Tall Tales on the Trails: The Legend of the BearCat on the PCT.
Tall Tales of the PCT: The Legend of the BearCat.
The BearCat is certainly a tall tale. You can read the story here , then come back so we can pick it apart and get to what makes it a member of this species of story. We will use this legend to look at how these stories come to be, and what elements are involved specifically on the trail.
First off, one can easily see that the story is based in some element of truth: There was something there, and it made a terrifying sound. It was encountered multiple times, all at night, and was never positively identified or seen.
Due to the threatening and terrifying element of this creature’s existence, supposed invisibility, it is also blamed for things without other explanations. These are seen in the falling boulder, snapping branches, and other events.
Of course, these events could have been due to pure chance, of a number of other causes, but instead, they are ascribed to this mythical beast, which stalks in the night, waiting to ambush hikers who are unaware. I am reading a little of the boogey-man into this, but the story remains fundamentally the same.
This creature doesn’t exist, yet the delivery of the story is given factually, as if it does. Second, the creature has fantastical elements, and the threat it poses, always a potential, grows more and more fantastic as the story goes on. Not content to stalk hikers in the night, it starts rolling boulders at them.
This is prime territory for a Tall Tale, and as the story is told more and more, I assure you, it will grow in the same way many oral traditions inflate the reality of the root facts over time. Eventually, this story may pass into the realm of Myth or Legend, which is a similar genre to the Tall Tale, but normally of longer standing and slightly more complex. Myths are typically traditional origin stories or a tale which establishes a reason behind a social or other event. Legends, on the other hand, are normally unverified and unverifiable historical narrative stories.
Next time, we will explore other tall tales, and similar stories you can tell your friends on the trail and off. If you’ve documented you hike in a journal or story, and included a tall tale similar to those seen here, you’re already engaging in this ancient tradition. I encourage you to keep going, and create more tales to relate around the camps, instead of playing with your phone and camera.
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