There are many African American versions of this popular scary tale, as well as variants identified specifically with Appalachia.

Galdone, Joanna. The Tailypo: A Ghost Story. Illus. Paul Galdone. New York: Clarion, 1977. In this picture book, an old woodsman lives in a one-room house with his three dogs: Uno, Ino, and Cumptico-Calico. After a day of hunting, the old man finds only a small rabbit to feed himself and his three dogs. Still hungry, the old woodsman begins to doze off. Just as he is about to fall asleep, a strange creature creeps through a crack between the logs in the wall. The old man cuts off the creature's long tail, cooks and eats it, and goes to bed with a full stomach. He is awakened several times throughout the night when the strange creature comes looking for its tail. Finally, the furry creature sneaks into the old man's bed, scratching everything up. Nothing remains of the old man's house except the chimney. At night, "when the moon shines and the wind blows, you can hear a voice say: 'Tailypo, tailypo, now I've got my tailypo.'" The illustrations reflect the woodsy setting. Shades of green and brown dominate and soften an otherwise scary story. There is a ten-minute video based on this book.

Wahl, Jan. Tailypo! Illus. Wil Clay. New York: Henry Holt, 1991. Set in Tennessee, this African American version of "Tailypo" is at first a much scarier version than Galdone's, with very similar text; the real difference comes when the reader discovers that the creature literally eats the old man, "and some folks say it got back its tailypo." Clay's illustrations also make this version appear more sinister than Galdone's. Warm shades of red and yellow alternate with cold blues and purples to create a scary accompaniment to the text. Interestingly, a picture of a woman hangs by a nail above the bed of the woodsman. In each new illustration containing the picture, the expression of the woman changes to reflect her feelings. If you notice the woman's expressions, mostly comical, along with those of an owl in place of a cuckoo bird in a clock, they do wonders to lessen the spooky atmosphere created by Clay's vivid acrylic illustrations.

"Tailipoe." In Old Greasybeard: Tales from the Cumberland Gap. Collected and annotated by Leonard Roberts. Illus. Leonard Epstein. Detroit: Folklore Associates, 1969. Rpt. Pikeville, KY: Pikeville College Press, 1980. pp. 34-36. A man living alone "way back in the hills of Kentucky" cuts off and eats the tail of "the awfulest critter he ever did see in his life" after it emerges from a crack in the floor. When it demands its tailipoe back all night, the man just sends his dog after it, so the creature eats the dog and comes to the man's bed and "tore the man all to pieces." The sound of the Tailipoe can still be heard at night. A full-page drawing shows a creature that has monkey and squirrel features scaring a white man. Recorded in 1954 in KY.

"Tailipoe" (1995) and "Tailipoe" (2001). Told by Jane Muncy Fugate (from KY). Recorded by Leonard Roberts in 1955 and by Carl Lindahl in 2001. American Folktales: From the Collections of the Library of Congress. Ed. Carl Lindahl. Vol. 1. Armonk NY: M. E. Sharpe, 2004, pp. 229-33.

"Tater Toe." In Anne Shelby. The Adventures of Molly Whuppie and Other Appalachian Folktales. Illus. Paula McArdle. Chapel Hill: Univ. of NC Press, 2007. pp. 15-17. McArdle's black and white illustration shows a big hair-covered shape with horns and hairy human feet looming over a scared old woman trying to sleep under her quilt. The old woman, who has found a giant toe while digging up potatoes in her garden, has put it in a canning jar, but the jar is empty after her unsettling night-time encounter (which she thinks is a dream) with the mysterious creature that demands its toe back. For more on Shelby's book, see Appalachian Folktale Collections K-Z.

"The Devil's Big Toe." In Leonard Roberts. Sang Branch Settlers: Folksongs and Tales of a Kentucky Mountain Family. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1974. Rpt. Pikeville, KY: Pikeville College Press of the Appalachian Studies Center, 1980. An old woman digging 'taters finds something that her old man says is "the devil's big toe." After she eats it, the couple is awakened by a voice demanding its toe and making the couple jump around to find it. When the woman finds a creature up the chimney, they have an exchange like the girl and wolf in "Little Red Riding Hood, in which she asks what its big eyes, ears, nose, beard, and claws are for. The last answer is "To tear you all to pieces" and the creature does that because the woman ate its big toe. Reprinted in Linda Hager Pack. A is for Appalachia! The Alphabet Book of Appalachian Heritage. Illus. Pat Banks. Prospect, KY: Harmony House Publishers, 2002. Rpt. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2009. The author, from Hamlin, WV, reprints two tales by Leonard Roberts: "The Devil's Big Toe" on the page "G is for ghost stories" (p. 16), and "Jack and the Bean Stalk" on the page "J is for the clever boy in the Jack Tales" (pp. 20-22). Pack stresses that "Jack was a country boy just like the children who loved hearing about him." (Other pages describe traditional folkways, language, and customs.) Watercolor illustrations are by an artist from Madison County, KY.

Tailypo: The Folktale Austin, TX: Bill Wadsworth Productions, 1990. A film adaptation of an Appalachian children's folktale about an old hunter who chops off the tail of a critter which got stranded in his cabin. The hunter cooks the tail for supper, and the critter returns for his tail after the hunter falls asleep.

"Tailypo." Told by Mary Hamilton. Haunting Tales. Audio cassette. Kentucky, 1996.

"Tailypo: Traditional Southern Appalachian Folktales." Told by Bob Linsenmayer. Good Morning Mr. Bob! CD. Evans, GA: Bob Linsenmayer, 2008. CD of children's songs from different sources, including "The Freedom Bird" by David Holt.

"Chunk O' Meat." In Richard Chase. Grandfather Tales. Boston: Houghton, 1948, pp. 40-51. With a drawing, by Berkeley Williams, Jr., of the boy looking up the chimney. In this last tale in Grandfather Tales, a little boy finds a chunk of meat outside when the family has no meat, and runs away from some eyes shining out of a log. He sneaks the meat into his mother's pot of beans on the fire, but while they enjoy their meal, a voice from the chimney asks for its chunk of meat. This is a "jump tale" with some dialogue similar to that of Little Red Riding Hood and the wolf, ending with the black hairy booger up in the chimney saying it has such big teeth to "EAT YOU UP!" It also says it can stare through the boy, grabble his grave with big claws, and sweep his grave with a bushy tale. Chase got this tale from many informants of different ages in Watauga County, NC, and elsewhere. He says a young boy offered him the tale about the toe cut from the booger's foot sticking out of a log on one of his first trips to Beech Mountain, but everyone except his informants objected to the toe so he substituted the chunk of meat. He connects it with English tales such as "Teeny-Tiny," "The Strange Visitor," and "The Golden Arm."

"The Big Toe." In Richard Chase. American Folk Tales and Songs, and Other Examples of English-American Tradition as Preserved in the Appalachian Mountains and Elsewhere in the United States. Illus. Joshua Tolford. 1956. Rpt. New York: Dover, 1971, pp. 57-59. In a long introduction, Chase tells that this was one of the first tales he "heard here near Beech Mountain in western North Carolina," when "a boy about eleven years old flagged" him down on the road to tell it (p. 57). Chase observes that this is a very popular tale and more than half the people in his audiences say they know it. In this version a boy hoeing taters wishes they had meat for their potato and bean supper; when he cuts the toe of some creature by mistake, he cleans it, puts it in his pocket, sneaks it into his mother's beans, and eats it. After supper, he and his parents are frightened by a voice asking for its toe, he sees "a great-big-old-black-hairy Booger" and the storyteller shouts, "YOU GOT IT" (p. 59).The Big Toe cover

Kirby, Ellie. The Big Toe: An Appalachian Ghost Story. Troutdale, VA: Fox Creek Press, 2010. Picture book. An old woman finds the toe in her garden and takes it home to cook it for supper. "Ellie Kirby's neighbors modeled for the characters in the illustrations and Purrl, the 'library cat' at the Grayson County Library, was a model for the old woman's cat" (from author's web site).

"Ezell and the Black-Speckled Gizzard Stone" by Aileen Kilgore Henderson. In Jones, Loyal, ed. Appalachian Folk Tales. Illus. Jim Marsh. Ashland, KY: Jesse Stuart Foundation, 2010. This book has twelve tales by different storytellers and writers, with a Note to Parents and Teachers, a glossary, and background on the collectors and storytellers. (See Folktale Collections Indexed in AppLit.)

See also:

Index of African American Folktales in Appalachia

Jack and the Hainted House and other Haunted House Tales

Ghosts section of teaching unit West Virginia's Appalachian Music and Literature

Compare with:

"Tailypo." Told by Jackie Torrence, a very popular African American NC storyteller. Video recording can be viewed and downloaded at BookHive web site, Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County, NC. The man lives in a disgraceful house full of holes. The critter with a 25-foot tail, described in fearful detail, is never seen again after he scares the man into giving back his tail. Several other tales and background on Torrence are also included. "The Big Hairy Tale" is a similar "jump tale" in her book Jackie Tales (New York: Avon, 1998).

Tailypo: A Newfangled Tall Tale by Angela Shelf Medearis. Illus. Sterling Brown.New York: Holiday House, 1996. An African American boy in Texas Hill Country, Kenny Ray, and his fierce chihuahua Fang, meet the terrifying night monster. With realistic watercolors and an upbeat ending. Medearis tells this and other "jump" tales on the video Spooky Stories (Diva Productions, 30 min.) and on audio cassette. Information at Storytime Videotapes Read by Angela Shelf Medearis.

"The Peculiar Such Thing." Retold by Virginia Hamilton. The People Could Fly: American Black Folktales. Illus. Leo and Diane Dillon. New York: Knopf, 1985. Also recorded as videocassette with reading by Hamilton. This tale reprinted in Cohn, Amy L., ed. From Sea to Shining Sea: A Treasury of American Folklore and Folk Songs. New York: Scholastic, 1993, in the section "Scary, Creepy, Spooky Ghost Stories," illustrated by Ed Young.

"Tailypoe." Retold by S. E. Schlosser in Spooky South: Tales of Hauntings, Strange Happenings, and Other Local Lore. Illus. Paul G. Hoffman. Globe Pequot Press, 2005. From Montgomery Co. in western Tennessee. Audio version in Schlosser's web site American Folklore. About a man and his dogs with funny names, way back in the woods. A creature in the swamp asks for its tail back after the man cut it off and ate it. The creature tears the man to pieces and a man who buries him hears the creature chuckling that it got its tailypoe back. The voice is still heard in the swamp.

"Tailypo" and "The Hairy Toe," Retold by Marilyn A. Kinsella at Taleypo the Storyteller. Web site contains drama choir adaptations (also adaptable as reader's theater) of "Little Eight John" (1981, based on Treasury of American Folklore by B. A. Botkin and Carl Sandburg, 1944) and "Wicked John and the Devil" (1980s, based on Richard Chase). The Illinois storyteller who calls herself Taleypo also includes retellings of a number of stories, including the Cherokee tales "Grandmother Spider Brings the Light" and "The Legend of the Red Cedar" (the latter about the creation of the seasons and the sun calendar at Cahokia Mounds, Illinois).

"Teeny-Tiny." In English Fairy Tales. London: David Nutt, 1890. Reprinted in Heidi Ann Heiner's Sur La Lune Fairy Tale Pages. (and elsewhere on the Internet) The scary creature frightens a teeny tiny woman asking for its bone back. She found the bone on a grave and took it home to make soup.

"My Big Toe." In Diane Goode's Book of Scary Stories and Songs. New York: Puffin Books, pp. 12-13. Reteller and illustrator Diane Goode notes that similar traditional American "jump" or "gotcha" tales are called "The Hairy Toe" and "Taily-Po," with parallels in Joseph Jacobs' "Teeny-Tiny" (p. 64).


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