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Literature / Pecos Bill

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Pecos Bill is a 1986 picture book by Steven Kellogg, based off the stories about the tall tale hero of the same name.

Pecos Bill becomes separated from his family as a baby and grows up believing he's a coyote, but when a drifter finds him one day, Bill discovers he's something even wilder — a Texan.


This book includes examples of the following tropes:

  • Contrived Coincidence: Bill and Sue just happen to fall onto his parents' wagon after their wild ride, allowing Bill to reunite with his family and talk them into staying in Texas.
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  • Love at First Sight: Pecos Bill calls a proposal of marriage to Slewfoot Sue moments after meeting her.
  • Mythology Gag: Legends about Pecos Bill traditionally call his untamable horse "Widowmaker." While he calls the horse Lightning, one of the gang says some people think Widowmaker fits better.
  • Only the Chosen May Ride: The first time Bill hears about Lightning, he learns about earlier would-be riders who lost their lives trying to break him. After a long chase, Bill catches up long enough to climb on, and while hanging on tight, he sings to the stallion in coyote language, commending his strength and offering him a lifetime of loyal partnership. Lightning apparently finds this acceptable. However, the same cannot be said for Bill's bride Sue, who gets thrown sky-high attempting to ride Lightning on her wedding day.
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  • On One Condition: When Bill asks her to marry him, Slewfoot Sue agrees on two conditions — he buys her a dress with a bustle, and he allows her to ride Lightning to the wedding. Bill agrees to them, but unfortunately the happy couple forgets to clear it with Lightning first.
  • Raised by Wolves: Bill gets rescued by a coyote after being yanked off his family's wagon by a Texas trout. The pack raises him and Bill is full-grown before he finds out he's human.
  • Snakes Are Sinister: In his first adventure as an adult, Bill ends up in a wrestling match with a giant rattlesnake. Bill squeezes all the venom out and uses it afterwards as a rope.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Slewfoot Sue dies in some of the tall tales that make up the story, but in this version she just has a tremendously wild ride after Lightning throws her.
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