[[quoteright:293:[[Disney/MelodyTime http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/tall_tales_sue_foot_upgrade.png]]]]

->'''Vanessa Ives:''' You didn't tell the truth. By my reckoning, you were a boy when General Custer died and 'tis well known there were no survivors.\\
'''Ethan Chandler:''' What we call a tall tale, darlin'.\\
'''Vanessa:''' Exceedingly tall.\\
'''Ethan:''' Vice of my nation. We're storytellers.
-->-- Creator/{{Showtime}}'s ''Series/PennyDreadful''

A tall tale is a story with unbelievable or outright impossible elements (such as an impossibly tall man, hence the name "tall" tale), told as if it were true and factual.

Tall tales arose, more or less, from braggy exaggerations and other cock-and-bull stories. They may contain exaggerations of actual characters or events, or they can be entirely made up. Common prototypes for tall tales are [[TheCatfish fish stories]] ("it was this big!") (which makes it transparent where the "tall" humor is coming from), as well as the the [[FearsomeCritters hunter's story]], the [[MilesGloriosus war story]], and [[TheMunchausen the traveler's story]]. Tall Tales are inherently related to {{Satire}}, although they are usually humorous and good-natured.

Some tall tales draw on {{myth|ology}} or {{legend}} but while mythology may exaggerate the exploits of their heroes to make them more awesome, the Tall Tale is aware of its own absurdity and exaggerates so as to become ludicrous.

Note that "tall tale" is sometimes also used in a wider sense for any "story that isn't true" (particularly when the teller pretends it is true); in this looser sense it also covers {{Shaggy Dog Stor|y}}ies and campfire {{Ghost Stor|y}}ies (in parts of the US, "tall tale" and "shaggy dog story" are indeed synonyms).

Tall tales are also often told in a way that makes [[UnreliableNarrator the narrator]] seem to have been a part of the story. If he himself is the hero, there are likely to follow outrageous [[BadassBoast Badass Boasts]] (often followed by the praise of one's own modesty). This kind of a narrator is a [[TheMunchausen Munchausen]] or a MilesGloriosus. Standard stylistic devices are also the insistence on factuality, and the pitying of naïve skeptics for their disbelief.

Tall tales may also include fantastic creatures. In the USA, the FearsomeCrittersOfAmericanFolklore are a traditional subject of tall tales. In Australia, expect to see YowiesAndBunyipsAndDropBearsOhMy.

Tall tales are an ancient genre of [[OralTradition folktales]] (as encountered in the tales around Myth/PaulBunyan in the USA or Myth/CrookedMick in Australia). But there is also the literary tall tale; the literary tall tale catalyzed the emergence of such respectable genres as ScienceFiction and the {{Utopia}}.

This page is for the Tall Tale genre. If a work is a tall tale itself, or a compendium of them, or the plot revolves around the telling of tall tales, then it goes in this trope. If it merely contains a braggart who is ''telling'' tall tales, but the tales aren't the focus of the work, then the trope you seek is MilesGloriosus or TheMunchausen instead.


[[folder: Fairy Tales ]]
* ''Literature/BootsWhoMadeThePrincessSayThatsAStory'' revolves about the tall tale Boots tells to inspire that in the princess.

[[folder: Film ]]
* ''Film/TallTale: The Unbelievable Adventures of Pecos Bill'', a Disney film about a young boy's adventures with Pecos Bill, Myth/PaulBunyan and Myth/JohnHenry.
* ''Film/TheAdventuresOfBaronMunchausen'' by Creator/TerryGilliam, based on the 18th century tall tales around Baron Munchhausen and the novel ''Literature/TheAdventuresOfBaronMunchausen'' by R.E. Raspe.
* ''Film/BigFish'', which is all about a man deciphering his father's tall tales.
** Lampshaded in an exchange between Edward and Josephine.
--->'''Edward''': Will never told you? Ah, he wouldn't have told it right anyhow. All of the facts and none of the flavor.
--->'''Josephine''': Ah, so this is a tall tale.
--->'''Edward''': Well, it's not a short one.
* In ''WesternAnimation/TheAdventuresOfTintin'', Haddock tells the story of his ancestor battling the feared pirate Red Rackham. The events have clearly been exaggerated somewhat over the generations (and quite a few whiskey bottles).

[[folder: Literature ]]
* ''Literature/TallTaleAmerica: A Legendary History of Our Humorous Heroes'' is a book about American tall tales.
* ''Literature/TrueHistory'' by 2nd century AD author Lucian of Samosata is likely the UrExample.
* Played with in ''Literature/TheStarDiaries'' by Creator/StanislawLem. It's never clear whether Ijon Tichy, the book's narrator, "really" had all those wacky adventures in space, or whether he is just a [[TheMunchausen teller of tall tales.]]
* The several books under the label ''Literature/TheAdventuresOfBaronMunchausen'', by Erich Rudolph Raspe (1785-1789 and 1792) and Gottfried August Bürger (1788).
* In the ''Literature/RedMarsTrilogy'', which is set on a future Mars that is being terraformed, people still tell stories of a Myth/PaulBunyan-type figure called "Big Man," but they make him out as a TricksterArchetype creator figure, not unlike Raven in Native American mythology. This is an InUniverse illustration of how tall tales can evolve into mythology.
* Creator/JonathanSwift's ''Literature/GulliversTravels'' combines political and social satire with the genre of the traveller's tall tale.
* Creator/ArthurCClarke's short-story collection ''Literature/TalesFromTheWhiteHart'' consists of a number of science-fictiony tall tales told by an odd fellow in the titular Fleet Street pub.
* In the Creator/PGWodehouse "Mr. Mulliner" stories, the eponymous raconteur entertains his fellow pub-goers with tall tales about his numerous relatives.
* ''Literature/ArabianNights'' is an ancient Arabic version, with a woman spinning fantastic tales in order to prevent her own execution and eventually win the heart of the king.
* In Lilian Jackson Braun's ''Literature/TheCatWhoSeries'', crime journalist Jim Qwilleran collects various tall tales from around Moose County, and eventually publishes them.
* Literature/PippiLongstocking tells these all the time.
* ''Literature/TheWorstShotsInTheWest'' is sub-titled as being a tall-tale; although that's quite obvious when reading it.
* The ''Literature/{{Relativity}}'' story "The Legend of the Cheese Maidens" begins with Ravenswood telling the story of the time a bunch of cheerleaders (the "Cheese Maidens") saved the Earth from an alien invasion.
* Grampa Hercules from Robert [=McCloskey=]'s ''Homer Price'' and ''Centerburg Tales'' is the town tall tale teller, spinning a wide variety of highly improbable yarns of his youth and his alleged ancestors.

[[folder: Live Action TV ]]
* An episode of ''Series/TheTwilightZone'' ("Hocus-Pocus and Frisby") features a backwoods man named Frisby who continually tells tall tales. When he tells the townsfolk he was abducted by aliens, they believe he is just CryingWolf--even though for once, he's telling the truth! (The whole episode could be a tall tale... from Creator/RodSerling's point of view.)
* Chau from ''Series/OffCentre'' did this once about the story of Euan and Liz.
* The page quote is from Creator/{{Showtime}}'s GothicHorror series ''Series/PennyDreadful''. In it, Ethan Chandler is the star of a traveling [[TheWildWest Wild West]] Show, so as expected, he spins some tall tales. He even gets called out on it. (His skill with a six-gun, however, is not exaggerated.)

[[folder: Music ]]
* Music/SteamPoweredGiraffe's song "Rex Marksley" is about an old West gunslinger in the vein of Pecos Bill.
* "The Irish Rover" is about a ship sailing from Cork to New York. In addition to details like the ship having 27 masts and the voyage lasting several ''years'', the description of the cargo gets ever more outlandish with each verse ("five million hogs, six million dogs, seven million barrels of porter..."). The song also conveniently ends with the narrator as the sole survivor of the wrecked ship.
* Music/PeterPaulAndMary's "Autumn to May" is about several outlandish animals which the narrator allegedly possessed, namely a dog with fourteen-yard-long legs and ears they could ride on, a clothed talking frog that went sailing in a shoe, flying sheep which delivered gold and candy and a swan which hatched an oyster shell.
* "Derby Ram" is about a comically-large ram whose more notable details include horns that reach the moon, eyes as big as soccer balls and a tail that could be used as a church bell clapper.

[[folder: Mythology and Folklore ]]
* Tales based on fictional characters:
** Myth/PaulBunyan, the giant lumberjack, who cut timber all across the continental United States with his blue ox Babe.
** Pecos Bill, the archetypal cowboy, and the love of his life Slue-Foot Sue.
** "Windwagon" Smith, a former sea captain who blew into the town of Westport, MO in a sail-powered Conestoga wagon.
** Rip Van Winkle, who drank and played ninepins with TheFairFolk and wound up falling asleep for twenty years.
** Annie Christmas, former slave, keel boat pilot, and strongest woman on the Mississippi.
** Myth/CrookedMick, a traditional Tall Tale character from Australia.
* Actual historical characters that have tall tales built around them:
** UsefulNotes/JohnnyAppleseed
** John Henry
** Casey Jones
** Mike Fink
** Daniel Boone
** UsefulNotes/DavyCrockett

[[folder: Radio ]]
* An adaptation of the Baron Munchhausen stories was popularized by radio comedian Jack Pearl in the 1930s, with his character's signature response to any doubts about his veracity- "Vas you dere, Sharlie?"- becoming a well-known catchphrase.

[[folder: Tabletop Games ]]
* The party game called ''The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen'' is based on the art of tall tale telling. Each player in turn tells the most unbelievable (but absolutely true!) stories, with the others trying to trip him up, without calling him an outright liar. Whoever tells the best story wins.
* ''Captain Park's Imaginary Polar Expedition'', a board game from [[http://www.cheapass.com/ Cheapass Games]]. You play members of a Victorian gentleman's club, all of whom are trying to one-up each other with heroic tales of adventure. In fact, all your exploits are entirely fictitious. You've just spent the last few months hiding in a hotel and sneaking out in disguise to scavenge in junk shops for "artifacts" from your "expeditions". The aim of the game is to collect convincing sets of photographs, anecdotes, and artifacts, without being spotted and exposed as a fraud.

[[folder: Video Games ]]
* In the beginning of ''VideoGame/DragonAgeII'', TheNarrator, Varric, tries to start his story as a tall tale (resulting in a TutorialLevel wherein you control unkillable GameBreaker characters), but is soon interrupted by his listener, who wants to hear the real story. He still occasionally lapses into tall tales later (and is always interrupted again).
* The entire point of ''VideoGame/CallOfJuarezGunslinger'': The over-the-top violence so typical in {{First Person Shooter}}s is justified in-story by the manner how said story is presented by Silas, who is both TheNarrator and TheProtagonist--namely, as a TallTale to entertain random pub patrons.
* Rarely in ''Videogame/TomodachiLife'', a Traveler the player receives via [=Streetpass=] may exclaim that a Mii on the player's island was interested in their "stories" and they want the traveler to visit their apartment and tell more. The extreme number of [[PictorialSpeechBubble Pictorial Speech Bubbles]] that appear strongly suggest that they're Tall Tales due to the over the top natures of some of them (which include being attacked by an octopus, swept up in a tornado, riding in a kangaroo's pouch, or finding a group of {{Lilliputians}}), and the player's Mii believes every word they say.

[[folder: Web Comics ]]
* The Heterodyne Boys tales in ''Webcomic/GirlGenius'' are these.
* Downright [[InvokedTrope invoked]] in the forty-eighth chapter of ''Webcomic/GunnerkriggCourt'', of which it is the title, where a bipedal pink frog tells another creature of the forest about the alleged achievements of the new forest medium, with stories increasingly unbelievable. Wait 'til you hear what [[http://www.gunnerkrigg.com/?p=1357 she]] [[http://www.gunnerkrigg.com/?p=1359 did]] [[http://www.gunnerkrigg.com/?p=1361 next]] !

[[folder: Web Original ]]
* In ''The Adventures of Theatre/TheLeagueOfSTEAM'' episode, "Tall Tails", three League members sit around telling stories of their encounter with a [[KrakenAndLeviathan Kraken]]... some of them being a bit hard to swallow.

[[folder: Western Animation ]]
* The WesternAnimation/PixarShorts:
** "Mater's Tall Tales" are a modern spin on this tradition.
** The short "Boundin'" is a tall tale that features a {{Jackalope}}.
* Disney has made shorts based on Myth/PaulBunyan and John Henry. ''Disney/MelodyTime'' has segments for Johnny Appleseed and Pecos Bill.
* ''WesternAnimation/PinkyAndTheBrain'' had "A Legendary Tail", an episode where the Brain used a computer to combine elements of other tall tales and make one starring himself. He hoped to use this as a way to gain acclaim as a folkhero. However, the resulting tall tale ended with other folkheroes suing the Brain's character for plagiarizing parts of their names (his name, by the way, was "[[OverlyLongName Big Johnny Brain Jones Peachpit Bill Boone Crockett]]").
-->'''The Brain:''' The trouble with computers is that they're just too blasted logical.
* ''Series/CaptainBluebear'''s whole shtick. The FramingStory of every episode (done in puppetry) is [[FatherNeptune retired sea captain]] Bluebear telling an improbable sounding tale about an adventure he once supposedly had. Those stories (told in animation) are always SnarkBait for his three very skeptical grandkids.
* ''[[WesternAnimation/TennesseeTuxedoAndHisTales The World Of Commander McBragg]]'', loosely based on Baron Munchausen, consisted of the eponymous [=McBragg=] telling ridiculous tall tales about himself, including digging the Grand Canyon, building the Great Pyramid and digging the Panama Canal. [[ExpositoryThemeTune Or so says the brag of McBragg.]]
* ''WesternAnimation/TheGrimAdventuresOfBillyAndMandy'': The episode "Short Tall Tales" revolves around Grim telling the [[FracturedFairyTale fractured]] tall tales of Pecos Billy, [[GenderFlip Paula Bunyan]] (Mandy) and John Henry (Irwin), and how he played a part in each of them.