Beginnings of the Tall Tale
• Tall tales began in the 1800's as a way for pioneers to understand
the greatness of the American west.
– There were huge forests, ferocious animals, deserts, and
mountains. The pioneers were trying to conquer these
elements, and that was a scary business.
– The heroes and heroines in the tall tales were also huge and
often ferocious. They made the taming of America a little
easier to handle.
• In those days, before TV and movies, people depended on
storytelling for entertainment. After a long day's work, people
gathered to tell each other funny tales.
• Each group of workers (loggers, cowboys, railroad and steel
workers) had its own tall-tale hero.
– Having a superhuman hero with the same job somehow made their
lives easier.
– Perhaps it gave them strength or courage to do their difficult and
dangerous work.
Elements of a Tall Tale
• A larger-than-life, or superhuman, main character
with a specific job.
• A problem that is solved in a funny way.
• Exaggerated details that describe things as greater
than they really are.
• Characters who use everyday language.
• Written in 1st person (uses “I”).
• Some legendary figures are real people. There are
more tall tales involving American baseball player
Babe Ruth than could fill a book.
Exaggeration – The Key to the Tall Tale
• Remember, the key is to EXAGGERATE your
hero's characteristics. Make him or her bigger
or stronger or faster or smarter than anyone
• The hero needs an adventure for a tall tale.
Once again, the key is to EXAGGERATE. The
main event of a tall tale is not something that
can happen in real life.
Famous Tall Tale Characters
Paul Bunyan
Johnny Appleseed
Pecos Bill
John Henry
Tony Beaver
Davy Crocket

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