A tale of a tub. A cock-and-bull story; a rigmarole,
nonsensical romance. The Tale of a Tub is a religious satire by
Throw a tub to the whale.
To create a diversion in order to avoid a real danger; to bamboozle
or mislead an enemy. In whaling, when a ship is threatened by a whole
school of whales, it is usual to throw a tub into the sea to divert
their attention, and to make off as fast as possible.
A tub of naked children.
Emblematical of St. Nicholas, in allusion to two boys murdered and
placed in a pickling tub by a landlord, but raised to life again by
this saint. (See Nicholas.)
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894