Tall tale

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A tall tale is a story with unbelievable elements, related as if it were true and factual. Some tall tales are exaggerations of actual events, for example fish stories ("the fish that got away") such as, "That fish was so big, why I tell ya', it nearly sank the boat when I pulled it in!" Other tall tales are completely fictional tales set in a familiar setting, such as the European countryside, the American frontier, the Canadian Northwest, the Australian frontier, or the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

Events are often told in a way that makes the narrator seem to have been a part of the story; the tone is generally good-natured. Legends are differentiated from tall tales primarily by age;[citation needed] many legends exaggerate the exploits of their heroes, but in tall tales the exaggeration looms large, to the extent of dominating the story.

United States[edit]

The tall tale is a fundamental element of American folk literature. The tall tale's origins are seen in the bragging contests that often occurred when the rough men of the American frontier gathered. The tales of legendary figures of the Old West, some listed below, owe much to the style of tall tales.

The semi-annual speech contests held by Toastmasters International public speaking clubs may include a tall tales contest. Each and every participating speaker is given three to five minutes to give a short speech of a tall tale nature, and is then judged according to several factors. The winner proceeds to the next level of competition. The contest does not proceed beyond any participating district in the organization to the international level.

The comic strip Non Sequitur sometimes features tall tales told by the character Captain Eddie; it is left up to the reader to decide if he is telling the truth, exaggerating a real event, or just telling a whopper.

About real people[edit]

Some stories are told about exaggerated versions of real people:

About imaginary people[edit]

Paul Bunyan's sidekick, Babe the blue ox, sculpted as a ten-meter tall roadside tourist attraction

Subjects of some American tall tales include legendary figures:

Australia[edit]

The Australian frontier (known as the bush or the outback) similarly inspired the types of tall tales that are found in American folklore. The Australian versions typically concern a mythical station called The Speewah. The heroes of the Speewah include:

  • Rodney Ansell
  • Big Bill – The dumbest man on the Speewah who made his living cutting up mining shafts and selling them for post holes
  • Crooked Mick – A champion shearer who had colossal strength and quick wit.

Another folk hero is Charlie McKeahnie, the hero of Banjo Paterson's poem "The Man from Snowy River", whose bravery, adaptability, and risk-taking could epitomise the new Australian spirit.

Canada[edit]

The Canadian frontier has also inspired the types of tall tales that are found in American folklore, such as:

Europe[edit]

The Columnar basalt that makes up the Giant's Causeway; in legend, a fine set of hexagonal stepping stones to Scotland, made by Fionn mac Cumhaill

Some European tall tales include:

  • Toell the Great was one of the great tall tales of Estonia.
  • The Babin Republic, in Renaissance Poland (1568) was a satirical society dedicated entirely to mocking people and telling tall tales.
  • Juho Nätti (1890–1964), known as Nätti-Jussi, was a Finnish lumberjack known for telling tall tales; his stories have also circulated as folk tales and been collected in books.
  • The Life of Gargantua and of Pantagruel (16th Century) by the French writer Rabelais told the tale of two giants; father and son.
  • The many farfetched adventures of the fictional German nobleman Baron Munchausen, some of which may have had a folklore basis.
  • Legends of the Irish mythological hunter-warrior Fionn mac Cumhaill, also known as Finn MacCool, have it that he built the Giant's Causeway as stepping-stones to Scotland, so as not to get his feet wet, and that he also once scooped up part of Ireland to fling it at a rival, but it missed and landed in the Irish Sea; the clump became the Isle of Man, the pebble became Rockall, and the void became Lough Neagh.
  • Laughter and Grief by the White Sea, a Soviet film, depicts tall tales of the Pomors. A Pomor elder describes several stories, including a brown bear coating himself in baking soda to be acceptable to humans as a polar bear.
  • The Cumbrian Liars, a United Kingdom association who follow in the seven-league footsteps of Will Ritson.[4]
  • The Irish Rover is a well-known Irish folk song about an implausibly large sailing ship with a fanciful cargo.

In visual media[edit]

Early 20th century postcards became a vehicle for tall tale telling in the US.[5][6] Creators of these cards, such as the prolific Alfred Stanley Johnson Jr.,[7] and William H. "Dad" Martin, usually employed trick photography, including forced perspective, while others painted their unlikely tableaus,[6] or used a combination of painting and photography in early examples of photo retouching.[8] The common theme was gigantism: fishing for leviathans,[6][9] hunting for[6][10] or riding[11][12] oversized animals, and bringing in the impossibly huge sheaves.[6][13] An homage to the genre can be found on the cover of the Eat a Peach (1972) album by The Allman Brothers Band.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Buckner, Aylett C." Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved August 23, 2011.
  2. ^ Appalachia Appalachian Mountain Club, 1964.
  3. ^ Monahan, Robert. "Jigger Johnson", New Hampshire Profiles magazine, Northeast Publications, Concord, New Hampshire, April, 1957.
  4. ^ "Cumbrian Liars". grizedale.org.
  5. ^ "Larger Than Life: Tall-Tale Postcards". Wisconsin Historical Society.
  6. ^ a b c d e "Storytelling Through the Mail: Tall Tale Postcards in Michigan". Michigan History Online. Archived from the original on 2009-07-08.
  7. ^ "Wisconsin historical images, Keywords: "tall tale", Alfred Stanley Johnson, Jr". Wisconsin Historical Society.
  8. ^ "Tall-tale Postcard: Mammoth Strawberries". Wisconsin Historical Society.
  9. ^ "Wisconsin historical images, Keywords: "tall tale", "fishing"". Wisconsin Historical Society.
  10. ^ "Wisconsin historical images, Keyword "hunting"". Wisconsin Historical Society.
  11. ^ "Homeward Bound".
  12. ^ "Man Riding Sheep (1916)".
  13. ^ "Wisconsin historical images, Keyword "hunting"". Wisconsin Historical Society.

Further reading[edit]

  • Brown, Carolyn. (1989). The Tall Tale in American Folklore and Literature. Knoxville, Tennessee: University of Tennessee Press. ISBN 0-87049-627-1.

External links[edit]