The Topic:
Tall Tales

Easier - Throughout history people have told and written stories about their heroes. 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, even when the tall tale is based on a real person. Tall tale heroes solve problems in funny ways that are hard to believe
Harder - A tall tale is a uniquely American story form that features (1) a larger-than-life, or superhuman, main character with a specific task, (2) a problem that is solved in a humorous or outrageous way, (3) exaggerated details that describe things larger than they really are, and (4) characters who use everyday language. Many tall tales are based on actual people or on a composite of actual people. Exaggeration is the major element in tall tales.
John Henry: The Steel Driving Man
There are two John Henrys - the man and legend surrounding him.
Other John Henry Sites:
2) John Henry
3) John Henry
4) John Henry
5) Steel Drivin' Man
Life of Johnny Appleseed from Vermont Weathervane
For forty-nine years, John Chapman ('Johnny Appleseed') roamed the American wilderness, devotedly planting apple trees. The reason for John's mission is unknown, although it's said he dreamed of a land covered with blossoming apple trees; of a land where no one went hungry because apples were plentiful.
Other Sites for Johnny Appleseed:
2) Johnny Appleseed by F.B. McAllister
3) Johnny Appleseed by S. E. Schlosser
4) Johnny Appleseed from the News Sentinel
5) Johnny Appleseed from Pennsylvania Folk Tales
6) Johnny Appleseed from Sheffield Observer
7) Johnny Appleseed Homepage
8) Point: Johnny Appleseed
9) Story of Johnny Appleseed from The Processed Apples Institute
10) Story of Johnny Appleseed
Paul Bunyan: The Giant Lumberjack from Bang Printing
Here you find an illustrated story of Paul Bunyan and other characters. This legendary hero of lumberjacks throughout American possessed strength, speed, and skill that matched the vastness of North American.
Related Websites:
2) Frozen Flames by S.E. Schlosser
3) Log Jam by S.E. Schlosser
4) Man Who Could Out-Lumber Paul Bunyan by K, Houston, The Detroit News
5) Paul Bunyan
6) Paul Bunyan
7) Paul Bunyan's Kitchen by S.E. Schlosser
8) Paul Bunyan, the Giant Lumberjack: A Tall Tale
9) Tall Tales from Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway
10) Taming of Powder River
Pecos Bill Cleans Up the West from PBS
Here you can read the story of Pecos Bill.
Related Websites:
2) Pecos Bill
3) Pecos Bill (American Southwest)
4) Pecos Bill (Lyrics)
5) Pecos Bill from Handbook of Texas
6) Pecos Bill from Pecos County, Texas
7) Pecos Bill at Wild West Legends
8) Pecos Bill finds a Hard Outfit by S. E. Schlosser
After visiting several of the websites for tall tales, complete one or more of these related activities:
Complete A Puzzle. Visit Johnny Appleseed and see if you can complete the online crossword puzzle.
Complete A Tall Tale Activity. Follow the instructions found at the website below:
1) American Folklore and Tall Tales
2) Johnny Appleseed
3) Johnny Appleseed Hunt by C. Vaudo
4) Paul Bunyan: Legendary Hero
Do A Tall Tale WebQuest. Adapt or follow the procedures found at one of the following webQuest sites:
1) American Tall Tales by A. Crawford
2) Hey Paul, Paul Bunyan (Grades 3-4) by C. Ernst
3) Johnny Appleseed (Kindergarten) by K. Moore and H. Rocabado
4) Tall Tale News (Grades 5-6) by T. Sherman
Write A Tall Tale. After reading several different stories, write your own tall tale and publish it using Word, HyperStudio, PowerPoint or paper and pencil If you need a few ideas to get started, visit How to Write A Tall Tale and Student Activity 5. Take a look at the example. Now write your own. Make it better!
Compare and Contrast Two Tall Tale Characters. Pick two tall tale characters and analyze how they were alike and different. First start by identifying the story elements of the tall tales. What parts of their stories make them a tall tale? What exaggerations are made? Do you think a tall tale is similar to a person who is a legend? Another name for a hero is a legend. Do you think either of your characters were American heroes? Why or why not? Do you think authors of the tall tales did research? Why? Do you think either character originated from a true story and then was exaggerated? Use Inspiration software to create a diagram showing your comparison.
Illustrate A Tall Tale. Take one of the tall tales you find online or one that you have written, and complete illustrations to go along with the story. Have fun, use your imagination, and don't forget to share, display your finished work.
Perform A Tall Tales Play. Visit the Legend of Slappy Hooper: An American Tall Tale by A. Shepard. First read the story, then click Reader's Theater to read the tall tale as a play. You can put together a performance of this play or write and perform an original tall tale production of your own. Curtains up! Videotape your play and share it with another class.
Websites By Kids For Kids
Art of Storytelling (Silver Award, 2000 ThinkQuest Junior Project)
Visitors to this site learn about Paul Bunyan, Pecos Bill, Annie Christmas, Mike Fink, Casey Jones, and Swamp Angel, and also get some ideas for telling their own stories.
Paul Bunyan at Lincoln Elementary School
Here is an illustrated story of the legendary character that was written by an elementary students.
Other Tall Tale Characters from the American Tales Project:
2) Febold Feboldson
3) John Henry
4) John Henry - The Steel-Driving Man
5) Johnny Appleseed
6) Mike Fink
7) Old Stormalong
8) Pecos Bill
9) Pecos Bill
10) Sally Ann Thunder Ann Wirlwind Crockett
11) Slue-Foot Sue and Pecos Bill
12) Swamp Angel (aka: Angelica Longrider)
Story of Johnny Appleseed (Grade 2) from Highland Park Elementary School
Children created computer drawings and written paragraphs about the legendary character in American history, Johnny Appleseed.
Related Class Project:
2) Johnny Appleseed Project
Tall Tales
Here you can read student-written tall tales and submit some of your own.
Yukon Tall Tall Tales (Grade 4) from Selkirk Elementary School
Students wrote their own tall tales. The extreme climate, long dark winters, and summers where the sun barely sets, make a great setting for these outlandish exaggerations.
Other Similar Project Sites:
2) Tall Tales, Arizona Style (Grade 3) from Kyrene de las Brisas Elementary
More Tall Tale Sites
Annie Oakley from Tall Tales and the Truth
Many of the stories which have been told about Annie Oakley simply are not true. Some were the products of the creative imaginations of the promoters of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show and writers of popular fiction. In most cases, the true stories about Annie are better than the fictitious ones.
Related Websites:
2) Annie Oakley
3) Annie Oakley
4) Annie Oakley: Sharp Shooter
Casey Jones
Here you find information and song lyrics about the legendary man, Casey Jones.
Related Websites:
2) Casey Jones by S. E. Schlosser
3) Real Casey Jones Story
4) True Story Of Casey Jones
Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County by Mark Twain
Read the 1867 short story, a tall tale by Mark Twain.
Similar Website:
2) Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County
3) Jumping Frog
Frozen Dawn by S. E. Schlosser
This is a brief tale of Davy Crockett.
Related Websites:
2) Bear Hunting in Tennessee by D. Crockett
3) Davy Crockett
4) Davy Crockett Biographical Sketch
5) David Crockett
6) Rewriting Davy Crockett
Drought Buster (Febold Feboldson) by S. E. Schlosser
Read about the legendary Swede who could bust the driest drought in a day.
Joe Magarac from Pennsylvania Folk Tales
Built of solid steel, he could make 2000 tons of steel a day and stir the massive buckets of molten metal with his bare hands.
Related Website:
2) You Had To Ask
Johnny Kaw Story
This brief webpage tells about the Kansas' tall tale hero and first wheat farmer.
Related Websites:
2) Johnny Kaw from Gallery of Huge Beings
3) Tall Tale: City Park Statue Causes Confusion About Character's Identity
Mike Fink from Pennsylvania Folk Tales
Here you learn about the man called the king of the keelboaters.
Related Websites:
2) Death of Mike Fink by J.M. Field
3) Mike Fink
4) Mike Fink: A Legend (Article: right column)
5) Mike Fink (Short Tales) from the Crockett Almanacs
Old Stormalong: A Great American Hero (Part 1) by D. Goza
Sailors have their own larger-than-life hero.
Related Websites:
2) Old Stormalong (Part 2)
3) Storm Along
4) Stormalong News
Tall Tale America from the Joseph Lee School, Boston
This links-site connects to a number of school resources for tall tales. A few of the connections are no longer valid websites.
Tony Beaver
Here you learn of Tony Beaver, a huge character who grew up in the mountains of West Virginia.
Related Website:
2) Plaid Duck Sheds His Cape (Paul Bunyan and Tony Beaver)
Websites For Teachers
American Folktales from the Internet School Library Media Center
Here are some 'springboard' ideas for kicking off a unit on folk and or tall tales.
Born On A Mountaintop?: Davy Crockett, Tall Tales, and History (Grades 3-5)
The guiding questions for this unit are: What are the characteristics of tall tales? How do they reflect the historical moment? Who was David Crockett and why did he, and others like him, become important figures in American frontier history?
Related Website:
2) Davy Crockett from A&E
Descriptive Modern Tall Tale
Using the writing process, students will write a tall tale using character traits describing a character solving a modern day problem.
How Did Johnny Appleseed Help the Pioneers Move West? (Kindergarten)
This lesson introduces the pioneer John Chapman, known as Johnny Appleseed, and explains how he helped the early pioneers to start new homes and farms.
Mark Twain - The Western Tall Tale (Grade 11)
This short story, "The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County," is a classic example of the lively humor of a Western tall tale.
Paul Bunyan (Grades 4-5)
The student will use story and folklore collections to find an appropriate story to tell about Paul Bunyan.
Welcome to the Wonderful World of Tall Tales (Grade 4) by E. Rubinfield & C. Siwinski
Here is a unit plan for study of the literature genre of tall tales.
Related Website:
2) Tall Tales (Grade 5)
tall tale
Captain Stormalong
fantasy & science fiction
John Henry
Johnny Appleseed
Pecos Bill
Paul Bunyan
oral history
Old West
Slue Foot Sue
American literature
story form
'stretch the truth'
Created by Annette Lamb and Larry Johnson, 11/01.