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Have you ever heard of Paul Bunyan?

Paul Bunyan Day is June 28! American Folklore says, “Paul Bunyan is a larger-than-life folk hero who embodies frontier vitality. He is a symbol of might, the willingness to work hard, and the resolve to overcome all obstacles. He was popularized by newspapermen across the country in 1910 and has been a part of the American culture ever since.”

Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox

The giant lumberjack Paul Bunyan with Babe the Blue Ox.

Actually, the earliest recorded reference is from an uncredited reference writing in the Duluth News Tribune in 1904:

His pet joke and the one with which the green horn at the camp is sure to be tried, consists of a series of imaginative tales about the year Paul Bunyan lumbered in North Dakota. The great Paul is represented as getting out countless millions of timber in the year of the “blue snow.” The men’s shanty in his camp covered a half section, and the mess camp was a stupendous affair. The range on which an army of cookees prepared the beans and “red horse” was so long that when the cook wanted to grease it up for the purpose of baking the wheat cakes in the morning, they strapped two large hams to his feet and started him running up and down a half mile of black glistening stove top.

The author of Out of the Northwoods: The Many Lives of Paul Bunyan notes, however, that stories about the giant lumberjack circulated in logging camps and elsewhere throughout the United States for thirty years or more before ever finding their way into print media.

Paul Bunyan's Cook Shanty

There are even two restaurants in Wisconsin with a Paul Bunyan theme!

Often depicted with his animal companion Babe the Blue Ox, Paul Bunyan has had his share of screen time, too including an animated Disney short that was nominated for an Academy Award! Purportedly born in Maine, most of the lumberjack’s stories are set in the northwood of Wisconsin, though some of the adaptations for children have him battling cannonballs in the American Revolution, fighting pirates, and even building the Big Rock Candy Mountain!

So, why June 28th? Well, why not? Read a “tall tale” to learn more about this giant of a man. Or, learn more about the scholarly work surrounding the legend at the University of Minnesota’s Paul Bunyan Collection.

Larger than life

There’s even an operetta in two acts based on Paul Bunyan’s tall tales.

About V.E.

author, poet, editor, human

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