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The tall tales told by Jaagup Puu



The subjects and style of the stories told by Jaagup Puu (1879–1964) are analysed. Jaagup’s stories could be classified under tall tales like those in ATU 1875–1999. Jaagup used to narrate about his own life experiences, using exaggerations and fantasy bordering on the absurd. This socially poor and meagre-looking man would tell his stories, if possible, for two or three hours on end, emplotting the facts and events of his personal life, developing the story in great length, adding intermediate episodes, contaminations and comments. His stories are full of exaggerations, manipulation with numbers and dimensions, comical situations, abundant dialogue, similes, rhetorical questions and exclamations, gestures and miming. This was a masterful symbiosis of facts and fiction.

By the mid-20th century fraudulent narratives had already receded from active story-telling as inopportune, being openly discouraged even from hunting and fishing stories. This is mainly why Jaagup’s stories could not spread any too far in space or time. Nor did the stories have the social focus characteristic of jokes.