Jack is a young lad living with his widowed mother. Their only means of income is a cow. When this cow stops giving milk one morning, Jack is sent to the market to sell it. On the way to the market he meets an old man who offers to give him "magic" beans in exchange for the cow.
Jack takes the beans but when he arrives home without money, his mother becomes furious and throws the beans out the window and sends Jack to bed without supper.
As Jack sleeps, the beans grow into a gigantic beanstalk. Jack climbs the beanstalk and arrives in a land high up in the sky where he follows a road to a house, which is the home of a giant. He enters the house and asks the giant's wife for food. She gives him food, but the giant returns and senses that a human is nearby:
I smell the blood of an Englishman.
Be he live, or be he dead,
I'll grind his bones to make my bread."
However, Jack is hidden by the giant's wife and overhears the giant counting his money. Jack steals a bag of gold coins as he makes his escape down the beanstalk.
Jack repeats his journey up the beanstalk two more times, each time he is helped by the increasingly suspicious wife of the giant and narrowly escapes with one of the giant's treasures. The second time, he steals a hen which laid golden eggs and the third time a magical harp that played by itself. This time, he is almost caught by the giant who follows him down the beanstalk. Jack calls his mother for an axe and chops the beanstalk down, killing the giant. The end of the story has Jack and his mother living happily ever after with their new riches.
- The beanstalk is already grown by the time Jack meets the Giant.
- Jack is female, and leads an army up the beanstalk to slaughter all the giants except one. She dies of a wound inflicted by her own poisoned blade.
- Some time after the event, humans in the Enchanted Forest passed down the story of Jack and the Beanstalk, 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.
- The beanstalk
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