There once was a boy called Jack who was brave and quick-witted. He lived with his mother in a small cottage and their most valuable possession was their cow, Milky-White. But the day came when Milky-White gave them no milk and Jack’s mother said she must be sold.
“Take her to market,” she told Jack, “and mind you get a good price for her.”
So Jack set out to market leading Milky-White by her halter. After a while he sat down to rest by the side of the road. An old man came by and Jack told him where he was going.
“Don’t bother to go to the market,” the old man said. “Sell your cow to me. I will pay you well. Look at these beans. Only plant them, and overnight you will find you have the finest bean plants in all the world. You’ll be better off with these beans than with an old cow or money. Now, how many is five, Jack?”
“Two in each hand and one in your mouth,” replied Jack, as sharp as a needle.
“Right you are, here are five beans,” said the old man and he handed the beans to Jack and took Milky-White’s halter.
When he reached home, his mother said, “Back so soon, Jack? Did you get a good price for Milky-White?”
Jack told her how he had exchanged the cow for five beans and before he could finish his account, his mother started to shout and box his ears. “You lazy good-for-nothing boy!” she screamed, “How could you hand over our cow for five old beans? What will we live on now? We shall starve to death, you stupid boy.”
She flung the beans through the open window and sent Jack to bed without his supper.
When Jack woke the next morning there was a strange green light in his room. All he could see from, the window was green leaves. A huge beanstalk had shot up overnight. It grew higher than he could see. Quickly Jack got dressed and stepped out of the window right onto the beanstalk and started to climb.
“The old man said the beans would grow overnight,” he thought. “They must indeed be very special beans.”
Higher and higher Jack climbed until at last he reached the top and found himself on a strange road. Jack followed it until he came to a great castle where he could smell the most delicious breakfast. Jack was hungry. It had been a long climb and he had had nothing to eat since midday the day before. Just as he reached the door of the castle he nearly tripped over the feet of an enormous woman.
“Here, boy,” she called. “What are you doing? Don’t you know my husband likes to eat boys for breakfast? It’s lucky I have already fried up some bacon and mushrooms for him today, or I’d pop you in the frying pan. He can eat you tomorrow, though.”
“Oh, please don’t let him eat me,” pleaded Jack. “I only came to ask you for a bite to eat. It smells so delicious.”
Now the giant’s wife had a kind heart and did not really enjoy cooking boys for breakfast, so she gave Jack a bacon sandwich. He was still eating it when the ground began to shake with heavy footsteps, and a loud voice boomed: “Fee, Fi, Fo, Fum.”
“Quick, hide!” cried the giant’s wife and she pushed Jack into the oven. “After breakfast, he’ll fall asleep,” she whispered. “That is when you must creep away.” She left the oven door open a crack so that jack could see into the room. Again the terrible rumbling voice came:
“Fee, Fi, Fo, Fum,
I smell the blood of an Englishman, Be he alive or be he dead, I’ll grind his bones to make my bread.”
A huge giant came into the room. “Boys, boys, I smell boys,” he shouted. “Wife, have I got a boy for breakfast today?”
“No, dear,” she said soothingly. “You have got bacon and mushrooms. You must still be smelling the boy you ate last week.” The giant sniffed the air suspiciously but at last sat down. He wolfed his breakfast of bacon and mushrooms, drank a great bucketful of steaming tea and crunched up a massive slice of toast. Then he fetched a couple of bags of gold from a cupboard and started counting gold coins. Before long he dropped off to sleep.