Fee Fi Fo Fum!

Fee fi fo fum
Fee fi fo fum hand lettered title
Illustration ©2014 Ken Wilson-Max

“Fee fi fo fum”  is from the classic English fairy tale Jack and the Beanstalk, which was originally called Jack the Giant Killer. 

The Cornish fairytale tells the story of a brave young man during the reign of King Arthur who kills many giants. Giants are common in Cornish stories. Cornwall, the home of the Cornish people, is in South West England.

There are some similarities between Jack the Gian Killer, or Jack and the Beanstalk, and those found in Norse Mythology, like “The Herd-boy and the Giant” which is similar to “Tom Thumb.” 

Fee-fi-fo-fum was used in William Shakespeare’s play, King Lear in 1605:

“Child Roland to the Dark tower came,
His word was still, Fie, foh, and fum,
I smell the blood of a British man.”

No one knows exactly who wrote it or when, but it must have been before 1596 as it is referred to by the English dramatist Thomas Nashe, in Have with you to Saffron-Walden, 1596:

“O, tis a precious apothegmatical Pedant, who will find matter enough to dilate a whole day of the first invention of Fy, fa, fum, I smell the blood of an English-man”.

Many of the folktales from European cultures are similar and this sometimes makes it harder to find their origins.

Updated from Chicken Newspaper Issue 1

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.