Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics
JACK THE GIANT-KILLER
 In the happy days of Once upon a Time, when fairies and giants
and magicians were still to be met with, there lived in
England a terrible Giant called Cormoran. His home was in a
great cave at the top of the Mount in Cornwall, and he was
the terror of all that countryside.
This Giant was three times as tall as any man, and his waist
was so big that it would have taken any one ten minutes to
walk round him. He had red hair, and great goggling eyes,
and when he walked, the earth shook as if there was an
Now the worst of this Giant was that he was always hungry,
and when he was hungry he always stepped across from the
Mount to the mainland and looked about over all the farms
for something to eat. Sometimes he would take half-a-dozen
 and sling them over his shoulder, or a dozen sheep,
which he tucked into his waistband. And then he coolly
stalked home again, and ate them up for one meal, and was
ready for more.
No one dared to tell Cormoran he was a thief and a robber,
or to cry "Hands off," for he was so big and strong that
every one ran away in terror when they heard him coming.
There was only one person who was not afraid of the Giant,
and that was a boy named Jack, a farmer's son, who lived
quite close to the Mount. He grew more and more angry each
time that Cormoran came and carried off the sheep and oxen
without so much as saying "By your leave," and he made up
his mind to put a stop to it.
"It is time somebody punished this horrible monster," said
Jack one day. "And if no one else will do it, I will."
So he took a shovel and a pickaxe and a horn, and one
evening, when it began to grow dark, he went across to the
Mount. All night long he dug and dug until he made
 a large
deep hole at the foot of the Mount in front of the Giant's
cave. This hole he carefully covered over with long sticks
and straw, and then he spread earth on the top so that it
looked like solid ground.
By this time the dawn of the new day was just beginning, and
the sea and sky were preparing to give the sun a golden
welcome when Jack took up his horn and blew a long, loud
"Who dares make such a hideous noise and wake me from my
morning sleep?" thundered a voice from the Giant's cave. And
presently the earth began to shake as Cormoran came stamping
down the hill. The moment he saw Jack he shook with rage,
and his goggling eyes flashed fire.
"So it was you, you miserable little shrimp, who dared to
disturb me," he shouted. "I will put you in the pot and boil
you like an egg for my breakfast." And as he said this he
rushed forward to seize Jack.
But Jack had wisely taken his stand on the other side of the
covered hole, and before the Giant could reach him, the
 straw and sticks gave way, and the Giant tumbled
headlong into the trap.
"Ho, ho!" laughed Jack. "So you would boil me for
breakfast, would you?"
And as the Giant struggled to his feet and his hand appeared
just above the ground, Jack took his pickaxe and with a
mighty swing brought it down on the Giant's crown and killed
him on the spot.
Then there were great rejoicings all around when the people
heard that Cormoran was dead. And they were so proud of Jack
that they declared he should be known throughout the land as
Jack the Giant-Killer. Moreover, they made him a splendid
belt, on which was embroidered in golden letters:
"This is the valiant Cornishman
Who slew the Giant Cormoran."
The fame of Jack's brave deed soon spread all over that
countryside, and every giant who heard of it vowed vengeance
against the Giant-Killer. There was one Giant who was
specially furious, for he was Cormoran's
 brother, and lived
close by in a great castle which stood in the midst of a
Now it happened that one day Jack set out on a journey to
Wales, and his way led him through this very wood. He knew
nothing about the Giant who lived there, and as it was a hot
day he sat down to rest under the trees and soon fell
Just then the Giant, whose name was Blunderbore, happened to
be passing that way. He might have passed on and never have
noticed Jack had not his eye caught the glint of something
shining on the ground. When he looked closer he saw a boy
lying fast asleep with the sun shining on the golden letters
written round his belt:
"This is the valiant Cornishman
Who slew the Giant Cormoran."
"Ah, ha! my fine fellow," cried Blunderbore,
you to go about slaying giants." And he lifted Jack up
between his finger and thumb and carried him off to the
Jack was terribly frightened when he woke
 up and found out
where he was. The Giant shook him well, and then with a
hoarse laugh threw him into a room above the gateway and
locked him in.
"I am going to invite another Giant to come and share my
supper," he called out, as he left Jack sitting alone in the
great empty room.
Poor Jack looked round to see if there was no chance of
escape, but the only thing he could find in the room was a
coil of thick rope.
"Now for death or freedom!" he cried aloud. And he made two
large loops at the ends of the rope, and climbed into the
window to watch for the return of the two Giants.
He soon saw them hurrying along towards the castle, and as
they came underneath the gate he dropped the rope down so
deftly that the two loops slipped over the Giants' heads.
Then he jerked the rope tight and tied it to a beam, and
pulled so hard that the Giants were choked in two minutes.
And before they had time to free themselves Jack slid down
the rope and cut off both their heads.
 "Now I shall see what treasure I can find in the
castle," said Jack. And he took the key from
Blunderbore's belt and
unlocked the great gate.
As soon as he had entered the castle he heard sounds of
weeping and wailing, and soon made his way to a room, where
he found three fair ladies, whom the Giant had meant to eat
for his supper. They were sitting weeping together, bound by
the strands of their own golden hair.
"Gentle ladies," said Jack, "your sorrows are ended.
Blunderbore is dead, and I am come to set you free."
Then he cut their golden chains and gave them the keys of
the castle. For he himself was obliged to journey on.
All that day Jack travelled merrily along, but when the
evening shadows lengthened the road began to look strange,
and as it grew darker and darker Jack began to think he had
lost his way. So he made up his mind that he would seek
shelter at the first house he came to. For the place had a
wild and desolate look which he did not like.
 Presently, to his joy, he spied a great house by the
wayside, and he went up at once and knocked boldly at the
big front door. The door was flung open in an instant, and
there, towering above Jack, stood a hideous Giant with two
Jack started back in surprise, but the Giant pretended to be
quite friendly, and spoke so politely that Jack walked in
and sat down to supper with him. After supper the Giant
showed his guest to a bedroom, where everything was prepared
for his comfort. So he gladly crept into bed, for he was
But in the middle of the night Jack awoke with a start, for
he heard a voice mutter, mutter, mutter on the other side of
the wall. And as he listened this is what it said:
"Peaceful though you sleep this night,
You shall die by morning light.
With this club your life I'll take
Ere from happy dreams you wake.
"Oh, indeed!" said Jack, wide awake in a moment. "We shall
see about that!"
 So he slipped out of bed and took a great log of wood from
the fireplace, and put it in his bed. Then he hid himself at
the other end of the room.
In a few minutes the door opened slowly, slowly, and the
Giant came stealing in, treading so softly that not a board
creaked. He felt his way, in the dark, to the bedside, and
then he lifted his great club and brought it down with a
tremendous thwack across the log of wood which was covered
up by the bed-clothes. Three terrific blows the Giant gave,
and then he went off grinning to himself. For now he was
sure he had put an end to Jack the Giant-Killer.
But in the morning who should come strolling in to breakfast
but Jack himself. The Giant's eyes in both his heads grew
rounder and rounder with surprise.
"Did you sleep well last night?" he asked at last. "Did
nothing disturb you?"
"Nothing but the rats," said Jack. "One of them ran across
my bed and gave me three taps with its tail, but I soon
dropped off to sleep again."
 Now Jack had felt sure that the Giant would expect him to
eat a very big breakfast, so he had carefully fastened a
great leather bag under his coat, in such a way that he
could easily slip the food into its mouth instead of his
own. There was hasty-pudding for breakfast, and the Giant
ladled out a bowlful, as big as a bath, for Jack to eat.
Then he sat down to watch him, but to his surprise Jack took
spoonful after spoonful until the bowl was quite empty.
"I wonder if you can cut yourself open as I can?" said Jack
carelessly, when he had finished. Then he took a sharp knife
and cut a large slit in the bag, and all the pudding came
"Of course I can," said the Giant, for he was not going to
be outdone by Jack.
Then he seized the knife and cut a big hole in himself, and
of course he dropped down dead at once.
Now Jack had heard that this Giant had four very wonderful
things hidden away amongst his treasures. One was a coat
 which made any one who should wear it invisible, another was
a sword which could cut anything in half, another a pair of
shoes which carried the wearer along more swiftly than the
wind, and lastly a cap which knew every secret on earth. So
he searched through the house and among all the treasures
until at last he found the magic coat and sword, and shoes
and cap. Then he once more set off on his journey.
This time his way led him through the mountains, and before
long he came to a gloomy cavern among the rocks. And in
front of the cavern sat the most dreadful Giant which Jack
had ever seen.
He was bigger than any of the other Giants, his hair and
beard were like thick ropes, and his mouth was so huge that
he could have taken Jack in at one bite. There he lay fast
asleep, with his great spiked club lying by his side. He was
snoring so loudly that the earth shook.
Then Jack slipped on his invisible coat, and stealing close
to the Giant, gave him a blow with the flat side of his
 The Giant sprang to his feet in a moment, his eyes blazing
like balls of fire, as he roared and hit out on all sides
with his spiked club. But, of course, he could not see Jack,
who kept well out of his reach. Then he turned round and
round, looking for the person who had dared to strike him.
But Jack ran swiftly in, and, with one blow of his magic
sword, he cut off the Giant's head and hurled him to the
"Now I wonder what the old monster has in his cave," said
Jack to himself. And he began to search through all the
passages until he came to an inner cave which was shut in by
an iron grating. Groans and moans sounded from within, and
when Jack opened the door he found a great company of
knights and ladies who sat weeping and bewailing their sad
They looked up when they saw Jack and cried out sadly, "Are
you also to be cooked for the Giant's supper?"
But Jack only laughed and waved his sword above his head.
"I have come to set you free," he cried.
 "The Giant is dead, and you have nothing now to fear."
Then he led them all out into the sunshine until they came
to a beautiful castle near at hand. And there they all
feasted and made merry.
But in the middle of the feasting a most dreadful noise was
heard, and a messenger rushed in, pale with terror, to tell
them that the Giant Thunderdell was on his way to avenge his
"Let him come!" said Jack, fearlessly grasping his magic
sword. "And you, knights and fair ladies, when you have
finished your feast, come out upon the terrace and see, if
you will, how Jack the Giant-Killer deals with all such
Now the castle was surrounded by a deep moat full of water,
and the only way to enter the castle was over the
drawbridge. Then Jack quickly ordered his men to cut away
both sides of the bridge nearly to the middle, so that the
moment any one stepped upon it, it would give way. And when
this was done he put on the invisible coat and shoes
swiftness, took his magic sword in his hand, and went out to
meet the Giant. Louder and louder sounded the thundering
noise as the Giant drew near, and when he met Jack, though
he could not see him, he smelt the smell of human flesh and
shouted aloud in a furious rage:
"Fe—fi—fo—fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman.
Be he living, or be he dead,
I'll grind his bones to make my bread."
"Ha-ha!" laughed Jack, "a nice loaf of bread I
Then he took off his invisible coat and stood where the
Giant could see him.
"Catch me if you can," he shouted. And the Giant, with a
great roar of rage, rushed after him towards the castle.
But the magic shoes went even faster than the Giant could
run, and Jack was safe on the other side of the drawbridge
just as the Giant came thundering behind him. No sooner had
Thunderdell placed his heavy foot on the middle of the
bridge than it went
 down with a crash, and the Giant
disappeared with a most terrific splash into the waters of
the moat below.
There he lay like a great whale, puffing and blowing in the
water, until Jack threw a rope around him and bade his men
haul him ashore. Then with one stroke of the magic sword the
Giant's two heads were cut clean off and rolled to the
The knights and ladies were over-joyed when they saw the
Giant slain, and they thought Jack was the greatest hero
that had ever lived. And so the feasting and dancing began
again, but Jack grew tired of being idle, and so he bid them
all farewell and went on to seek for more adventures.
For many days Jack journeyed on, past peaceful farms and
flowery meadow-land, until at last he came to a more gloomy
region at the foot of a wild and lonely mountain. Everything
looked so grey and desolate that Jack felt sure some evil
thing must dwell close by, but though be gazed all round he
could see nothing but a little old house built on the side
of a great grey
 rock. "Somebody may be living there",
thought Jack, so he went up and knocked loudly at the door.
"Come in and welcome, my son," said a gentle old voice. And
when Jack opened the door he found an old man with long
white hair sitting by the fireside.
The old man rose to welcome Jack, and as be did so his eyes
caught the glitter of the golden letters which were
embroidered on the hero's belt.
"Art thou indeed Jack the Giant-Killer?" he cried. "Thrice
welcome then, my son. Surely none have needed thy aid as
sorely as we."
Then he told Jack that on the brow of the Dark Mountain, in
an enchanted castle, there lived a fierce and terrible
Giant, and with him a wicked Magician. By the help of evil
spells and black magic these two were able to lure knights
and ladies into the castle and there change them into all
sorts of hideous shapes.
"Woe is me!" went on the old man. "Saddest of all is the
fate of the Duke's fair
 daughter. She was playing in the sunshine, stooping to pick
the daisies which she wove into a star-like chain, when a
dark shadow blotted out the sun, and the gentle summer
breeze changed to a whistling hurricane. Then down swooped
two fiery dragons drawing a brazen car in which sat the
Giant and that wicked Magician. They caught the maiden up
and carried her off to the castle before she could even cry
for help. But so fair and innocent was the lily maid that
their black spells were powerless to work their will, and
they could only change her into a gentle white doe, who even
now lives in the woods around the Enchanted Castle."
Jack's eyes flashed with anger as he listened to this tale,
and he grasped his sword in hot haste.
"I will not rest until I have slain the monsters," he cried.
"Beware how thou seekest to enter the castle," said the old
man gravely. "At the gate are two fiery griffins who have
torn to pieces many knights who sought to free the maiden.
But once beyond them, all will
 be well. For on the inner
wall there is a legend cut in stone which will teach thee
how to break the evil spell which is woven around all those
within the walls of the Enchanted Castle."
Without waiting to bear another word Jack quickly put on his
magic coat, and with the shoes of swiftness he quickly
climbed to the brow of the Dark Mountain. And there he saw
the gloomy walls of the Enchanted Castle standing black
against the sky; while at its gates two fiery dragons were
breathing out smoke and flame, just as the old man had
But the dragons could not see Jack, for he had on his
invisible coat, and he crept past them unnoticed and entered
the inner court.
There against the gate hung a silver trumpet, and underneath
were these words graven in the stone:
"He who dares this trumpet blow
Shall the Giant overthrow.
Black enchantment's day is past
When shall sound the silver blast."
 The moment he had read these words, Jack seized the trumpet
with both hands and blew such a blast upon it that it seemed
as if the very walls of the castle shook.
An answering noise as of distant thunder came from within
the castle, and in a moment the Giant and the Magician
appeared at the gate, their eyes rolling with terror, and
their knees knocking together. For they knew their wicked
spells were broken for ever.
Before the Giant could grasp his club Jack waved the magic
sword in the air and cut off his head at one blow. Then,
with a shriek of despair, the Magician bounded into the
brazen car and was carried out of sight by the fiery
And scarcely had the last echoes of the silver blast died
away, when the black shadow was lifted from the Enchanted
Castle and all the knights and ladies were changed back to
their proper shapes. The trees burst out into blossom and
the flowers sprang up in the garden, and instead of the
"White Doe there stood the most beautiful maiden that Jack
had ever seen.
 So the wicked spell was broken and every one was set free.
And when King Arthur heard of all the brave deeds which Jack
had done, he made him one of his own knights, and for a
reward gave him the hand of the beautiful maiden, and the
Enchanted Castle for his home.
So Jack was married to the lily maid, and people came from
far and near to do honour to their brave deliverer, Jack the