Events are often told in a way that makes the narrator seem to have been a part of the story; the tone is generally good-natured. Legends are differentiated from tall tales primarily by age; many legends exaggerate the exploits of their heroes, but in tall tales the exaggeration looms large, to the extent of dominating the story.
The tall tale has become a fundamental element of American folk literature. The tall tale's origins are seen in the bragging contests that often occurred when the rough men of the American frontier gathered. The tales of legendary figures of the Old West, some listed below, owe much to the style of tall tales.
The semi-annual speech-contests held by Toastmasters International public-speaking clubs may include a tall-tales contest. Each and every participating speaker is given three to five minutes to give a short speech of a tall-tale nature, and is then judged according to several factors. The winner proceeds to the next level of competition. The contest does not proceed beyond any participating district in the organization to the international level.
The comic stripNon Sequitur (1992- ) sometimes features tall tales told by the character Captain Eddie; it is left up to the reader to decide if he is telling the truth, exaggerating a real event, or just telling a whopper.
About real people
Some stories are told about exaggerated versions of real people:
Johnny Appleseed – a friendly folk-hero who traveled the West planting apple trees because he felt his guardian angel told him to
Johnny Blood – an American football player whose reputation for wild behavior was as well known as his on-field play
Nat Love, also known as "Deadwood Dick", was born a slave in Tennessee in 1854. Tales of his adventures after emancipation, as a cowboy and as a Pullman porter, gained such fantastical elements as to be considered tall tales
Sam Patch – an early 19th-century daredevil who died during a jump on Friday the 13th
The Australian frontier (known as the bush or the outback) similarly inspired the types of tall tales that are found in American folklore. The Australian versions typically concern a mythical station called The Speewah. The heroes of the Speewah include:
The many farfetched adventures of the fictional German nobleman Baron Munchausen, some of which may have had a folklore basis.
Legends of the Irish mythological hunter-warrior Fionn mac Cumhaill, also known as Finn MacCool, have it that he built the Giant's Causeway as stepping-stones to Scotland, so as not to get his feet wet, and that he also once scooped up part of Ireland to fling it at a rival, but it missed and landed in the Irish Sea; the clump became the Isle of Man, the pebble became Rockall, and the void became Lough Neagh.
"The Irish Rover" is a well-known Irish folk song about an implausibly large sailing ship with a fanciful cargo.
Oskar: AKA " Unsinkable Sam " Was a ship's cat that was supposed to have survived the sinking of 3 ships during WWII, The Bismarck on 27th May 1941, HMS Cossack on 27th Oct 1941 and finally HMS Ark Royal on 14th Nov 1941. Photographs exist of "Oskar" as one of HMS Ark Royal's "ship's cats", but there is only sailor's hearsay, and NO actual evidence of Oskar using 3 of his "nine lives" to escape sinking ships during WWII.