Jack and the Beanstalk,
retold by Mary Lena Wilson
A long, long time ago there was a boy named
Jack. He and his mother were very poor, and
lived in a tiny cottage. Jack’s mother loved him
so much that she could never say no to anything
he asked. So whenever he wanted money she
gave it to him, until at last all they had was
gone. There was nothing left with which to buy
supper. Then the poor woman began to cry, and
said to her son:
“Oh, Jack, there is nothing in the house to
eat; and there is no money to buy food. You will
have to take the old cow to town and sell her.
She is all we have left.”
Jack felt very bad when he saw his mother
crying; so he quickly got the cow and started
off to town. As he was walking along he passed
the butcher, who stopped him and said:
“Why, Jack! what are you driving your cow
away from home for?” And Jack replied sadly:
“I am taking her to town to sell her.”
Then he noticed that the butcher held in his
hand some colored beans. They were so beautiful
he could not keep from staring at them.
Now, the butcher was a very mean man. He
knew the cow was worth more than the beans,
but he did not believe Jack knew it, so he said:
“You let me have your cow, and I will give you
a whole bag of these beans.”
Jack was so delighted that he could hardly wait
to get the bag in his hand. He ran off home as
fast as he could.
“Oh, mother, mother!” he shouted, as he
reached the house; “see what I have got for the
The good lady came hurrying out of the house,
but when she saw only a bagful of colored beans
she was so disappointed to think he had sold
her cow “for nothing” that she flung the beans
as far as she could. They fell everywhere—on
the steps, down the road, and in the garden.
That night Jack and his mother had to go to
bed without anything to eat.
Next morning, when Jack looked out of his
window, he could hardly believe his eyes. In
the garden where his mother had thrown some
of the beans there were great beanstalks. They
were twisted together so that they made a ladder.
When Jack ran out to the garden to look
more closely he found the ladder reached up,
up—’way up into the clouds! It was so high he
could not see the top.
Jack was very excited, and called to his mother:
“Mother, dear, come quickly! My beans have
grown into a beautiful beanstalk ladder that
reaches to the sky! I am going to climb up and
see what is at the top.”
Hour after hour he climbed, until he was so
tired he could hardly climb any more. At last
he came to the end, and peered eagerly over the
top to see what was there. Not a thing was to
be seen but rocks and bare ground.
“Oh,” said Jack to himself. “This is a horrid
place. I wish I had never come.”
Just then he saw, hobbling along, a wrinkled,
ragged old woman. When she reached Jack she
looked at him and said:
“Well, my boy, where did you come from?”
“I came up the ladder,” answered Jack.
The old woman looked at him very sharply.
“Do you remember your father?” she asked.
Jack thought this a queer question, but he replied:
“No, I do not. Whenever I ask my mother
about him she cries, and will not tell me.”
At this, the old woman leaned her face very
close to Jack’s and snapped her bright eyes. “I
will tell you,” she said, “for I am a Fairy!”
The Fairy smiled. “Do not be afraid, my
dear, for I am a good, good Fairy. But before
I tell you anything, you must promise to do exactly
as I say.”
Jack promised, and the Fairy began her story.
“A long while ago, when you were only a tiny
baby, your father and mother lived in a beautiful
house, with plenty of money and servants
and everything nice. They were very happy, because
everyone loved your father for the kind
things he did. He always helped people who
were poor and in trouble.
“Now, miles and miles away there was a wicked
Giant. He was just as bad as your father was
good. When he heard about your father he
decided to do something very terrible. He went
to your house and killed him. He would have
killed you and your mother, too, but she fell down
on her knees and begged: ‘Oh, please do not
hurt me and my little baby. Take all our treasures,
but do not kill us.’
“Now of course the money was what the Giant
really wanted, so he said: ‘If you promise that
you will never tell your little boy who his father
was, or anything about me, I will let you go.
If you do tell him, I shall find out and kill
“Your mother quickly promised, and ran out
of the house as fast as she could. All day long
she hurried over the rough roads with you in her
arms. At last, when she could hardly walk a
step further, she came to the little house where
you live now.
“Now, my dear Jack. I am your father’s good
fairy. The reason I could not help him against
the wicked Giant was because I had done something
wrong. When a fairy does something
wrong she loses her power. My power did not
come back to me until the day when you went
to sell your cow. Then I put it into your head
to sell the cow for the pretty beans. I made
the beanstalk grow. I made you climb up the
“Now, Jack, this is the country where the
wicked Giant lives. I had you come here so you
could get back your mother’s treasure.”
When Jack heard this he was very excited.
“Follow the road,” said the Fairy, “and you
will come to the Giant’s house. And do not forget
that some day you are to punish the wicked
Giant.” And then she disappeared.
Jack had not gone far before he came to a
great house. In front of it stood a little woman.
Jack went up to her and said very piteously:
“Oh, please, good, kind lady, let me come in your
beautiful house and have something to eat and
a place to sleep.”
The woman looked surprised. “Why, what are
you doing here?” she said. “Don’t you know
this is where my husband, the terrible Giant,
lives? No one dares to come near here. Every
one my husband finds he has locked up in his
house. Then when he is hungry he eats them!
He walks fifty miles to find some one to eat.”
When Jack heard this he was very much afraid.
But he remembered what the Fairy had told him,
and once more he asked the woman to let him in.
“Just let me sleep in the oven,” he said. “The
Giant will never find me there.”
He seemed so tired and sad that the woman
couldn’t say no, and she gave him a nice supper.
Then they climbed a winding stair and reached
a bright, cozy kitchen. Jack was just beginning
to enjoy himself, when suddenly there was
a great pounding at the front door.
“Quick, quick!” cried the Giant’s wife; “jump
into the oven.”
Jack was no sooner safely hidden than he
heard the Giant say, in tones of thunder:
“Fee, fi, fo, fum,
I smell the blood of an Englishman!”
When Jack heard this he thought surely the
Giant knew that he was in the house, but the
wife said calmly:
“Oh, my dear, it is probably the people in the
Then they both came down to the kitchen.
The Giant sat so close to the oven that by peeping
through a hole, Jack could easily see him.
He was enormous! And how much he did eat
and drink for his supper! When at last he was
through, he roared:
“Wife, bring me my hen!” And the woman
brought in a beautiful hen.
“Lay!” commanded the Giant; and what was
Jack’s surprise when the hen laid a golden egg.
Every time the Giant said: “Lay!”—and he said
it many times—the hen obeyed.
At last both the woman and her husband fell
asleep. But Jack did not dare to sleep. He sat
all cramped and tired in the oven, watching the
When it began to get light he slowly pushed
the oven door open and crawled out ever so
softly. For a minute he hardly dared breathe
for fear of waking the Giant. Then quick as
a flash, he seized the hen and stole out of the
house as fast as his feet could carry him.
He did not stop running until he reached the
beanstalk. All out of breath, he climbed down
the ladder with the hen in his arms.
Now, all this time, Jack’s poor mother thought
her son was surely lost. When she saw him
“Oh, Jack, why did you go off and leave me
“But, mother,” said Jack—and proudly he held
out the hen—“see what I have brought you this
time: a hen that lays golden eggs. Now we can
have everything we want. You need never be sad
Jack and his mother were very happy together
for many months. Whenever they wanted anything,
they just told the hen to lay a golden egg.
But after a while Jack remembered his promise
to the Fairy to punish the Giant. So he said
to his mother:
“Mother dear, I think I will go back and get
some more of our treasure from the Giant.”
The poor woman felt very bad when her son
said this. “Oh, please do not go, Jack,” she
begged. “This time the Giant will find you and
kill you for stealing his hen.”
Jack decided he would not worry his mother,
but he would find a way to fool the Giant. He
got some paint to color his skin brown and had
a queer suit of clothes made so that no one
could discover who he was. Without telling anyone,
he got up early one morning and climbed
up the beanstalk.
It was dark and cold before he reached the
Giant’s house. There at the front door was the
Giant’s wife; but she did not know Jack in his
“Good evening, Lady,” said Jack, very politely.
“Will you let me in for a night’s rest? I am
very tired and hungry.”
But the woman shook her head. “I can’t let
anyone in. One night I let in a poor boy like
yourself, and he stole my husband’s favorite treasure.
My husband is a cruel Giant, and since his
hen was stolen he has been worse than ever.”
“Oh, please let me come in just for to-night.
If you don’t I shall have to lie here on the
ground and die.”
“Well, I can’t let you do that. But mind, I
shall have to hide you in the lumber-closet, or
my husband may find you and eat you up.”
Of course, Jack was very glad to agree to do
this. As soon as he was safely hidden away he
heard a tremendous noise, and knew that the Giant
had come home. The big fellow walked so heavily
that he shook the whole house.
“Fe, fi, fo, fum,
I smell the blood of an Englishman!” he shouted.
“Oh, no, my dear,” she answered. “It is an
old piece of meat that a crow left on the roof.”
“All right,” said the Giant. “Now, hurry and
get my supper.” And with that he tried to strike
his poor wife. Jack could see from where he
was hiding that the Giant was even uglier than
“It was you who let in the boy that stole my
hen,” he kept saying to her. And when Jack
heard this he shivered for fear.
After his supper the Giant said in a very cross
“Now, wife, bring me my bags of gold and
So the old woman brought in two huge bags
and put them down on the table. The Giant
opened each and poured out a great heap of silver
and gold. For a long while he sat counting
the money. But at last he began to get drowsy.
So he put the gold carefully back and fell over
in his chair asleep.
Jack thought maybe the Giant was only pretending
to be asleep, so that he could catch anyone
who might try to take his gold. But when
the Giant had been snoring some time, the boy
carefully opened the door of the closet and tip-toed
over to the table. Not a sound could be
heard except the terrible snoring of the Giant.
Slowly Jack reached out to take the bags of
“Bow, wow, wow!” And a little dog, which
Jack had not seen before, jumped up from a
corner by the fire, barking furiously. Jack had
never been so frightened in his life as now.
Surely the Giant would wake and kill him.
But the Giant never woke at all. He had eaten
so much that he couldn’t! So Jack snatched the
bags, and dashed for the beanstalk.
When at last he reached the bottom, he ran
at once to the cottage to show his mother the
For three years Jack and his mother lived very
happily together. But all this time Jack could
not forget his promise to the Fairy, and what
might happen to him if he did not keep it.
At last he felt that he must go and kill the
wicked Giant. He got some yellow paint and
another queer suit, so that he would not look
like himself at all. Early one morning, when it
was barely light, he crept softly out of the house
and climbed up into the Giant’s country.
This time he was bigger and older, and did not
feel nearly so afraid as he had before. He met
the Giant’s wife, just as he had the two other
times; and after a great deal of coaxing she
let him in, and hid him in the boiler.
He had barely gotten in when he felt the
whole house shake, and knew that the Giant had
“Fe, fi, fo, fum!
I smell the blood of an Englishman.”
He roared in a voice louder than ever. But now
Jack was not at all scared. He remembered what
had happened before, and thought he was quite
But this time the Giant would not listen to
anything his wife said. He jumped up and began
stumping around the room, shouting: “There
is fresh meat here! I can smell it! Where is
it?” And he put his hand right on the boiler.
Jack held his breath tight, and did not move
a muscle. Just when he felt sure the Giant
was going to lift off the lid and find him, he
heard him say: “Well, never mind now. Bring
me my supper.” And then he went over to the
table and began to eat.
It seemed to Jack that he ate more than ever.
But suddenly he stopped and called out: “Wife,
bring me my harp.”
The poor woman ran at once and brought back
the most beautiful harp Jack had ever seen. She
placed it beside her husband, and he commanded:
“Play!” And the most surprising thing happened:
The harp began to play the loveliest tunes
without anyone touching it at all. Jack thought
he had never seen anything so wonderful, and
said to himself:
“That harp really belongs to my mother. I
shall get it away from the Giant and take it to
Soon the Giant fell asleep. Jack crawled very
quietly out of the boiler and up toward the
table. He stretched out his hand to seize the
harp; but just as his fingers touched it, it shouted:
“Master, master, wake up!”
Jack was horrified, for he saw at once that
the harp was the Giant’s fairy, and was trying
to help him.
The Giant opened his eyes, but before he
could get to his feet Jack was running for his
life. Down the winding stair and through the
dark hall he went. He felt the floor tremble
as the Giant came roaring after him. He was
panting for breath when he reached the front
door, but did not dare to stop. If he did, he
knew the Giant would catch him, and that would
be the end of him.
And this is what surely would have happened,
but the Giant had eaten so much for his supper
that he could hardly run at all. Even so,
he was close behind him all the way. And all
the time he kept roaring and shouting, which
frightened Jack all the more.
As soon as Jack reached the beanstalk he called
out: “Someone quick! get me a hatchet!” Then
he almost fell down the beanstalk in his hurry.
When he reached the bottom the Giant had
already started to come down. “Oh, now,”
thought poor Jack, “he will come and burn our
house, and kill my mother and me.”
Just then a neighbor ran up to Jack with a
hatchet. Jack grabbed it and cut down the beanstalk!
With a terrible crash it fell to the ground,
bringing the Giant with it.
Jack and his friends rushed up to where he
“Oh, he is dead! He is dead!” they shouted.
When Jack’s mother heard this she came running
out of the house and flung her arms around
“Oh, mother, I am so sorry that I have been
all this trouble to you. But I promise I shall
never be any more.” And just at this moment
the Fairy appeared.
“Yes,” she said. “Your Jack is a good boy.
He did all this only because I told him to.” To
Jack she said:
“Now, my dear, I hope you will always be
good and kind to your mother. And I hope you
will always be kind to the poor and unhappy
people, just as your father was. If you are, I am
sure that you will both be very happy as long
as you live. Good-by, good-by, my dears!” And
before they could thank her the Fairy disappeared.
Jack remembered all she had told him, and he
and his mother lived together very happily all
the rest of their lives.