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Paul Bunyan

Paul Bunyan is a mythical lumberjack in tall tales[?]

A lumberjack of huge size and strength, Paul Bunyan is an old folkloric character in the American psyche. He, and his blue ox, Babe, were so large their footsteps created Minnesota's ten-thousand lakes. Babe had 42 ax handles and a plug of chewing tobacco between his ears. He was found during the winter of the blue snow; his mate was Bessie, the Yaller Cow.

Like many myths, this explains a physical phenomenon. Bunyan's birth was strange, as are the births of many mythic heroes, as it took seventeen storks to carry the infant (ordinarily, one stork could carry several babies and drop them off at their parents' home). Paul and Babe dug the Grand Canyon by dragging his axe behind him. He is a classic American "big man" who was popular in 19th century America as an exemplar of a minority group.

The myth of Paul Bunyan can be traced back to James MacGillivray, a reporter for the Detroit News[?]. He collected the stories from actual lumberjacks, and began disseminating the legend with the July 24, 1910 printing of The Round River Drive[?] which included the following, concerning Dutch Jake (another mythical lumberjack of great strength) and the narrator participating in a Bunyan-sponsored contest to cut down the biggest tree in the forest.

"Dutch Jake and me had picked out the biggest tree we could find on the forty, and we'd put three days on the cut with our big saw, what was three crosscuts brazed together, making 30 feet of teeth. We was getting along fine on the fourth day when lunchtime comes, and we thought we'd best get to the sunny side to eat. So we grabs our grub and starts around that tree.
'We hadn't gone far when we heard a noise. Blamed if there wasn't Bill Carter and Sailor Jack sawin' at the same tree. It looked like a fight at first, but we compromised, meetin' each other at the heart on the seventh day. They'd hacked her to fall to the north, and we'd hacked her to fall to the south, and there that blamed tree stood for a month or more, clean sawed through, but not knowin' which way to drop 'til a windstorm came along and throwed her over."

Statues of Bunyan exist in Bangor, Maine, Bemidji, Minnesota, Brainerd, Minnesota and Portland, Oregon, and is also depicted on the world's largest wood carving, at the entrance to Sequoia National Park[?] in California. Babe the Blue Ox has a statue in California, on US-101. There is a group called the Mystic Knights of the Blue Ox[?] in Bayfield, Wisconsin[?].

Other Big Men:

See also:

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