Overview: There are many different tales in which Jack and other folk heroes encounter giants or ogres (or trolls in Scandanavian tales), derived largely from ancient British tales of Jack the Giant-Killer, who was popular in chapbook stories for centuries, and was often associated with Arthurian legends. (Only "Jack and the Beanstalk" has been more popular for the past several centuries than "Jack and the Giants"). There may be a castle, sword, and magic cloak in the tale, or a simple rural setting where Jack is armed only with his wits. The giants often want to eat Jack but they may also have captives that Jack rescues. There may be a giant wife or a whole family of giants. They often have two or more heads. Jack escapes from them by fooling them into thinking he has superhuman strength, or tricking them into fighting each other or running from an enemy in pursuit. Female giant-killers such as Mutsmag also appear in old folktales.


Chase, Richard. “Jack in the Giants’ Newground.” In The Jack Tales. Boston: Houghton, 1943, pp. 3-20. Full-page drawings by Berkeley Williams, Jr. show Jack tricking the two-headed giant, and the four-headed giant reaching to stop Jack from moving his creek. Another drawing shows Jack pretending he can holler to his uncle in Virginia and pitch a giant crowbar to him. Chase and Halpert (in the appendix) give detailed notes on this story combining various well-known tale types.

Chase, Richard. “Jack in the Giants’ New Ground.” In Cole, Joanna, ed. Best-Loved Folktales of the World. New York: Anchor Doubleday, 1982.

Stephenson, R. Rex. "Jack and the Giants." Retold by Stephenson in 2010 in Ferrum, Virginia, several decades after he developed "Jack Fear-No-Man" as a story theatre dramatization. Full text in this web site. Jack Fear-No-Man performance 2009

Stephenson, R. Rex. "Jack Fear-No-Man." The Jack Tales. Schulenburg, TX: I. E. Clark, 1991. Reprint Woodstock, IL: Dramatic Publishing. Story theatre dramatization, as performed by The Ferrum Jack Tale Players. Jack defeats three dumb and gullible giants, winning money from the King of Virginia (or Queen, in some performances). The ruler loves trees and wants to be rid of giants who destroy trees. First Jack gets two of the giants to kill each other by dropping a rock on them from a tree, making them fight among themselves when one thinks the others hit him. Jack wins three contests with the third giant by boasting that he can do incredible feats, such as tearing up half the woods instead of just one tree—but the giant doesn't want to lose his woods. Jack Fear-No-Man performance 2009Jack says he plans to throw the giant's 1000-pound iron walking stick over to his brother-in-law in France, but the giant doesn't want to lose it. Jack wins an egg-eating contest (with eggs prepared by the giant's ugly wife) by stuffing the eggs in his false stomach. Then he uses the classic trick of appearing to cut open his own belly with a butcher knife, so that the giant cuts his own real stomach and dies. See comments and study questions on Jack Tale Players Study Guides page. In photo at left, Emily Rose Tucker plays Jack. At right, Willette Thompson plays the Queen, accompanied by Kenny Barron as the page, at Farmer's Market, Rocky Mount, VA, July 2009. See more 2009 photos and video clips at Flickr.com (in account of AuntTina7).

Stephenson, R. Rex. "The Jack Tales." In Eight Plays for Youth: Varied Theatrical Experiences for Stage and Study, edited by Christian H. Moe and R. Eugene Jackson. American University Studies Series XXVI: Theatre Arts. Vol. 8. New York: Peter Lang, 1991. Includes three tales by Stephenson with background on Jack Tales and story theatre: "Jack and the Robbers," "Jack and the Three Giants," and "Greasy-Beard."

"Jack the Giant Killer." In Nippy and the Yankee Doodle, and Other Authentic Folk Tales from the Southern Mountains. Collected by Leonard Roberts. Berea, KY: The Council of the Southern Mountains, 1958. Roberts calls this version from Kentucky and Virginia, similar to the old story in Jacobs and Chase, "the finest version of the old tale that I have, or have seen in American collections." Jack grows up hearing about a giant that kills farm animals, so he decides to go after the giant when he is 16. He calls the giant out of his cave and kills him with a pick, earning the name Jack the Giant Killer. Then he hunts more giants to kill. After several days of captivity in another giant's castle, he strangles two giants and frees two starving women. After meeting a prince, Jack beheads a three-headed giant in his castle, with a sword. He takes a suit of invisibility which he uses to ambush another giant that has captured men, women, and children. At the end, "Jack went on searching for other giants and I never did see him any more." It is interesting that Jack uses less trickery and more direct force with weapons to kill the giants in this tale.

"Jack Outwits the Giants." In Roberts, Leonard. I Bought Me a Dog: A Dozen Authentic Folktales from the Southern Mountains. Berea, KY:  The Council of the Southern Mountains, 1954. Recorded in Leslie Co., KY. While Jack and his brother Bill are moving with their parents, Jack sees three giants, shoots at their food while they are eating, and causes them to quarrel. The giants think Jack will get them inside the king's castle, but after they throw him over the wall, he uses a magic sword inside to cut off their heads as they try to crawl through a small gate. The king rewards Jack with his daughter and half the kingdom, so Jack goes to bring back his family and live happily ever after. 

"Jack the Giant Killer" and "Jack and the Three Giants." In Roberts, Leonard (collector). Old Greasybeard: Tales From the Cumberland GapIllus. Leonard Epstein. Detroit:  Folklore Associates, 1969. Rpt. Pikeville, KY: Pikeville College Press, 1980.

"Jack Outwits the Giant." Told by Leonard Roberts in Raglif, Jaglif, Tetartlif, Pole [and Other Tales from Apalachian Tradition]. Audiocassette. Berea, KY: Appalachian Center, Berea College, 1993. Side 1. Raglif, Jaglif, Tetartlif, Pole, Irishmen Tales, Jack Outwits the Giant, Riddles. Side 2. Daniel Boone's Hunting Trip, Jack and the Bull Strap, Remarks by Dr. Roberts on Appalachian Region.

"Jack and the Giants’ New Ground." In Peck, Catherine, ed. QPB Treasury of North American Folktales. Introduction by Charles Johnson. New York: Quality Paperback Book Club, 1998, pp. 219-34. (Also published as A Treasury of North American Folktales. Norton, 1999). This version from Maud Long, with several small illustrations, is reprinted from Folklore on the American Land by Duncan Emrich (Little, Brown, 1972).

“Jack and the Giants’ New Ground.” Folklore of the United States.Jack Tales II. Told by Mrs. Maud Long of Hot Springs, NC. Ed. Duncan Emrich. LP. Washington: Library of Congress, Division of Music, 1947. Jack is lazy, leaving home because he won’t help his very poor family clear ground. The King gets him to go after a family of giants who won’t let anyone clear their ground, for $1000 per head. He tricks the two-headed giant by giving the impression he is squeezing a rock and slitting his stomach, so the giant slits his own stomach. With the three-headed twins, Jack throws rocks at them from inside a hollow log they are carrying and gets them to fight with each other, then cuts off their heads. The giants' mother has three heads and Jack chases away the four-headed father giant with threats.

"Jack the Giant Killer." In Carter, Isobel Gordon. "Mountain White Folk-Lore: Tales from the Southern Blue Ridge." Journal of American Folklore 38 (1925): pp. 340-74 (this tale on pp. 351-54). A landmark article containing Jack tales told by Jane Hicks Gentry (1863-1925), recorded by Carter in 1923. Carter comments on the decline of storytelling among mountain families who used to know them better, although they had not been recorded as ballads had. In the last espisode of this tale, the final giant's mother tries to get Jack into an oven but he pops her in and has some baked giant. He gets an invisible cloak and a sword from this giant before killing him. This last smaller one, about Jack's size, has pathetically begged in vain for mercy since his brothers have been killed. Available online through library services such as JSTOR.

"Jack and the Giants." From Isobel Gordon Carter, "Mountain White Folklore: Tales from the Southern Blue Ridge" (Journal of Folklore 38 [1925]), reprinted in Richard M. Dorson, Buying the Wind: Regional Folklore in the United States (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1964), reprinted in Raymond E. Jones and John C. Stott, eds. A World of Stories: Traditional Tales for Children. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 2006,  pp. 417-19. Collected by Carter in 1923 from western NC. The article and portions of the Dorson book are available online through library services such as JSTOR and Google Books.

Haley, Gail E. "Jack and Uncle Thimblewit." In Mountain Jack Tales. New York: Dutton, 1992, pp. 47-52. With one full-page engraving of Jack standing on a table talking to the giant in a nightshirt. Poppyseed, Haley's elderly narrator, says her strange Irish uncle told this tale in which Jack's uncle is the giant Thimblewit. Jack tells the giant 1000 soldiers are coming, helps the giant hide in the cellar from the king's men, and tells his employer, the prince Greatheart, that the giant has gone on a trip. Jack and Greatheart take gold, since they are out of money, and go off to seek adventures. The story emphasizes kindness to family and strangers before and during the incident with the giant. Muncimeg is the other hero who defeats a giant in Haley's book.

Jack Outwits the Giant covr

Johnson, Paul Brett. Jack Outwits the Giants. Margaret McElderry, 2002. The second of Johnson's series of picture books with Jack as a small boy and his dog following along on his adventure, conveying appropriate emotions in each scene. Jack outwits a dumb two-headed cannibal and his giant wife by fooling them into thinking he survives a midnight beating, he squeezes milk out of rocks, he could move their creek, and he's seen a huge posse coming after them. When they hide in the well, he cuts the rope and they are probably still falling into the bottomless giant well. (Reader's theater script formerly available at Johnson's web site, but Johnson died in 2011.) This is a featured youth book in the Roanoke Valley Reads program in Fall 2013.

Birdseye, Tom. Look Out Jack! The Giant is Back! Illus. Will Hillenbrand. New York: Holiday House, 2001. N. pag. Written as a comic sequel to "Jack and the Beanstalk," with Jack and his mother moving from abroad to a farm in the mountains of NC. But the dead beanstalk giant's bigger, nastier brother, "ugly as slug pie," finds Jack, demanding the harp, hen and money Jack had taken. He repeats, "Wham blam hickity hack!/ I'm gonna get that boy named Jack!/ He now be living, but soon he'll roast!/ I'll spread him with mustard and eat him on toast!"  Jack doesn't respond to his ferocious threats, but fills him full of massive amounts of Southern food. The giant gets such a bad stomach ache that Jack escapes, but only after the giant almost stops him by waving his smelly feet. Flora, fauna and Jack are nearly done in, until Jack smells his own roses for relief and takes off down the mountain. The giant's angry stomping starts earthquakes in California and buries him under the mountaintop. Then Jack and his mother really can live happily ever after. Hillenbrand's amusing cartoon-like illustrations highlight the contrast between the huge, gluttonous giant and Jack, his animal friends, and his piles of human-sized food. One double-page spread must be turned sideways for a dramatic vertical view of the fat giant.

Compton, Joanne and Kenn. Jack the Giant Chaser: An Appalachian Tale. New York: Holiday House, 1993. Jack the Giant ChaseBased on Richard Chase. The mayor in Jack's hometown gets him to go after a giant because he brags about his adventure killing seven at a blow (really a lucky rock throw at catfish). He tries to act like a hero because everybody thinks he is one. After individuals tell what the giant has done to them, Jack uses his wits to get rid of the giant up on Balsam Mountain, acting casual at the giant's house. He tricks the giant into thinking he’s strong by wanting to move the creek instead of carrying buckets, wanting to throw a giant knife to his uncle over the mountain instead of across the yard, and getting the scared giant into a barrel because he says his bigger family is coming. When Jack rolls the barrel out, the giant gets bumped crashing into tree, and leaves for ever. The cartoonlike illustrations contain some interesting design features, with the giant and Jack in different relative sizes and different positions on facing pages. The giant is huge, spreading across the page in their first confrontation, but the images of Jack are larger in other scenes as he gets the upper hand. “Joanne Compton’s Jack the Giant Chaser is one of the finest of the trickster Jack tales. Jack’s ingenuity and the Giant’s stupidity have undying appeal” (Roberta Herrin, "Southern Pot of Soup." Southern Exposure Summer 1996, p. 61.)

Salsi, Lynn. Jack and the Giants. Illus. James Young. Terra Alta, WV: Headline Kids, 2013. Jack outsmarts two three-headed giants, and their kin, in this picture book retelling of the Beech Mountain tale, with humorous color illustrations. The beginning is like "Jack and the Varmints," when Jack kills some flies and then cuts the words on his belt, "Big Man Jack Killed Seven With One Whack." A farmer pays Jack to clear his land and run off the whole family of giants through a series of tricks. Jack takes his payment and the magic boots he gets from the giants back to his Mama. No background notes in this book, but Salsi gives background on similar tales told by Ray Hicks and Maud Long in the version of "Jack and the Giant's New Ground" she records in Appalachian Jack Tales: Told by Hicks, Ward and Harmon Families (Illus. James Young. Brown Summit, NC: Forza Renea Editions, 2008. pp. 145-63). Salsi reads this story and "Jack and the Dragon" on a CD, The Appalachian Jack Tales Audiobook, produced by Headline Kids, 2013.

Shelby, Anne. The Adventures of Molly Whuppie and Other Appalachian Folktales. Illus. Paula McArdle. Chapel Hill: Univ. of NC Press, 2007. A storyteller and writer from southeastern KY, Shelby adapts Joseph Jacobs' British "Molly Whuppie" in "The Adventures of Molly Whuppie" and observes that her title tale is also based on the Appalachian "Merrywise" collected by Leonard Roberts (along with some links to "Mutsmag"). She adapts other tales from Appalachia, with elements from European and Japanese tales, in this collection of 14 tales, most of which feature Molly as a "clever, brave, and strong" hero (book jacket). She triumphs over giants in 5 of the tales. In "Molly and Jack" (similar to "Raglif Taglif Tetarlif Pole"), she helps Jack escape from a giant (see Noteworthy Girls in Jack Tales). "Molly and the Giant" is based on "Jack Outwits the Giants" collected by Roberts. The title tale has only one female giant from whom Molly helps her sisters escape. In just one tale Molly ends up in a kingdom with a Queen, who puts Molly in charge of Giant Control and Other Giant-Related Matters, but Molly's family returns to Hoot Owl Holler after they get tired of living in luxury with "everything done real proper and just so" (pp. 13-14). For more on Shelby's book, see Appalachian Folktale Collections K-Z.

"Jack in the Giants' New Ground." Retold by Jerry Harmon. Audio file online in Jerry Harmon: "Smoky Mountain Rambler." Web site of a son of Benjamin Harmon and great-great grandson of Council Harmon, who brought the Jack Tales from England in the early nineteenth century. Web site also includes background information, songs, and "Jack and the King's Daughters."

"Jack and the Newground." In Cheek, Pauline. Appalachian Scrapbook: An A-B-C of Growing Up in the Mountains. Johnson City, TN: Overmountain Press, 1988. pp 55-65. The narrator of this book says her Daddy tells the Jack tale. The book, in the voice of a child from Madison County, NC, is longer than a traditional alphabet book, but it includes many pencil drawings and references to folktales and legends. Examples: B is for ballads; J is for Jonesborough, its storytelling festival, and Jack tales; L is for legend, with a retelling of the Cherokee legend about the Milky Way; M is for moonshine, with a yarn about curing a cow with moonshine; U is for "Unto These Hills" (Cherokee drama); X for "x marks the spot" includes a number of superstitions and a story told by fiddler Roy Sharp at the Lunsford Festival, about getting incredible fiddling skill from an encounter with the devil at a crossroads.

Davis, Donald. "The Time Jack Got the Silver Sword." Jack Always Seeks His Fortune: Authentic Appalachian Jack Tales. Little Rock: August House, 1992. pp. 83-98. Davis comments on the multiplicity of tales in which Jack defeats giants. in this one, Jack's family moves west to find their own land, but they can't get to the good land on the other side of the king's land because giants block the way. They are tempted to take shortcuts. While Jack keeps watch from a tree, he sees three giants and notes that they are dumb, so he can trick them into thinking he is small but powerful. While he pretends to help the giants get into the castle (since they are too big to get themselves over the wall), Jack  finds a sleeping princess who is so dizzyingly beautiful he falls in love, which gives him the strength to drink a draught that makes him strong enough to handle a long silver sword in the castle, and he uses it to cut off the giants' heads. Jack wins the princess and brings his family to live on the king's land.

Davis, Donald. "The Time Jack Stole the Cows." Jack Always Seeks His Fortune: Authentic Appalachian Jack Tales. Little Rock: August House, 1992. pp. 119-31. Davis comments that he likes this tale because the giants are so "nasty" and Jack comes up with such good tricks. Jack is out hunting game for his mother and himself when he gets caught out in the dark and seeks shelter in an open house. He is a little like Goldilocks when he finds three beds, he can't resist eating leftover food, and he falls asleep. Three 14-foot disgusting robber giants come home and threaten to eat him, until he insists he is a robber, too. Jack steals one cow by messing himself up with pig blood and dirt so he looks like a "dead boy," scaring a farmer into leaving his cow by the road while he runs for help. He steals another cow by dropping a shoe so that a farmer looks for its mate, and dropping the same shoe later on so that the farmer goes back to get the first one for his wife, leave a cow unattended. He passes the third part of the robber test by moo-ing so that a farmer leaves a cow alone to look for the one he can hear. Then he bets the giants that he can steal in an hour as much as they stole in a year, so he tells the sheriff about the giant robbers, he and the sheriff surprise them and tie them up, and gets half their possessions as a reward while they go to prison. Throughout Jack expresses concern about getting home to help his mother. This is an interesting version of "the master thief," similar to Jack and the Doctor's Girl, with giants as the thieves.

"Jack and the Giant." In Perdue, Charles L., Jr. Outwitting the Devil: JACK TALES from Wise County Virginia. Santa Fe, NM: Ancient City, 1987, pp. 53-56. Two versions collected by James Taylor Adams are reprinted here. Both begin with Jack trying to stay in a house that others consider haunted by a giant. In the first, Jack finds a pretty girl when she wakes up from a sleeping dram given to her by a giant that imprisoned her. They scare off the giant and rescue Jack's brothers, who were being fattened up in the giant's cave in the woods. The girl tricks the giant by standing in the road and then bargaining for the lives of the brothers when the giant thinks she's a "haint" and begs for mercy. On his wedding day, Jack stops being a marked boy who is "half boy and half dog." In the second "Jack and the Giant," Jack earns $1000 by trapping a giant as no one else could, smashing it when it turns into a mouse and tries to escape through a small hole in a fence.

"Jack and the Gang o' Giants." Video clips at this link from Facebook page of Jack Tales Storytelling Theater of the Smoky Mountains. "Jack Tales Storytelling Theater of the Smoky Mountains originated at Clear Creek Campground in 1987." Facebook pages include photos and videos from a variety of tales. "Jack Tales Storytelling Theater is performed at Jack's Playhouse, located in the Adventure Bound Camping Resort (also known as Crazy Horse Campground), Highway 321, between Cosby and Gatlinburg, Tennessee" (accessed 5/1/10).

Related Appalachian Tales:

See the giant-killers in "Jack and the Bean Tree" and "Mutsmag" (Appalachian versions of British "Jack and the Beanstalk" and "Molly Whuppie"). Other tales about girls, Nippy, and Merrywise defeating giants are listed in the Mutsmag bibliography.

Jack is the braggart who defeats wild opponents in "Jack and the Varmints," and Jack defeats the Fire Dragon in his underground lair.

"The One-Eyed Giant." In Roberts, Leonard. I Bought Me a Dog: A Dozen Authentic Folktales from the Southern Mountain. Berea, KY: The Council of the Southern Mountains, 1954. A first-person narrator tells of an adventure in 1901 similar to the Polyphemus episode in The Odyssey, an unusual episode within an American hunting tale. After the giant eats his two friends, the narrator blinds the giant and escapes under the belly of the giant's pet goat. Outside the giant's cave in Mississippi, seven giants chase the narrator but only succeed in scooting him across the river. Then he tells a tall tale with a series of coincidental marvels involving different animals (comparable to "Jack and the Varmints"). Told by Jim Couch, Harlan County, Kentucky.

"The Hunters and the Giant." In Roberts, Leonard (collector). Old Greasybeard: Tales From the Cumberland GapIllus. Leonard Epstein. Detroit: Folklore Associates, 1969. Rpt. Pikeville, KY: Pikeville College Press, 1980. pp. 125-27. Like the tale above, this first-person narrative is like other hunting tall tales and it is also Type 1137, The Ogre Blinded (Polyphemus). The giant is a farmer, not a cave-dweller, but the humans' escape is similar to Odysseus' adventure with Polyphemus in the ancient Greek epic The Odyssey. The narrator and four friends "come to a real high strange fence" made of whole trees. They climb it and realize they are in a giant wheat field, not a forest of trees. The giant finds them as he works in his field, takes them in his house, and skewers and eats a couple of the friends. While he is sleeping, the men blind him with his hot fork. Although the giant hollers for his friends, the men escape in their boat. When they climb a white mountain, it is a giant bird that takes them in the air, landing to get meat from a fighting elephant and rhinoceros. "We had been on some hunt—enough to cure us for a while." Roberts notes that there might be "literary reworking" in this text, also comparing it to Sindbad the Sailor in the Arabian Nights (notes, p. 198).

"Jonis and the Giant's Girl." In Roberts, Leonard (collector). Nippy and the Yankee Doodle, and Other Authentic Folk Tales from the Southern Mountains. Collected by Leonard Roberts. Berea, KY: The Council of the Southern Mountains, 1958. Also published as "Jonas and the Giant" in Old Greasybeard: Tales From the Cumberland GapIllus. Leonard Epstein. Detroit:  Folklore Associates, 1969. Rpt. Pikeville, KY: Pikeville College Press, 1980. pp. 68-72. See Jack and King Marock for details.

"Tom-Fear-No-Man." In Roberts, Leonard (collector). Old Greasybeard: Tales From the Cumberland GapIllus. Leonard Epstein. Detroit:  Folklore Associates, 1969. Rpt. Pikeville, KY: Pikeville College Press, 1980. pp. 131-33. Tom earns $10,000 by taking the king the heads of three giants that had been tearing up his country. Jack rolls a rock on one giant so that he fights with the second one and they kill each other. Jack tricks the third giant by bragging about pulling up all his trees, throwing his iron cane to France, and slitting his own (false) belly full of eggs. Roberts' 1954 informant heard the tale from a Virginia man.

Merrywise and Nippy tales collected by Leonard Roberts also tell of a small youngest son who defeats giants. "Nippy" in South From Hell-fer-Sartin' and "Merrywise" in I Bought Me a Dog are similar to "Mutsmag." "The King's Well" in Nippy and the Yankee Doodle also involves Merrywise and giants. 

"The King's Well." In Roberts, Leonard (collector). Old Greasybeard: Tales From the Cumberland GapIllus. Leonard Epstein. Detroit: Folklore Associates, 1969. Rpt. Pikeville, KY: Pikeville College Press, 1980. pp. 109-15. Roberts also published this tale in Nippy and the Yankee Doodle, and Other Authentic Folk Tales from the Southern Mountains. Berea, KY: The Council of the Southern Mountains, 1958. This tale is reprinted in Smith, Jimmy Neil, ed. Why the Possum's Tail is Bare and Other Classic Southern Stories. New York: Avon, 1993, pp. 65-71. Merrywise follows his brothers Jack and Bill when they go to seek their fortune. Although they look down on Merrywise, he sees magical sights and manages to dig a well for the King to win the hand of the princess. His brothers who try and fail get their ears chopped off. The King gives him half of his kingdom in money to prevent the marriage, so Merrywise builds his parents a fine house. Then the King wants to be rid of a giant who is cutting down his tress and "ruining the whole countryside." The next part of the tale is like "Jack and the Giants." Merrywise tricks the giant into doing heavy tasks and thinking Merrywise is stronger, so the giant leaves. In the end the King, proud of Merrywise, gives him the kingdom and the princess. See also Jack and the King's Girl and other tales with Merrywise on Mutsmag page.

"John and the Giants." In Musick, Ruth Ann. Green Hills of Magic: West Virginia Folktales from Europe. 1970. Rpt. Parsons, WV: McClain, 1989. pp. 118-22. Italian tale told by Rocco Pantalone, Fairmont, 1960. Musick noted that it was the only Italian Jack tale she knew of.  The tale begins like Jack and the Varmints (or "The Brave Little Tailor") but the king forces John to kill giants after the mediocre shoemaker kills 1500 flies and wears a belt saying "John, Strong Man, with one slap killed 1500 men." John convinces the giants he has superhuman strength by throwing a bird instead of a stone, pretending he can throw an iron ball across the sea, and claiming he felt bedbugs and dust flying when they tried to kill him in the night while he was hiding. He fools one giant into slitting his stomach by putting mush inside a sheepskin over his own stomach. He shoots another giant while turkey hunting, so the last giant gives him riches to get rid of him. He avoids one more giant attack by pretending he had kicked one of his mules and couldn't see where it went. John returns to the king and marries the princess.

"The Gypsy and the Bear." In Musick, Ruth Ann. Green Hills of Magic: West Virginia Folktales from Europe. 1970. Rpt. Parsons, WV: McClain, 1989. pp. 242-44. A Russian tale told by Valentino Zabolotny, Grant Town, 1954, as he heard it from his father. Gregory, a "quick-witted" gypsy living in the woods in southern Europe, keeps a bear from eating him by bragging about his incredible strength, and hiding at night so that the bear believes Gregory survives a fierce beating in bed. He wins a final contest by fooling the bear into thinking he wins a race up a mountain; he is pulled up by grabbing the bear's tail, and is then flung to the top when the bear turns around near the top.

Compare these Appalachian giant tales with:

Lucky Jack and the Giant: An African-American Legend. Retold by Janet P. Johnson. Illus. Charles Reasoner. Legends of the World Series. Troll, 1998. John and Lucky Jack are both sent by their father to seek their fortunes. John buys a store and prospers. Lucky Jack, unused to work, squanders his money from his father. An old woman in the swamp sends him to see Long Beard, a giant who sets him several impossible tasks of work.  The giant's daughter Julie provides several kinds of magic help so that Jack can complete the work and they can escape from the murderous giant. With a wife and children, Jack works hard in his brother's store. A page on African-American heritage discusses the blending of African and European folklore in this tale and other High John the Conqueror Tales or Jack Tales, in which a woman often helps a hero on a magical quest. This one contains a "confident hero, high adventure, and mystical elements" typical of African-American literature.

"Jack the Giant-Killer" in Jacobs, Joseph. English Fairy Tales, 1898. Jacobs' main sources were two early nineteenth-century chapbooks at the British Museum.  He also gives detailed notes on other variants and literary as well as mythological parallels. Jacobs notes that "The 'Fee-fi-fo-fum' formula is common to all English stories of giants and ogres; it also occurs in Peele's play [The Old Wives' Tale] and in King Lear" (Dover edition, 1967, pp. 242-43.)  Jacobs' version is reprinted online at SurLaLuneFairyTales.com.Giant by Arthur Rackham

A chapbook version of "The History of Jack the Giant Killer" (placing Jack in Cornwall in the reign of King Arthur, as in Jacobs) is reprinted online from Andrew Lang's The Blue Fairy Book (1889) at "The History of Jack the Giant-Killer" at SurLaLuneFairyTales.com.

"Jack the Giant Killer," illustration at right by Arthur Rackham for Flora Annie Steel's English Folk Tales, Macmillan, 1918. Reproduced in Project Gutenberg with illustrations. The giant Cormoran lives on the Mount of St. Michael and terrorizes King Arthur's people until clever Jack from Land's End in Cornwall goes after a series of giants in this tale, which contains an array of different illustrations by Rackham.

Open Library contains a number of older books of Jack and giants that can be read online, including Jack the Giant Killer, by the author of "The Comic Latin Grammar." With illustrations by Leech. London: Wm. S. Orr, 1843. Open Library Internet Archive. John Leech's illustrations show an unusual giant with two vertical heads, in the frontispiece and p. 22, as well as giants with three heads and two heads side by side.

The Jack and the Beanstalk and Jack the Giant-Killer Project (University of Southern Mississippi) gives verse and prose versions of historic tales, with illustrations from old manuscripts.

"Jack the Giant-Killer" is one of the categories in Once Upon a Time . . . a personal web site with a list of novels based on fairy tales and synopses of individual tales with lists of novels for each. Sur La Lune Fairy Tales has similar lists with other genres in addition to novels.

Ross, Tony. Jack the Giantkiller. London: Andersen Press, 2002. N. pag. An English picture book in which Jack uses tricks to defeat a series of giants, including a two-headed one. Jack's adventures include the rescue of three princesses and other captives; a magic sword; a cloak of invisibility; "two fiery dragons [that] barred Jack's way"; and a silver horn which wakes up statues that are enchanted lords, ladies, and knights. A statue less ugly than the others turns from a hind into a beautiful princess whom Jack marries. Ross's colorful modern illustrations give a comical slant to the old-fashioned folktale scenes.

Swope, Sam. Jack and the Seven Deadly Giants. Illus. Carll Cneut. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004. A book by a New York author, with black and white pictures by a Belgian illustrator. In seven chapters plus "Prologue" and "The End," young Jack, who starts out as an orphan and bad boy, searches for his mother and combats giants that represent the seven deadly sins: the Giant Poet, the Terrible Glutton, Mrs. Roth, the Wild Tickler, Avaritch, Orgulla the Great, and the Green Queen. See colorful cover in Google Books.

"Jack the Giant Killer." In Doherty, Berlie. The Famous Adventures of Jack. Hodder Children's Books, 2000. English book published in U.S. by HarperCollins/Greenwillow, 2001. This is the final tale told in full to Jill, a girl in the frame story who visits Mother Greenwood and gets caught up in tales about different legendary Jacks from the same family. This violent story of Mother Greenwood's father Jack, killing many giants one after the other, has been anticipated throughout the book until Jill is ready to hear it. The cat character is terrified of the magic belt with Celtic words saying, "This is the brave young Cornishman who slew the giant Cormoran." The giants have names from the ancient tales and Jack uses tricks as well as the cap of knowledge, coat of invisibility and shoes of swiftness that he gets from his distant cousin (a giant whom he just chases away with threats of the king's soldiers approaching). From St. Michael's Mount to North Wales, Jack rids the country of giants, beheads them, sends their single or multiple heads to the king, and rescues captives, some of whom were turned into animals and objects. Jack marries the princess who had been captured and turned into a white doe. This "bravest man who ever lived" is the grandfather of the Jack who has gone up the beanstalk by the end of the book. Jill puts on the belt and goes up to join him, to see if there is one giant left.

Phelan, Matt. The Storm in the Barn. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press, 2009. Phelan's first graphic novel has a protagonist named after Jack in Appalachian Jack Tales. Phelan observed that in Richard Chase's Jack Tales, "There's one story called Jack and the North West Wind so I knew there was a precedent for weather-based tales." A storekeeper named Ernie, who is presumed to have some Appalachian ancestry, has imperfect memory of the tales but tells Jack tales to bolster Jack's confidence. Ernie refers to tales such as "The King of the West Wind" and "Jack and the King of the Blizzard," and tells one about "the time that boy Jack whupped the two-headed King of the Northeast Winds," which is illustrated in this text and resembles "Jack and the Giants" tales (pp. 51-57). The story also contains allusions to The Wizard of Oz and comic book heroes. (See interview "Matt Phelan Captures a 'Storm in the Barn'" by Alex Dueben at Comic Book Resources.) Dueben describes the story as "a tall tale set in that mythic America populated by Ichabod Crane, Dorothy Gale, Paul Bunyan and many others," along with "historical details." Summary: "In Kansas in the year 1937, eleven-year-old Jack Clark faces his share of ordinary challenges: local bullies, his father's failed expectations, a little sister with an eye for trouble. But he also has to deal with the effects of the Dust Bowl, including rising tensions in his small town and the spread of a shadowy illness. Certainly a case of 'dust dementia' would explain who (or what) Jack has glimpsed in the Talbot's abandoned barn - a sinister figure with a face like rain. In a land where it never rains, it's hard to trust what you see with your own eyes, and harder still to take heart and be a hero when the time comes." See also Phelan's comments on this story as a Jack Tale, etc. after it won the 2010 Scott O'Dell award for historical fiction, at Notes from the Horn Book, vol. 3, no. 2, February 2010.


Links checked 2/8/04   |   Top of Page   |   Last update: 10/29/13 9:03 PM

 

Return to AppLit Folktale Index

Complete List of AppLit Pages on Folklore

AppLit Site Index

AppLit Home