A tall tale is a story about a person who is larger than life -- or bigger than someone could really be in real life. These stories involve a lot of exaggeration or hyperbole. This makes a tall tale very funny. When the United States was just starting out as a country, people used to tell tall tales after a hard day's work. They would tell these stories in the evening for relaxation and entertainment.
Imagine if you had very few books, no televisions, no DVDs, no computers, no PlayStations, no cell phones. You get the idea. Tall tales were pretty funny in the 1800s! So funny that I think you'll even enjoy them today.
Click on the captions below the pictures to the right to read and listen to some of America's most popular tall tales.
Read and listen to the story of Paul Bunyan, America's legendary lumberjack. You can also watch a Disney cartoon about Paul Bunyan. After reading, listening to, and watching the story of Paul Bunyan, answer the questions on the related file below.
Said to have been born with "a hammer in his hand," John Henry was a freed slave who helped build America's railroads by working as a steel-driver. Along with many other steel-drivers in the late 1800s, John Henry made pathways for the railroads by hammering steel into rock and setting off dynamite to blast through hillsides to make tunnels. Then along came the machine....Watch, read and listen to John Henry and you'll find out what happened in this tale of "man vs. machine."
John Henry was "working on the railroad all the live-long day." Watch the American folk song, "I've Been Working on the Railroad," performed on the video to the right of the John Henry cartoon. Practice using the present perfect continuous tense while you sing along.
Febold Feboldson was a Swedish immigrant who lived alone on a prairie in the Great Plains. As pioneers in covered wagons traveled across the prairies of the Midwest on their way out further West to the Oregon territories, they barely even stopped to say hello. Febold thought he would die of loneliness. He wanted neighbors. This is the story of how he got them.
Paul Bunyan Questions
(DOC 27 KB)
Please answer these questions in complete sentences after reading and listening to Paul Bunyan.
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United States Folklore Click on one of the 50 states on this website to read folktales, myths, legends, and ghost stories from that state.
Ms. Simpson's Website for English Language Learners South Orange Maplewood, NJ