Once there was a small boy who lived in a small hut in a small village. His name was Jack. He was very skinny for he ate very little. Like all boys Jack loved to eat but there was nothing for him except a few small potatoes from a meager garden by the hut. At dinner his step-father would eat most of the potatoes and even the bread. Then Step-father would leave the rest on his plate for Jack's mother. "Here," he said loudly, "I am finished with this tasteless food." Jack's mother would take the scraps and try to hand them to Jack secretly.
"No, Mother." Jack whispered. "You must eat."
"Nonsense," said Mother. "I ate yesterday and besides you are growing. I want you to grow tall like your father."
Yes... Father. Father had been dead for two winters but Jack remembered well his smiling face and tickly beard. Father was a tall, skinny woodcutter who worked long days. Because of those long days Jack and his mother had wood to keep the fire going during the coldest days of winter. There was always plenty to eat as well from the profit of the extra wood that Father sold.
One night as Father worked alone, a tall tree fell on him and pinned him to the ground. The evening wolves arrived as he lay there and Father never came home.
Jack remembered seeing his mother cry and saying "With your father gone I do not know what we will eat." But then Thomas came to the door and said to Mother "I need a wife to cook and clean. I have a hut and food, but only enough food for you and me, not that little runt!" Mother told Jack they would have a new home with her new husband. She would share her food with Jack. The small boy had no choice. He quickly learned to be scared of Thomas and only said, "Yes, Step-father." when addressed by him.
"What are you whispering about?" thundered Step-father. "Runt, leave your mother's food alone and go to bed!"
"Yes, Step-father." said Jack. As Jack walked toward his bed, Step-father slapped him on the back of the head. "If you do not go to sleep soon I will knock you out myself!"
Jack cried quietly and fell asleep.
The next morning Jack awoke to rumbling sounds outside and people shouting. Jack rubbed his eyes and looked around. "What is happening, Mother?" Jack said.
"Do not go outside, Jack, it is too dangerous!" said Mother. "Your step-father has gone to grab food from burning houses."
"Burning houses!" cried Jack and he jumped up and ran outside. There Jack saw a giant--a man who was taller than any of the village huts. The giant had dark eyes and blood running from the corner of his mouth.
Jack could not believe his eyes for he also saw a dragon, a green one with a long curved neck and fire coming out of its mouth. The giant punched the dragon with his meaty hand and the dragon bit the giant's arm.
The giant yelled, "Go away dragon! This is MY village. I am going to eat these people."
The dragon hissed back, "Stupid giant, I will eat these people and then eat YOU!"
Jack had heard about the giant and the dragon before from travelers who came to town. The giant would go from village to village scooping up people and eating them. The dragon also roamed the countryside killing people with his fire and eating their hearts out. Both of them would turn the earth brown and kill crops by their dark magic. Now they had come to Jack's village and were fighting each other.
All the villagers watched as the dragon and the giant fought. "Oh well," said Sam the Butcher "they will kill each other." Then Sam walked back to his hut. "Perhaps we should go to another village." said a farmer calmly. "I will pretend I did not see this." said John the Baker.
"Wait," cried Jack, "someone must stop the giant and dragon!" But no one listened. All the people muttered to themselves and walked off. Glenda the old maid grabbed Jack by the wrist and said, "If you have any sense you will go hide yourself or they will find you. And if they find you, they will kill you. The taylor's family has already been burned alive in their hut."
Jack rubbed his wrist and walked toward the giant and dragon who were still fighting. He walked past the smoking taylor's hut. He saw a burned body on the ground outside. It was Step-father. He had a large hole in his chest where the dragon had eaten out his heart.
Jack shuddered and almost burst into tears. "Someone must stop the giant and dragon!" he thought. Jack pictured his mother frightened inside their hut waiting to be burned and eaten. Jack pictured his father pinned helplessly beneath a tree and being attacked by wolves.
Jack ran toward the giant and dragon. He got so close he could feel the wind from the giant's punches and the heat from the dragon's fire.
Jack squeaked with all his might, "Go AWAY you wicked beasts! LEAVE!"
Jack trembled as the giant and dragon turned to look at him and braced himself to be eaten.
"ANT!" thundered the giant "I will crush you."
"How DARE you speak to me, boy!" hissed the dragon "I will turn you to ashes."
Their evil and might were too much for him. Jack sobbed and fell to his knees.
Suddenly, the elf-king on his large white stallion appeared. His crown was shining gold, his beard was the darkest red and he carried a lance so long and straight it looked like the trunk of a tall tree. Without a word, the elf-king charged his horse at the dragon with blinding speed. The magical lance sunk deep into the body of the dragon. It burned away all flesh it touched and turned the tough hide to smoke. The dragon writhed then collapsed into ash.
The giant, seeing that the dragon was dead, smiled with a wicked grin and swung his huge fist at the elf-king. From his hip the elf-king drew a sword that shone like the sun and in a flash cut off the giant's fist in mid-swing.
The giant howled in pain and raised his bloody arm which now had no hand. "I have killed a thousand lesser men than you, Elf, and you will die too!" cried the giant.
Then the giant leaped at the elf-king with all his weight. With a loud crack he landed belly first on the ground trying to crush the elf-king. But the elf-king atop his stallion was quicker than the wind. He was not under the giant when he landed. Instead, the elf-king appeared by the giant's head.
Leaping from the saddle the elf-king struck with the brilliant sword like a woodcutter splitting wood. The giant's enormous head rolled off like the wheel of a cart. It came to rest near Jack who stared into the whites of the giant's rolled-back eyes.
Jack dared not rise from his knees in the presence of one so great as the elf-king but suddenly the elf-king stood in front of him and raised his tiny chin with his strong hand. "Jack, you may be small, but you spoke the truth. Well done."
Then the elf-king smiled and mounted his stallion. He galloped triumphantly. As he rode, the ground beneath the horse's hooves turned a lush green color.
Jack ran home to his hut. He could not believe his eyes. Their meager garden was now a beautiful orchard with full fruit trees. In fact, everywhere Jack looked, there were beautiful flowers and vegetation. The land was healed. The door opened and Jack's mother ran to him and kissed him and hugged him.
"Oh, Jack," she said while crying with joy, "you are alive!"
"I AM alive, Mother." said Jack. "And we will never have to worry about food again."