What is a tall tale?

Hello, and welcome to the Folklore & Fiction newsletter. In this edition, I'm writing about the tall tale with help from scholars Richard Bauman, Carolyn S. Brown, Henry B. Wonham, and others, helping you analyze a tall tale, and discussing ways to bring tall tales to your story craft.

The tall tale is difficult to trace through history, but Brown cites examples of it in Plutarch's writing and in Baldassare Castiglione's Book of the Courtier (1987, 11). Both tales, spaced 1500 years apart, describe weather so bitterly cold it froze words after they were spoken, which had to be thawed by various means in order to be heard. The tall tale was often ignored by nineteenth century European collectors of folklore, many of them German (Brown 1987, 11), but we know it was present in the oral culture of the region. A hundred years earlier, the real Baron Münchhausen's tall tales about his life and career inspired Rudolf Erich Raspe's book Baron Munchausen's Narrative of his Marvellous Travels and Campaigns in Russia (The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica 1998).

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