The origin of Jack and the Beanstalk is unknown although the author was almost certainly British. The earliest printed edition which has survived is the 1807 book The history of Jack and the bean-stalk. Printed from the original manuscript, never before published although the story was already in existence sometime before this time as a burlesque of the story entitled The Story of Jack Spriggins and the Enchanted Bean was included in the 1734 second edition of Round about our Coal-Fire.
The story tells of a poor boy whose lack of common sense exasperates his widowed mother. She sends him to the market to sell their only possession, a cow, but along the way, Jack meets a stranger who offers to buy the cow for five "magic beans". Jack is thrilled at the prospect of having magic beans, so he makes the deal. When he arrives at home with his beans, his mother, in despair that they are ruined, throws the beans out the window, and the two go to bed without any supper.
Overnight, the beans grow into a gigantic beanstalk which reaches high into the clouds. Jack decides to climb the beantalk, and arrives in a land in the clouds, which is the home of the giant who killed his father. The giant senses that a human is in his castle ("Fee fie foe fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman."), but the giant's wife saves Jack. Jack steals from the giant a hen which lays golden eggs. He climbs down the ladder and shows the chicken to his mother, and the two live happily on the proceeds from the hen's eggs.
Eventually, however, Jack grows bored, and he resolves to climb the beanstalk again. This time, he steals from the giant a harp which accompanies itself in song. The harp does not appreciate being stolen, and calls out to the giant for help. The giant chases Jack down the beanstalk, and Jack chops it down with an axe, causing the giant to fall and die.