The Legend of Old Stormalong

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The Legend of Old Stormalong - Photo

The Legend of Old Stormalong

Old Stormalong was the equivalent of Aquaman – The Jason Momoa version – of the American Folk Tale’s counterpart of the Justice League. Paul Bunyan as Batman, Calamity Jane stringing her six-shooters like Wonder Woman’s lasso… Bob Dylan no doubt singing about their deeds like the traveling troubadour he used to be… In the middle, Old Stormalong making ladies fall on their knees with his penetrating melt chocolate stare.

Old Stomalong, known to his kinfolks as Captain Alfred Bulltop Stormalong, was a red-white-and-blue American folk hero. He was the subject of dozens of nautical-themed legends most of them originating in the area around Massachusetts. 

The Old Captain was said to be a sailor, a cut-throat, a ladies man, and, like all larger than life individuals, a giant; a towering behemoth some 30 feet (9.1 m) tall. The man was the master and commander of a huge clipper ship either named the Courser or the Tuscarora.  Legend says that the ship was so tall, so immensely huge, that it had hinged masts in order to avoid catching on the moon and scratching the night sky.

"Tall Tales of America" by Irwin Shapiro illustrated by Al Schmidt Weekly Reader Children's Book Club 1958 lOrd Stomalong as a giant on his ship
“Tall Tales of America” by Irwin Shapiro illustrated by Al Schmidt Weekly Reader Children’s Book Club 1958


The hero Old Stormalong originally appeared in a series of sea shanties that Stan Hugill, in his Sea Shanties of the Seven Seas, tracks back to African-American folk ballads of the 1830s and ’40s. Carrying handles like “Mister Stormalong”, “Way Stormalong John”, and “Yankee John, Stormalong”, these sailors’ work poems were frequently used as praises for a late seaman and for his generous descendant. 

A standard lyrical arrangement went:

Ol’ Stormy he is dead and gone,

  To me way you Storm-a-long!

Ol’ Stormy he is dead and gone,

  Aye! Aye! Aye! Mister Storm-a-long!

Old Stormalog exaggerated anecdotes first appeared in the 1930 book Here’s Audacity! by Frank Shay. As his myth grew, other authors started reporting more and more outlandish adventures. His tales flooded the press and in Massachusetts, his exploits became the stuff of legends. Pamphlets reporting his adventures became commonplace and hsi yarns were traded by sailors on docks all over the States.

In various ingenious shanty, Stormalong is plotted and confabulated with dozens of historical figures… Including President Zachary Taylor:

General Taylor gained the day

  Walk him along, John, carry him along

Oh, General Taylor gained the day

  Carry him to his burying ground

To me way hey, you Stormy

  Walk him along, John, carry him along

To me way hey, you Stormy

  Carry him to his burying ground

The Legend Of Old Stormalong

The tale goes as follow:

New England was where he was beached as a newborn, already three fathoms (18 ft) tall.  The man appearing on the shores of the region, a castaway of a disaster, or an exile from Neptune’s kingdom. 

According to one telling, the boy outgrew Cape Cod and traveled to Boston, where he was hired as a ship’s hand at the tender age of twelve. It was told that he was responsible for the lore of attributing to seamen the term “able-bodied” by signing his name on his first shipboard commission agreement as “Stormalong, A.B.”

Old Stormalong, like every good hero, needed a villain to battle; in his case, the man liked to duke it out with mythological sea-monsters… The main one, his Joker, a Kraken; an enormous sea monster from Norse myth. The Kraken, it was said, managed to escape from his grasp in their first encounter, prompting a disheartened Stormalong to quit the sea life for a life as a farmer somewhere in the Midwest. 

Old Stomalong battling a Kraken
The Wonder Story Books – They Were Brave and Bold – Old Stormalong (1953). Art by Florence and Margaret Hoopes. Original story 1930 by Frank Shay.

Some experts say he had a vessel so big that a corral of Arabian horses were needed during travel just so his crew could get from one end of the ship to the other. 

The Creation of The Panama Canal

That’s right, forget all the history books, it was Old Stormalong. The story goes that the man was blind drunk and in a hurry to get to the Pacific, so he just charted a coast for Panama and slammed his vessel into the coast of the nation… drilling a course that ultimately created the famous Canal. 

The English Channel

Luckily, he didn’t have a time machine, that crafty sea-dog Old Stormalong, otherwise, he would have taken teh credit for that geological landmark. Still, there’s a tale of Old Stormalong and the English Channel. 

The Story goes that his ship got stuck on the English Channel. His men greased the ship’s hull with soap. The soap mixed with the scraping of the hull on the Gray Cliffs of Dover is the reason why those cliffs are nowadays bright white. And that pesky Kraken? Well, his crew had to slip the creature off with soap into the channel. The monster by now a sort of stray that chased Old Stormalong around… there was a love/hate relationship involved.

As Stormalong grew older, he finally confronted the Kraken for a final duel to the death. The grand mano a mano that would determine the fate of the oceans and who was the biggest badasses beast on its broad basin. It was a harrowing fight; the type that takes 1/3 of a Marvel movie and ends up with Tony Stark snapping Thanos out of existence. A battle royale that ended with the beast’s death. Old Stormalong successfully beat the scallywag and managed to trap the monster in a whirlpool of teh coast of Greece; a sucking void into Hades from which the beast never escaped.

The Final Frontier

Stormalong’s death is not entirely attested by all sources; some even say he’s still alive, roaming the lands and poking pirates in the eye. But, nonetheless, there is a rather epic tale concerning his last days on Earth. 

After Stormalong crossed a steamboat captain by dumping water down the boat’s shaft in an attempt to put out what he thought was a deadly fire on the boat, the steamboat Captain dared Stormalong to a transatlantic race. 

The wrinkled Stormalong, old age weighing him down, won the competition by scant miles, but the pressure of wielding the wheel during the difficult Atlantic crossing killed him. Stormalong was buried at sea, and Davy Jones himself opened his legendary locker to receive Stormalong’s body.

Cartoon of Davy Jones sitting on his locker
Source: wikicommon. Davy Jones

A different conclusion to his life goes as follows:

Stormalong was on one of his Caribbean exploits, and he passed by Florida. From out of nowhere colossal hurricane storms into the Gulf and tears through his ship… but his huge vessel resists the storm’s outpour. He’s battered and his crew feels the punch of the winds and the rains but they faced the Kraken, a mere zephyr won’t phase them. 

Nonetheless, nearby, other ships are caught in the onslaught and tossed around by the heavy waves. Sailors and Captains are being slaughtered by the storm. Stormalong, the hero that he is, jumps overboard and begins to pile as many boats as he could onto his ship. The storm still running, while the man and his crew did the deed.

When the storm finally winds down, the sailors were deposited on the shores of Florida. After that, Old Stormalong goes back on board, unfurls the sails of his ship, and wonders if they can be repaired. The Gods, impressed by the Old Dog’s final feat, send a last blow from the dying hurricane. The gust hits teh sails and lifts Old Stormalong and his ship into teh sky; to his heavenly reward. 

The third ending to his life takes revolves around the captain’s gigantic appetite. Alfred Stormalong being the giant he was, had an enormous eater. It recounts a time when his longing was vaster than usual and led him to eat so much food – breakfast of six sharks – that he underwent terminal indigestion, prompting his majestic hunger to finish him.

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