Paul Bunyan

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Paul Bunyan is a mythological lumberjack who is usually believed to be a giant as well as a lumberjack of unusual skill. The character was first documented in the work of U.S. journalist James MacGillivray in 1910. In 1916, as part of an advertising campaign for a logging company, advertisement writer William Laughead reworked the old logging tales into that of a giant lumberjack and gave birth to the modern Paul Bunyan legend, thereby making Paul Bunyan a fakelore character.

Contents

Tale or advertising campaign?

According to writer James Stevens in his 1925 book Paul Bunyan, French Canadians gave birth to the tales during the Papineau Rebellion of 1837, when they revolted against the young English Queen.[1] This would probably explain the origin of Bunyan's last name since "Bonyenne" is a colloquial French-Canadian expression of surprise and astonishment meaning "Good Grief" or "My Goodness".

The origin of the legends say that at the mouth of the river in the Two Mountains area near Saint-Eustache, Quebec, loggers stormed into battle against the British, among them a fierce and bearded giant named Paul Bonjean, monikered as "Bonyenne". (Another series of related legends are based on the feats of an actual man having lived in logging camps in the Ottawa Valley named Big Joe Mufferaw or Jos. Montferrand.) Defender of the people, the popular hero's legends moved up-river from shanty ("chantier" in French) to shanty. His name was anglified and stories were eventually modified and added upon from storyteller to storyteller.

Later historians hold that Paul Bunyan, and specifically the idea of Bunyan as a giant lumberjack with a giant blue ox sidekick, was created in the 20th century for an advertising campaign. Although it is claimed in some sources that "there is no documentary evidence of any Paul Bunyan story being told before James MacGillivray's story "The Round River Drive," published in 1910,"[2] MacGillivray had published some stories in the Oscoda, Michigan, Press on August 10, 1906, and Governor of Michigan Jennifer M. Granholm proclaimed the centennial of that date as "Paul Bunyan Day".[3]

MacGillivray's story does not suggest that Paul Bunyan was a giant and contains no mention of a blue ox companion.[4] However, author J.E. Rockwell had written about lumberjack tales about Paul Bunyan, and referred to the (unnamed) blue ox in the February, 1910 issue of the magazine The Outer's Book. According to one tale noted by Rockwell, Bunyan was "eight feet tall and weighed 300 pounds"[5] Historian Carleton C. Ames (whose son Aldrich Ames would later become a notorious spy)[6] claimed in a 1940 article[2] that Paul Bunyan was a 20th century invention rather than a 19th century lumber camp folk hero.[7] William Laughead, an advertising copywriter who had once worked in lumber camps, took the stories of an old lumberjack and reworked them into the modern Paul Bunyan character. He sold his character to the Red River Lumber Company, which published "Introducing Mr. Paul Bunyan of Westwood, California" in 1916 as an advertising pamphlet.[8] Among other things, Laughead gave the name "Babe" to the Blue Ox, and created the first pictorial representation of Bunyan. Authors Richard Dorson and Marshall Fitwick cite Paul Bunyan as an example of "fakelore", or a modern story passed off as an older folktale.[9][10]

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