Once there was a young man named Jack. He lived with his mother on a small farm at the foot of the Misty Mountains.
Jack and his mother were very poor. Their only way of making money was selling the milk from their cow, Bess.
One morning, Jack's mother woke him up early. It was still dark outside. She was crying.
"Jack, wake up! Go to the market today and sell our cow, Bess."
"But why?" asked Jack, yawning.
"We need money to fix our house. There are holes in the roof. The windows are broken. For heaven's sake, we have no front door. Winter is coming soon. If we don't fix the house, the cold will kill us."
Jack packed his bag and fetched Bess from the barn.
As he was walking out the gate, he heard his mother shout: "She is worth at least five gold coins! Don’t sell her for less!"
When Jack was half way to the market, he met an old man.
"Good morning, my boy!" said the old man. "Where are you going today?"
"Good morning, sir," replied Jack. "I'm going to the market to sell my cow. Her name is Bess."
"She is a beautiful cow," said the man. "I will buy Bess, and I will give you a very good deal!"
“How much will you pay for her? I won’t take less than five gold coins!” said Jack.
“I don't have five gold coins, but I have these five black beans,” whispered the man. “These beans are magic beans! They are worth more than gold! If you take these beans, you will be richer than the richest man in the world.”
Jack thought about his mother. He thought about how happy she would be if they were rich. They could fix the roof, the windows, and the front door. Maybe they could buy a new cow!
“Okay," said Jack. "You’ve got a deal. Give me the beans."
Jack was very excited. He ran home and showed his mother the beans. But instead of being happy, she was furious.
“You foolish boy! You traded our only cow for a handful of beans!” She took the beans and threw them out the window. Then she sat down beside the fire and cried.
Jack was devastated. He shut himself in his bedroom. He felt so stupid. They no longer had a cow, and now they were poorer than before. What a disaster! And it was his fault!
The next morning when Jack opened the curtains, he saw something very strange.
In the same place where his mother had thrown the beans, there was a giant, green beanstalk. It stretched from the ground, up, up, up… all the way to the clouds.
“The beans really are magic!” whispered Jack. "The old man was telling the truth!"
Jack's mother was still asleep, so Jack decided to climb the beanstalk to look for the riches the old man had described.
"Just five gold coins. That's all I need to make my mother happy," thought Jack.
Jack climbed up, up, up, higher and higher into the clouds. When he reached the top, he was very hungry. He saw a castle in the distance.
"Maybe I can find something to eat in that castle…" he thought.
Jack walked up to the door of the castle and knocked twice. Knock knock!
A giantess opened the door. She was as big as a house, but she had a warm smile and gentle eyes.
"Excuse me, Mrs. Giant," said Jack. "Could you please give me something to eat? I am so hungry!"
"Oh you poor boy!" said the giantess. She could see that Jack was very thin. "Of course! Come in! Come in!"
The kind giantess gave Jack some vegetable stew. He was enjoying it so much that he didn't notice when the kitchen table started to shake.
Stomp... Stomp... Stomp… Loud footsteps echoed down the hallway.
"Oh dear," whispered the giantess. "That is my husband! He is home from work! He doesn't like humans! Quick! Hide!"
Jack hid in the pantry.
The giant stomped into the kitchen and sniffed the air.
"FEE FI FO FUM! ... Hello my beautiful wife...
Wait! Do I smell a human man? YUCK! WHERE IS HE?"
"Good evening, my darling husband," replied the giantess. "There is nobody here. You smell the vegetable stew, nothing more."
"Good," grunted the giant. "I hate humans." He sat down at the table in the kitchen.
The giant took out a small sack of gold coins out of his pocket and counted them. One... two... three... four... five gold coins.
Jack watched from inside the pantry. "Five gold coins!" thought Jack. "If I had that money, I could fix our house!"
When the two giants left the room, Jack stole the five gold coins and slipped them into his bag. "This is all I need!" thought Jack.
But then Jack remembered that his family no longer had a cow. Without a cow, they would surely starve. He decided to stay and look for other treasures.
He followed the giant into the living room and hid under the couch. The giant went to the cupboard and pulled out a golden hen.
“Hello, my beautiful hen. Lay, please!" said the giant, and the hen laid a golden egg.
Jack watched from under the couch.
"A hen that lays golden eggs!" whispered Jack. "If I had that hen, I could buy fifty cows!"
When the giant left the room, Jack crawled out from under the couch. He went to the cupboard, took the hen, and put it in his bag.
"This is all I need… " thought Jack.
But then Jack thought about what the old man had promised. Jack imagined being richer than the richest man in the world. He decided to see what other treasures he could find.
He followed the giant into the bedroom, and hid under the bed. There was a golden harp standing in a corner of the room.
"Hello, my beautiful harp. Play, please!" said the giant. The harp began playing music with no one touching the strings.
"Wow! A magic harp!" whispered Jack. "That harp would make me rich and famous!"
When the giant fell asleep, Jack crawled out from under the bed. He took the magic harp and put it in his bag.
But this time Jack was less lucky.
The magic harp screamed, “Help me, master! A human is stealing me!”
The giant woke up and saw Jack with the magic harp, the golden hen, and his gold coins.
The giant chased Jack — out of the bedroom, down the hallway, through the kitchen, and out the front door. But Jack was smaller and faster than the giant. Jack reached the beanstalk first and slid down. He arrived at the ground with all his treasures.
The giant reached the top of the beanstalk and looked down. He was afraid of heights. He slowly climbed down.
"BE CAREFUL, MY HUSBAND!" shouted the giantess from the castle. "HUMANS CAN BE DANGEROUS!"
Jack saw the giant coming down the beanstalk. So he ran into his house and grabbed an axe. He chopped the beanstalk. Whack! Whack! Whack!
Suddenly, the beanstalk snapped. The giant came tumbling down from the sky. He fell down, down, down, and landed far away, on the other side of the Misty Mountains. Thud!
For a moment everything was silent. Then Jack heard a strange sound from far away.
It was the giant. The beanstalk had fallen, and now he had no way to get back up to his castle in the clouds.
The giant yelled so loudly that the clouds shook and turned gray. Then somewhere up in the sky, Jack heard Mrs. Giant start to cry. Her tears fell through the clouds in tiny drops and soaked the earth.
After that, Jack and his mother lived a very comfortable life. The golden hen made a Jack a millionaire. The magic harp made him famous. Jack married a rich and famous woman and together they had ten children.
But Jack was never truly happy.
Every time the wind blew, Jack heard the giant calling for his wife. And every time it rained, he felt the giant-wife's tears falling on him.
Jack felt sad and guilty.
One day, when Jack was very old, he decided that he didn't want to be sad any more. He opened a box on his mantelpiece and pulled out one last shrivelled magic bean.
If he could find the giant, he could grow another beanstalk. Then the giant could back up to his castle in the clouds. If he could find the giant, he could also apologize for being so greedy.
Jack packed his bag and walked into the Misty Mountains.
Did Jack find the giant? Did he grow a new beanstalk with the last magic bean? Nobody knows.
But people say, if you listen closely during a thunderstorm, you can hear the rumbling sound of two giants dancing together in the clouds.
To save to a computer: Right-click (or ctrl-click) and select "save as".
To save to a phone or tablet: You may need to download audio files onto a computer first, and then transfer them to your device. See our help area.
Members get access to our delightful (slow) audio and video versions of the stories, plus downloads so you can watch and listen offline.