Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 10: No 2) >> The Tall Tale Motif in W. G. Simms's ''Sharp Snaffles'' and in Russian Folklore >> Page 2

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Secondary Scholarship | 2002
Transcription must appear to be a spontaneous reminiscence, and because it must be adapted to
the yarn spinner's own life, and finally because it often grows out of real
experiences, the tall tale genre requires a form more flexible than the structures of
many other folktale types."5
The literary "device of exaggeration" containing the most peculiar
combination of truth and invention used by Simms was commented on by Gerard
Donovan guided by John C. Guilds's Explanatory Notes to The Writings of
William Gilmore Simms. In any tall tale, as Donovan explains, "the storyteller
must arrange artistically a series of inflated episodes based on a kernel of truth"
with "the amount of exaggeration" fluctuated so skillfully that the reader is
"uncertain what to believe and what to disbelieve."6 In his "Sharp Snaffles" the
writer underlines the inevitable interconnection of reality and imagination: "The
truth's nothing but a peg in the wall that I hangs the lie upon. A'ter a while I
promise that you shan't see the peg."7
W. G. Simms freely experiments with the short story structure, vigorously
manipulating its episodes to combine traditional literary genre with folklore
tradition, easily correlating the elements of realistic narrative, a courtship yarn
and a tall tale. These experiments, in our opinion, are extremely extravagant in
themselves and have no analogy in American literature.
The compositional structure of Simms's "Sharp Snaffles" was thoroughly
investigated by Mary Ann Wimsatt in her distinguished study The Major Fiction
of William Gilmore Simms: Cultural. Traditions and Literary Form, in which she
represented the "knit organization of the tale" as a combination of "two outer
rings of highly detailed, realistic narrative, the frame story and the marriage plot,"
which surrounded "an inner ring of fantasy, the wonderful hunt."8 Wimsatt's idea
of "the outer and inner rings" favorably impressed us; however, we would suggest
that these three rings, as we see it, should not be looked upon as just "closely
linked" where "the beginning and the end are symmetrical."9 The composition of
the story seems even more complicated: the inner elements of the frame structure
forming the first ring, where the "right merry group of seven professional hunters
and amateurs" is introduced to the reader, and becoming the outer elements of the
composition of the second ring the marriage plot so that these two "rings"
form a sort of "chain."

5 Folklore of the USA. Ed. by O. M. Zebrova, E. P. Zavraksina, V. A. Pogosian. Saint-Petersburg,
1991, p. 3U.
6 Gerard Donovan. "Irish Folklore Influences on Simms's `Sharp Snaffles' and `Bald-head Bill
Bauldy. "' In: William Gilmore Simms and the American Frontier. Ed. by John C. Guild and
Caroline Collins. Athens and London, 1997, p. 195.
7 Simms, p. 242.
8 M. A. Wimsatt. The Major Fiction of William Gilmore Simms. Baton Rouge and London, 1989,
p. 248.
9 Ibid.