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 didnt know what to do.
What shall we do, what shall we do? said the widow, wringing her hands.
Cheer up, mother, Ill go and get work somewhere, said Jack.
Weve 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; its market-day today, and Ill soon sell Milky-white, and then well see what we can do.
So he took the cows 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.
Im going to market to sell our cow there.
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 a 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 dont mind doing a swop with you your cow for these beans.
Go along, says Jack; wouldnt you like it?
Ah! you dont know what these beans are, said the man; if you plant them overnight, by morning they grow right up to the sky.
Really? said Jack; you dont say so.
Yes, that is so, and if it doesnt turn out to be true you can have your cow back.
Right, says Jack, and hands him over Milky-whites halter and pockets the beans.
Back goes Jack home, and as he hadnt gone very far it wasnt dusk by the time he got to his door.
Back already, Jack? said his mother; I see you havent got Milky-white, so youve sold her. How much did you get for her?
Youll never guess, mother, says Jack.
No, you dont say so. Good boy! Five pounds, ten, fifteen, no, it cant be twenty.
I told you you couldnt guess. What do you say to these beans; theyre magical, plant them overnight and
What! says Jacks mother, have you been such a fool, such a dolt, such an 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 of the window. And now off with you to bed. Not a sup 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 mothers sake, as for the loss of his supper.
At last he dropped off to sleep.
When he woke up, 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 truth after all.
The beanstalk grew up quite close past Jacks 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 hadnt had anything to eat, you know, the night before and was as hungry as a hunter.
Its breakfast you want, is it? says the great big tall woman, its breakfast youll be if you dont move off from here. My man is an ogre and theres nothing he likes better than boys broiled on toast. Youd better be moving on or hell be coming.
Oh! please, mum, do give me something to eat, mum. Ive 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 ogres wife was not half so bad after all. So she took Jack into the kitchen, and gave him a hunk of bread and cheese and a jug of milk. But Jack hadnt half finished these when thump! thump! thump! the whole house began to tremble with the noise of someone coming.
Goodness gracious me! Its my old man, said the ogres 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! whats this I smell?
I smell the blood of an Englishman,
Be he alive, or be he dead,
Ill have his bones to grind 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 yesterdays dinner. Here, you go and have a wash and tidy up, and by the time you come back your breakfastll 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 hes 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 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 into his mothers 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: Welt, mother, wasnt 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 tuck once more 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 tall house he had been to before. There, sure enough, was the great tall woman a-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 arent you the youngster who came here once before? Do you know, that very day my man missed one of his bags of gold.
Thats strange, mum, said Jack, I dare say I could tell you something about that, but Im so hungry I cant speak till Ive 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! they heard the giants 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 off 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 wasnt 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 to 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 ogres house. And when he got near it, he waited behind a bush till he saw the ogres wife come out with a pail to get some water, and then he crept into the house and got into the copper. He hadnt been there long when he heard thump! thump! thump! as before, and in came 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 ogres wife. Then, if its that little rogue that stole your gold and the hen that laid the golden eggs hes sure to have got into the oven. And they both rushed to the oven. But Jack wasnt there, luckily, and the ogre s wife said: There you are again with your fee-fi-fo-fum. Why, of course, its the boy you caught last night that Ive 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 hed get up and search the larder and the cupboards and everything, only, luckily, he didnt 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 like, and when he came to the end of the road he saw Jack underneath climbing down for dear life. Well, the ogre didnt 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 on to 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.
Jacobs' Notes and References
SOURCE I tell this as it was told me in Australia, somewhere about the year 1860.
PARALLELS There is a chap-book version which is very poor; it is given by Mr E. S. Hartland, English Folk and Fairy Tales (Camelot Series,) p. 35 seq. In this, when Jack arrives at the top of the Beanstalk he is met by a fairy, who gravely informs him that the ogre had stolen all his possessions from Jack's father. The object of this was to prevent the tale becoming an encouragement to theft ! I have had greater confidence in my young friends, and have deleted the fairy who did not exist in the tale as told to me. For the Beanstalk elsewhere, see Ralston, Russian Folk Tales, 293-8. Cosquin has some remarks on magical ascents (i, 14).