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This article focuses on the fairytale, "Jack the Giant Killer".
For the other fairytale about a character named Jack, see "Jack and the Beanstalk".
For the first iteration of the character, see Jack (Tallahassee).
For the second iteration of the character, see Jack (Pretty in Blue).

"Jack the Giant Killer" is a fairytale and legend featured on ABC's Once Upon a Time. The story did not appear in print until 1711; an enterprising publisher probably assembled a number of anecdotes about giants to form the 1711 tale.

Traditional Plot

This plot summary is based on a text published ca. 1760 by John Cotton and Joshua Eddowes, which in its turn was based on a chapbook ca. 1711, and reprinted in The Classic Fairy Tales by Iona and Peter Opie in 1974.

The tale is set during the reign of King Arthur and tells of a young Cornish farmer's son named Jack who is not only strong but so clever he easily confounds the learned with his penetrating wit. Jack encounters a livestock-eating giant called Cormoran (Cornish: 'The Giant of the Sea' SWF:Kowr-Mor-An) and lures him to his death in a pit trap. Jack is dubbed 'Jack the Giant-Killer' for this feat and receives not only the giant's wealth, but a sword and belt to commemorate the event.

A man-eating giant named Blunderbore vows vengeance for Cormoran's death and carries Jack off to an enchanted castle. Jack manages to slay Blunderbore and his brother Rebecks by hanging and stabbing them. He frees three ladies held captive in the giant's castle.

On a trip into Wales, Jack tricks a two-headed Welsh giant into slashing his own belly open. King Arthur's son now enters the story and Jack becomes his servant.

They spend the night with a three-headed giant and rob him in the morning. In gratitude for having spared his castle, the three-headed giant gives Jack a magic sword, a cap of knowledge, a cloak of invisibility, and shoes of swiftness.

On the road, Jack and the Prince meet an enchanted Lady serving Lucifer. Jack breaks the spell with his magic accessories, beheads Lucifer, and the Lady marries the Prince. Jack is rewarded with membership in the Round Table.

Jack ventures forth alone with his magic shoes, sword, cloak, and cap to rid the realm of troublesome giants. He encounters a giant terrorizing a knight and his lady. He cuts off the giant's legs, then puts him to death. He discovers the giant's companion in a cave. Invisible in his cloak, Jack cuts off the giant's nose then slays him by plunging his sword into the monster's back. He frees the giant's captives and returns to the house of the knight and lady he earlier had rescued.

A banquet is prepared, but it is interrupted by the two-headed giant Thunderdel chanting "Fee, fau, fum". Jack defeats and beheads the giant with a trick involving the house's moat and drawbridge.

Growing weary of the festivities, Jack sallies forth for more adventures and meets an elderly man who directs him to an enchanted castle belonging to the giant Galligantus (Galligantua, in the Joseph Jacobs version). The giant holds captive many knights and ladies and a Duke's daughter who has been transformed into a white doe through the power of a sorcerer. Jack beheads the giant, the sorcerer flees, the Duke's daughter is restored to her true shape, and the captives are freed.

At the court of King Arthur, Jack marries the Duke's daughter and the two are given an estate where they live happily ever after.

Show Adaptation

  • The story of "Jack the Giant Killer" is combined with the fairytale of "Jack and the Beanstalk".
  • Jack is female and leads an army up the beanstalk to slaughter all the giants except one. Her sword is not magic, but is dipped in poisoned instead. She dies of a wound inflicted by her own sword.
    • Some time after the event, humans in the Enchanted Forest passed down the story of Jack slaying the giants, but the story is misinterpreted and Jack is believed to have been a man.
  • The only human who survives the attack is Prince James, who steals many of the giants' treasures in a bag to make his kingdom rich.

Characters Featured

Original Character Adapted as First Featured in
Jack Jack (Tallahassee) "Tallahassee"
Jack (Petty in Blue) "Pretty in Blue"
The giants Giants "Tallahassee"

Locations Featured

Original Location Adapted as First Featured in
Giants' castles Giants' lair "Tallahassee"

Items Featured

Original Item Adapted as First Featured in
Jack's sword Jack's sword "Tallahassee"
Giant's wealth Giant's treasure "Tallahassee"
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