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1001 Tailypo Keagan Henman
Added on 28th August 2020

Oral tradition Tall tale from North America

A chilling tall tale of isolation and things that go bump in the night.


A poor and hungry old man living alone in the woods with his three faithful hounds has a stroke of luck when he chops the tail off a strange creature while out hunting. The tail makes a fine supper for the old man and his dogs, but he soon finds out that the fearsome Tailypo isn’t letting its favourite tail go that easily…

Why we chose it

Tailypo is a wonderfully scary example of North America’s tradition of “tall tales”, perfect for telling on a dark and stormy night.

Where it came from

Tailypo and similar stories are woven deeply into the folklore of the Appalachia region of the United States, particularly among its African-American inhabitants. The details of Tailypo differ depending on the culture of the storyteller, but the fears it represents - of starvation, isolation, and things that lurk in the night – were universal for people living in the region when the story was first told.

Where it went next

Although such a frightening tale might seem like an odd choice, Tailypo has been adapted as a children’s book several times over the years, with probably the best known being The Tailypo: A Ghost Story by Joanna Galdone. It remains a firm favourite of oral storytellers in the US as a “jump tale”, meant to make the listener leap out of their seat with its ending. Tailypo has also been made into the short films Tailypo: The Folktale (1990) and Tailypo (2015).

Associated stories

The Hairy Toe, a very similar story to Tailypo is also told in the Appalachian Mountains. In this tale an old woman accidentally severs the toe of an unseen monster while hoeing her garden, ending up in a similar predicament to Tailypo’s old man when the toe’s owner comes to reclaim it. Both stories possibly have their roots in the older Western European tale of The Golden Arm, which exchanges the old man for a graverobber, and the Tailypo itself for a ghost in search of its stolen arm.

Added on 28th August 2020

Oral tradition Tall tale from North America