Fairy Tale Friday: The History of Jack the Giant-Killer

Woodcut illustration from a version of the story published in 1840

Jack's just getting started.

Since we had a Jack-and-Giant story last week, I thought it would be fun to follow up with another. Jack is clever in this one, not stupid, and he’s also a stone-cold killer. There is so much murder in this story! I’m not spoiling anything when I say that most of this story is, in fact, about Jack slaughtering a bunch of giants.

I debated even showcasing it, honestly, because it doesn’t follow the traditional hero’s journey. There’s not a single crisis that alters the protagonist’s character, there’s no point at which the hero fails and must find the resources to overcome his failure. There are loads of magical objects, but no information about where he got them or anything. BUT. There is so much gruesome murder of giants in so many imaginative ways that I totally had the giggles by the end of the story.

So I apologize if you find the story arc unsatisfying. I hope the extravagant punishment of the giants is some consolation. (From Andrew Lang’s Blue Fairy Book.)

THE HISTORY OF JACK THE GIANT-KILLER

IN the reign of the famous King Arthur there lived in Cornwall a lad named Jack, who was a boy of a bold temper, and took delight in hearing or reading of conjurers, giants, and fairies; and used to listen eagerly to the deeds of the knights of King Arthur’s Round Table.

In those days there lived on St. Michael’s Mount, off Cornwall, a huge giant, eighteen feet high and nine feet round; his fierce and savage looks were the terror of all who beheld him.

He dwelt in a gloomy cavern on the top of the mountain, and used to wade over to the mainland in search of prey; when he would throw half a dozen oxen upon his back, and tie three times as many sheep and hogs round his waist, and march back to his own abode.

The giant had done this for many years when Jack resolved to destroy him.

Jack took a horn, a shovel, a pickaxe, his armor, and a dark lantern, and one winter’s evening he went to the mount. There he dug a pit twenty-two feet deep and twenty broad. He covered the top over so as to make it look like solid ground. He then blew his horn so loudly that the giant awoke and came out of his den crying out: “You saucy villain! you shall pay for this I’ll broil you for my breakfast!”

He had just finished, when, taking one step further, he tumbled headlong into the pit, and Jack struck him a blow on the head with his pickaxe which killed him. Jack then returned home to cheer his friends with the news.

Another giant, called Blunderbore, vowed to be revenged on Jack if ever he should have him in his power. This giant kept an enchanted castle in the midst of a lonely wood; and some time after the death of Cormoran Jack was passing through a wood, and being weary, sat down and went to sleep.

The giant, passing by and seeing Jack, carried him to his castle, where he locked him up in a large room, the floor of which was covered with the bodies, skulls and bones of men and women.

Soon after the giant went to fetch his brother who was likewise a giant, to take a meal off his flesh; and Jack saw with terror through the bars of his prison the two giants approaching.

You KNOW those giants are gonna get it. But how?

Share SHARE

Tags: , , , , , ,