Jack and the Giants
Retold by R. Rex Stephenson
This tale was told by R. Rex Stephenson and transcribed by Emily Rose Tucker in Ferrum, Virginia, March 2010. "Jack Fear-No-Man" is a very similar tale that has been dramatized by Stephenson's Jack Tale Players for several decades. The script "Jack Fear-No-Man" was published in 1991, with five other story theatre dramatizations by Stephenson in The Jack Tales (I. E. Clark), and as "Jack and the Three Giants" in Eight Plays for Youth (Peter Lang). For notes on the ending in which Virginia becomes a colonial state (which does not appear in the scripts), and suggestions on using the story for dramatic play in the classroom, see the background sections at "Jack and the King's Girl." For resources on many other related tales, see "Jack and the Giants" in AppLit's Annotated Index of Appalachian Folktales. Photos and brief video clips of the Jack Tale Players performing "Jack Fear-No-Man" in 2009 are available at this link in Flickr.com.
Performance of "Jack Fear-No-Man" at Farmer's Market, Rocky Mount, VA, July 2009
He would say, “This is the King of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and this King loves trees! He loves little trees, he loves big trees, he loves medium sized trees.”
“Yessir!” The King would say, “I love my trees!”
But you see, there were these three mean and ugly giants, and they liked to terrorize the King by pulling up his most precious and most beautiful trees.
Why those giants would walk into the forest and announce, “We terrorize the kingdom, and we do it just for meanness!” ’Cause not only were they ornery giants, but mean giants, too!
They’d search around in a forest till they found the most precious and most beautiful tree, and the three of them would rip it right out of the ground.
And then they’d say, “Let’s go harass the King!”
Down the path they’d go, totin’ that big ol’ tree, till they’d come to the palace. Now I don’t know if you have ever seen the palace of the King of the Blue Ridge Mountains or not, but it was a mighty spectacular place! It was a THREE-story, I’m not kiddin’, THREE-story log cabin, with a double porch: one on the first floor and one on the second! It even had running water inside.
Well, there would be the King, sittin’ out there on his porch, a-rockin’ in his chair, and here came these three ornery giants. And they’d take that tree and drop it right on the King’s lap. They’d laugh and laugh and march off into the woods. Now there wasn’t a thing the King could do about it. I mean, he had a piddly army, and they were all scared to death of those giants! And there weren’t nobody in his kingdom that was willing to lend him a hand and run these no-good fellas out of his kingdom.
So one day, the Page said to the King, “Maybe the answer is for you to offer a big reward, and anybody that’s willin’ to accept the reward would have to kill the three ugly giants! Whatcha think about that?”
“Well,” the King replied, taking off his crown and scratching his head, “I don’t think you’d find nary a fellow around here that would take that kinda challenge, even for a sack of gold!”
The Page said, “Then I should go look far and wide. I’ll go to the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains, both east and west. I’ll walk and walk, announcing this challenge, and I’m sure there must be one person in Virginia that will step up to get the reward.”
“How much should I give? You think a hundred dollars?”
“Well, I think slightly more than that.” The Page thought, “Maybe a thousand dollars!”
The King took a real deep breath and sat down. “A thousand dollars?!? To come up with that much gold I’d have to raise taxes… But I’ll do it.”
And the Page said, “I mean a thousand per giant!”
“If that’s what you think it would take, that’s what we’ll do. You pack your valise and you be on your way.”
The Page had the royal proclamation, and off he went. He went from town to town and village to village. If there was a group of people, he’d stop and read the proclamation. He even ended up at one tent service. While there were plenty of folks there that wanted to be immersed and have their sins forgiven, there weren’t a one that wanted to take on those giants.
Finally, he bumped into this little fella, who was about thirteen years old, by the name of Jack.
The Page laughed, “You gotta’ be kiddin’! You are willing to take on three ugly, mean giants by yourself?”
“I reckon I am,” said Jack.
“Boy, I think you’d be commitin’ a sooee-side!” replied the Page.
“No, I reckon I could do it, and three thousand dollars in gold seems like the right amount of compensation,” Jack reasoned.
The Page was impressed. “There has been no one else that has agreed to take on the task, so if the King says it’s alright, I think you are appointed.”
So Jack’s Ma packed him a lunch, kissed him goodbye, and was dabbin’ her eyes, ’cause she was cryin’. You know how mothers are. But, she knew better than to tell Jack no, ’cause he’d probably just sneak off and do it anyway. Now ol’ Jack wasn’t a bad boy. I don’t want you to think unkindly of him. He’s just one of those fellows that had confidence, and when he felt like he could do a deed, why he was more than apt to try.
Well, finally Jack and the Page ended up at the palace of the King. The Page introduced Jack to the King. The King smiled. He was right polite to Jack. Then he pulled the Page off to the side.
“Is this the only one you could find?” whispered the King.
“I walked over most of the Blue Ridge. Everyone has heard of those three giants and is scared to death,” the Page whispered back.
Well, the King went back over to Jack and asked, “Do you have a rifle gun, or huntin’ knife, or any kinda weapons?”
“No sir,” Jack responded. “I really don’t think I need them. Besides, I heard one time your army fired a cannon at one of those giants, that ball bounced off of them, rolled back, and knocked over half of your army. They went down like bowling pins! Is that right?”
“Well, there is some truth to that.”
Jack continued, “King, what I’d like, if you don’t mind, is a bag full of milk, one that’s sewed up most of the way around and has a spout on it, so I don’t spill my milk. And a little bit of cornbread. Then point me in the direction of those giants and I should have your kingdom rid of them before it gets dark tomorrow.”
Well, off Jack walked in the direction the King pointed him. The King and the Page had grown kinda fond of Jack, and they hated to see him go to meet such an untimely death.
When Jack got to the spot the King told him about, he remembered what the King had said. “Sometime in the afternoon those giants come walkin’ down this here particular path to stop and rest under this stoop tree.” Then, Jack got himself an idea! There was a pretty big rock below that stoop tree. So, Jack got that rock to the top of the stoop tree and sat up there waitin’ on the giants.
Well lo and behold, here come the three giants walkin’ down this path laughin’ and singin’. They’s so big they made the earth tremble! When they got right underneath him, Jack took that rock and dropped it right on the head of the first giant! Knocked him cold out for maybe thirty seconds.
That giant turned and accused one of the other giants of hittin’ him on the head. Well, that giant protested. So the first giant, the one that got hit on the head, and really the leader of the pack, turned and accused the third giant. That giant also claimed to be innocent, which he was, but the leader giant didn’t believe that, and he commenced to throw punches. Then the other two giants commenced to throw punches.
There was dust a-flyin’, and at one point the leader giant got so angry he tore a tree down and hit the others on the head. And wouldn’t you know, he killed ’em dead!
Well, Jack went back to the King and said, “Get your army out here and carry away two of those giants. I done killed two.”
The King was amazed. “I’d never believe this! I need to see it with my own eyes.” When the King saw their dead bodies, he said, “Their heads are all caved in! How did you do that?”
Jack said, “They got hit on the head with a tree!”
The Page, he studied Jack up and down, and said to him, “I wouldn’t have thought a scrawny little fellow like you could have lifted a tree!”
Well, Jack got some more milk and cornbread and went back the next day to that same tree. He found that same rock, put it up there in the tree, and waited for that leader giant to arrive. It weren’t long till here he come, singin’ and talkin’ and makin’ the earth shake. And when he got right underneath Jack, ol’ Jack dropped that rock again. But at the last minute, that Giant stepped away and that rock fell on the ground. That Giant looked from the rock right up that tree till he come to where Jack was.
He looked at Jack and said, “Boy, I’m gonna kill you! Then I’m gonna cook you in a big pot and eat you!”
Jack said, in about as brave and strong a voice as he could muster, “You can try iffen you want to!”
Well now, this kinda took the Giant aback. He had never had anyone stand up to him before. So, he asked, “What’s yer name, boy?”
And Jack said, “Jack Fear-No-Man!”
“Jack Fear-No-Man,” said the Giant, “I’m gonna take you home with me. I’m gonna see how brave and strong you really are.”
So, he pulled Jack outta that tree, set him on his shoulders, and down the path they came till they ended up at the Giant’s house.
Well right there in front of the Giant’s big woods, the Giant said, “I’m gonna go out there in that woods and pull outta the ground the biggest tree I can find.”
And he did. He pulled up a horrible big tree! He sat it right down in front of Jack and said, “Now, boy, it’s your turn.”
Well Jack, he looked there to the north and then he looked to the south. It was like he was sizin’ up those woods.
Finally he said, “Now I can take your whole north side of the woods or I can take your whole south side of the woods. Well, Giant, I want to win this contest so I’m gonna take all your woods!”
“Whatcha mean, Jack?” asked the Giant. “I just pulled up one of my trees.”
“I’m takin’ up the entire forest! I need to prove to you that I’m brave and true.”
“No, no!” The Giant replied. “I need that wood for my fire this winter. Please, please don’t destroy my entire woods, Jack.”
“Well, since you said ‘please,’ I guess I won’t this time.”
Well, they walked a little piece, and there leaning up against the side of the house was the Giant’s one-thousand-pound iron walking stick. Ol’ Giant had an idea.
He said, “Jack, I betcha I can kick this here walkin’ stick further than you ever could.”
“Well, you can try iffen you want to,” Jack challenged.
The ol’ Giant kicked that walkin’ stick way, waaay down in the valley. He ran after it, marked the spot where it landed, and brought that walkin’ stick back to Jack.
Jack asked, “You know which way France is?”
“Jack, this is a contest. You don’t need to know where France is. Just kick the walkin’ stick. I kicked it purt near a mile in the valley!”
“That’s just it, Giant,” Jack insisted. “I gotta know where France is.”
“Well, I guess it’s that way, Jack,” the Giant said, as he pointed toward the east. “But, whatever do you need to know for?”
“Well, I got a brother-in-law that recently moved to France. He’s a blacksmith and I know he’d like to have your thousand-pound walkin’ stick, so I’m just gonna kick it over to him.”
“No, no Jack!” cried the Giant. “That’s my favorite walkin’ stick! I can’t have you kickin’ it to France. I’d never get it back again. Please, I’m beggin’ ya. Don’t kick it to France!”
“Well,” Jack said, “Since you’re beggin’, I guess my brother-in-law probably doesn’t need it.”
“Come into my house, Jack. I want to make it up to you,” said the Giant. I’ll have my old woman fix you something to eat.”
Well, when they stepped into the Giant’s house, there indeed was his scraggly toothed wife. She looked purt near as mean as he was, but she was smaller in size.
Finally, the Giant spoke. “Jack, I got an idea for one more contest.”
“Whatcha got in mind?”
“I know, boy, that I can eat more eggs in one turn than you can,” said the Giant.
“So,” Jack asked, “You’re proposing an egg eatin’ contest?
The Giant bragged, “I am about three times as big as you, so I can hold about three times as many eggs.”
”It’s a bet!”
“Alright woman,” the Giant said, “Start fixin’ them eggs and make ’em over easy.”
Well, as fast as that old woman would fry up them eggs, they’d be eatin’ them. But you see, Jack, why he was trickin’ that old Giant! Remember that bag the King gave him with the milk in it? Well, Jack had it under his shirt, and instead of shoving them into his mouth, he shoved them into that bag of milk!
Well, that old woman must have fixed thirty-two dozen eggs—half of them in the Giant’s belly and the other half in Jack’s milk bag. Finally the Giant couldn’t take another bite.
“I guess you won this contest too, Jack,” the Giant moaned.
“I thought I would!” Jack said. “Now I got a contest for you. I betcha I can take that big ol’ huntin’ knife you got there on the table, stick it into my belly, and it won’t hurt me a bit. Then after I do it, you gotta stick it into your belly.”
The ol’ Giant and his wife got to talkin’. He said, “That’s a fourteen-inch blade! That boy sticks it into his belly and he’ll be dead and I’ll finally be rid of him.”
The ol’ woman agreed. “Yeah Jack, take that knife and stick it into your belly.”
So, ol’ Jack raised up that old huntin’ knife, stuck it into that milk sack, slit it open, and all that milk and those eggs just came tumblin’ out.
Jack handed the Giant the knife and said, “Now it’s your turn!”
That old Giant, he raised up that knife and started movin’ it toward his belly. He stopped. “Jack, this will kill me sure enough!”
Jack replied, “Well, a bet’s a bet.”
Well, he raised up that knife and he got ready to stab that thing right in his belly when the old woman cried, “Jack, he’s my one true love! He don’t look like much and he’s as mean as an old momma bear guardin’ her cubs, but he’s all I got in this whole world, Jack.”
And you wouldn’t believe this, but that old Giant was cryin’ tears. Why, the water was ankle deep around Jack! It was pitiful and it touched Jack’s heart, you know, ’cause Jack is a good boy.
So he said, “Giant, if you and your old woman leave the Blue Ridge Mountains and promise never to tear up another tree, I’ll release you from the bet and let you live.”
“We’ll do it, Jack. We’ll do it,” promised the Giant’s wife.
“Where do I have to go, Jack?” asked the Giant.
Jack thought for a minute, and finally said, “Well I ’spect you better go to France. That, to me, seems like a country that deserves you. So you pack your belongings and you be headin’ off.”
So Jack went back and told the King, and the King was so happy that he called a holiday! The Page suggested to the King that he could let Jack marry his daughter, the princess. Well, the King thought that was a fine idea. That way, some day old Jack would be the King of Virginia, which is exactly what Jack did! He married the King’s daughter and by and by he became the King of Virginia. But you know, he gave it up so that Virginia could be one of the original thirteen colonies.
And that right there is the true story about how Jack rid this land of giants, and how Virginia got to be one of the original thirteen colonies.
2010 R. Rex Stephenson