Most of us have heard the story of Paul Bunyan and his ox, Blue. Did you know they were created by Canadians sitting around campfires normally in logging areas? The stories cannot be attributed to one source, since the story was handed down over the years and obviously altered by those telling the story. According to legend, the Great Lakes were created by Paul for drinking holes for Babe. That he cleared the land in North and South Dakota so that farmers had fields to plant it. He trained Carpenter Ants to help haul the timber for the logging industry. and that Babe created the 10,000 lakes in Minnesota as it’s footsteps. Now none of it is true, but it’s fun to think of things that way.
How to celebrate – Visit some of the many Paul Bunyan sites in the northern mid-west. Visit the Great Lakes. Start you own legends by sitting around a campfire with your family.
Paul Bunyan was a man, he was a big man… oh wait, that’s Daniel Boone. But he was a big man, of course he wasn’t real but that’s not important. It is believed his character was created by French Canadians during the Papineau Rebellion in 1837. He obviously became more well known that the rebellion he was created for!
Paul’s companion in gianticness was Blue, an Ox. It is said that Paul scooped out the Great Lakes to make water bowls for Blue. Blue must have been very thirsty. Apparently Paul and Blue traveled between Canada and the US, and even though created by Canadians they have become more American since writers began issuing stories of his tales in the early 1900’s.
Paul is credited with creating logging, like that didn’t happen before 1837, clearing North and South Dakota for farming and trained “carpenter” ants to do logging for lumberjacks. Blue is credited for creating Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes by leaving his foot prints behind.
He also looks a little scary! I wonder if many children feared Paul as much as they honored him. But isn’t that what legends are all about? What one calls a hero, another calls a monster. So far as we know, Paul never hurt anybody, unless of course he stepped on someone he didn’t see.
Anyway, today is the day to celebrate the man, the myth, the legend of Paul Bunyan and Blue his Ox. Probably made bigger than life because they needed heroes bigger than life, sort of like we all do.
How to celebrate – Visit the Paul Bunyan Days along the US/Canada border. Read about Paul Bunyan and the legends associated with him. Find out why Paul Bunyan was created in the first place.
It got very cold and boring in the north for the brave men, and sometimes women, that worked as lumberjacks. There was little available to entertain these hard working woodsmen. They frequently sat around their campfires making up stories to tell one another. And so, Paul Bunyan was born, perhaps dating back as far as 1837 during the Papineau Rebellion.
Though the legend of Paul Bunyan and his blue ox Babe had been told for years around the logging camps, he appears to be first mentioned to the public in the Duluth News Tribune in 1904. William P. Laughead (1882-1958) is the first recorded author who wrote down these stories as promotional materials for the Red River Lumber Company in 1916.
As a baby, it is said it took 5 storks to carry Paul to his parents (I found no reference to his parents). When he clapped and laughed as a youth he would break windows in neighboring communities. His heritage was French-Canadian American.
As a young man he is said to have gone for a walk with Babe, dragging his huge axe behind him, forming the Grand Canyon. It was also reported that he created the Great Lakes when Babe needed a water bowl.
In 1958, Walt Disney Studios created an animated short musical to celebrate Paul Bunyan. His popularity spread quickly.
To give you some idea how big Paul Bunyan was said to be look at the photo above. Focus in on the adults standing at the end of Paul’s axe and Babe’s front left leg. In the minds of those who created him, sitting around a campfire in the frozen north, he had to have been even bigger, if you consider cutting the Grand Canyon with his axe.
As with so many legends, they are created larger than life because those dreaming them up need heroes bigger than themselves to make the world seem right.
How to celebrate: Watch the Disney video about Paul Bunyan. Try and come up with a few places you think Paul could have created. Make up a legend of your own.