Ebooks, Fiction, Non-Fiction 1000s of Free books and stories online to read now ~ Main Page

 

 

 

THE HISTORY

OF

JACK

THE

GIANT-KILLER

CONTAINING
His Birth and Parentage
His Meeting with the King's Son; His Noble
Conquests over many Monstrous Giants
And his rescuing a Beautiful Lady, whom he
afterwards married.

edited by R. H. Cunningham


In the reign of King Arthur, near the Land's-End of England, in the county of Cornwall, there lived a wealthy farmer, who had only one son, commonly known by the name of Jack. He was brisk, and of a lively, ready wit, so that whatever he could not perform by strength he completed by wit and policy. Never was any person heard of that could worst him; nay, the learned he baffled by his cunning and ready inventions.

For instance, when he was no more than seven years of age, his father sent him into the field to look after his oxen. A country vicar, by chance one day coming across the field, called Jack, and asked him several questions; in particular, "How many commandments were there?" Jack told him there were nine. The parson replied, "There are ten." "Nay," quoth Jack, "master parson, you are out of that; it is true there were ten, but you have broken one of them." The parson replied, "Thou art an arch wag, Jack." "Well, master parson," quoth Jack, "you have asked me one question, and I have answered it; let me ask you another. Who made these oxen?" The parson replied, "God." "You are out again," quoth Jack, "for God made them bulls, but my father and his man Hobson made oxen of them." The parson, finding himself fooled, trudged away, leaving Jack in a fit of laughter.

In those days the mount of Cornwall was kept by a huge and monstrous giant of 27 feet high and of 3 yards in compass, of a grim countenance, to the terror of all the neighbouring towns. His habitation was a cave in the midst of the mount; neither would he suffer any living creature to inhabit near him. His feeding was upon other men's cattle; for whensoever he had occasion for food he would wade over to the main land, where he would furnish himself with whatever he could find; for the people at his approach would forsake their habitations; then he would take their cows and oxen, of which he would make nothing to carry over on his back half a dozen at a time; and as for sheep and hogs, he would tie them round his waist. This he had for many years practised in Cornwall.

But one day Jack, coming to the Town Hall, when the Magistrates were sitting in consternation about the giant, he asked what reward they would give to any person that would destroy him. They answered, "He shall have all the giant's treasure in recompense." Quoth Jack, "Then I myself will undertake the work."

Jack furnished himself with a horn, a shovel, and a pick-axe, and over to the mount he goes in the beginning of a dark winter evening, where he fell to work, and before morning had digged a pit 22 feet deep, and as broad, and covered the same over with long sticks and straw; then strewed a little mould upon it, so that it appeared like the plain ground.

This done, Jack places himself on the contrary side of the pit just about the dawning of the day, when, putting his horn to his mouth, he then blew, "Tan twivie, tan twivie," which unexpected noise roused the giant, who came roaring towards Jack, crying out, "You incorrigible villain, are you come hither to break my rest? You shall dearly pay for it; satisfaction I will have, and it shall be this—I will take you wholly and broil you for my breakfast," which words were no sooner out of his mouth but he tumbled headlong into the deep pit, whose heavy fall made the very foundation of the mount to shake.

"Oh! giant, where are you now? Faith, you are got into Lobb's Pond, where I shall 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?" Thus having tantalized the giant for a while, he gave him a most weighty knock on the crown of his head with his pick-axe, so that he immediately tumbled down, gave a most dreadful groan, and died. This done, Jack threw the earth in upon him, and so buried him; then, going and searching the cave, he found a great quantity of treasure.

Now, when the Magistrates who employed him heard the work was over, they sent for him, declaring that he should henceforth be called Jack the Giant-Killer. And in honour thereof, they presented him with a sword, together with a fine rich embroidered belt, on which these words were wrought in letters of gold—

"Here's the right valiant Cornish man
 Who slew the giant Cormillan."

The news of Jack's victory was soon spread; when another huge giant, named Blunderboar, hearing of it, vowed to be revenged on Jack if ever it was his fortune to light upon him. This giant kept an enchanted castle, situated in the midst of a lonesome wood. Now, Jack, about four months after, walking near the borders of the said wood, on his journey towards Wales, grew weary, and therefore sat himself down by the side of a pleasant fountain, where a deep sleep suddenly seized on him, at which time the giant coming for water, found him; and by the line on his belt knew him to be Jack that killed his brother; and, without any words, threw him upon his shoulder, to carry him to his enchanted castle.

Now, as they passed through a thicket, the ruffling of the boughs awaked poor Jack, who, finding himself in the clutches of the giant, was strangely surprised; for, at the entering within the first walls of the castle, he beheld the ground all covered with bones and skulls of dead men, the giant telling Jack that his bones would enlarge the number that he saw. This said, he brought him into a large parlour, where he beheld the bloody quarters of some who were lately slain, and in the next room were many hearts and livers, which the giant, in order to terrify Jack, told him "that men's hearts and livers were the choicest of his diet, for he commonly ate them with pepper and vinegar, and he did not question but his heart would make him a dainty bit." This said, he locks up poor Jack in an upper room, while he went to fetch another giant living in the same wood, that he might partake in the destruction of poor Jack.

Now, while he was gone, dreadful shrieks and cries affrighted poor Jack, especially a voice which continually cried—

"Do what you can to get away,
 Or you'll become the giant's prey;
 He's gone to fetch his brother, who
 Will kill and likewise torture you."
 

This dreadful noise so amazed poor Jack he was ready to run distracted. Seeing from the window afar off the two giants coming, "Now," quoth Jack to himself, "my death or deliverance is at hand."

There were strong cords in the room by him, of which he takes two, at the end of which he makes a noose, and, while the giant was unlocking the gate, he threw the ropes over each of the heads, and, drawing the other end across the beam, he pulled with all his strength until he had throttled them; and then, fastening the rope to the beam, turning towards the window he beheld the two giants to be black in their faces. Sliding down by the rope, he came close to their heads, where the helpless giants could not defend themselves, and, drawing out his sword, slew them both, and delivered himself from their intended cruelty; then, taking out a bunch of keys, he unlocked the rooms, where he found three fair ladies, tied by the hair of their heads, almost starved to death, who told Jack that their husbands were slain by the giant, and that they were kept many days without food, in order to force them to feed upon the flesh of their husbands.

"Sweet ladies," quoth Jack, "I have destroyed this monster, and his brutish brother, by which I have obtained your liberties." This said, he presented them with the keys of the castle, and so proceeded on his journey to Wales.

Jack, having but very little money, thought it prudent to make the best of his way by travelling as fast as he could, but, losing his road, was benighted, and could not get a place of entertainment until he came to a valley placed between two hills, where stood a large house in a lonesome place. He took courage to knock at the gate, and to his great surprise there came forth a monstrous giant, having two heads; yet he did not seem so fiery as the others had been, for he was a Welsh giant, and what he did was by secret malice, for Jack telling his condition he bid him welcome, showing him a room with a bed in it, whereon he might take his night's repose; therefore Jack undressed himself, and, as the giant was walking to another apartment, Jack heard him mutter forth these words to himself—

"Though here you lodge with me this night,  You shall not see the morning light;  My club shall dash your brains out quite."

"Sayest thou so," quoth Jack; "this is like your Welsh tricks; yet I hope to be cunning enough for you." Then getting out of bed he put a billet in his stead, and hid himself in a corner of the room; and in the dead time of the night the Welsh giant came with his great knotty club, and struck several heavy blows upon the head where Jack had laid the billet, and then returned to his own chamber, supposing he had broken all the bones in his body.

In the morning Jack gave him hearty thanks for his lodging. The giant said to him, "How have you rested? Did you not feel something in the night?" "Nothing," quoth Jack, "but a rat which gave me three or four slaps with her tail." Soon after the giant arose and went to breakfast with a bowl of hasty pudding, containing nearly four gallons, giving Jack the like quantity, who, being loath to let the giant know he could not eat with him, got a large leathern bag, putting it very artfully under his loose coat, into which he secretly conveyed his pudding, telling the giant he could show him a trick; then, taking a large knife, he ripped open the bag, which the giant supposed to be his belly, when out came the hasty pudding, at which the Welsh giant cried, "Cotsplut, hur can do dat trick hurself." Then, taking his sharp knife, he ripped up his own belly from the bottom to the top; and out dropped his bowels, so that he fell down for dead. Thus Jack outwitted the giant, and proceeded on his journey.

About this time King Arthur's son only desired of his father to furnish him with a certain sum of money, that he might go and seek his fortune in Wales, where a beautiful lady lived, whom he heard was possessed with seven evil spirits; but the king his father advised him utterly against it, yet he would not be persuaded of it; so he granted what he requested, which was one horse loaded with money, and another for himself to ride on; thus he went forth without any attendants.

Now, after several days' travel, he came to a market town in Wales, where he beheld a large concourse of people gathered together. The king's son demanded the reason of it, and was told that they had arrested a corpse for many large sums of money which the deceased owed when he died. The king's son replied, "It is a pity that creditors should be so cruel; go bury the dead, and let his creditors come to my lodging, and their debts shall be discharged." Accordingly they came in great numbers, so that he left himself moneyless.

Now, Jack the Giant-Killer being there, and, seeing the generosity of the king's son, he was taken with him, and desired to be his servant. It was agreed upon the next morning, when, riding out at the town-end, the king's son, turning to Jack, said, "I cannot tell how I will subsist in my intended journey." "For that," quoth Jack, "take you no care: let me alone; I warrant you we will not want."

Now, Jack, having a spell in his pocket, which served at noon for a refreshment, when done, they had not one penny left betwixt them. The afternoon they spent in travel and discourse, till the sun began to grow low, at which time the king's son said, "Jack, since we have no money, where can we think to lodge this night?" Jack replied, "We'll do well enough, for I have an uncle living within two miles of this. He is a monstrous giant with three heads; he will fight 500 men in armour, and make them to fly before him." "Alas!" saith the king's son, "what shall we do there? He will certainly chop us both up at one mouthful!" "It is no matter for that," quoth Jack; "I will go before and prepare the way for you. Tarry here."

He waits, and Jack rides full speed; when he came to the castle, he knocked with such a force that he made all the neighbouring hills to resound. The giant, with a voice like thunder, roared out, "Who's there?" He answered, "None but your own cousin Jack. Dear uncle, heavy news, God wot." "Prithee, what heavy news can come to me? I am a giant with three heads, and besides thou knowest I can fight five hundred men." "O! but," quoth Jack, "here's the king's son coming with 1,000 men to kill you." "Oh! Jack, this is heavy news indeed. I have a large vault under ground, where I will hide myself, and thou shalt lock, bolt, and bar me in, and keep the keys till the king's son is gone."

Jack having secured the giant, he returned and fetched his master. They were both heartily merry with the wine and other dainties which were in the house; so that night they rested in very pleasant lodgings, whilst the poor uncle the giant lay trembling in the vault under ground.

Early in the morning Jack furnished his master with a supply of gold and silver, and set him three miles forward on his journey, concluding he was then pretty well out of the smell of the giant, and then returned to let his uncle out of the hole, who asked Jack what he would give him in reward, since his castle was not demolished. "Why," quoth Jack, "I desire nothing but the old coat and cap, together with the old rusty sword and slippers which are at your bed-head." "Jack, thou shalt have them, and pray keep them for my sake, for they are things of excellent use. The coat will keep you invisible; the cap will furnish you with knowledge; the sword cuts asunder whatever you strike, and the shoes are of extraordinary swiftness: these may be serviceable to you, and therefore pray take them with all my heart." Jack takes them, thanking his uncle, and follows his master.

Jack, having overtaken his master, soon after arrived at the lady's house, who, finding the king's son to be a suitor, prepared a banquet for him, and, being ended, she wiped his mouth with her napkin, saying, "You must show this to-morrow, or else lose your head," and she put it safely into her bosom.

The king's son went to bed sorrowful, but Jack's cap of knowledge instructed him how to obtain it. In the middle of the night she called upon her familiar spirit to carry her to Lucifer. Jack put on his coat of darkness, with his shoes of swiftness, and was there as soon as her; by reason of his coat they could not see him. When she entered the place she gave the handkerchief to old Lucifer, who laid it carefully upon a shelf, from whence Jack brought it to his master, who showed it to the lady the next day.

The next night she saluted the king's son, telling him he must show her to-morrow morning the lips that she kissed last this night, or lose his head. "Ah," replied he, "if you kiss none but mine I will." "It 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 Lucifer for letting the handkerchief go. "But now," said she, "I will be too hard for the king's son, for I will kiss thee, and he's to show thy lips." Jack, standing near him with his sword of sharpness, cut off the devil's head, and brought it under his invisible coat to his master, who was in bed, and laid it at the end of his bolster. In the morning, when the lady came up, he pulled it out by the horns, and showed her the devil's lips, which she kissed last.

Thus, having answered her twice, the enchantment broke, and the evil spirits left her, at which time she appeared a beautiful and virtuous creature. They were married next morning in great pomp and solemnity, and returned with a numerous company to the court of King Arthur, where they were received with the greatest joy and loud acclamations Jack, for the many and great exploits he had done for the good of his country, was made one of the Knights of the Round Table.

Jack, having resolved not to be idle, humbly requested of the king to fit him with a horse and money to travel, "for," said he, "there are many giants alive in the remotest parts of the kingdom, to the unspeakable damage of your Majesty's liege subjects; wherefore, may it please your Majesty to give me encouragement to rid the realm of these cruel and devouring monsters of nature, root and branch."

Now, when the king had heard these noble propositions, and had duly considered the mischievous practices of these blood-thirsty giants, he immediately granted what Jack requested; and, being furnished with all necessaries for his progress, he took his leave of King Arthur, taking with him the cap of knowledge, sword of sharpness, shoes of swiftness, and likewise the invisible coat, the better to perfect and complete the dangerous enterprises that lay before him.

Jack travelled over vast hills and mountains, when, at the end of three days, he came to a large and spacious wood, where, on a sudden, he heard dreadful shrieks and cries, whereupon, casting his eyes around, he beheld a giant rushing along with a worthy knight and his fair lady, whom he held by the hair of their heads in his hands, wherefore he alighted from off his horse, and then, putting on his invisible coat, under which he carried his sword of sharpness, he came up to the giant, and, though he made several passes at him, yet he could not reach the trunk of his body, by reason of his height, though it wounded his thighs in several places; but at length, giving him a swinging stroke, he cut off both his legs just below the knee, so that the trunk of his body made the ground shake with the force of his fall, at which the knight and the lady escaped; then had Jack time to talk with him, and, setting his foot upon his neck, said, "You savage and barbarous wretch, I am come to execute upon you the just reward of your villainy." And with that, running him through and through, the monster sent forth a hideous groan, and yielded up his life, while the noble knight and virtuous lady were joyful spectators of his sudden downfall and their own deliverance.

This being done, the courteous knight and his fair lady returned him hearty thanks for their deliverance, but also invited him home, there to refresh himself after the dreadful encounter, as likewise to receive ample reward, by way of gratitude for his good service. "No," quoth Jack, "I cannot be at ease till I find out the den which was this monster's habitation." The knight hearing this waxed sorrowful, and replied, "Noble stranger, it is too much to run a second risk, for this monster lived in a den under yon mountain, with a brother of his, more fierce than himself; therefore, if you go thither and perish in the attempt, it would be the heartbreaking of both me and my lady. Let me persuade you to go with us." "Nay," quoth Jack, "if there were twenty I would shed the last drop of my blood before one of them should escape my fury; but when I have finished this task I will come and pay my respects to you." So, taking directions to their habitation, he mounted his horse, and went in pursuit of the deceased giant's brother.

Jack had not rode past a mile before he came in sight of the cave's mouth, at the entrance of which he beheld the other giant sitting upon a huge block of timber, with a knotty iron club by his side, waiting for his brother's return with his cruel prey. His goggle eyes appeared like terrible flames of fire, his countenance grim and ugly, and his cheeks appeared like a couple of large flitches of bacon; the bristles of his head seemed to resemble rods of iron wire; his locks hung down on his broad shoulders like curled snakes.

Jack alighted from his horse, and put him into a thicket; then, with his coat of darkness, he came near to behold his figure, and said, "Oh! are you here? It will not be long before I take you by the beard." The giant could not see him by reason of his invisible coat: so Jack, fetching a blow at his head with his sword of sharpness, and missing somewhat of his aim, cut off the giant's nose, whose nostrils were wider than a pair of jack-boots. The pain was terrible; he put up his hand to feel for his nose, and when he could not find it he raved and roared louder than thunder; and, though he turned up his large eyes, he could not see from whence the blow came; nevertheless, he took up his iron-headed club, and began to thrash about him like one stark mad. "Nay," quoth Jack, "if you be for that sport, then I will despatch you quickly, for fear of an accidental blow." Then Jack makes no more to do, but runs his sword up to the hilt in the giant's body, where he left it sticking for a while, and stood himself laughing to see the giant caper and dance with the sword in him, crying out he should die with the pain in his body. Thus did the giant continue raving for an hour or more, and at length fell down dead.

This being done, Jack cut off both the giants' heads, and sent them to King Arthur by a waggoner, whom he hired for the purpose.

Jack, having despatched these two monsters, resolved to enter the cave in search of the giant's treasure. He passed through many turnings and windings, which led him at length to a room paved with freestone, at the upper end of which was a boiling cauldron; on the right hand stood a large table, where the giants used to dine; then he came to an iron gate, where was a window secured with bars of iron, through which he looked, and beheld a vast many captives, who, seeing Jack, said, "Young man, art thou come to be one among us in this miserable den?" "Ay," quoth Jack, "I hope I shall not tarry long here; but what is the meaning of your captivity?" "Why," said one of them, "we have been taken by the giants, and here we are kept till they have a feast, then the fattest among us is slaughtered for their devouring jaws. It is not long since they took three of us for the purpose." "Say you so," quoth Jack; "well, I have given them both such a dinner that it will be long enough ere they need any more. You may believe me, for I have slain them both; and as for their monstrous heads, I sent them to the court of King Arthur as trophies of my victory." Then, leading them to the aforesaid room, he placed them round the table, and set before them two quarters of beef, also bread and wine, so that they feasted there very plentifully. Supper being ended, they searched the giant's coffers, where, finding a vast store of gold, Jack divided it equally among them. They all returned him hearty thanks for their treasure and miraculous deliverance. That night they went to their rest, and in the morning they arose and departed to their respective places of abode, and Jack to the knight's house.

Jack mounted his horse, and by his direction he came to the knight's house, where he was received with all demonstrations of joy by the knight and his lady, who, in respect to Jack, prepared a feast, which lasted for many days, inviting all the gentry in the adjacent parts. He presented him with a ring of gold, on which was engraven by curious art the picture of the giant dragging a distressed knight and his fair lady by the hair of the head.

Now, there were five aged gentlemen who were fathers to some of those miserable captives whom Jack had set at liberty, who immediately paid him their respects. The smiling bowl was then pledged to the victorious conqueror, but during their mirth a dark cloud appeared, which daunted the assembly.

A messenger brought the dismal tidings of the approach of one Thunderful, a huge giant with two heads, who, having heard of the death of his kinsmen, the above-named giants, was come in search of Jack, to be revenged on him for their terrible downfall, and was within a mile of the knight's seat, the people flying before him from their habitations. When they had related this, Jack said, "Let him come. I am prepared with a tool to pick his teeth, and you, gentlemen and ladies, walk forth into the garden, and you shall be the joyful spectators of this monstrous giant's death." To which they consented, wishing him good fortune in that great enterprise.

The situation of the knight's house was in a small island, encompassed with a vast moat, thirty feet deep and twenty feet wide, over which lay a draw-bridge. Wherefore Jack employed two men to cut it on both sides, and then, dressing himself in his coat of darkness, putting on his shoes of swiftness, he marched against the giant, with his sword of sharpness ready drawn. When he came close up, the giant could not see Jack, by reason of his invisible coat; nevertheless, he was sensible of approaching danger, which made him cry out—

"Fe, Fi, Fo, Fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman; be he living or be he dead, I'll grind his bones to mix my bread."

"Sayest thou so," quoth Jack; "then thou art a monstrous miller. But how? If I serve thee as I did the two giants of late, I should spoil your practice for the future."

At which time the giant spoke with a voice as loud as thunder—"Art thou that villain which destroyed my kinsmen? Then I will tear thee with my teeth, and suck thy blood. I will grind thy bones to powder."

"Catch me first," quoth Jack; and he threw off his coat of darkness that the giant might see him, and then ran from him as through fear, the giant, with glaring eyes, following after like a walking castle, making the earth to shake at every step. Jack led him a dance three or four times round the moat, that the ladies and gentlemen might take a full view of this huge monster who followed Jack, but could not overtake him by reason of his shoes of swiftness. At length Jack took over the bridge, the giant, with full speed, pursuing after him, with his iron club; but, coming to the middle of the draw-bridge, the weight of his body, and the most dreadful steps which he took, it broke down, and he tumbled into the water, where he rolled and wallowed like a whale. Jack, standing at the side of the moat, laughed at the giant, and said, "You would grind my bones to powder? You have water; pray, where is your mill?" The giant foamed to hear him scoffing at that rate, though he plunged from place to place in the moat. Jack at length got a cart rope, and cast it over the giant's two heads with a slip knot, and, by the help of horses, he dragged him out again, nearly strangled. Before he would let him loose, he cut off both his heads with his sword of sharpness, in the view of all the assembly of knights and ladies, who gave a shout when they saw the giant despatched. Then, before he would either eat or drink, he sent these heads also to the court of King Arthur.

After some mirth and pastime, Jack, taking leave of the noble knights and ladies, set off in search of new adventures. Through many woods and groves he passed, till, coming to the foot of a high mountain late at night, he knocked at the door of a lonesome house, at which a man, with a head as white as snow, arose and let him in.

"Father," said Jack, "have you any entertainment for a benighted traveller that has lost his way?"

"Yes," said the old man; "if thou wilt accept of such as my poor cottage afford, thou shalt be welcome." Jack returned him thanks. They sat together, and the old man began to discourse as follows—"Son, I am sensible thou art the great conqueror of giants, and it is in thy power to free this place; for there is an enchanted castle kept by a monstrous giant, named Galligantus, who, by the help of a conjurer, betrays knights and ladies into this strong castle, where, by magic art, they are transformed into sundry shapes; but, above all, I lament the misfortune of a duke's daughter, whom they fetched from her father's garden, carrying her through the air in a charion drawn by fiery dragons. She was immediately transformed into the shape of a white hind. Many knights have endeavoured to break the enchantment for her deliverance, yet none could accomplish it, by reason of two griffins, who are at the entrance of the castle gate, who destroy them as they see them; but you, being furnished with an invisible coat, may pass them undiscovered, where, on the gates of the castle, you will find engraven in characters the means the enchantment may be broken."

Jack gave him his hand, with a promise that in the morning he would break the enchantment and free the lady.

Having refreshed themselves with a morsel of meat, they laid down to rest. In the morning Jack arose, and put on his invisible coat, his cap of knowledge, and shoes of swiftness, and so prepared himself for the dangerous enterprise.

Now, when he had ascended the mountain he discovered the two fiery griffins. He passed between them, for they could not see him by reason of his invisible coat. When he had got beyond them, he found upon the gate a golden trumpet, hung in a chain of fine silver, under which were engraven—

"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 inscription, but he blew the trumpet, at which the foundation of the castle trembled, and the giant, with the conjurer, were tearing their hair, knowing their wicked reign was at an end. At which time the giant was stooping to take up his club; Jack, at one blow with his sword of sharpness, cut off his head. The conjurer mounted into the air, and was carried away by a whirlwind. Thus was the enchantment broken, and every knight and lady who had been transformed into birds and beasts returned to their proper shapes, and the castle, though it seemed to be of a vast strength and bigness, vanished away like a cloud, whereon universal joy appeared among the released knights and ladies. This being done, the head of Galligantus was conveyed to the court of King Arthur the next day. Having refreshed the knights and ladies at the old man's habitation, Jack set forward to the court of King Arthur with those knights and ladies whom he delivered.

Coming to his Majesty, his fame rung through the court, and; as a reward of his services, the duke bestowed his daughter in marriage to Jack. The whole kingdom was filled with joy at the wedding; after which the king bestowed upon him a noble house, with a large estate, where he and his lady passed their days in great joy and happiness.