Jack the Giant-Killer: A Species Traitor?

Presented to the Journal of Ahistorical Archeology by Professor T. Phineas Munbar, Ph. D., Fellow, A. A. A., as provided by Dave D’Alessio
Art by Errow Collins

Giants were apparently more common in the past then they are today. The Bible refers to giants, as do Greek mythology, the Torah, and Dante’s Inferno. However, the first three date to thousands of years BCE, and the giants of Inferno are dead. Today “giant” is less a description than a sobriquet; for instance, wrestler Andre “the Giant” Roussimoff stood a mere 7 feet, 4 inches tall, shorter than basketball players such as Manute Bol and Shawn Bradley (each 7 feet, 6 inches), neither of whom was called a “giant.”

One of our best sources of information on giants is the story Jack the Giant-Killer (note 1), in which the titular hero encounters eight giants and kills seven of them in various manners. There is sufficient detail provided in this memoir to allow us insight into both the biology of giants and the nature of Jack himself, which will lead us to a new theory of the hero.

Jack’s Eight Giants

Jack is described as the son of a farmer in the general area of Cornwall, England. He has contact with King Arthur, which suggests that he lives in or around the year 700 CE and comes from a Celtic background. He launches into a career in giant killing as a financial venture, as he is offered the treasure belonging to a giant as an incentive to kill him. Later, his motivations will include self-defense and the desire to support his master, who is identified as “King Arthur’s only son.” (note 2)

In order, Jack meets:

  • Cormoran, who is reported as living on the Mount of Cornwall. Jack digs a pit, lures Cormoran into it, and then slays him with a pickaxe blow to the head (note 3);
  • Blunderbore and his unnamed brother. Blunderbore captures Jack in revenge for the killing of Cormoran; Jack improvises a dual noose, strangles the two giants into immobility, and then kills them with his sword;
  • An unnamed two-headed giant of Welsh extraction, who is portrayed as being not very bright. Jack tricks the Welsh giant into killing himself;
  • An unnamed three-headed giant that Jack describes to his master as “his uncle.” By pretending to be the giant’s cousin, Jack tricks the giant into giving him his entire fortune, and his coat of invisibility, cap of knowledge, sword of cutting, and shoes of swiftness;
  • An unnamed giant who carries a large iron club. Jack uses the coat of invisibility to get close enough to the giant to slay him with the sword of cutting;
  • Thunderdell, a two headed giant who comes to avenge the other dead giants. Jack tricks Thunderdell into chasing him onto a specially weakened drawbridge across a castle’s moat. The drawbridge collapses under Thunderdell’s weight, depositing him into the moat, where he founders until Jack, using a team of horses, drags him out and slays him with the sword (note 4); and
  • Galligantua, a giant who is allied with a sorcerer and keeps two griffons to protect his castle. Jack uses the coat of invisibility to sneak into the castle, deciphers a riddle predicting the overthrow of the giant, and cuts Galligantua’s head off with the sword of cutting as the giant stoops to pick up a club.

So, of the eight giants, only the three-headed giant survives, albeit without his most precious items or fortune (which Jack gives to his master).

To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Autumn 2015 collection.

T. Phineas Munbar is the current holder of the Benjamin Knout Chair of Extraordinary Esoterica at Bodmin Polytechnic Institute. His book, Rock Cornish Game Hens: AElfraed the Great’s Shock Troops, has been described as, “…ensuring that the author should never be considered for tenure, anywhere, at any time.”

Dave D’Alessio is an ex-industrial chemist, ex-TV engineer, and ex-award winning animator currently masquerading as a practicing social scientist. His work has appeared in Every Day Fiction, Stories in the Ether, and the Copperfield Review, as well as the upcoming anthology Altered Europa and, of course, Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly.

Errow is a comic artist and illustrator focused on narrative work themed around worlds not quite like our own. She spends her time working with her partner on The Kinsey House webcomic and developing other comic projects when she’s not playing tag with her bear of a cat. More of her work can be found at errowcollins.wix.com/portfolio.

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4 Responses to Jack the Giant-Killer: A Species Traitor?

  1. Dave D'Alessio says:

    I love the illustration by Errow Collins. It is perfect for the story!

  2. Simone Cooper says:

    Errow’s illustration for this is absolutely beautiful.

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