The story of Jack and the Giants/Part 1
Jack and the Giants.
URING the reign of good King Arthur there lived in the County of Cornwall, near to the Land’s End of England, a wealthy farmer, who had an only son named Jack. Jack was a brisk boy, and of a ready wit: he took great delight in hearing stories of Giants and Fairies, and used to listen eagerly while any old woman told him of the great deeds of the brave Knights of King Arthur’s Round Table.
When Jack was sent to take care of the sheep and oxen in the fields, he used to amuse himself with planning battles and sieges, and the means to conquer or surprise a foe. He was above the common sports of children; but hardly any one could equal him at wrestling; or if he met with a match for himself in strength, his skill and address always made him the victor.
In those days the Mount of Cornwall was kept by a huge monstrous Giant, eighteen feet in height, and about three yards in compass, of a fierce and grim countenance, the terror of all the neighbouring towns and villages. He dwelt in a cave in the middle of the Mount; and he was such a selfish monster that he would not suffer any one to live near him. He fed on other men’s cattle, which often became his prey; for whensoever he wanted food, he would wade over to the mainland, where he would furnish himself with whatever came in his way.
ANIC seized the inhabitants at his approach, they forsook their habitations, and took flight, while the Giant seized upon their cattle, making nothing of carrying half-a-dozen oxen on his back a time; and as for their sheep and hogs, he would tie them by dozens round his waist. This course he had followed for many years, so that a great part of the country was impoverished by his depredations.
Jack resolved to kill this monster; and taking with him a horn, a shovel, and a pickaxe, he went over to the Mount in the beginning of a dark winter’s evening, when he fell to work, and before morning had dug a pit twenty-two feet deep, and nearly as broad, and had covered it over with long sticks and straw. Then strewing a little mould upon it, he made it appear like plain ground. Then Jack placed the horn to his mouth, and blew with all his might such a loud tantivy, that the Giant awoke and rushed towards Jack, exclaiming:
"You saucy villain, why are you come here to disturb my rest? you shall pay dearly for this. I will take you home, and broil you whole for my breakfast."
He had no sooner uttered this cruel threat, than, tumbling into the pit, he made the very foundations of the Mount to shake.
"Oh, oh, Mr. Giant," said Jack, "where are you now? do you think now of broiling me for your breakfast? will nothing else serve you but poor Jack?"
Thus did little Jack torment the big Giant, as a cat does a mouse when she knows it cannot escape; and when he had tired of that amusement, he gave the monster a heavy blow with a pickaxe on the very crown of his head, which tumbled him down, and killed him on the spot. When Jack saw that the Giant was dead, he filled up the pit with earth, and went to search the cave, which he found contained much treasure.
Jack then made haste back to rejoice his friends with the news of the Giant’s death.
Now, when the justices of Cornwall heard of this valiant action, they sent for Jack, and declared that he should always be called
Jack the Giant Killer;
and they also gave him a magnificent sword and an embroidered belt, upon which was emblazoned, in letters of gold,
"This is the valiant Cornish man
Now Jack, about four months after his last exploit, riding near this castle in his journey towards Wales, being weary, lay down near a pleasant fountain in the wood, and quickly fell asleep. Presently the Giant, coming to the fountain for water, discovered him; and as the lines written on the beltwho he was, he immediately took Jack on his shoulders, and carried him towards his castle. Now, as they passed through a thicket, the rustling of the boughs awakened Jack, who was terribly frightened to find himself in the clutches of Blunderbore. Yet this was nothing to his fright soon after; for when they reached the castle, he beheld the floor covered all over with skulls and bones of men and women.
The Giant took him into a large room, where lay the limbs of persons that had been lately killed; and he told Jack, with a horrid grin, that men’s hearts, eaten with pepper and vinegar, where his nicest food, and that he thought he should make a dainty meal on his. When he had said this, he locked Jack up in the room, while he went to fetch another Giant, who lived in the same wood, to enjoy a dinner off poor Jack.
While he was away, Jack heard dreadful shrieks, and groans, and cries, from many parts of the castle; and soon after he heard a mournful voice repeat these lines:
"Haste, valiant Stranger, haste away,
This warning was so shocking to poor Jack, that he was ready to go mad. He ran to the window, and saw the two Giants coming along arm in arm. This window was right over the gates of the castle.
"Now," thought Jack, "either my death or freedom is at hand."
Now there were two strong cords in the room. Jack made a large noose with a slip-knot at the ends of both these; and as the Giants were coming through the iron gates, he threw the ropes over their heads. He then made the other ends fast to a beam in the ceiling, and pulled with all his might till he had almost strangled them. When he saw that they were both quite black in the face, and had not the least strength left, he drew his sword, and slid down the ropes; he then killed the Giants, and thus saved himself from the cruel death they meant to put him to.
Jack next took a great bunch of keys from the pocket of Blunderbore, and went into the castle again. He made a strict search through all the rooms; and in them found three ladies tied up by the hair of their heads, and almost starved to death. They told him that their husbands had been killed by the Giants, who had then condemned them to be starved to death, because they would not eat the flesh of their own husbands.
"Charming Ladies," said Jack, "I have put an end to the monster and his wicked brother; and I give you this castle, and all riches that it contains, to make you some amends for the dreadful pains you have felt."
He then very politely gave them the keys of the castle, and went further in his journey to Wales.
ARING very little for riches, Jack had not taken any of the Giant’s wealth for himself, and having but little money of his own, he thought it best to travel as fast as he could.
At length he lost his way; and when night came on, he was in a valley between two lofty mountains. He thought himself lucky at last in finding a large and handsome house. He went to it, and knocked at the gate; when, to his surprise, there came forth a Giant with two heads. He spoke to Jack very civilly, for he was a Welsh Giant, and all the mischief he did was done under a show of friendship. Jack told him he was a benighted traveller, when the monster bade Jack welcome, and led him into a room where he could pass the night. But though he was weary he could not sleep, for he heard the Giant walking backward and forward in the next room, saying,
"Though here you lodge with me this night,
"Say you so?" quoth Jack; "that is like one of your Welsh tricks."Then getting out of bed, Jack groped about the room, and at last found a billet of wood; he laid it in his place in the bed, and hid himself in a corner of the room. In the middle of the night the Giant came with his great club, and struck many heavy blows on the bed, in the very place where Jack had laid the billet; and then went to his own room, thinking he had broken all Jack's bones. Early in the morning Jack walked into the Giant’s room to thank him for his lodging. The Giant started when he saw him, and began to stammer out,—
"Pray, how did you sleep last night? Did you hear or see any thing in the dead of the night?"
"Nothing worth speaking of," said Jack, carelessly "a rat, I believe, gave me three or four flaps with its tail, but I soon went to sleep again."
The Giant did not answer a word, but brought in two bowls of hasty-pudding for their breakfasts. Jack wanted to make the Giant believe that he could eat as much as himself, so he contrived to button a leathern bag inside his coat, and slipped the pudding into the bag instead of his mouth.
When breakfast was over, he said to the Giant, "I will shew you a fine trick: I could cut my head off one minute, and put it on sound the next. But see here!"
He then took a knife, ripped up the bag, and all the pudding fell on the floor.
"Odds splutter hur nails," cried the Giant, who was ashamed to be outdone by Jack, "hur can do that hurself!"
So he snatched up the knife, plunged it into his stomach, and in a moment dropped down dead.
Jack having thus outwitted the monster, went further on his journey.