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What is a Tall Tale?

"Taking our geese to market"
(William H.) Martin Post Card Company, ca. 1909.
MSUM acc# 95.031.7.
Gift of C. Kurt Dewhurst and Marsha MacDowell.

Tall tales are humorous stories of exaggeration, fictional accounts that are presented as the truth. They often involve ludicrous or absurd imagery.

Tall tales are passed on in oral, written, and visual forms, including the postcards, cartoons, and other artifacts included in this exhibit. They are told by insiders to outsiders for the amusement of the insider. Tellers of tall tales do not believe their narrative but want the audience to believe it.

Hunters and fishermen dominate this form of storytelling with tales of the often-mentioned "one that got away." Other tall tales focus on wonders of the natural world, such as harsh weather, bountiful harvests, or strange creatures the storyteller claims to have encountered on his/her travels. Tall tales also boast about a region and market goods.

Tall tales have been told and recorded in North America from colonial times and remain a vital storytelling form today.