Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 12: No 2) >> Folk and Fairy Tale Elements in Guy Rivers >> Page 12

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Secondary Scholarship | 2004
Transcription and so he is tricked into being a part of a fight and inadvertently kills someone.
He must run away from the Gold Village in order to flee the law, and in so doing
he is murdered by Guy Rivers. The anti-intellectuality that Forrester exemplifies
is common in American literature; legendary America is a place where hard work
and good morals are enough to make a man flourish.
Along with archetypal characters, other elements in Guy Rivers contribute
to the fairy tale motif. One of the linguistic elements in the novel is the language
of the tall tale, which adds to the fantastic and imaginative feeling, making it more
rustically American. The common people and the peddler, Bunce, use tall-tale
language to explain some of the events of their lives. For instance, when the
people describe Bunce's shrewd sales tactics, their language takes on the
characteristics of tall tales. In The Tall Tale in American Folklore and Literature,
Carolyn Brown describes the tall tale as creating "an atmosphere in which the line
between fact and fiction is hazy and the manipulation of that boundary is a source
of humor."13 She also attempts to define the tall tale:
We may begin, then, not with a definition that simply calls the tall tale a comic
lie or an impossible exaggeration, but with the notion that the tall tale is a
fictional story which is told in the form of personal narrative or anecdote, which
challenges the listener's credulity with comic outlandishness, and which
performs different social functions depending on whether it is heard as true or
fictional. 14
The outlandish nature of tall tales is illustrated in the story one man told of how it
was so cold outside that he "noticed his brother's words freezing. [He] caught
some of them in a sack, carried them home and thawed them out by the fire."15
Similarly, Forrester describes Bunce to Ralph Colleton: "Some bought his clocks,
which only went while the rogue stayed, and when he went they stopt forever.
Some bought ready-made clothes, which went to pieces at the very sight of soap
and water."16 These descriptions of Bunce's products are a form of hyperbole that
takes the idea of his shoddy workmanship to the extreme in order to make a comic
The people of Gold Village offer even more vivid descriptions of Bunce's
goods. For instance, one villager says that Bunce sold a clock to his wife for
fifteen dollars, and "you had not been gone two days, before the said clock began
to go whiz, whiz, whiz, and commenced striking, whizzing all the while, and
never stopped till it had struck clear thirty-one, and since that time it will neither

13 Brown, Carolyn S., The Tall Tale in American Folklore and Literature, (Knoxville: The
University of Tennessee Press, 1987), p. 9.
14 Ibid., p. 11.
15 Ibid., p. 11.
16 Simms, p. 71.