A Haunting Tale of a Tail

Tailypo A Ghost Story by Joanna C. GaldoneEven if Halloween didn’t occur in October, there’s something about the longer nights, the bright moons, the musty smell and crackle of decayed leaves that makes a scary story ever so appealing — at least to some children. Some of the choicest hail from the world of well-honed folktales.

One of the most memorable ghost stories from folklore might well be the odd little story Tailypo, as retold by Joanna Galdone. We hear of an old man living in a hut deep in the woods. The hungry man goes hunting with his three dogs but captures just one scrawny rabbit. Still hungry, he’s thrilled when he spies some animal scurrying around his shack. Surely, the reader thinks, he’ll be able to catch it. Yet, we discover, somewhat uncomfortably, he comes up with only its tail. Without further ado, the woodsman cleans it, cooks it and gobbles it up.

Then things get really strange. In bed, the old hunter hears an eerie voice: “Tailypo, Tailypo, where is my Tailypo?”

Twice, we hear that haunting refrain, and twice the hounds chase off the ghostly creature, but the third time, the creature bursts in before the dogs return from their futile chase. Galdone’s simple yet energetic paintings show the stubborn spirit in a whirlwind of vengeance. Warning: This story sounds simple, but if read with the drama it deserves, it has the power to scare many a child, so don’t share this with younger, impressionable ones. For those, consider Creepy Carrots or Room on the Broom or The Gruffalo.

For more scary folktales:

Dark-Thirty Southern Tales of the Supernatural by Patricia McKissackEchoes of the Elders by Chief LelooskaScary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz

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