Traditional Tales

Jack takes on the giants once more

Dark Tales from the Woods

I recently read a retelling of a story called “The Fiery Dragon” in Daniel Morden’s book Dark Tales from the Woods. The notorious Jack stars in this tale and takes on a giant first and then a fierce dragon. Jack comes up with a cunning plan and uses his wits to outsmart both the giant and the dragon. The method involved in defeating the giant is quite gory, but one that I think children will love –Jack tricks the giant into slashing his stomach with a knife, spilling out his guts!

Interestingly, Jack uses the same cunning plan to defeat a giant in the folktale “The History of Jack and the Giants”, published in 1711, and in the Swedish tale “The Herd-Boy and the Giant”. Once the giant has been taken care of, Jack moves on to the dragon. The description of the dragon is fantastic and one that could be quite useful in teaching literary techniques.

“Its head was as big as a house. Its mouth was as big as a cave. Its every tooth was as sharp as a spear, its every claw as sharp as a sword. The nostrils were like trumpets. The eyes shone like stars. The sound of its wings was deafening thunder.”

To find out how he defeats the dragon, I’ll leave you to read the rest of the story…

Jack often receives magical assistance in defeating these giants and dragons. In “The Fiery Dragon” assistance comes in the form of a dwarf. However, Jack has been known to receive magical accessories to assist him on his quests. And the magical accessories that Jack uses in “The History of Jack and the Giants” are very similar to the magical accessories given to Tom Thumb in the earliest surviving English text of the popular fairy tale, published in 1621.

While Jack receives a magic sword, a cap of knowledge, a cloak of invisibility and shoes of swiftness from the three headed giant, the Queen of Fairies gives Tom Thumb a hat of knowledge, a ring which makes him invisible, a girdle which can change him from a man to a beast, and magic shoes which can take him to any part of the world.

So what magical accessories would you include if you were telling a story about our Jack?


The History of Jack the Giant Killer



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