Jack’s Beanstalk Story
In the beginning, we were livin’ on the farm, and things weren’t going so well. There was nothin’ to eat, and the cow had stopped givin’ us milk. I was tired all the time and Mama was always scoldin’ me and callin’ me a ‘lazy no good for nothing.’
A dark cloud hung over the sky, but it never did rain and I never did cry, neither. Sometimes I talked to Daisy the cow. She was my only friend, an’ it didn’t matter to me that she didn’t give us no milk. How could she when she had so little hay?
Then one day my Mama told me to take the cow to the butcher. We needed to sell her for money. There was nothin’ left in the cupboards to eat.
I didn’t want to take Daisy to town but I promised her that I would come an’ get her just as soon as I could figure out how to get some money.
The butcher was a big man with a bad temper and he scared me, standin’ there with his cleaver—scared me so much I could hardly speak.
“What have you done to this cow?” he roared. “She’s not worth anything to me, she’s nothin’ more than a sack of bones. I won’t give you beans for her. Come to think of it—take these.”
He stuck his hand in the pocket of his bloodied apron, an’ he pulled out some beans. They were every different size and color, the most interesting beans I ever did see. I couldn’t wait to plant ’em.
When I came home, I showed Mama the beans. I thought she’d be happy but she got so mad, she kicked the beans outta my hand and they flew out the window.
I went to bed with no supper that night, and then I did cry. I looked out at Mother Moon risin’ up under the clouds of the sky an’ I said, “Take me with you Mother Moon. I’m lazy and good for nothin’ and it’s my fault Mama’s sick and we’re poor. I wish I could be a big man, but I’m not, not inside or out.”
I went to sleep, and the next thing I knew, I was wakin’ up. I didn’t know where I was ’cause there was somethin’ wavin’ at me through the window. It had a green body and flat green hands. “Howdy, Jack. Come on outside,” the green man said. I thought I must have died, and then I opened my eyes all the way, and blinked, an’ sat up straight. Outside the window, there was somethin’ growin’, bigger than anythin’ I ever did see!
Where did the corn come from? That was my first thought. And then I realized that it weren’t a cornstalk I was lookin’ at. It was a beanstalk! I rubbed my eyes. No way. I must be dreamin’. But I weren’t dreamin’. It was for real. There was a beanstalk growin’ outside my window, and not just one. There was a whole group of them growin’ ’round one another, and up into the sky. I pulled on my trousers and ran outside. I couldn’t see to the top of the beanstalk, but what I could see was that it was makin’ a ladder for me to climb! The leaves were wavin’ at me and sayin’, “Come on up, Jack. You can climb me. Here’s a way up.”
I fergot I was tired and hungry, that’s fer sure! I thought, Mama was wrong. Those WERE magic beans the butcher gave to me. The way I look at it, any seed’s got magic in it, but standin’ under those leaves that were waving at me like elephants’ ears, I was more amazed than I’ve ever been in my entire life. And the beanstalk was sayin’, “You’re right to believe in magic, Jack. Now, climb aboard!”
Just before I set out to climb, I went to the house to tell Mama where I was going.
She put on her housecoat and came runnin’ outside. I figgered I had better get goin’ an’ I started on up.
“The stalks are firm, Mama, I’ll be fine.”
“No, you won’t. You come down off that thing before you kill yourself, Jack.”
I ignored her. She yelled at me then. “You listen to me, young man. Come down off that beanstalk right this instant!”
“I have to see what’s up there, Ma. Bye!”
She started cryin’ an’ makin’ a huge racket. “How can you do this to your poor mother? How can you leave me alone down here to starve?”
I climbed higher and higher. I had to keep my eyes on the stalks ’cause if I fell now, I’d hurt myself.
She kept yellin’ about how I didn’t understand what I was doing. She sounded real scared, but I had to shut my ears.
I climbed for a long time, and I had to take lots of rests ’cause I didn’t have any food in my belly. When I got to the top I stepped onto a dark cloud that looked like a desert. Nothin’ growin’ up there at all. If this was heaven, maybe we were better off down on the ground.
I sat on a rock to catch my breath. A feeling of weakness took me over. And I started to think maybe I should go down. I was pretty disappointed after all my effort.
Then I saw this pretty lady come walkin’ towards me. I got to my feet, thinkin’, okay, now, things are lookin’ up! She was dressed in fancy clothes and she carried a stick with a golden peacock on the end. The peacock was alive and cryin’ somethin’ awful, like a baby in the crib.
“Hey, Jack,” she says.
“Hey there yourself. How do you know my name?”
“Oh, I know everything about you, Jack. I’m a fairy,” she says. “And I know about your father, too. Your Mama ever tell you about your father?”
“No, she won’t talk to me about that,” I says.
“Of course she won’t. Well, I know everything about him and I’ll tell you the whole story, only you’ve gotta do exactly what I tell you to do.”
“What if I don’t?”
She wrinkled up her nose and she said, “Well then you’ll be destroyed. And your Mama, too.”
Destroyed? I thought, holy cow, this fairy weren’t nearly charmin’ as she looked.
But I sure did want to know about my Daddy. I’d asked Mama about him hundreds of times, but she never told me anythin’. All she’d say is, “The past is the past and let’s keep it there, Jack. Now you go clean out the barn like I told you to. How many times do I have to repeat myself?”
I steadied myself on the spongy cloud. “Okay, if you know something about my Daddy, you had better tell me.”
The fairy pointed to some kind of dark shadow loomin’ out of the mist of the clouds. “See that big mansion over there? It’s the house of a giant, Jack, and that giant murdered your father. You want to know how?”
Then she went on to tell me a whole big story. She said my Daddy was a kind man, and he had a lot of money. He was always holding parties for his friends, and helpin’ people out when they were down on their luck. One day a giant an’ his wife came to the door, an’ the giant said that they’d lost everything in a fire. My Daddy took pity on them and let them come and live with him and Mama.
It occurred to me that my Daddy must have had giant house to house a giant. Or maybe he had to do renovations. I had to push the thoughts aside, though, because the fairy talked so sharp and fast.
One day, a big storm came in off the sea, and the giant ran into the house. He said ships were gettin’ wrecked an’ people needed rescue. All hands on deck! The servants ran outside to help with the rescue operation. Only Daddy remained in the house, along with Mama, who was holdin’ me ’cause I was just a baby. When my Daddy came into the kitchen, the giant was waitin’ for him. He stuck a dagger into my Daddy’s back an’ murdered him in cold blood.
Mama heard him cry out, an’ she ran into the kitchen with me in her arms. When she saw my Daddy lyin’ dead in a pool of blood, she fainted. When she came to, the giant was standin’ over us. He said, “I’ll spare your life if you never breathe a word about what happened to your husband. If you do, I’ll come back, and worse will happen to you AND your son.”
The fairy said that Mama ran from the house with me in her arms, and she kept on runnin’ until we got as far away as we could from that giant.
Then the giant got his wife to help him fill two large chests, one with gold and the other with silver. They carried them outside and the giant set fire to the house.
“How do you know all this?” I asked.
The fairy swung her wand, makin’ a half-loop in the air. “I know because I was your father’s guardian,” she said.
“Nice job you did guardin’ him. Where were you when he got murdered?”
She sniffed the air. “Let’s just say I was…otherwise occupied.”
“How?” I demanded.
She gave me a dead cold look. “Water under the bridge, Jack, but if you must know, I broke the law. It wasn’t much more than a misdemeanor but I was suspended by the Fairy King for a period of time, which means that I wasn’t able to protect your father on that particular day.”
I was shocked. “My Daddy got murdered because of you?”
“Settle down, Jack. I’m back now. My powers were restored on the day you went to sell your mother’s cow. When I saw how poor you were, I took you under my protection.”
“I don’t need your protection!” I shouted. I’d heard enough. I turned to go back down the beanstalk.
The fairy blocked my way. “Why did you think you accepted the beans from the butcher in the first place?”
“A voice in your head told you to take ’em, and that was me.”
“No it wasn’t!”
“And by my power the beanstalk grew.…”
“I even inspired you to climb it.”
I was too furious to speak. I pushed her aside and started down the beanstalk to put an end to this nonsense.
“Now you have to do what you promised, Jack. You are the one who’s been appointed to punish the giant.” She clipped me on the top of my head with her peacock wand, and the peacock yowled again, like it had been bonked instead of me. I stayed put.
“You must avenge the death of your father. If you don’t, the giant will destroy you.”
“How am I supposed to do that?”
“You’ve got to get into the giant’s house and take back the money he carried off from your father. Also, you gotta take back two important curiosities that he stole from the fairies.
“And, finally, you are not to say a word to your mother about any of this. Not until you see me again.”
The fairy turned away and headed off into the mist. “How am I supposed to get into the giant’s house?” I shouted. But she just kept on goin,’ swingin’ her wand and her hips. Then she looked over her shoulder and said, “Do exactly what I tell you, Jack, and you’ll have my protection. If you don’t, you ‘ll die.”
“It wasn’t even my fault!” I shouted as she disappeared into the smoky gloom.
I set off to the giant’s house. I figured that if the fairy was gonna protect me, I could do this thing. I knocked on the door and a big ol’ woman came to answer it. She was four times my size. She had a round fruit face that looked swollen as if she’d been cryin’. Or maybe she put in too much effort to get to the door. When she saw me, she lowered her big self down and looked at me with two little pins of light in her blue eyes.
I said, “I’m real poor and hungry, too. Do you think you might have a morsel of bread?”
“What are you doin’ here, child?” she said. “My husband’s a flesh eater, and he likes human meat best. Don’t you know that? He’ll walk fifty miles to eat a little feller like you.”
“I’d be scared if I weren’t so hungry,” I whined. I wasn’t lying, neither.
“Oh, your poor child, look at you. Nothin’ on your bones. Come on in, and lemme see what I can find fer you.”
I followed her into the house. The living room was very big, but there weren’t any furniture in it.
As we were passin’ through, I heard men moanin’. I looked down a hall and saw prisoners trapped in a cell. They were just like Daisy, waitin’ for the butcher’s block! I swear I saw the figure of Death sitting down there at the end of the hall. What if the giant’s wife put ME in a pie?
Well, turns out, she didn’t put me in a pie, she gave me some. Sat me down and assured me it weren’t filled with anythin’ but chicken.
Then we heard the giant comin’ in. She got up an’ opened the oven door. “Git in there, now, quick!”
I hid in the dark, warm stove while the giant ate his supper. He was complainin’ about the poor harvest down below and the fact that there wasn’t nothin’ left worth stealin’. Then he said, “Bring me my hen.”
I heard the hen cluckin’ and squawkin’, an’ I thought he was gonna kill her for fun. But he just said: “Lay!”
Then he said: “Lay again!” Then he said: “Even these golden eggs are gettin’ smaller. You stop layin’ big eggs for me and I’ll stop you layin’ for once and for all.” “Cuck-a-cluck CLA!” the hen cried. Poor creature. Must be one of the fairies’ curiosities ’cause I never heard of a golden egg-layin’ hen!
Soon after, the giant fell asleep. I peeked out of the oven door. The giant’s wife had left the room. I took my chance and bolted. Grabbed the hen from the table an’ ran like the wind.
I got down the beanstalk, and ran into the house to show Mama what I got. “Where did you get that from?” she asked.
“Fairies, Mama. There’s a good fairy up there in heaven. But we’ve got to hide the hen, okay? Don’t let anyone see her, ever.”
“You don’t have to tell me twice, Jack!” She put her down in the cellar, and the hen was so happy down there in the dark coolness that she laid one golden egg after another, and never did need any forceful threats.
I waited for the giant to come down after me, but he didn’t. It occurred to me that even if he found the top of the beanstalk in all those clouds, it wouldn’t be strong enough to hold him.
I waited a couple of months, and when I got up my courage, I told my Mama I was goin’ back up agin’. I decided to dress like a girl so the giant’s wife wouldn’t recognize me as the boy who stole her golden hen.
Mama didn’t want me goin’ back up there. “I don’t want you taking things from the fairies,” she said.
“I ain’t gonna take nothin’. I just want to go up and pretend I’m a girl fairy so that I can go to the dances with all the other fairies.” She didn’t know what to say to that.
I put on my Mama’s dress, and up I went.
The giant’s wife opened the door. I said I was all alone and I had no Mama. She couldn’t help herself, she said, “Oh, you poor child.” But then she thought again. “I’m sorry, I can’t let you in. You’re gonna have to go somewhere else.” She didn’t look so good and I could distinctly see that she had the yellow remains of a black eye.
“Why? I don’t know where to go,” I said with tears in my eyes.
“‘Cause not too long ago I let a boy into the house, an’ he turned out to be a thief,” she said. “My husband was not happy about that.”
I could see by the bruises on her bare arms that he wasn’t. I cried some more, and this time the tears were real.
She said, “When’s the last time you had somethin’ to eat?” I said, “I don’t remember,” an’ she let me in.
This time when the giant came home, she hid me in the lumber closet so I wouldn’t get my dress dirty.
I stayed as quiet as a stick of timber. The giant’s wife gave her husband a big tankard of ale, and then another one after that, along with a big hearty stew. Then the giant said he wanted to count his money.
His wife dragged in two heavy bags, one full of silver and the other full of gold, and he passed the time countin’ coins and drinkin’ ale till he fell asleep. I heard his head bang on the table.
I waited till he started to snore. His wife left the room and I sprang outta the closet. I grabbed the bags and started to drag ’em out. Then the dog woke up from under the table and started barkin’. I hadn’t figgered on the dog!
I let go of the bags, grabbed a bone from the table, and threw it at him. He was happy. Then I hauled the bags out.
I got to the beanstalk an’ emptied out the money so all the coins fell to the ground. Then I climbed down.
Mama was amazed. Money rainin’ down from the heavens!
She said she had been sick with fear that I might not ever come back from heaven.
She wanted to know how I got all that money. “You gotta tell me if you’re stealing stuff, Jack,” she said. I put my arms around her and said everythin’ would be alright. It weren’t stolen, just compensation for all we’d been through. “Well you should cut that beanstalk down, NOW,” she said. “We don’t need nothin’ more from the fairies.”
“I gotta go back up, just one more time,” I said. “Not right away, but I do have to go back eventually. I have to thank the fairies.”
Meanwhile, now that we got my Daddy’s money back, we could start doin’ some repairs on the farm.
A year went by, and then another, and then I knew I had to go up and get that last curiosity. The beanstalk was growin’ stronger, jest like me, strong enough to support the giant if he came down after me.
On a midsummer day, I got up before dawn and dressed myself in a black suit. I put on some spectacles, and got myself a black bag. I put a jar of ointment in there that Mama used on burns and stings. Then I went up the beanstalk while she was still sleepin’.
When I got to the door, the giant’s wife was lookin’ pretty bad. Her neck and face were bruised from the blows she’d taken from her husband. I was right in thinkin’ she would need a doctor.
I said, “Did you call a doctor?”
I was taller now, past sixteen, an’ I had a deep voice, too. She let me in an’ we sat at the kitchen table. I asked her to tell me what was ailin’ her. She said that all her money had been stolen, and then the prisoners had escaped, an’ her husband had nearly killed her.
I was about to give her the ointment when the giant came home.
She stuffed me into the oven, which weren’t easy ’cause I had grown a couple of feet since the last time she tried that.
The giant said he could smell a human in the house. He got all riled up at the thought that she’d brought him some human flesh. She said she didn’t know what he was talkin’ about. There was only pork in the larder. She brought him a pork pie.
“I damn well know the difference between a pig and a human,” he snarled.
He went stalkin’ around openin’ cupboards and bangin’ drawers, lookin’ for the source of the smell. He looked into the lumber closet and when he lifted the pot cover on the oven, I’d never been so scared. He stuck his hand down the hole, an’ felt around. I was sure I was a goner.
His wife said, “Come on, dear. Have your ale. You’ve had a hard day. There, there.” She talked to him like he was a baby. His hand went limp an’ he drew it out. Went over to the table an’ I heard him slurpin’ and gulpin’. He ate his pie like a pig with his face in the trough. The food and the drink made him dozy, an’ he said, “Bring me my harp, woman. I could do with some music.”
“Of course, I’ll get it for you, right away, dear.” She was back in a moment, sayin’, “There, there, you go. I know how much you love your harp, dear….”
“Play!” he bellowed. And just as if the harp were its own musician, it began to play the sweetest music you ever heard. I thought, Fairy music. The last curiosity!
A little while passed and I had to shake my head to keep my own self awake because the music would make a hive of bees fall asleep. Then I heard the giant’s head crash onto the table. Wait for it, Jack, wait, I told myself, and then, when the cupboards were shakin’ with his snorin’, I crept out of the oven. This time the giant’s wife was there. I said, “Sorry, but I gotta do this.” I grabbed the harp an’ ran. It stopped playin’ and the giant woke to the silence. “Who’s there?” he roared. He was so drunk that he could hardly stand from the table. I tore outta the house with the giant reelin’ after me. I could hear him shoutin’, “I’ll wring your neck you little—!” (Well, I ain’t gonna say all the terrible words he had for “thief.”)
I got to the beanstalk, shoved the harp in my bag, and slid down—fast as a stone drops from the sky.
I ran to the house for the ax on the wood pile. I could hear the giant comin’ down the beanstalk, roarin’ like thunder. The beanstalk were crackin’ and swayin’ up there in the clouds. I started hackin’ away at the stalks—they were real tough. Then, all of a sudden, the whole plant broke and came down under the giant’s weight. He crashed into my Mama’s vegetable garden and landed on his head. I can still hear the crack of his neck. It’s the best and the worst sound I ever heard.
I knew he was dead, but still, I wasn’t sure. I wondered, Can giants come back to life agin? Mama came runnin’ out of the house, and when she saw the giant lyin’ across the cornfield with his skull cracked open and bleedin’ into her turnip patch, she let out a yelp like I never heard before. Then she grabbed me and cried, “Jack, do you know who that is? Oh Jack, oh, my darlin’ Jack! Your father would be so proud! He would be so proud!” and she danced me around the garden like I weighed no more than a scarecrow.
Suddenly a rod of bright light shone down from the sky, an’ there was the fairy, standin’ before us with her peacock wand.
Mama hid behind me ’cause she ain’t never seen a fairy. The fairy stuck out her hand and said, “Harp, please.” I pulled the harp from my bag an’ gave it to her. “Well done, Jack,” she said. “Now be a dutiful son to your mother, and follow your father’s good example.”
She said it like she were readin’ her lines from a book, and I thought to myself, You are one green fairy.
I expected her to be on her way, but she stood there, cocking her head this way and that as if she were sittin’ on a nest.
That’s when I remembered the hen in the cellar. I went in, fetched her, and handed her over to the fairy. She tucked the hen under her arm, while my Mama stood speechless, gazin’ at the fairy with eyes as big as plums.
Now the fairy spoke to Mama. She said: “It’s over now. Your son has avenged the tragic death of his father.” Then she shot back up into the heavens on the rod of light that was shinin’ in the place where the beanstalk used to be. Mama started weeping tears that flowed down her cheeks like waterfalls, and she didn’t stop cryin’ for the rest of the day and well into the night.
When news got out around the village that the giant was dead, everybody came out to the farm to see him with their own eyes. The men buried the giant in the field, and everybody knew his body would make good crops for years to come.
As for me, well you can see I’m as wealthy as my father was in his day, only I’m different than my father. I don’t let just anybody in through the door. Giants, among all people, oughta be able to build their own houses. That’s what the giant’s wife has been doin’ ever since she sank to the ground. She’s been buildin’ her own house an’ helpin’ everybody else out every way she can. If you ask her what she’s buildin’, she’d tell you it’s trust. All she ever wanted from the time she was a little giant girl was to have the trust of her friends, but she never did learn how to build it. Now we’re all pretty happy to have her around. I’d say the world needs more giants like her. Friendly ones, livin’ on the ground.
ORIGINAL VERSION: JACK AND THE BEAN-STALK
from The History of Jack and the Bean-stalk (and Michael Scott), Glasgow: Francis Orr & Sons, (1820)
In days of yore, there lived a widow who had a son, named Jack. Being an only child, he was too much indulged, and became so extravagant and careless, that he wasted the property which his mother possessed, until at last there remained only a cow, the chief support of her and her son.
One day the poor woman, with tears in her eyes, said to Jack, “O, you wicked child, by your ungrateful course in life, you have brought me to beggary in my old age: Cruel boy! I have not money to buy even a bit of bread, and we must now sell the cow. I am grieved to part with her, but I cannot see you starve.”
Jack felt somewhat remorse, but having less affection for the cow than his mother had, he drove her to the nearest market town, where he met a butcher, who made a very curious offer for her.
“Your cow,” said he, “you young prodigal dog! is worth nothing; you have starved her until she would disgrace the shambles; and, as to milk, no wonder that you and your mother have been starving while you were depending upon that supply. One ill turn deserves another, and receives it just as surely as one good turn deserves another. But you shall not take back the cow to perish with hunger. I have got some beans in my pocket; they are the oddest I ever saw, not one of them being, either in colour or shape, like another; if you will take them in exchange for the cow, you may have them.”
The silly boy could not conceal the pleasure he felt at the offer. The bargain was struck, and the cow exchanged for a few paltry beans. Jack made the best of his way home, calling to his mother, before he reached the house, thinking to surprise her. When she saw the beans, and heard Jack’s story, her patience quite forsook her; she kicked the beans away in a passion; they flew in all directions—some were scattered in the garden. Not having anything to eat, they both went supperless to bed.
Jack awoke early in the morning, and seeing something uncommon in the garden, soon discovered that some of the beans had taken root, and sprung up surprisingly; the stalks were of great thickness, and had so entwined, that they formed a ladder, nearly like a chain in appearance.
Looking upwards he could not discern the top; it appeared to be lost in the clouds. He tried the bean stalks, found them firm and not to be shaken. He quickly formed the resolution of climbing to the top, to seek his fortune, and ran to communicate his intention to his mother, not doubting but she would be equally pleased with himself. She declared he should not go: said it would break her heart if he did—entreated and threatened, but all in vain Jack set out, and after climbing for some hours, reached the top of the bean stalk quite fatigued. Looking around, he found himself in a strange country. It appeared to be a desert, quite barren; not a tree, shrub, house, or living creature to be seen.
Jack seated himself upon a stone, and thought of his mother: he reflected with sorrow on his disobedience in climbing the bean-stalk against her will, and concluded that he must die of hunger.
However, he walked on, hoping to see a house, where he might beg something to eat and drink. Presently a handsome young woman appeared at a distance. As she approached, Jack could not help admiring how beautiful she looked: she was dressed in the most elegant manner, and had a 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 female, with a smile of the most bewitching sweetness, she inquired how he came there? Jack told how he had climbed up the bean-stalk. She asked him if he recollected his father? He answered that he did not; and added, that he had inquired of his mother, who or where his father was, but that she avoided answering him, and even seemed afraid of speaking, as if there was some secret connected with his father’s history.
The lady replied, “I will reveal the whole story; your mother must not. But, before I begin, I require a solemn promise, on your part, to do what I command. I am a fairy, and if you do not perform exactly what I desire, you will be destroyed.” Jack promised to obey her injunctions, and the fairy thus addressed him:
“Your father was a rich and benevolent man; he was good to the poor, and constantly relieving them; he never let a day pass without doing good to some person. On one particular day in the week he kept open house, and invited those who were reduced and had lived well. He always sat at the table with them himself, and did all he could to render his guests comfortable. The servants were all happy, and greatly attached to their master and mistress. Such a man was soon known and talked of. A giant lived a great many miles off, who was altogether as wicked as your father was good: he was envious, covetous, and cruel, but had the art of concealing those vices.
“Hearing your father spoken of, he formed the design of becoming acquainted with him, hoping to ingratiate himself into your father’s favour. He removed quickly into your neighbourhood, caused it to be reported that he had lost all he possessed by an earthquake, and found it difficult to escape with his life; his wife was with him. Your father believed his story, and pitied him; he gave him apartments in his own house, and caused him and his wife to be treated hospitably, little imagining that the giant was meditating a horrid return for all his favours.
“Things went on in this way for some time; the giant becoming daily more impatient to put his plan into execution. At last an opportunity presented itself. Your father’s house was at some distance from the sea-shore, but the giant, standing on a hill one stormy day, observed some ships in distress off the rocks; he hastened to your father, and requested that he would send all the people he could spare to relieve the mariners.
“While the servants were all employed upon this service, the giant dispatched your father, by stabbing him with a dagger. You were then only three months old, and your mother, upon discovering what had happened, fainted, but still clasping you in her arms. The giant, who intended to murder both of you, having found her in that state, for a short time repented of the dreadful crime he had committed, and granted your mother and you your lives, but only upon condition that she should never inform you who your father was, nor answer any questions concerning him; assuring her, that, if she did, he would certainly put both of you to death in the most cruel manner. Your mother took you in her arms, and fled as quickly as possible. Having gained your father’s confidence, he knew where to find all his treasure. He and his wife soon carried off two large chests, filled with gold, which they could not have done unless they had been giants, and, having set the house on fire in several places, when the servants returned, it was burned quite down to the ground.
“Your poor mother wandered with you a great many miles from this scene of desolation; fear added to her haste; she settled in the cottage where you were brought up, and it was entirely owing to her fear of the giant that she never mentioned 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, I transgressed; my punishment was a suspension of power for a limited time—an unfortunate circumstance, as it totally prevented my succouring your father.
“The day on which you met the butcher, as you went to sell your mother’s cow, my power was restored; and, as I had been told by Oberon, the King of the Fairies, how dreadful were the consequences to your father of my single error, I resolved to take you under my protection, and to be more circumspect in future. It was I who secretly prompted you to take the beans in exchange for the cow.
“By my power the bean-stalk grew to so great a height, and formed a ladder. I need not add, that I inspired you with a strong desire to ascend the ladder.
“The giant now lives in this country; you are the person appointed to punish him for all his wickedness. You will have dangers and difficulties to encounter, but you must persevere in avenging the death of your father, or you will not prosper in any of your undertakings, but be always miserable.
“As to the giant’s possessions, you may seize on all you can, for every thing he has belongs either to you or to me; for you must know, that, not satisfied with the gold he carried off from your father, he broke into my house, and stole the two greatest curiosities ever possessed even by a fairy, and would have killed me as he did your father, if it could have been possible to kill a fairy. 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 disobey my commands a most dreadful punishment awaits you.”
When the fairy had concluded, she disappeared, leaving Jack to pursue his journey. He walked on till after sunset, when, to his great joy, he espied a large mansion. A plain looking woman was at the door; he accosted her, begging her to give him a morsel of bread and a night’s lodging. She expressed the greatest surprise at seeing him; and said it was quite uncommon to see a human being near their house, for it was well known that her husband was a large and powerful giant, and that he would never eat anything but human flesh, if he possibly could get it; that he did not think anything of walking fifty miles to procure it.
This account greatly terrified Jack, but he still hoped to elude the giant, and therefore he again entreated the woman to take him in for one night only, and hide him where she thought proper. The woman at last suffered herself to be persuaded, for although she had assisted in the murder of Jack’s father, and in stealing the gold, she was of a compassionate and generous disposition, 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 of grandeur. 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, whence issued the groans of those poor victims whom the cruel giant reserved in confinement for his own voracious appetite.
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 never see her more, and gave himself up for lost; he even mistrusted the giant’s wife, and thought she had let him into the house for no other purpose than to lock him up among the unfortunate people in the dungeon.
At the farther end of the gallery there was a spacious kitchen, and a fire was burning in the grate. The good woman bade Jack sit down, and gave him plenty to eat and drink. Jack, not seeing any thing here to make him uncomfortable, soon forgot his fear, and was beginning to enjoy himself, when he was aroused by a loud knocking at the door, which made the whole house shake; the giant’s wife ran to secure 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 meat.”
“Oh! my dear,” replied she, “it’s only the people in the dungeon.” The giant appeared to believe her, and walked into the kitchen, where poor Jack lay concealed, shaking with fear, and trembling in every limb.
At last, the monster seated himself by the fireside, whilst his wife prepared supper. By degrees Jack took courage to look at the giant through a small crevice: he was quite astonished to see what an amazing quantity he devoured, and thought he never would have done eating and drinking. When supper was ended, the giant desired his wife to bring him his hen, which was one of the curiosities he had stolen from the fairy. A very beautiful hen was brought, and placed on the table before him. Jack’s curiosity was very great to see what would happen. He observed 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, 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, crept softly out of his hiding-place, seized the hen, and ran off with her.
He easily found the way to the bean-stalk, and descended it more quickly than he expected. His mother was overjoyed to see him; for she concluded he had come to some shocking end. Jack was impatient to show his hen so his mother could see how valuable it was.
“And now, mother,” said Jack, “I have brought home that which will quickly make us rich, and I hope to make you some amends for the affliction I have caused you through any idleness and extravagance.”
The hen produced as many golden eggs as they desired: and so they became possessed of immense riches.
For some months, Jack and his mother lived very happily together; but he, recollecting the fairy’s commands, and fearing that, if he delayed to avenge his father’s death, she would put her threats into execution, longed to climb the bean-stalk again and pay the giant another visit. Jack was, however, afraid to mention it to his mother, being well assured that she would endeavour to prevent his going. However, one day he told her boldly that he must take a journey up the bean-stalk. She begged and prayed him not to think of it; 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 resolved to go at all events; for, being a very clever fellow, although a very idle one, he had no great dread of the giant, concluding, that although he was a cannibal, he must be a very stupid fellow not to have regained his hen, it being just as easy to come down the stupendous bean-stalk as to ascend it. Jack, therefore, had a dress made, not exactly invisible, like that of his illustrious namesake, the Giant-killer, but one which so disguised him, that even “The mother that him bore/Would not have known her child.”
In a few mornings after this, he rose very early, changed his complexion, and unperceived by any one, climbed the bean-stalk a second time. He was greatly fatigued when he reached the top, and very hungry, for, with his usual thoughtlessness, he forgot to take a piece of bread in his pocket.
Here we are inclined to remark, that as he had neither bread nor bacon, he must in his progress have met with a good supply of beans. But perhaps he never thought of this resource.
Having rested some time, he pursued his journey to the giant’s mansion. He reached it late in the evening; the woman was at the door as before. Jack addressed her, telling her a pitiful tale, and requesting that she would give him some victuals and drink, and also a night’s lodging.
She told him (what he knew before very well) about her husband’s being a powerful and cruel giant; and also that she one night admitted a poor, hungry, friendless boy, who was half dead with travelling; that the little ungrateful fellow had stolen one of the giant’s treasures; and ever since that her husband had used her very cruelly, and continually upbraided her with being the cause of his loss. But at last she consented, and took him into the kitchen, where, 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 the foundation. He seated himself by the fire, and soon after exclaimed, “Wife, I smell fresh meat.” The wife replied, “It was the crows, which had brought a piece of raw meat, and left it on the top of the house.” The giant was very ill-tempered and impatient, continually crying for his supper, like little Tom Tucker, and complaining of the loss of his wonderful hen, which we verily believe he would have eaten, disregarding the treasures which she produced. Jack therefore rejoiced that he had not only got possession of the hen, but had in all probability saved her precious life.
The giant’s wife at last set supper on the table, and when he had eaten till he was satisfied, he said to her, “I must have something to amuse me—either my bags of money or my harp.” Jack, as before, peeped out of his hiding-place, and presently his wife brought two bags into the room, one filled with gold, the other with silver. They were both placed before the giant, who began reprimanding his wife for staying so long. She replied, trembling with fear, that the bags were so heavy, that she could scarcely lift them and adding, that she had nearly fainted, owing to their weight.
The giant took his bags, and began to count their contents. First the bag which contained the silver was emptied, and the contents placed on the table. Jack viewed the glittering heaps with delight, and most heartily wished the contents in his own possession. The giant (little thinking he was so narrowly watched) reckoned the silver over several times: and 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 gold pieces placed on the table. If Jack was pleased at the sight of the silver, how much more delighted must he have felt when he saw such a heap of glittering gold?
When the giant had counted over the gold till he was tired, he put it up, if possible, more secure than he had put up the silver before; he then fell back on the chair by the fireside, and fell asleep. He snored so loud, that Jack compared the noise to the roaring of the sea in a high wind when the tide is coming in. At last, Jack being certain that he was asleep, stole out of his hiding-place, and approached the giant, 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 perceived before, started from under the giant’s chair, and barked at Jack most furiously, who now gave himself up for lost. But Jack, recollecting that the giant had left the bones which he had picked at supper, threw one to the dog, who instantly seized it, and took it into the lumber closet which Jack had just left.
Finding himself delivered from a noisy and troublesome enemy, and seeing the giant did not awake, Jack seized the bags, and throwing them over his shoulders, ran out of the kitchen. He reached the door in safety, and found it quite daylight.
Jack was overjoyed when he found himself near the bean-stalk, although much incommoded with the weight of the money bags, he soon reached the bottom, and immediately ran to seek his mother. He was greatly shocked on finding her apparently dying, and could scarcely hear his own reflections, knowing himself to be the cause. On being informed of Jack’s safe return, his mother gradually recovered. Jack presented her his two valuable bags; and they lived as happily and comfortably as ever.
For three years, notwithstanding the comforts Jack enjoyed, his mind dwelt continually upon the bean-stalk; for the fairy’s menaces were ever present to his mind, and prevented him from being happy. It was in vain he endeavoured to amuse himself; he became thoughtful, and would rise at the dawn of day, and view the bean-stalk for hours together.
His inclination at length growing too powerful for him, he began to make secret preparations for his journey, and, on the longest day, arose as soon as it was light, ascended the bean-stalk, and reached the top. 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 pleaded hunger and poverty in order to gain admittance, he found it very difficult indeed to persuade her. At last, he prevailed and was concealed in the oven.
When the giant returned, he said, as upon the former occasions, “I smell fresh meat!” But Jack felt quite composed, as he had said so before, and had been soon satisfied; however, the giant started up suddenly, and notwithstanding all his wife could say, he searched all around the room. Jack was ready to die with fear, wishing himself at home; the giant approached the oven, and put his hand into it, Jack thought his death was certain.
The giant at last gave up the search and ate a hearty supper. When he had finished, he commanded his wife to fetch down his harp. Jack peeped as he had done before, and saw the most beautiful harp that could be imagined; it was placed by the giant on the table who said, “Play!” and it instantly played of its own accord, without being touched. The music was very fine: Jack was delighted, and felt more anxious to get the harp into his possession than either of the former treasures.
The music soon lulled the giant into a sound sleep. This, therefore, was the time to carry off the harp. As the giant appeared to be in a more profound sleep than usual, Jack soon determined, got out of the oven, and seized the harp. The harp had also been stolen by the giant from the fairy.
The giant suddenly awoke, and tried to pursue him, but he had drunk so much that he could hardly stand. Jack ran as fast as he could; 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 in a voice like thunder, and sometimes was very near him.
The moment Jack got down the bean-stalk, he ran for the hatchet. Just at that instant the giant was beginning to descend, but Jack with his hatchet cut the bean stalk close off at the root, which made the giant fall headlong into the garden, and the fall killed him.
At this instant the fairy appeared. She 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, after recovering her hen and her harp, which Jack gave to her most thankfully, having acquired great riches, and revenged the tragical death of his father.