In honor of NBC Nightly News anchorman Brian Williams, it’s Delusions of Grandeur Week at Clare T. Walker.com!! Do you have an amazing or heroic deed you wish you’d done? Do you wish your life was more exciting than it is? Do you have a rather bland tale that you can embellish beyond all believability in order to draw attention to yourself? You’ll get your chance — read on!
Brian Williams’ credibility crisis reminds me of a fictional genre oft-neglected these days: the tall tale.
“A tall tale is a story with unbelievable elements, related as if it were true and factual…Tall tales are often told in a way that makes the narrator seem to have been a part of the story.”
Famous tall tales from American literature and folklore include Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox, Pecos Bill, Johnny Appleseed, John Henry, and Casey Jones.
In Ireland and Scotland we have Finn MacCool, who, among other great feats, built the Giant’s Causeway. And who can forget Robert Service’s hero from the Great White North, Sam McGee?
Also known as “whoppers” and “fish stories,” the genre may also include urban legends, and more broadly myths, legends, and some hagiography. The Western seems to mix well with the tall tale: In Owen Wister’s 1902 classic Western The Virginian, the title character defuses tensions and forestalls a simmering mutiny among the cattlehands by telling a tall tale having to do with frogs’ legs. Annie Proulx’s 1999 collection of short stories (Close Range) features a tall tale called “The Blood-Bay.”
Tall tales are lots of fun to read, and even more fun to write, especially when you’re lampooning a public figure who’s made a doofus of himself on the national stage.
Just last week, I was shoveling my driveway after the record-setting snowfall here in the Midwest. It snowed for 28 days straight, and I had to shovel sideways from my porch for about one hundred yards before I could finally shovel up. It took me 7 days to reach the surface, and when I finally emerged, I realized I had miscalculated my shoveling angle and must have been heading east on a pretty steep diagonal, because I found myself standing right outside the windows of the Sky Deck of Willis Tower downtown. Oops! But it turned out to be a happy mistake, because the entire Sky Deck was engulfed in flame! I used my handy diamond glass cutter (which I just happened to have with me) to cut a neat, circular hole in the window. I then had everyone on the Sky Deck luge down the snow chute I had constructed. Within a few moments, everyone had reached the safety of my front porch. Fortunately, I had just made a monster batch of chili in my 4 dozen crockpots, so I was able to feed everyone while they waited for their loved ones to come get them.
Now here’s your chance: share your own tall tale in the comment box below. Let’s see how much fun we can have! 🙂
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Hannah Who says
One fine evening, during my fifteen hour shift as a costume designer at my university theater, I set out on a quest to the bowels of the costume lockup, armed only with a tape measure, to locate a pair of pants for an actor who clocked in at a whopping 113 inches around the waist. This was a daunting task, and my companions told me I was out of my mind, but I plunged into the abyss of dust, smothering fabric, and razor sharp clothing hangers. As I disappeared into the blackness, I heard one of the onlookers say, “There goes another brave costume designer.” Another onlooker snorted. “We’re never going to see that fool again.” I set out to prove him wrong.
After a struggle through a wall of coats that seemed to have a personal vendetta against my lungs, I emerged into a labyrinth that stretched out on either side, coats and pants and doublets and robes and dresses hung double thick, tier upon tier. I raised my trusty tape measure and saw that it glowed, feebly at first, then more and more powerfully as my confidence grew and strode forth into the maze. I clambered up onto a promising-looking row and pulled out a pair of pants. I could see at first sight that they were not going to do the trick. As I tore through the racks, I flung the unworthy items onto the floor of the maze, leaving empty hanging racks behind. Just as I began to think the sight of so many zippers might drive me into a madness of the frothing mouth variety, i heard a noise from a distant corner: “Psst.”
I whirled around, thrusting forward my tape measure to illuminate the corner. A shaking, ragged young girl squatted against the wall, clutching a bedraggled tape measure and a large bundle. “I have the pants you’re looking for,” she said, staring at me with bloodshot, haunted eyes thrown wide by the horrors of a thousand zippers and waistbands. She held out the bundle, which rolled open across the floor, and as I measured, I rejoiced, for the pants were perfect!
I seized the pants and began to run where the tape measure lead me, but turned back as I heard a small whimper behind me. I held out my hand, the glowing tape measure flashing like lightning. “Come with me,” I said.