Comes down to this: Folklore, like history, does not always lie.
Tall tales (lies told on purpose) were a way of defusing the terrible realities of life. It was a humorous way of belittling the immensity of nature--indeed of life. A problem comes in when we ACCEPT the lie as truth -- which we often do -- whether it's in the myriads of interpritations of the Bible or in versions of "John Henry". The tales told about larger than life heroes, huge snow storms, gigantic floods, extremes of heat, cold, water (floods), monster animal creations, super- human stamina-----these were ways of laughing at the terrible stuff all around you if you were ALL actually living on a "survivor island" of your own making---like a farm in the middle of "the great American desert" as the plains were often called------or a cabin in the mountains before Calgary was Calgary. To me, the songs were not history, but they did profess to be more accurate than mere tall tales. The ballads showed the way things actually were---combined with the way people WANTED things to be. The reality and the fantasy together in a new hybrid. Everyone had their own agenda to satisfy---people/audiences to entertain---employers to satisfy---spouses to placate---children to occupy before TV and, not the least of considerations, a living to make. The guys who wrote serious history books had no fewer motives to alter "TRUTH" (if we are to be honest I suspect) than the people who fiddled with the ballads for all of the sighted various reasons.
And WE are all just a link on the
chain of human creativity. (What an honor!)
Sometimes we get closer to what's accurate than at other times. But it's almost impossible for me, personally, to desipher if what I see as true at any given moment is actually that. But that's O.K. All I've ever been really interested in finding is a good story----that and knowing I've made a credible stab at telling the tale well.
Oh --- and leaning toward the good and not the evil side of things.