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Book Reviewed Jack and the Beanstalk by Joseph Jacobs | 978-1909115637
Book Cover
Grade Level K - 3

Jack and the Beanstalk is close to 300 years old. The earliest printed versions date to 200 years ago.

Different Jacks

There are many versions of the story. The two most common differ in their justification or lack of it for Jack’s behavior. In Joseph Jacobs version Jack is a trickster, a common personality in myths and fairy tales. In Andrew Lang’s version Jack is the rightful heir to all that the giant has and he takes it back.

All of the the questions and vocabulary words refer to the Joseph Jacobs version of the tale which is the most common version reprinted today.

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Planning to Use This Book?

Here are some additional resources for your students.

Sniffy (professor)

Vocabulary for Jack and the Beanstalk

Sniffy is a hamster...a talking hamster who likes words. A hamster wordsmith, I guess you could call him. Read along (or just listen) as Sniffy defines and/or illustrates the following words from the reading.


When I was a wee little hamster me Mummy used to call me, 'Hammy.' I'd say 'Mummy?' She'd say, 'Hammy?' Mummy? Hammy? Mummy? Hammy? Anyway, let's talk about 'paltry.' It's an adjective, that is, it describes a noun. When Jack's mom said, 'paltry beans', she meant those beans were wooorthlesssss. They had no value. No one would even pay a penny for them. They were useless, they were anything but magic beans which is why she tossed them out the window. Boy, was she wrrrrong!

Sniffy (napping)


Run, run, run or pelter, pelter, pelter? I'm going to pelter! I like stomping my feet as I run because I like making lots of noise, so off I pelter as fast as I can. Can you pelter? Try it. First, you have to run, but then you kind of slap your feet on the ground as you do it—you can't pelter quietly—so you should probably pelter outside unless you want your Dad to yell, "Stop peltering in the house!!" So go outside to pelter around the yard, but if it's summer time you might swelter when you pelter. Say that fast. Swelter. Pelter. Swelter. Pelter. Swelter. Pelter!

Sniffy (laughing)


When you hear 'copper' I'll bet you think of the copper that is a metal—the stuff they make pennies out of, but it can mean other things too. A 'copper' is also a policeman, but Jack would have a hard time hiding in a policeman. Or, it can refer to a coin or token, something you might use to play video games at the fair. But Jack would have hard time hiding in a coin. So what does Jack hide in? I'll give you a hint. If the ogre found Jack in the copper all he would have to do is put the copper on the stove, add some water, salt and pepper and then cook Jack up for dinner. That's right. A copper in Jack and the Beanstalk is a big, cooking pot made out of copper. I hope that ogre doesn't like hamster soup. I'm outta here!


Ahem. Okay, I'm going to try a poem. So get yourself ready! Herrrre we go:

I am the hamster Master Rogue,
A 'worthless rodent' I am called,
along with 'beggar' and 'Swindler Hoag.'
I steal and trick—so be appalled,
I'm not slowed by any drogue*,
So be careful or by me be mauled.
To be mischevious is in vogue,
Though it doesn't help I'm going bald.
Have you ever seen a bald hamster?
It's terrible—wait—that doesn't rhyme!
Ahhh, rogue, bogue, ahhh, mogue—
Oh forget it! I quit! It's over, I admit!
I can't rhyme a bit! I've lost my wit!
I'm such a twit—a rogue too—
Has this made sense to you?

Discussion Questions for Jack and the Beanstalk

  • Why do you think Jack believes the beans are magical?
  • Would you have traded Milky-white for the five beans? Why or why not?
  • Did Jack’s mother have a right to be angry with him? Why or why not?
  • Why does Jack decide to climb the giant beanstalk?
  • Why isn’t Jack afraid to climb the giant beanstalk?
  • Would you have climbed the beanstalk? Why or why not?
  • Why isn’t Jack afraid of the ogre’s wife?
  • Why is the ogre’s wife nice to Jack?
  • Why does Jack decide to take the gold?
  • Why does Jack decide to go back to the ogre’s house a second time?
  • Why is the ogre’s wife nice to Jack on his second visit even though she thinks he might have taken the gold?
  • Now that Jack has the hen that lays golden eggs why does he still want to go back to the ogre’s house a third time?
  • Why isn’t Jack afraid of the ogre?
  • Why does the harp want to stay with the ogre?
  • Do you think Jack is brave? Why or why not?
  • Did you like this story? Why or why not?

Professor Batholomew Higgenbottom

Jacks, Giants and Fairies

Hello Giant Killers,

I went for a walk this summer and because it was hot I wore my favorite hat. It’s brown with lots of tiny holes in it that let air pass through it to keep me cool or at least cooler on hot, summer days. After a few minutes of walking I heard footsteps behind me. Closer and closer they came until a man glided up next to me.

“Nice hat,” he said.


“I’m a seed wizard,” he said. That’s when I noticed that he wore a long, red coat. He didn’t look like a wizard, but maybe wizards look different in our time.

“Seed wizard?” I asked.

“Yes, I trade seeds, garden seeds.” At this he opened his coat. The inside was lined with seed packages, but these were not ordinary seed packages. They looked as if they were made of a very thin gold and the lettering on each package was fancy, like calligraphy. “My specialty,” he continued, “is magic seeds.” He pulled out a package. “The fruit from these seeds, for example, will make you invisible and these make you able to fly and these give you extreme strength and these,” he paused for a moment, “allow you to know what other people are thinking—but I can’t give these to just anyone.” He looked at me as if he wanted me to say something, then he said, “I have a package here for you.”

“For me? But you don’t even—”

“Yes, Mr. Draeger, I know you. You’ll notice that I don’t have a hat and every wizard needs a hat, so I’ll trade you these seeds for your hat.”

“What do these seeds do?”

“You’ll find out, just plant them as soon as you get home.” I thought for a moment, but then I handed him my hat and took the seeds. I felt a little silly, but it’s not everyday that you have a chance to try out magic seeds and even if they were not magic I figured I could sell the package.

As soon as I arrived home I went to my garden. I opened the package and poured the seeds into my hand. There were five of them—five bean seeds colored like the rainbow and so shiny and smooth they almost looked like marbles except they weren’t round. As I was looking at them the golden package dissolved into dust and fell to the ground right where I planned to plant the seeds. I made five holes, dropped the seeds in and watered them. Nothing happened. I waited. Nothing. I stooped down to get a closer look and that’s when I heard the voice.

“Mr. Draeger, are you ready to go?” I looked across from me and there stood Professor Batholomew Higginbottom, the literary mouse. His long, gray whiskers twitched as he talked. Then I noticed that everything around me looked big, very big and when I stood up I was no bigger than a mouse. “Stand back from those seeds,” the Professor said.

Suddenly the ground began to shake as if we were having one of our California earthquakes. Then it cracked and up through cracks sprouted five bean plants which quickly climbed up our small arbor, wrapped themselves around one another and then ascended up and up and up and up and up into the sky where they disappeared into some large white clouds.

“Let’s go,” the Professor said.

The bean plants now looked like one mass of intertwined green tree trunks. We started climbing. The Professor went first and I followed. Luckily there were plenty of small branches that I could grab or where I could place my feet. The leaves were so thick that it was shady as we climbed, but every now and then I could see out through the jungle-like mass of leaves and branches. Far, far, far below me my garden, my house, the city of La Mesa and San Diego looked tiny, like I was in an airplane and then below me I saw an airplane fly by. We continued to climb.

“Where are we going?” I asked.

“To meet Jacks and giants,” he said.

“You mean, Jack, from Jack and the Beanstalk?”

“I mean, Jacks. There are lots of different stories about Jack and his beanstalk. Not all the Jacks or the stories are the same.”

After about three hours of climbing we entered a cloud and a little later found ourselves looking at—well, on one side of us was a barren landscape, almost like a desert. On the other side was a beautiful country with woods, meadows and lots of sheep grazing and on a third side there stretched a long, broad and straight road. The Professor jumped. “Come on,” he said.

I was afraid to let go of the beantstalk because I didn’t want to fall down and down and down, but when I jumped I landed on solid ground. Then I heard something on the beanstalk and up through the clouds came not one, not two, but three boys.

“Who are you?” I asked them.

“I’m Jack,” said the first one.

“No, I’m Jack,” said the second one.

“No, no, I’m Jack,” said the third one.

Then, from behind me, I heard another voice. “They’re all wrong,” it said, “I’m Jack. I’m Jack the giant killer.”

Well, maybe you can imagine my confusion. It’s not everyday you get magic seeds, shrink down to the size of mouse, climb a giant beanstalk and then meet four Jacks.

“You can’t all be Jack,” I said. But they did all look nearly the same. They were all boys, maybe about 10 or 11 years old. They spoke with English accents and they had all come up the beanstalk, except for that last one, Jack the giant killer, Jack Four, I’ll call him.

Then I heard another voice—also from behind me. When I turned a woman was standing there. She wore a red, pointed cap made of satin, had long, streaming hair that came down over her shoulders and she walked with a staff. Just as she was about to speak another woman walked up. She wore an elegant white dress and held a white wand with a peacock on the top of it made of pure gold.

“Who are you?” I asked.

At the same time they both said, “I’m here to talk to Jack. I’m a fairy.”

“Well, there are plenty of Jacks to talk to.” Then Fairy One and Fairy Two told a very similar story to Jack One and Jack Two. While they told their stories I noticed that Jack Three and Jack Four ran off in opposite directions.

The fairies told the Jacks that a long time ago Jack’s father had been a rich and good man, but that a giant who lived nearby was extremely envious of all he had. The cunning giant had someone kill Jack’s father and then he moved into his castle. The mother had escaped with baby Jack who became a spoiled, selfish child but who could still be very kind-hearted. So all the riches that giant had, the hen that layed golden eggs, his gold and silver and the magic harp, were rightfully Jack’s. The fairies told the Jacks that they had to take these things back to avenge their fathers. When Jack One and Jack Two heard this (by the way, Jack Three is the one you read about), they also ran off in opposite directions.

“You see,” said Professor Higginbottom, “there are lots of different Jacks.”

“Why?” I asked.

Jack and the Beanstalk is an old story first written down about 300 years ago, but before that people told the story to each other and as they told the story sometimes they added things or took out things. So when the stories were written down they were similar, but different.”

“Excuse me,” Fairy One said. “Since you are here, you also have a duty to perform. You must see the giants, you must lure them back here, make them follow you down the beanstalk and then chop the beanstalk down to kill them.”

“What!” I yelled. “Jack is supposed to do that. I’m not a giant killer, I’m just a guy who talks to a mouse.”

“But this is your story, not theirs. Now go.” Then both fairies disappeared.

“Let’s go,” the Professor said, who seemed very brave for a mouse.

Now you may have noticed that the Professor and I were the same size as all the Jacks and the fairies, unfortunately that was not the case with any of the giants—and we saw lots of them. The giant’s wives were all big and one of them had only one eye in the middle of her forehead. As we went to the castles and houses we saw giants with one head, two heads and even three heads. Not one of them spoke nicely to us—no manners at all. They mostly growled and bellowed and said they would eat us for dinner and all of them said the Professor was the biggest mouse they had ever seen and that he would be particualarly tasty with salt, pepper, butter and a pinch of parsley—apparently giants are good cooks.

But we also figured out that these giants were not very smart. Once, when a three-headed giant had cornered the Professor and me, I yelled, “Wow, look over there! It’s Jack running off with your hen.” The giant didn’t even look to see if it was true. He just ran off in the direction of his castle yelling, “Stop that boy!” He didn’t even know that he didn’t have a golden hen, because the multi-headed giants all belong to the Jack the Giant Killer story.

We told all the giants to meet us by the giant beanstalk for a final fight when the sun was at it’s highest point. Unfortunately that didn’t work because none of the giants could figure that out. While we were running around to all the different Jack stories we often saw the Jacks running past us with the hen or bags of gold, so we decided to wait until the Jacks took the harps since we knew the giants would be following them back to the beanstalk.

Jack Four, Jack the Giant Killer, was much different than any of the others. We noticed him all over the countryside killing and tricking any giants he found. He had a coat that made him invisible, a sword that would cut through anything, a cap that gave him knowledge and shoes that made him fast. He even became a Knight of the Round Table (he lived during the time of King Arthur). Some of the giants in his story had names. We met Cormoran, Old Blunderdore who lived in an enchanted castle, Thundel who had two heads and Galligantis who, with the help of a magician, changed Knights into animals. But Jack Four killed or tricked them all. So, we only had three giants we had to worry about.

I don’t know how long we were in that country. Sometimes it seemed like weeks and other times is seemed only like a few hours. After Jack the Giant Killer retired (he married the duke’s daughter and lived the rest of his days in joy and content) we waited by the long, broad road until we saw Jack Three running toward us like a cat being be chased by dog. He had a harp under his arm that kept yelling, “Master! Master!” Behind Jack came the giant. But then we started hearing, “Master! Master!” from three directions. That was our cue to dash toward the beanstalk.

I have never run so fast and so furious and so fearfully. The Professor runs on four legs so he kept waiting and yelling at me, “Hurry, scurry, come on, Mr. Draeger!” When we reached the beanstalk I panted like a dog. The Professor didn’t waste a moment—he leaped on the stalk and started climbing down. I tried to catch my breath and as I did each Jack jumped onto the beanstalk and began his descent.

I was still breathing hard. Finally, when I heard one of the giants yelling, “Fe, fa, fi-fo-fum, I smell—” I turned and yelled, “Stop, this instance!” The three giants stopped. They stood in front of me looking like three scolded little boys, except they were about 25 feet tall.

“It’s not ‘fe, fa, fi-fo-fom.’ Who said that?” It irritates me when people or giants don’t read a story correctly.

“I did,” Giant One said. “That’s what I’m supposed to say.”

“No it’s not!” I yelled. Remember, giants are not very smart. “‘It’s ‘Fee, fi, foo, fum.'”

“Ah, Mr. Draeger,” Giant Three said tenatively. “I hate to tell you this, but I’m the only one that says ‘Fee, fi, foo, fum.’ Giant One is correct—we’ve been doing this a long time and I’ve never heard him do it any other way. You can read his lines if you want to.” Giant One handed me a copy of his story. He was absolutely right. I still can’t get used to saying it.

Then Giant Two said, “I don’t even say anything close to that. My lines are, ‘Wife! Wife! I smell fresh meat!'”

“You’re kidding!”

“No, take a look.” Giant Two handed me his story. He was right.

“I apologize,” I said, “I’m sorry for the misunderstanding, but I’ve never heard it any other way.”

“Oh, it’s okay,” they said. “It happens all the time.” There was a long pause. “Shall we?” Giant One said.

“Aughhhhhh!” I yelled and jumped for the beanstalk. I didn’t exactly climb down, I think you could call it a panicked fall. My arms flailed, my legs kicked and I screamed like a baby who has just had his milk bottle taken away. Any of you that live in Southern California probably heard it. I landed at the bottom of the beanstalk, and it was a landing, with a loud and hard thud. I ran for the ax, grabbed it and started chopping as fast as I could. I could see the three giants descending, but I just kept chopping. Then with one last chop, the beanstalk began to topple.

It fell slowly at first, but as it fell it picked up speed until finally I could hear it coming, rushing toward me with the sound of a jet engine—and then it disappeared.

One of the fairies floated down to me and said, “If you had looked at the gigantic beanstalk and only stupidly wondered about it, I would have not helped you with the giants. But you showed an inquiring mind, and great courage and enterprise, therefore you deserve what I am about to give you because when you mounted the beanstalk, you climbed the Ladder of Fortune.”

The fairy handed me a triple-scoop chocolate-chip ice cream cone. It was a good day!


Mr. Draeger

The Joseph Jacobs Version of Jack and the Beanstalk

THERE was once upon a time a poor widow who had an only son named Jack, and a cow named Milky-white. And all they had to live on was the milk the cow gave every morning which they carried to the market and sold. But one morning Milky-white gave no milk and they didn’t know what to do.

“What shall we do, what shall we do?” said the widow, wringing her hands.

“Cheer up, mother, I’ll go and get work somewhere,” said Jack.

We’ve tried that before, and nobody would take you,” said his mother; “we must sell Milky-white and with the money start a shop, or something.”

“All right, mother, ” says Jack; “it’s market day today, and I’ll soon sell Milky-white, and then we’ll see what we can do.”

So he took the cow’s halter in his hand, and off he started. He hadn’t gone far when he met a funny-looking old man, who said to him: “Good morning, Jack.”

“Good morning to you,” said Jack, and wondered how he knew his name.

“Well, Jack, and where are you off to?” said the man.

“I’m going to market to sell our cow here.”

“Oh, you look the proper sort of chap to sell cows,” said the man; “I wonder if you know how many beans make five.”

“Two in each hand and one in your mouth,” says Jack, as sharp as needle.

“Right you are,” says the man, “and here they are, the very beans themselves,” he went on, pulling out of his pocket a number of strange-looking beans. “As you are so sharp,” says he, “I don’t mind doing a swap with you—your cow for these beans.”

“Go along,” says Jack; “wouldn’t you like it?”

“Ah! you don’t know what these beans are,” said the man; “if you plant them over-night, by morning they grow right up to the sky.”

“Really?” said Jack; “you don’t say so.”

“Yes, that is so, and if it doesn’t turn out to be true you can have your cow back.”

“Right,” says Jack, and hands him over Milky-white’s halter and pockets the beans.”

Back goes Jack home, and as he hadn’t gone very far it wasn’t dusk by the time he got to his door.

“Back already, Jack?” said his mother; “I see you haven’t got Milky-white, so you’ve sold her. How much did you get for her?”

“You’ll never guess mother,” says Jack.

“No, you don’t say so. Good boy! Five pounds, ten, fifteen, no, it can’t be twenty.”

“I told you you couldn’t guess. What do you say to these beans; they’re magical, plant them overnight and—”

“What!” says Jack’s mother, “have you been such a fool, such a dolt, such and idiot, as to give away my Milky-white, the best milker in the parish, and prime beef to boot, for a set of paltry beans? Take that! Take that! Take that! And as for your precious beans here they go out the window. And now off with you to bed. Not a sip shall you drink, and not a bit shall you swallow this very night.”

So Jack went upstairs to his little room in the attic, and sad and sorry he was, to be sure, as much for his mother’s sake, as for the loss of his supper.

At last he dropped off to sleep.

When he woke, the room looked so funny. The sun was shining into part of it, and yet all the rest was quite dark and shady. So Jack jumped up and dressed himself and went to the window. And what do you think he saw? Why, the beans his mother had thrown out of the window into the garden, had sprung up into a big beanstalk which went up and up and up till it reached the sky. So the man spoke the truth after all.

The beanstalk grew up quite close past Jack’s window, so all he had to do was to open it and give a jump on to the beanstalk which ran up just like a big ladder. So Jack climbed, and he climbed and he climbed and he climbed and he climbed and he climbed and he climbed till at last he reached the sky. And when he got there he found a long broad road going as straight as a dart. So he walked along and he walked along and he walked along till he came to a great big tall house, and on the doorstep there was a great big tall woman.

“Good morning, mum,” says Jack, quite polite-like. “Could you be so kind as to give me some breakfast?” For he hadn’t had anything to eat, you know, the night before and was as hungry as a hunter.

“It’s breakfast you want, is it?” says the great big tall woman, “it’s breakfast you’ll be if you don’t move off from here. My man is an ogre and there’s nothing he likes better than boys broiled on toast. You’d better be moving on or he’ll soon be coming.”

“Oh please mum, do give me something to eat, mum. I’ve had nothing to eat since yesterday morning, really and truly, mum,” says Jack, “I may as well be broiled as die of hunger.”

Well, the ogre’s wife was not half so bad after all. So she took Jack into the kitchen, and gave him a chunk of bread and cheese and a jug of milk. But Jack hadn’t half finished these when thump! thump! thump! the whole house began to tremble with the noise of some one coming.

“Goodness gracious me! It’s my old man,” said the ogre’s wife, “what on earth shall I do? Come along quick and jump in here.” And she bundled Jack into the oven just as the ogre came in.

He was a big one, to be sure. At his belt he had three calves strung up by the heels, and he unhooked them and threw them down on the table and said: “Here, wife, broil me a couple of these for breakfast. Ah! what’s this I smell?

I smell the blood of an Englishman,
Be he alive, or be he dead
I’ll grind his bones to make my bread.”

“Nonsense, dear,” said his wife, “you’re dreaming. Or perhaps you smell the scraps of that little boy you liked so much for yesterday’s dinner. Here, you go and have a wash and tidy up, and by the time you come back your breakfast will be ready for you.”

So off the ogre went, and Jack was just going to jump out of the oven and run away when the woman told him not. “Wait till he’s asleep,” says she; “he always has a doze after breakfast.”

Well, the ogre had his breakfast, and after that he goes to a big chest and takes out of it a couple of bags of gold, and down he sits and counts till at last his head began to nod and he began to snore till the whole house shook again.

Then Jack crept out on tiptoe from his oven, and as he was passing the ogre he took one of the bags of gold under his arm, and off he pelters till he came to the beanstalk, and then he threw down the bag of gold, which of course fell in to his mother’s garden, and then he climbed down and climbed down till at last he got home and told his mother and showed her the gold and said: “Well, mother, wasn’t I right about the beans. They are really magical, you see.”

So they lived on the bag of gold for some time, but at last they came to the end of it, and Jack made up his mind to try his luck once more up at the top of the beanstalk. So one fine morning he rose up early, and got on to the beanstalk, and he climbed and he climbed and he climbed and he climbed and he climbed and he climbed till at last he came out on to the road again and up to the great big tall house he had been to before. There, sure enough, was the great big tall woman standing on the doorstep.

“Good morning, mum,” says Jack, as bold as brass, “could you be so good as to give me something to eat?”

Go away, my boy,” said the big tall woman, ” or else my man will eat you up for breakfast. But aren’t you the youngster who came here once before? Do you know, that very day, my man missed one of his bags of gold.”

“That’s strange, mum,” says Jack, “I dare say I could tell you something about that, but I’m so hungry I can’t speak till I’ve had something to eat.”

Well the big tall woman was so curious that she took him in and gave him something to eat. But he had scarcely begun munching it as slowly as he could when thump! thump! thump ! they heard the giant’s footstep, and his wife hid Jack away in the oven.

All happened as it did before. In came the ogre as he did before, said: “Fee-fi-fo-fum,” and had his breakfast of three broiled oxen. Then he said : “Wife, bring me the hen that lays the golden eggs.” So she brought it, and the ogre said: “Lay,” and it laid an egg all of gold. And then the ogre began to nod his head, and to snore till the house shook.

Then Jack crept out of the oven on tiptoe and caught hold of the golden hen, and was off before you could say “Jack Robinson.” But this time the hen gave a cackle which woke the ogre, and just as Jack got out of the house he heard him calling: “Wife, wife, what have you done with my golden hen?”

And the wife said : “Why, my dear?”

But that was all Jack heard, for he rushed off to the beanstalk and climbed down like a house on fire. And when he got home he showed his mother the wonderful hen and said “Lay,” to it; and it laid a golden egg every time he said “Lay.”

Well, Jack was not content, and it wasn’t very long before he determined to have another try at his luck up there at the top of the beanstalk. So one fine morning, he rose up early, and got onto the beanstalk, and he climbed and he climbed and he climbed and he climbed till he got to the top. But this time he knew better than to go straight to the ogre’s house. And when he got near it he waited behind a bush till he saw the ogre’s wife come out with a pail to get some water, and then he crept into the house and got into the copper. He hadn’t been there long when he heard thump! thump! thump! as before, and in come the ogre and his wife.

“Fee-fi-fo-fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman,” cried out the ogre; “I smell him, wife, I smell him.”

“Do you, my dearie?” says the ogre’s wife. “Then if it’s that little rogue that stole your gold and the hen that laid the golden eggs he’s sure to have got into the oven.” And they both rushed to the oven. But Jack wasn’t there, luckily, and the ogre’s wife said: “There you are again with your fee-fi-fo-fum. Why of course it’s the boy you caught last night that I’ve just broiled for your breakfast. How forgetful I am, and how careless you are not to know the difference between live and dead after all these years.”

So the ogre sat down to the breakfast and ate it, but every now and then he would mutter: “Well, I could have sworn—” and he’d get up and search the larder and the cupboards, and everything, only luckily he didn’t think of the copper.

After breakfast was over, the ogre called out “Wife, wife, bring me my golden harp.” So she brought it and put it on the table before him. Then he said: “Sing !” and the golden harp sang most beautifully. And it went on singing till the ogre fell asleep, and commenced to snore like thunder.

Then Jack lifted up the copper-lid very quietly and got down like a mouse and crept on hands and knees till he came to the table when up he crawled, caught hold of the golden harp and dashed with it towards the door. But the harp called out quite loud: “Master! Master!” and the ogre woke up just in time to see Jack running off with his harp.

Jack ran as fast as he could, and the ogre came rushing after, and would soon have caught him only Jack had a start and dodged him a bit and knew where he was going. When he got to the beanstalk the ogre was not more than twenty yards away when suddenly he saw Jack disappear, and when he came to the end of the road he saw Jack underneath climbing down for dear life.

Well, the ogre didn’t like trusting himself to such a ladder, and he stood and waited, so Jack got another start. But just then the harp cried out: ” Master! Master!” and the ogre swung himself down onto the beanstalk which shook with his weight.

Down climbs Jack, and after him climbed the ogre. By this time Jack had climbed down and climbed down and climbed down till he was very nearly home. So he called out: “Mother! mother! bring me an axe, bring me an axe.” And his mother came rushing out with the axe in her hand, but when she came to the beanstalk she stood stock still with fright for there she saw the ogre with his legs just through the clouds.

But Jack jumped down and got hold of the axe and gave a chop at the beanstalk which cut it half in two. The ogre felt the beanstalk shake and quiver so he stopped to see what was the matter. Then Jack gave another chop with the axe, and the beanstalk was cut in two and began to topple over. Then the ogre fell down and broke his crown, and the beanstalk came toppling after.

Then Jack showed his mother his golden harp, and what with showing that and selling the golden eggs, Jack and his mother became very rich, and he married a great princess, and they lived happy ever after.

from English Fairy Tales by Joseph Jacobs
This book is public domain

The Andrew Lang version of Jack and the Beanstalk


ONCE upon a time there was a poor widow who lived in a little cottage with her only son Jack.

Jack was a giddy, thoughtless boy, but very kind-hearted and affectionate. There had been a hard winter, and after it the poor woman had suffered from fever and ague. Jack did no work as yet, and by degrees they grew dreadfully poor. The widow saw that there was no means of keeping Jack and herself from starvation but by selling her cow; so one morning she said to her son, `I am too weak to go myself, Jack, so you must take the cow to market for me, and sell her.’

Jack liked going to market to sell the cow very much; but as he was on the way, he met a butcher who had some beautiful beans in his hand. Jack stopped to look at them, and the butcher told the boy that they were of great value, and persuaded the silly lad to sell the cow for these beans.

When he brought them home to his mother instead of the money she expected for her nice cow, she was very vexed and shed many tears, scolding Jack for his folly. He was very sorry, and mother and son went to bed very sadly that night; their last hope seemed gone.

At daybreak Jack rose and went out into the garden.

`At least,’ he thought, `I will sow the wonderful beans. Mother says that they are just common scarlet-runners, and nothing else; but I may as well sow them.’

So he took a piece of stick, and made some holes in the ground, and put in the beans.

That day they had very little dinner, and went sadly to bed, knowing that for the next day there would be none and Jack, unable to sleep from grief and vexation, got up at day-dawn and went out into the garden.

What was his amazement to find that the beans had grown up in the night, and climbed up and up till they covered the high cliff that sheltered the cottage, and disappeared above it! The stalks had twined and twisted themselves together till they formed quite a ladder.

`It would be easy to climb it,’ thought Jack.

And, having thought of the experiment, he at once resolved to carry it out, for Jack was a good climber. However, after his late mistake about the cow, he thought he had better consult his mother first.


So Jack called his mother, and they both gazed in silent wonder at the Beanstalk, which was not only of great height, but was thick enough to bear Jack’s weight.

`I wonder where it ends,’ said Jack to his mother; `I think I will climb up and see.’

His mother wished him not to venture up this strange ladder, but Jack coaxed her to give her consent to the attempt, for he was certain there must be something wonderful in the Beanstalk; so at last she yielded to his wishes.

Jack instantly began to climb, and went up and up on the ladder- like bean till everything he had left behind him–the cottage, the village, and even the tall church tower–looked quite little, and still he could not see the top of the Beanstalk.

Jack felt a little tired, and thought for a moment that he would go back again; but he was a very persevering boy, and he knew that the way to succeed in anything is not to give up. So after resting for a moment he went on.

After climbing higher and higher, till he grew afraid to look down for fear he should be giddy, Jack at last reached the top of the Beanstalk, and found himself in a beautiful country, finely wooded, with beautiful meadows covered with sheep. A crystal stream ran through the pastures; not far from the place where he had got off the Beanstalk stood a fine, strong castle.

Jack wondered very much that he had never heard of or seen this castle before; but when he reflected on the subject, he saw that it was as much separated from the village by the perpendicular rock on which it stood as if it were in another land.

While Jack was standing looking at the castle, a very strange- looking woman came out of the wood, and advanced towards him.

She wore a pointed cap of quilted red satin turned up with ermine, her hair streamed loose over her shoulders, and she walked with a staff. Jack took off his cap and made her a bow.

`If you please, ma’am,’ said he, `is this your house?’

`No,’ said the old lady. `Listen, and I will tell you the story of that castle.

`Once upon a time there was a noble knight, who lived in this castle, which is on the borders of Fairyland. He had a fair and beloved wife and several lovely children: and as his neighbours, the little people, were very friendly towards him, they bestowed on him many excellent and precious gifts.

`Rumour whispered of these treasures; and a monstrous giant, who lived at no great distance, and who was a very wicked being, resolved to obtain possession of them.

`So he bribed a false servant to let him inside the castle, when the knight was in bed and asleep, and he killed him as he lay. Then he went to the part of the castle which was the nursery, and also killed all the poor little ones he found there.

`Happily for her, the lady was not to be found. She had gone with her infant son, who was only two or three months old, to visit her old nurse, who lived in the valley; and she had been detained all night there by a storm.

`The next morning, as soon as it was light, one of the servants at the castle, who had managed to escape, came to tell the poor lady of the sad fate of her husband and her pretty babes. She could scarcely believe him at first, and was eager at once to go back and share the fate of her dear ones; but the old nurse, with many tears, besought her to remember that she had still a child, and that it was her duty to preserve her life for the sake of the poor innocent.

`The lady yielded to this reasoning, and consented to remain at her nurse’s house as the best place of concealment; for the servant told her that the giant had vowed, if he could find her, he would kill both her and her baby. Years rolled on. The old nurse died, leaving her cottage and the few articles of furniture it contained to her poor lady, who dwelt in it, working as a peasant for her daily bread. Her spinning-wheel and the milk of a cow, which she had purchased with the little money she had with her, sufficed for the scanty subsistence of herself and her little son. There was a nice little garden attached to the cottage, in which they cultivated peas, beans, and cabbages, and the lady was not ashamed to go out at harvest time, and glean in the fields to supply her little son’s wants.

`Jack, that poor lady is your mother. This castle was once your father’s, and must again be yours.’

Jack uttered a cry of surprise.

`My mother! oh, madam, what ought I to do? My poor father! My dear mother!’

`Your duty requires you to win it back for your mother. But the task is a very difficult one, and full of peril, Jack. Have you courage to undertake it?’

`I fear nothing when I am doing right,’ said Jack.

`Then,’ said the lady in the red cap, `you are one of those who slay giants. You must get into the castle, and if possible possess yourself of a hen that lays golden eggs, and a harp that talks. Remember, all the giant possesses is really yours.’ As she ceased speaking, the lady of the red hat suddenly disappeared, and of course Jack knew she was a fairy.

Jack determined at once to attempt the adventure; so he advanced, and blew the horn which hung at the castle portal. The door was opened in a minute or two by a frightful giantess, with one great eye in the middle of her forehead.

As soon as Jack saw her he turned to run away, but she caught him, and dragged him into the castle.

`Ho, ho!’ she laughed terribly. `You didn’t expect to see me here, that is clear! No, I shan’t let you go again. I am weary of my life. I am so overworked, and I don’t see why I should not have a page as well as other ladies. And you shall be my boy. You shall clean the knives, and black the boots, and make the fires, and help me generally when the giant is out. When he is at home I must hide you, for he has eaten up all my pages hitherto, and you would be a dainty morsel, my little lad.’

While she spoke she dragged Jack right into the castle. The poor boy was very much frightened, as I am sure you and I would have been in his place. But he remembered that fear disgraces a man; so he struggled to be brave and make the best of things.

`I am quite ready to help you, and do all I can to serve you, madam,’ he said, `only I beg you will be good enough to hide me from your husband, for I should not like to be eaten at all.’

`That’s a good boy,’ said the Giantess, nodding her head; `it is lucky for you that you did not scream out when you saw me, as the other boys who have been here did, for if you had done so my husband would have awakened and have eaten you, as he did them, for breakfast. Come here, child; go into my wardrobe: he never ventures to open THAT; you will be safe there.’

And she opened a huge wardrobe which stood in the great hall, and shut him into it. But the keyhole was so large that it ad- mitted plenty of air, and he could see everything that took place through it. By-and-by he heard a heavy tramp on the stairs, like the lumbering along of a great cannon, and then a voice like thunder cried out;

`Fe, fa, fi-fo-fum, I smell the breath of an Englishman. Let him be alive or let him be dead, I’ll grind his bones to make my bread.’

`Wife,’ cried the Giant, `there is a man in the castle. Let me have him for breakfast.’

`You are grown old and stupid,’ cried the lady in her loud tones. `It is only a nice fresh steak off an elephant, that I have cooked for you, which you smell. There, sit down and make a good breakfast.’

And she placed a huge dish before him of savoury steaming meat, which greatly pleased him, and made him forget his idea of an Englishman being in the castle. When he had breakfasted he went out for a walk; and then the Giantess opened the door, and made Jack come out to help her. He helped her all day. She fed him well, and when evening came put him back in the wardrobe.


The Giant came in to supper. Jack watched him through the keyhole, and was amazed to see him pick a wolf’s bone, and put half a fowl at a time into his capacious mouth.

When the supper was ended he bade his wife bring him his hen that laid the golden eggs.

`It lays as well as it did when it belonged to that paltry knight,’ he said; `indeed I think the eggs are heavier than ever.’

The Giantess went away, and soon returned with a little brown hen, which she placed on the table before her husband. `And now, my dear,’ she said, `I am going for a walk, if you don’t want me any longer.’

`Go,’ said the Giant; `I shall be glad to have a nap by-and-by.’

Then he took up the brown hen and said to her:

`Lay!’ And she instantly laid a golden egg.

`Lay!’ said the Giant again. And she laid another.

`Lay!’ he repeated the third time. And again a golden egg lay on the table.

Now Jack was sure this hen was that of which the fairy had spoken.

By-and-by the Giant put the hen down on the floor, and soon after went fast asleep, snoring so loud that it sounded like thunder.

Directly Jack perceived that the Giant was fast asleep, he pushed open the door of the wardrobe and crept out; very softly he stole across the room, and, picking up the hen, made haste to quit the apartment. He knew the way to the kitchen, the door of which he found was left ajar; he opened it, shut and locked it after him, and flew back to the Beanstalk, which he descended as fast as his feet would move.

When his mother saw him enter the house she wept for joy, for she had feared that the fairies had carried him away, or that the Giant had found him. But Jack put the brown hen down before her, and told her how he had been in the Giant’s castle, and all his adventures. She was very glad to see the hen, which would make them rich once more.


Jack made another journey up the Beanstalk to the Giant’s castle one day while his mother had gone to market; but first he dyed his hair and disguised himself. The old woman did not know him again, and dragged him in as she had done before, to help her to do the work; but she heard her husband coming, and hid him in the wardrobe, not thinking that it was the same boy who had stolen the hen. She bade him stay quite still there, or the Giant would eat him.

Then the Giant came in saying:

`Fe, fa, fi-fo-fum, I smell the breath of an Englishman. Let him be alive or let him be dead, I’ll grind his bones to make my bread.’

`Nonsense!’ said the wife, `it is only a roasted bullock that I thought would be a tit-bit for your supper; sit down and I will bring it up at once.’ The Giant sat down, and soon his wife brought up a roasted bullock on a large dish, and they began their supper. Jack was amazed to see them pick the bones of the bullock as if it had been a lark. As soon as they had finished their meal, the Giantess rose and said:

`Now, my dear, with your leave I am going up to my room to finish the story I am reading. If you want me call for me.’

`First,’ answered the Giant, `bring me my money bags, that I may count my golden pieces before I sleep.’ The Giantess obeyed. She went and soon returned with two large bags over her shoulders, which she put down by her husband.

`There,’ she said; `that is all that is left of the knight’s money. When you have spent it you must go and take another baron’s castle.’

`That he shan’t, if I can help it,’ thought Jack.

The Giant, when his wife was gone, took out heaps and heaps of golden pieces, and counted them, and put them in piles, till he was tired of the amusement. Then he swept them all back into their bags, and leaning back in his chair fell fast asleep, snoring so loud that no other sound was audible.

Jack stole softly out of the wardrobe, and taking up the bags of money (which were his very own, because the Giant had stolen them from his father), he ran off, and with great difficulty descending the Beanstalk, laid the bags of gold on his mother’s table. She had just returned from town, and was crying at not finding Jack.

`There, mother, I have brought you the gold that my father lost.’

`Oh, Jack! you are a very good boy, but I wish you would not risk your precious life in the Giant’s castle. Tell me how you came to go there again.’

And Jack told her all about it.

Jack’s mother was very glad to get the money, but she did not like him to run any risk for her.

But after a time Jack made up his mind to go again to the Giant’s castle.


So he climbed the Beanstalk once more, and blew the horn at the Giant’s gate. The Giantess soon opened the door; she was very stupid, and did not know him again, but she stopped a minute before she took him in. She feared another robbery; but Jack’s fresh face looked so innocent that she could not resist him, and so she bade him come in, and again hid him away in the wardrobe.

By-and-by the Giant came home, and as soon as he had crossed the threshold he roared out:

`Fe, fa, fi-fo-fum, I smell the breath of an Englishman. Let him be alive or let him be dead, I’ll grind his bones to make my bread.’

`You stupid old Giant,’ said his wife, `you only smell a nice sheep, which I have grilled for your dinner.’

And the Giant sat down, and his wife brought up a whole sheep for his dinner. When he had eaten it all up, he said:

`Now bring me my harp, and I will have a little music while you take your walk.’

The Giantess obeyed, and returned with a beautiful harp. The framework was all sparkling with diamonds and rubies, and the strings were all of gold.

`This is one of the nicest things I took from the knight,’ said the Giant. `I am very fond of music, and my harp is a faithful servant.’

So he drew the harp towards him, and said:


And the harp played a very soft, sad air.

`Play something merrier!’ said the Giant.

And the harp played a merry tune.

`Now play me a lullaby,’ roared the Giant; and the harp played a sweet lullaby, to the sound of which its master fell asleep.

Then Jack stole softly out of the wardrobe, and went into the huge kitchen to see if the Giantess had gone out; he found no one there, so he went to the door and opened it softly, for he thought he could not do so with the harp in his hand.

Then he entered the Giant’s room and seized the harp and ran away with it; but as he jumped over the threshold the harp called out:


And the Giant woke up.

With a tremendous roar he sprang from his seat, and in two strides had reached the door.

But Jack was very nimble. He fled like lightning with the harp, talking to it as he went (for he saw it was a fairy), and telling it he was the son of its old master, the knight.

Still the Giant came on so fast that he was quite close to poor Jack, and had stretched out his great hand to catch him. But, luckily, just at that moment he stepped upon a loose stone, stumbled, and fell flat on the ground, where he lay at his full length.

This accident gave Jack time to get on the Beanstalk and hasten down it; but just as he reached their own garden he beheld the Giant descending after him.

`Mother I mother!’ cried Jack, `make haste and give me the axe.’

His mother ran to him with a hatchet in her hand, and Jack with one tremendous blow cut through all the Beanstalks except one.

`Now, mother, stand out of the way!’ said he.


Jack’s mother shrank back, and it was well she did so, for just as the Giant took hold of the last branch of the Beanstalk, Jack cut the stem quite through and darted from the spot.

Down came the Giant with a terrible crash, and as he fell on his head, he broke his neck, and lay dead at the feet of the woman he had so much injured.

Before Jack and his mother had recovered from their alarm and agitation, a beautiful lady stood before them.

`Jack,’ said she, `you have acted like a brave knight’s son, and deserve to have your inheritance restored to you. Dig a grave and bury the Giant, and then go and kill the Giantess.’

`But,’ said Jack, `I could not kill anyone unless I were fighting with him; and I could not draw my sword upon a woman. Moreover, the Giantess was very kind to me.’

The Fairy smiled on Jack.

`I am very much pleased with your generous feeling,’ she said. `Nevertheless, return to the castle, and act as you will find needful.’

Jack asked the Fairy if she would show him the way to the castle, as the Beanstalk was now down. She told him that she would drive him there in her chariot, which was drawn by two peacocks. Jack thanked her, and sat down in the chariot with her.

The Fairy drove him a long distance round, till they reached a village which lay at the bottom of the hill. Here they found a number of miserable-looking men assembled. The Fairy stopped her carriage and addressed them:

`My friends,’ said she, `the cruel giant who oppressed you and ate up all your flocks and herds is dead, and this young gentleman was the means of your being delivered from him, and is the son of your kind old master, the knight.’

The men gave a loud cheer at these words, and pressed forward to say that they would serve Jack as faithfully as they had served his father. The Fairy bade them follow her to the castle, and they marched thither in a body, and Jack blew the horn and demanded admittance.

The old Giantess saw them coming from the turret loop-hole. She was very much frightened, for she guessed that something had happened to her husband; and as she came downstairs very fast she caught her foot in her dress, and fell from the top to the bottom and broke her neck.

When the people outside found that the door was not opened to them, they took crowbars and forced the portal. Nobody was to be seen, but on leaving the hall they found the body of the Giantess at the foot of the stairs.

Thus Jack took possession of the castle. The Fairy went and brought his mother to him, with the hen and the harp. He had the Giantess buried, and endeavoured as much as lay in his power to do right to those whom the Giant had robbed.

Before her departure for fairyland, the Fairy explained to Jack that she had sent the butcher to meet him with the beans, in order to try what sort of lad he was.

If you had looked at the gigantic Beanstalk and only stupidly wondered about it,’ she said, `I should have left you where misfortune had placed you, only restoring her cow to your mother. But you showed an inquiring mind, and great courage and enterprise, therefore you deserve to rise; and when you mounted the Beanstalk you climbed the Ladder of Fortune.’

She then took her leave of Jack and his mother.

from The Red Fairy Book, Edited by Andrew Lang
This book is in the public domain.

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