm going
to plant this bean, mother."
So he took it out to the garden and dug a hole and
planted it. After that he was all the time running out
to see if his bean had come up, and when it did come up
he was all the time running out to see how it was
On the first morning after he planted it he found its
first leaves had already pushed their way up out of the
ground. The next morning it was as tall as he was; and
the next day after that it was as high as the house,
and the next day after that it was as high as the
church steeple. So it kept growing until its top was
clear out of sight.
 Then Jack said, "I'm going to climb this bean-stalk,"
and he climbed and climbed and climbed, and at last he
reached the sky.
There he found a strange country without a tree, shrub,
house, or living creature anywhere in sight. He sat
down on a stone to rest and said, "Humph! If this is
all there is up here I may as well go back home."
But while he was resting he noticed that a rough path
led away from near where he sat over a hill, and then
he saw a beautiful lady walking along the path toward
him. She spoke to Jack as soon as she came to him, and
he rose and took off his hat. "I am a fairy," said she,
"and the county where you now are is on the borders of
Fairy-land. I have come to tell you something about
your father. Do you remember him?"
"No," replied Jack, "and when I ask my mother about him
she always begins to cry and will say nothing."
"I thought as much," said the fairy, "and you will
understand why your mother never speaks of him when you
hear my story. He was a brave and generous knight, and
the fairies were his friends and made him many
wonderful presents. But after a time a wicked giant
came to your
 father's castle and killed him, and
carried off all the wonderful things the fairies had
given him. At the same time the giant carried off your
mother and you, who were then a little boy. He shut you
both up in one of his dungeons, but at last he offered
to restore your mother and you to liberty on condition
that she should never speak about her wrongs to any
one. She agreed, and he carried her to a place a great
distance from where she had lived and been known
before, and left her there with just money enough to
rent a little cottage and buy a cow.
"That giant lives in this country, and if you follow
the path by which you saw me come you will find his
castle over yonder hill. All that he has is rightfully
your, and perhaps you can contrive some way to regain
possession of what the stole from your father."
Then the fairy went on her way, and Jack, after
thinking things over, concluded he would go on by the
path that led toward the hill. Beyond the hill in a
valley he came to a great castle, and on the doorstep
sat a giant woman. It was almost night, and Jack went
up to the giantess and said very politely,
"Good-evening, ma'am. Would you be so kind as to give
me some supper?"
 "Is it supper you want?" said the big woman. "It's
supper you'll be if you don't move away from here. My
man is a giant, and he likes to eat little boys."
"But I am very hungry," said Jack, "and I've had no
food at all this day since early morning."
"Well, well," said the giantess, "I don't wonder you
are hungry, then. Come along to the kitchen and I'll
see what I can find for you."
 So the giant's wife took Jack into the kitchen and gave
him a piece of cheese and a bowl of bread and milk. He
had not quite finished eating when, tramp! tramp!
tramp! he heard the steps of some one coming, and the
whole castle trembled with the heavy footfalls.
"Gracious me!" exclaimed the giant's wife, "that's my
man. Be quick now and jump into the oven or he'll catch
you; and she bundled Jack into the oven just as the
giant came in.
The giant liked around the room and sniffed the air.
"Fe-fi-fo-fum, I smell fresh meat!" said he
"Yes," his wife responded, "the crows brought a piece
of raw flesh to-day to the top of the house and dropped
it on the roof."
"Ha!" said the giant, "I thought it was something
nearer and fresher than that;" but he sat down at the
table and Jack watched him through a crevice of the
oven door, and was amazed to see the quantity of food
that he ate.
After supper was done the giant's wife cleared away the
dishes and went off to bed. "I am getting a bit sleepy
myself," said the giant; "but I must have a look at my
money," and he went to a big chest and took out several
bags full of
 gold coins and returned to the table. He
sat down and began to empty the bags one by one and was
counting his wealth when he nodded off into a nap, and
was soon snoring with a noise like thunder.
Jack then climbed out of the oven, and by getting on a
chair beside the table he reached one of the bags of
gold, and off he ran with it. As soon as he came to the
bean-stalk he called out, "Hump it and bump it and down
I go," and in a little while he was at the foot of the
bean-stalk in his mother's garden.
Then he hurried to the house. There was a light in the
window, and his mother was waiting for him in great
anxiety, and was overjoyed to have him safely back.
They had money enough now, but Jack could not help
thinking how many things the giant had which were
rightfully their, and it was not long before he again
climbed the bean-stalk. This time he carried some food,
so that he did not have to beg of the giant's wife, and
when he came to the great castle he got behind a rock
and watched until he saw the giantess come out to the
well with a pail after water. While she was busy at the
well he ran into the kitchen and hid in a closet.
 In a little while the woman brought in the pail of
water, and by and by, tramp! tramp! came the giant. He
began to sniff as soon as he entered the kitchen
"Fe-fi-fo-fum! I smell fresh meat!" he said.
"Do you?" said his wife. "Supposing we look around,
then. If there's anybody hiding here it's likely to be
in the oven."
So they both went to the oven, but luckily Jack was not
there. "Well," said the giant's wife, "it's empty, and
I thought it would be, and I'm tired of hearing your
The giant wanted to look father, but his wife said,
"No, I won't have you messing up the house. I know just
how you would do it. You would turn everything that you
could lay your hands on topsy-turve. Besides, your
supper is ready."
So the giant sat down and had his supper. After he had
eaten, he said, "Wife, bring me the hen that lays the
She brought the hen and put it on the table. "If you
don't need me any more, my dearie," said she, "I will
go to the next room to finish some sewing I have
"No, I don't need you," replied the giant, "go
Then he took the little hen, and said, "Lay:" and the
hen laid an egg of solid gold.
The giant took the egg in his hand, and looked at it
for a while; but pretty soon he fell asleep and snored
so that the house shook. Then Jack crept out or the
closed and climbed on a chair by the table and grabbed
the little hen and ran. That frightened the hen, and it
gave a cackle which woke the giant. He sat up and
rubbed his eyes, and Jack, who was now out of the door,
heard him calling, "wife, wife, what have you done with
my golden hen?"
Jack heard her come hurrying to the kitchen from the
next room and asking, "Why, my dear?"
But Jack kept running, and he got too far away to hear
any more. In a short time he came to the bean-stalk,
and shouted," Hump it and bump it and down I go!" and
soon he was at the foot of the bean-stalk and went into
the house to his mother.
They took the best care of the hen, and every day Jack
told it to lay, and it laid a golden egg. But after a
time Jack went up the bean-stalk again, and he kept
going up every few days, until he had carried off
pretty much all that the giant
 had. Finally, one night
he tried to get the giant's bed-quilt. The quilt was
made of silk of many colors, and it had beautiful
jewels on it, and all along the edge were little silver
bells that went tinkle, tinkle when Jack began to pull
The giant heard the bells and called out, "Who's round
my house this dark, dismal night?'
Jack kept perfectly still until the giant was snoring,
and then he pulled the quilt off a little farther. The
bells went tinkle, tinkle, and the giant woke up and
called out, "who's round my house this dark, dismal
So jack stopped pulling and stayed as quiet as a mouse;
but every time the giant fell asleep Jack got the
bed-quilt a little farther off, till at last he had it
all, and ran away with it. However, the bells made suck
a jingling as Jack ran that the giant was roused from
his sleep and jumped up and started after him. Jack ran
very swiftly, and got to the bean-stalk first. "Hump it
and bump it and down I go." He shouted, and it did not
take him long to get to his mother's garden.
But the giant was climbing down the bean-stalk after
him, and the bean-stalk was shaking beneath the
monster's weight. Jack could hear the giant
 coming, and
when he looked up he saw the giant's legs just
appearing through the clouds. Then Jack hurried to the
woodshed and got a hatchet and began to chop at the
bean-stalk. The giant felt the bean-stalk quiver, and
stopped to look down to find out what was the matter.
Just at that moment Jack gave a blow with his hatchet
that brought bean-stalk and giant, and all tumbling to
the earth, and that was the end of the wicked giant.
for Jack and his mother, they were rich people after