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Thursday, September 29, 2005

American folklore- tall tales

I don't know if you've seen the episode of The Simpsons where the family hitch a ride in the cargo waggon of a train. They share their journey with an old tramp who agrees to tell them tall tales in return for regular sponge baths from Homer. I had never heard the expression tall tales before and I wonder if it's only found in America. This site explains that in America the stories are called tall tales because:
A tall tale is a special kind of hero story because the heroes of tall
tales are "larger than life". They are bigger or stronger than real people. They
solve problems in ways that are hard to believe.
I certainly can't suspend my disbelief when I hear about a large lumberjack called Paul Bunyan who went about creating the landscape with a giant blue ox called Babe. Some tall tales are based on historical characters. The Simpsons episode featured the tree planter Johnny Appleseed. You can read all about him here. Americans might find this hard to believe, but in Britain I don't think many people have even heard of Paul Bunyan and Johnny Appleseed.


Blogger Tony said...

I've always associated Johnny Appleseed with Jean Giono's The Man Who Planted Trees. They seem to be nearly identical legends from both sides of the Atlantic. Did they both happen? Did neither? Is this an archetype going back to a racial memory of some distant god or hero? Why are there more questions than answers, granddad?

5:37 pm  

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