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"Fee-fi-fo-fum" is the first line of a historical quatrain (or sometimes couplet) famous for its use in the classic English fairy tale Jack and the Beanstalk. The poem, as given in Joseph Jacobs's 1890 rendition, is as follows:

I smell the blood of an Englishman,
Be he alive, or be he dead
I'll grind his bones to make my bread.[1]

Though the rhyme is tetrametric, it follows no consistent metrical foot; however, the respective verses correspond roughly to monosyllabic tetrameter, dactylic tetrameter, trochaic tetrameter, and iambic tetrameter. The poem has historically made use of assonant half rhyme.


The rhyme appears in Haue with You to Saffron-Walden published in 1596 and written by Thomas Nashe (who mentions that the rhyme was already old and its origins obscure):[2]

Fy, Fa and fum,
I smell the bloud of an Englishman

In William Shakespeare's play King Lear (c. 1605),[2] the character of Edgar exclaims:

Fie, foh, and fum,
I smell the blood of a British man.

The verse in King Lear makes use of the archaic word "fie", used to express disapproval.[3] This word is used repeatedly in Shakespeare's works, King Lear himself shouting, "Fie, fie, fie! pah, pah!" and the character of Mark Antony (in Antony and Cleopatra) simply exclaiming "O fie, fie, fie!" The word "fum" has sometimes been interpreted as "fume".[1] Formations such as "fo" and "foh" are perhaps related to the expression "pooh!", which is used by one of the giants in Jack the Giant-Killer;[4] such conjectures largely indicate that the phrase is of imitative origin, rooted in the sounds of flustering and anger.

The earliest known printed version of the Jack the Giant-Killer tale appears in The history of Jack and the Giants (Newcastle, 1711) and this,[2][5] and later versions (found in chapbooks), include renditions of the poem, recited by the giant Thunderdell:

Selected notable modern use[edit]

In the song "Stay Wide Awake" from his fifth studio album Relapse, Eminem raps: "fee-fi-fo-fum, i think i smell the scent of a placenta, i enter Central Park it's dark, it's winter in december"

In the Laurel and Hardy film A Chump at Oxford, the Oxford students walk in a procession, chanting "Fee-fi-fo-fum, we want the blood of an American".

In his poem "The Day the Saucers Came", Neil Gaiman uses the expression as a verb: "...While giants feefofummed across the land ...".[6]

In the song "Powaful Impak!", rapper Buckshot rhymes "Fee, to the Fi, to the Fo, to the Funk".[7]

In the song "Anything (Viva!)" from the album Nail by Scraping Foetus off the Wheel, released in 1985.[8]

In the song "Pop Muzik" by M.[9]

In The Monkees TV series, when the Monkees overhear "Fee fi fo fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman", Davy Jones assumes the giant is referring to him.

In the song "i", Kendrick Lamar raps "I duck these cold faces, post up fi-fie-fo-fum basis" in reference to the quatrain.[10]

In the 1961 Popeye the Sailor short "Hamburgers Aweigh", When the Sea Hag hijacked Popeye's ship by getting rid of Popeye and Olive Oyl, Wimpy uses the Whiffle Bird to put a magic spell on her and the canned hamburgers. As a result, she goes berserk to the cabin to eat all the hamburgers while saying "Fee, fi, fo, fum! I smell hamburgers, yum, yum!"

The song "Crua Chan", from the 1987 album After Chabón by the Argentinian rock band Sumo, tells about the Jacobite rising of 1745 and the Battle of Culloden. The chorus says "Fe-fi-fo-fum I smell the blood of an Englishman" and later "Fe-fi-fo-fum, I smell the blood of a Scotsman".[11]

The song "Fee Fi Fo" by the Cranberries. Released in June 1999. the song speaks of the pedophilia problem in modern society "Fee fi fo she smells his body / She smells his body / And it makes her sick to her mind / He has got so much to answer for."

In James Joyce's Ulysses, the Proteus episode: "Feefawfum. I zmellz de bloodz odz an Iridzman." (Stephen's thoughts)

In the film The Song Remains the Same, John Paul Jones recites the phrase to his children at his home before finding out about upcoming tour dates.


  1. ^ a b c Tatar, Maria (2002). "Jack and the Beanstalk". The Annotated Classic Fairy Tales. New York: W. W. Norton & Co. pp. pp. 131 – 144. ISBN 0-393-05163-3. 
  2. ^ a b c McCarthy, William Bernard; Oxford, Cheryl; Sobol, Joseph Daniel, eds. (1994). Jack in Two Worlds: Contemporary North American Tales and Their Tellers (illustrated ed.). UNC Press Books. p. xv. ISBN 9780807844434. 
  3. ^ "fie". The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. The Houghton Mifflin Co. 2000. Retrieved November 13, 2008. 
  4. ^ a b History of Jack the Giant Killer. Glasgow: Printed for the booksellers. 
  5. ^ "The Arthuriad" (PDF) 1. p. 25 (PDF 26). 
  6. ^ Gaiman, Neil. "The Day the Saucers Came". Poster of the poem at Neil Gaiman's Neverwear store. Retrieved February 12, 2013. 
  7. ^ "Black moon lyrics". 
  8. ^ "Nail lyrics". 
  9. ^ http://www.lyrics007.com/M%20Lyrics/Pop%20Muzik%20Lyrics.html
  10. ^ http://genius.com/4087357/Kendrick-lamar-i/I-duck-these-cold-faces-post-up-fi-fie-fo-fum-basis
  11. ^ http://www.releaselyrics.com/6ec9/sumo-crua-chan/