Once upon a time, there was a boy named Jack, who lived with his mother in a small farm. Every day, Jack would help his mother with the chores – chopping the wood, digging the garden and milking the cow. Although they worked very hard, Jack and his mother were very poor and often didn’t have enough money to buy food.
“What shall we do?” said Jack’s mother, one spring day. “We don’t have enough money to buy seed for the farm this year! We must sell our cow, Old Bess, and use the money to buy enough seed to grow some wheat.”
“All right, mother,” said Jack, “it’s market-day today. I’ll go into town and sell Bessy.”
So, Jack took the cow, went through the garden gate and walked toward town. After just a few minutes he met a funny-looking, old man who said to him, “Good morning, Jack.”
“Good morning to you,” said Jack. He thought to himself, “How does this old man know my name”
“Where are you going this fine morning?” asked the man.
“I’m going to market to sell our cow, Bessy.”
“Well what a helpful son you are!” said the man, “I have a special deal for such a good boy like you.”
The little old man looked around to check nobody was watching, then opened his hand to show Jack what he held.
“Beans?” asked Jack, looking a little confused.
“Three magic bean seeds, young man. One, two, three! They are so magical. If you plant them overnight, by morning they will grow right up to the sky. And because you’re such a good boy, you can have them in exchange for that old milking cow.”
“Really?” said Jack, “Are you sure they are magic beans?”
“Of course! And if the beans don’t grow, you can have your cow back.”
“Well that sounds fair,” said Jack, and he handed over Bessy, put the beans in his pocket and went back home to show his mother.
“Back already, Jack?” asked his mother. “I see you haven’t got Old Bess – you’ve sold her so quickly. How much money did you get for her?”
Jack smiled and reached into his pocket, “Just look at these beans, mother! They’re magic. If you plant them overnight, by morning…”
“What!” cried Jack’s mother. “Oh, silly boy! How could you give away our milking cow for three little beans?” And then she did the worst thing Jack had ever seen – she burst into tears.
Jack ran upstairs to his little room in the attic. He was so sorry, and threw the beans angrily out the window thinking, “How could I have been so foolish? I’ve broken my mother’s heart.” It took a long time for him to get to sleep that night.
When Jack woke up the next morning, his room looked strange. His room was quite dark and shady. Jack jumped up and got dressed and went to the window. And what do you think he saw? The beans he 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!
Using the leaves and twisty vines like the rungs of a ladder, Jack climbed and climbed until at last, he reached the sky. And when he got there, he found a long road leading through the clouds to a tall castle.
Jack ran up the road toward the castle. When he reached it, the door opened and behind it there was… a horrible lady giant, with one big eye in the middle of her forehead! As soon as Jack saw her he turned to run away, but she caught him, and dragged him into the castle.
“Don’t be in such a hurry, I’m sure a growing boy like you would like a nice, big breakfast,” said the great, big, tall woman. “It’s been so long since I made breakfast for a boy.”
Well, the lady giant wasn’t such a bad person – even if she was a bit strange. She took Jack into the kitchen and gave him a big piece of cheese and a glass of milk. But Jack had only taken a few bites when thump! thump! thump! the whole house began to shake with the noise of someone coming.
“Goodness me! It’s my husband,” said the giant woman. “What on earth shall I do? His favourite food is boys grilled on toast and I don’t have any bread left. Oh dear, I shouldn’t have told you to stay for breakfast! Here, come quick and jump in here.” And she hurried Jack into a large copper pot sitting next to the stove just as her husband, the giant, came in.
The door was too low for him but he came inside the kitchen and said, “I’m ready for my breakfast – I’m so hungry I could eat three cows! Ah, what’s this smell? I smell the blood of a boy!”
“Nonsense, dear,” said his wife, “we haven’t seen a boy for years. Now you go and wash up and by the time you come back your breakfast will be ready for you.”
So, the giant went off to wash his hands – Jack was about to run quickly away when the woman stopped him. “Wait until he’s asleep,” she said. “He always takes a little nap after breakfast.”
Jack waited inside the copper pot. After a few minutes, he pushed up the lid and peered out. Just then, the giant returned to the kitchen carrying a basket filled with golden eggs and a white hen that looked sick. The giant hit the hen and said, “Lay” and the hen laid an egg made of gold which the giant added to the basket.
After his breakfast, the giant went to the cupboard and pulled out a golden harp with the face of a sad, young girl. The giant hit the harp and said, “Play” and the harp began to play a gentle tune while her lovely face sang a lullaby. Then the giant began to fall asleep and he snored until the house shook.
When he was quite sure the giant was asleep, Jack got out of the copper pot and began to tiptoe out of the kitchen. Just as he was about to leave, he heard the sound of the harp-girl crying. Jack bit his lip, sighed and returned to the kitchen. He grabbed the white hen and the singing harp, and began to tiptoe back out. But this time the hen made a noise which woke the giant, and just as Jack got out of the house he heard him calling, “Wife, wife, what have you done with my white hen and my golden harp?”
Jack ran as fast as he could. The giant realized he had been tricked and chased Jack – away from the castle and down the road. When he got to the beanstalk the giant was only twenty metres. Then suddenly he saw Jack disappear. The giant was confused. Then he peered through the clouds and saw Jack climbing down the beanstalk. The giant roared angrily. “I smell the blood of a boy!”
The giant climbed onto the beanstalk which shook with his weight. Jack slipped, slid and climbed down the beanstalk as quickly as he could, and after him climbed the giant.
As he got close to the bottom, Jack called out, “Mother! Please! Hurry, bring me an axe, bring me an axe.” And his mother came rushing out with Jack’s wood chopping axe in her hand.
Jack jumped down, got the axe from his mother and began to chop the beanstalk. Because of all the chores he’d done over the years, he was quite good at chopping and soon the beanstalk began to sway. The giant felt the beanstalk shake so he stopped to see what the matter was. Then Jack gave one last big chop with the axe, and the beanstalk began to fall over. Then the giant fell down and broke open his head, and the beanstalk landed on top of him.
The singing harp thanked Jack for rescuing her from the giant. She hated being locked up in the cupboard all day and night and wanted to sit in the farmhouse window and sing to the birds and the butterflies in the sunshine.
With his mother’s help, Jack soon got the sick hen back in good health and the grateful hen continued to lay a fresh golden egg every day.
Jack used the money from selling the golden eggs to buy back Old Bess, buy seed and to repair his mother’s farm. He even had enough money to invite every one of his neighbours over for a nice meal, with music from the singing harp.
And so Jack, his mother, Old Bess, the golden harp and the white hen lived happy ever after.