Jack the Giant Killer was a very colorful story with a very colorful background. Its origin is somewhat of a challenge to pinpoint.
It is traditionally believed this story was derived by the writings of Geoffery of Monmouth, a cleric from Wales. Geoffery was born around 1100 AD. His most notable work was entitled “Historia Regum Britanniae” and is now considered a literary work of national myth.
The tale began with the introduction of a poor farmer’s son, who embraced the tales of mythical creatures and studied military strategies.
Jack decided he would rid his community of the local tyrannical giant and it was so successful, he continually found excuses to slay another giant, and another, and another.
Throughout the story, I sensed it was a creative tool to teach little boys the necessities of positive deception needed in adulthood. Jack helped nearly everyone, including King Arthur’s only son and was well compensated for it.
Jack convinced one giant, that an army of soldiers were going to take over his castle, so he told the giant to hide in his cellar until morning. The giant was so grateful to Jack for saving his castle, he granted Jack’s request of a magic sword, a cap of knowledge, a cloak of invisibility, and shoes of swiftness, oblivious to the fact that Jack gave the giant’s treasure to his traveling companions.
Oh, and by the way, this giant was a relative. Yes . . . con artistry was a valuable characteristic in the Middle Ages. And Jack continued to do well for himself throughout the tale.
Here are some interesting tidbits surrounding the story.
The author, Geoffery of Monmouth was the person most accredited with creating the character Merlin the Magician. His Merlin was loosely based on several people, including a real life prophet and hermit, driven mad by the horrors of war in sixth century Wales. Geoffery’s work “Prophetiae Merlini” contributed to the legends of King Arthur, already in circulation.
Geoffery’s Jack in this story was presumed to be a Roman consul named Brutus of Troy. Brutus found the island of Great Britain, named it for himself and became its first king.
Jack the Giant Killer was full of Cornish folklore, Breton mythology and Bard lore, an interesting blend of fact and fiction. It was very difficult to identify what is what but that was intriguing.