Shawn McBurnie

and the Slight Exaggerations


Northwoods ‘fearsome critters’ in the Twin Cities

Tall tale creatures from the Minnesota Northwoods tradition are making a comeback by way of song.  Shawn McBurnie and The Slight Exaggerations present a collection of singable and family-friendly original songs about these little-known characters. Audiences learn a bit about the menagerie, and are invited to chime in on choruses. 

The Northwoods have a rich folklore tradition of stories and ballads, but the most unique creatures of the boreal forests never attained the fame of Babe the Blue Ox; the squonk, hoop snake, splintercat, and wapaloosie - and many others - have been sorely neglected. These ‘fearsome critters,’ as they were known, were featured in stories told in logging, mining, or railroad bunkhouses; around trappers' fires; or anywhere frontier workers relaxed and swapped yarns.

Because these tall tales were designed to impress, stretch credibility, and pull the legs of ‘greenhorns’, they circulated as stories and did not enter the song tradition until Shawn McBurnie, traditional singer and wordsmith, decided to write them into ballads - and, we hope, bring them out of obscurity.

Further reading

Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods (the first comprehensive study of these creatures, published in 1910 by William T. Cox, Minnesota's first State Forester) and Henry H. Tryon's 1939 Fearsome Critters are available to be read online at, along with a number of other resources and references.

A more modern introduction to these beasties can be found in Alvin Schwartz's Kickle Snifters and Other Fearsome Critters.