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Distant Train


Teacher and Parent Information

Education Materials for this Story

chap = fellow

Would you trade Milky-white for the strange-looking beans? Why do you think that Jack does?

Would you climb a beanstalk that reached to the sky? Why do you think that Jack does?

copper = a large cooking pot made of copper

rogue = a dishonest or mischievous person

Would you keep the harp even after it woke up the ogre? Why do you think that Jack does?

Great Books Foundation

Jack and the Beanstalk
English folktale
as told by Joseph Jacobs
[Images by Arthur Rackham published in 1918, English Fairy Tales by Flora Annie Steel]

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 they we'll see what we can do."

Steel, Flora Annie. English Fairy Tales. Arthur Rackham, illustrator. New York: Macmillan Company, 1918.

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 makes 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 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," says the man. "If you plant them overnight, by morning they grow right up to the sky."

"Really?" says 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. 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 coudn't guess. What do you say to these beans; they're 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 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 to bed with you. Not a sip shall you drink, and not a bite 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 saks as for the loss of his supper.

At last he dropped off to sleep.

Nottingham Playhouse cover for Jadk and the Beanstalk 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, dressed himself and went to the window. And what do you think that 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 until it reached the sky. So the man had spoken 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 onto the beanstalk which ran up like a big ladder. Jack climbed, and he climbed, and he climbed, and he climbed, and he climbed, and he climbed, and he climbed until 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 until he came to a great big tall house. 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 eaten anything, you know, the night before, and he 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 eating these when thump! thump! thump! the whole house began to tremble with the noise of someone's 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.

Illustration by Arthur Rackham from a 1918 English Fairy Tales, by Flora Annie SteelHe was a big one, to be sure. At his belt he had three calves strung up by the heels. 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 wash and tidy up. By the time you come back, your breakfast will be ready for you."

So off the ogre went. Jack was just going to jump out of the oven and run away when the woman told him not. "Wait until 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 a couple of bags of gold. He sits and counts until, at last, his head began to nod. He snored until the whole house shook again.

Then Jack crept out on tiptoe from his hiding place in the oven. As he was passing the ogre, Jack took one of the bags of gold under his arm, and off he pelters until he came to the beanstalk. He threw down the bag of gold, which of course fell into his mother's garden. Then he climbed down and climbed down until, at last, he got home. Jack told his mother about his adventure, and showed her the gold and said, "Well, mother, wasn't I right about the beans? They really are magical, you see."

So they lived on the bag of gold for some time, but at last they came to the end of it. Jack made up his mind to try his luck once more 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, and he climbed, and he climbed, and he climbed until, at last, he came out onto the road again and up to the great big tall house that he had been to before. There 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 daresay that I could tell you something about that, but I'm so hungry that I can't speak until I've had something to eat."

Rackham, Arthur, illustrator and compiler. The Arthur Rackham Fairy Book: A Book of Old Favourites With New Illustrations. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Co., 1933. Well, the big tall woman was so curious that she took Jack 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 until the house shook.

Then Jack crept out of the oven on tiptoe. He 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. 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. When he got home, he showed his mother the wonderful hen and said "Lay," to it; and it laid a golden egg every time that 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. One fine morning, he rose up early and got onto the beanstalk, and he climbed, and he climbed, and he climbed, and he climbed until he got to the top. But this time Jack knew better than to go straight to the ogre's house. When he got near it, Jack waited behind a bush until he saw the ogre's wife come out with a pail to get some water. 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 comes 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 who 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 where the food was stored, and the cupboards, and everything. Luckily, he didn't think to look inside 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 until 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 until he came to the table. 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. When he came to the end of the road, he saw Jack underneath, climbing down for dear life.

Rackham, Arthur. The Arthur Rackham Book of Pictures. Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, introduction. London: W. Heinemann, 1913.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 until 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. 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 happily ever after.

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