American Myths, Legends, and Tall Tales
An Encyclopedia of American Folklore
by Christopher R. Fee and Jeffrey B. Webb, Editors Danielle Dattolo, Emily Francisco, Bronwen Fetters, Jaime Hillegonds, and Andrew Wickersham, Assistant Editors
August 2016, 1160pp, 8 1/2x11
3 volumes, ABC-CLIO

Hardcover: 978-1-61069-567-1
$358, £276, 312€, A491
eBook Available: 978-1-61069-568-8
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

What do Native American Creation myths, “tall tales” of Johnny Appleseed and Paul Bunyan, and today’s “urban myths” have in common?

A fascinating survey of the entire history of tall tales, folklore, and mythology in the United States from earliest times to the present, including stories and myths from the modern era that have become an essential part of contemporary popular culture.

Folklore has been a part of American culture for as long as humans have inhabited North America, and increasingly formed an intrinsic part of American culture as diverse peoples from Europe, Africa, Asia, and Oceania arrived. In modern times, folklore and tall tales experienced a rejuvenation with the emergence of urban legends and the growing popularity of science fiction and conspiracy theories, with mass media such as comic books, television, and films contributing to the retelling of old myths. This multi-volume encyclopedia will teach readers the central myths and legends that have formed American culture since its earliest years of settlement. Its entries provide a fascinating glimpse into the collective American imagination over the past 400 years through the stories that have shaped it.

Organized alphabetically, the coverage includes Native American creation myths, “tall tales” like George Washington chopping down his father’s cherry tree and the adventures of “King of the Wild Frontier” Davy Crockett, through to today’s “urban myths.” Each entry explains the myth or legend and its importance and provides detailed information about the people and events involved. Each entry also includes a short bibliography that will direct students or interested general readers toward other sources for further investigation. Special attention is paid to African American folklore, Asian American folklore, and the folklore of other traditions that are often overlooked or marginalized in other studies of the topic.


  • Presents a compelling mix of some 500 entries drawn from traditional Native American and European American culture as well as Mexican American, African American, Chinese American, and other national traditions
  • Includes numerous primary documents that help readers to pinpoint and understand the origins of different myths and legends as well as how they evolve over time
  • Features a wide variety of entries drawn from newer traditions of science fiction, urban legends, and conspiracy theories
  • Supplies bibliographic references with each entry that include websites for further reading and research
Christopher R. Fee, PhD, is professor and chair of English at Gettysburg College, Gettysburg, PA. His published works include Praeger's Mythology in the Middle Ages: Heroic Tales of Monsters, Magic, and Might as well as Gods, Heroes, & Kings: The Battle for Mythic Britain. Fee holds a doctorate in English Language from the University of Glasgow in Scotland.

Jeffrey B. Webb, PhD, is professor and chair of history and political science at Huntington University, Huntington, IN. He has published two volumes in the Complete Idiot's Guide series and numerous articles on subjects in American history. Webb holds a doctorate in history from the University of Chicago.


"This is a good general reference on American folklore."—Booklist, November 22, 2016

"Entries . . . are critical and incisive, dissecting underlying values. . . . For general readers, especially those with an interest in anthropology or U.S. history."—Library Journal, November 29, 2016

"Helpful features include black-and-white photos, assorted primary source documents, and numerous call-out boxes with short descriptions. . . . The set is suited to a general readership as an entrée to topics not covered elsewhere."—Choice, March 1, 2017

"A library with a need for a basic reference work on American folklore for high school or undergraduate students would find this suits it well."—Reference Reviews, March 5, 2018
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