Wednesday, July 3, 2013
Stormalong is a name that you might have heard of if you live in Massachusetts. It's worn by an old folk hero that appears in a genre of traditional American literature called the tall tale. These stories originated from bragging contests held by frontier men. This genre has created many iconic and beloved heroes like Davy Crocket, Johnny Appleseed, Paul Bunyan, Pecos Bill, John Henry, and Calamity Jane.
Alfred Bulltop Stormalong is a seafaring dude. He was originally described as a pirate to me, but he never actually looks for treasure or anything else related to pirating, so he's really just a sailor. It's unknown if Stormalong is partially based on a real person or not. He is said to start the tradition of referring to fishermen as "able-bodied" because he always signed his name as "Stormalong, A. B."
According to the stories, Stormalong is a giant of a man. Literally. Like thirty feet tall. He has an enormous ship to fit him, called either the Tuscarora or the Courser depending on the story. It has a stable of Arabian horses so that the crew could ride from one side of the boat to the other, and it's masts were hinged in order to avoid knocking into the moon. Like Ahab and the Great White Whale, Stormalong has an oceanic nemesis: the Kraken of Norse mythology. It's this rivalry that dominates most of his tales.
I've only seen one family use this name, and that was how I was introduced to it. I'm assuming that Stormalong is an invented name. It first appeared in a collection of sea shanties collected by Stan Hugill, who traced it back to African American folk songs. As far as tall tales go, Stormalong is not one of the more popular ones. Many have probably never heard of him.
But we are naming kids Storm and Stormy. Stormalong just seems like their eccentric brother. I like it. I like it a lot. It's lyrical and adventurous. Meeting a Stormalong in the playground would make me smile.