Today is National Paul Bunyan Day

“Paul Bunyan is a legendary lumberjack of gigantic proportions who, accompanied by a blue ox named Babe, traveled throughout the country performing incredible, though often incidental, feats. Some of Bunyan’s mythical exploits include digging the Grand Canyon by dragging his axe and creating Mount Hood by piling stones to extinguish a campfire. Part of the Bunyan legend also claims that deep footprints left by Paul and Babe as the pair walked through Minnesota created the 10,000 lakes for which the state is famously known.”

Paul Bunyan is a lumberjack of gigantic proportions thought to be based on Fabian Fournier. Stories about him were told in oral tradition among the camps of loggers in the United States and Canada. He became an American folk hero and was also featured in Canadian folklore.

An uncredited 1904 editorial in the Duluth News Tribune is considered to be the earliest recorded story of Paul Bunyan. In 1906, journalist James MacGillivray wrote the first story, “Round River,” printed about this larger-than-life lumberjack. “In 1912, MacGillivray collaborated with a poet on a Bunyan-themed poem for American Lumberman magazine,” which finally gave national exposure to Paul Bunyan.  “It was the 1922 edition of Laughead’s tales that inspired many others and soon the character’s plaid shirt and far-fetched characteristics.”

I can see why Paul Bunyan was a favorite of lumberjack tall tales. I always loved the farfetched stories, imagining them being shared by the weary men as they hunkered around the fires after a long, hard work day. I could hear their laughter mix with mine at the silly antics of Paul and Babe, the big blue ox.

Recently, I started to read the tales. I picked up one of the older versions I had never seen before: The Marvelous Exploits of Paul Bunyan by W.B. Laughead. It was disappointing. Intuitively, I knew it was not the one my beloved tales were from, and even wrote how it read like an advert in my review. Funny, as I researched for this article, I found this: “In 1914, William Laughhead reworked the stories for a logging company’s advertising campaign.” Makes so much sense now! LOL

Leave a Reply