Probably no American folk hero is as famous as Paul Bunyan.  According to all the stories told about him, he was the biggest and best at anything.  He also practically "built" the United States single-handedly, causing such familiar sights as the Rocky Mountains and the Mississippi River.  No one believes everything about Paul Bunyan, but you can believe in his spirit and his courage and his determination to succeed.  These things were part of all the brave men and women who helped to build and tame a young, wild country.
                                                         -Paul Bunyan by Nanci A. Lyman, 1980




*Did you know there are more than 200 roadside statues of Paul Bunyan in the United States?



 

*Did you know Paul Bunyan appeared on a 32-cent United States postage stamp in 1996?

 

Paul Bunyan is a legendary figure -- a gigantic lumberjack known for his tremendous strength and fantastic logging feats.  According to folklore, Paul Bunyan created the Great Lakes to provide drinking water for his enormous blue ox, Babe. In "Paul Bunyan of the North Woods," readers are introduced to four stories about Paul Bunyan that emphasize his great size and the size of the creatures he meets.
                --Prentice Hall Summary, "Paul Bunyan of the North Woods," by Carl Sandburg

 

No one knows how or when the tales of Paul Bunyan began.  However, the lumberjacks of the North Woods were probably talking about Paul Bunyan by the end of the nineteenth century.  The first written story about Paul Bunyan was "The Round-River Drive," which appeared in a Detroit newspaper in 1910.  These early stories were simpler and more realistic than later tales.

In 1914 a public relations man named W.B. Laughead began to use Paul Bunyan in an advertising campaign for the Red River Lumber Company of Westwood, California.  Laughead wrote a series of advertising pamphlets in which he told many Paul Bunyan stories.  He had heard some of these tales in the lumber camps, but he also made up many stories and characters, including Babe, the Big Blue Ox.

W.B. Laughead's advertising pamphlets made Paul Bunyan famous.  Other writers began to retell old stories and make up new ones.  Some of these stories moved Paul Bunyan away from the woods and into other activities, such as oil drilling and farming. 
                                           --Big Men, Big Country, by Paul Robert Walker, 1993. 

 

The Paul Bunyan legend may have originated with tales of giants told by French-Canadian lumberjacks.  Stories about Bunyan spread quickly and were often told by diverse groups of immigrant settlers in many territories.  In the state of Washington, once populated by Russian fur traders, Paul Bunyan was credited with scooping out Puget Sound. Settlers in North and South Dakota - Germans, Norwegians, and Russians - claimed that he cleared their land of trees.  German, Norwegian, and Swedish iron minders in Minnesota's early days said that when Babe the ox needed new shoes, Paul's friend Bill Ole had to open a new iron mine.  Because he embodied the spirit of independence and determination shared by all early settlers, the Paul Bunyan character was later popularized in booklets and magazines by an advertising agency trying to boost the logging industry. 
                                              --Prentice Hall Literature: Silver, Prentice Hall, 2000

 

Even as a baby, Paul was big. Six storks delivered him to his parents, and his baby carriage was a lumber cart pulled by oxen. Paul ate phenomenal amounts of food, and his mother had to stitch together blankets to make his clothes. However, in spite of his size and his strength, Paul was a goodhearted man and a dedicated worker. Living with his best friend, the enormous blue ox called Babe, Paul became the best lumberjack anywhere.
                                                                                      --www.childrenslit.com, 2005.

  

*Did you know a giant statue of Paul Bunyan was built for the Chicago Railroad Fair in 1948?  It now stands in Brainerd, Minnesota?

 

*Did you know the first printed Paul Bunyan story appeared in the Detroit News-Tribune on July 24, 1910?

 

Helpful Links

Wikipedia - Paul Bunyan 

7 Stories about Paul 

An Illustrated Paul Bunyan Trail 

Animated Tall Tale 

A Legacy of Legend, Lakes, and Land 

Encyclopedia - Paul Bunyan 

Commemorative Stamps 

Think Questions 

*Which tall tale about Paul Bunyan is your favorite?  Why?

*In what ways does Paul Bunyan display heroic qualities?

*What is Paul Bunyan's occupation?

*What qualities and abilities are valued in this tall tale? 

*Explain how Paul Bunyan combines cleverness with strength to achieve his purpose. 

*Compare Paul's childhood to yours.