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Paul Bunyan’s Contribution to American Folklore Essay


The Story of Paul Bunyan and Explanation

American folklore would have been incomplete without Paul Bunyan. According to many narrators in the country, Paul Bunyan was an enormous lumberjack. He was renowned for his superhuman powers and labors. The story of Bunyan indicates that he was “always accompanied by Babe the Blue Ox” (Luckhurst 19). According to the legendary tale, Paul Bunyan was a gigantic infant after his birth. It took several storks to carry the young Bunyan to his parents who lived in Bangor. After growing up, Bunyan’s single drag was believed to have led to the creation of the Grand Canyon. Some storytellers go further to indicate that Bunyan’s footprints led to depressions that later became the 10,000 lakes of Minnesota (Marshall et al. 48). These frontier tales have encouraged many people to believe that Bunyan is a legend in America’s folklore. The history of Paul Bunyan is therefore attributable to the oral traditions of many loggers in Pennsylvania (Marshall et al. 94). The character of Bunyan was eventually popularized by William Laughead towards the end of the 19th century.

Background of Paul Bunyan’s Story

Paul Bunyan’s folklore has been analyzed and examined by many historians and literary scholars for very many years. According to these experts, the story of Paul Bunyan is largely based on a lumberjack named Fabian Fournier (McDonnell 21). The logger was a French-Canadian who lived in Michigan after the infamous Civil War. Historians indicate that the lumberjack was gigantic. With a staggering height of over six feet, Fournier was observed to have enormous hands (Marshall et al. 67). These attributes explain why his fellow loggers in the region gave him the nickname Saginaw Joe (Holbrook 76).

According to the folklore, Fournier had two sets of teeth. He could use the teeth to bite off wooden rails and hunks (Scott 65). The hero, according to the story, was killed in November 1875 in a place called Bay City. The unexpected death of Fournier gained much attention because his killer was eventually acquitted. The stories of Fournier’s prowess as a lumberjack have therefore been narrated in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan for many decades. The story would later be merged with that of Bon Jean. It is argued that Bon Jean’s participation in the Papineau Rebellion in the year 1837 is something that empowered many loggers in St. Eustache (Luckhurst 29). Canadians were unable to pronounce the name “Bon Jean” correctly. This kind of mispronunciation is what evolved into the name “Bunyan”.

Paul Bunyan’s Story and America’s Society and Culture

Today, it is agreeable that Paul Bunyan remains a larger-than-life folk superman who inspires the American spirit (McDonnell 22). The folklore champion symbolizes the vitality and desire that characterized the actions of many people throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. Paul Bunyan has become a symbol of might among Americans. The folklore encourages Americans to work hard and be ready to face every insurmountable challenge that might disorient their goals. When every obstacle is identified and dealt with, it can be easier for more people to pursue their dreams. As a critical figure of the country’s folklore and culture, Paul Bunyan has remained synonymous with the ideals of the American dream (MacDonald 98). That being the case, individuals who want to know where the nation has come from can benefit significantly from the inspirational story of Paul Bunyan.

Works Cited

Holbrook, Stewart. Holy Old Mackinaw: A Natural History of the American Lumberjack. Northwest Corner Brooks, 2016.

Luckhurst, Matthew. Paul Bunyan and the Blue Ox: The Great Pancake Adventure. Abrams, 2013.

MacDonald, Roger. Babe: The Remarkable Family of Paul Bunyan’s Blue Ox. Westbow Press, 2016.

Marshall, Robert, et al. Paul Bunyan and His Loggers. BiblioBazaar, 2015.

McDonnell, Julia. The Legend of Paul Bunyan. Gareth Stevens Publishing, 2017.

Scott, John. Paul Bunyan in Michigan: Yooper Logging, Lore & Legends. The History Press, 2015.

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1. IvyPanda. "Paul Bunyan's Contribution to American Folklore." November 5, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/paul-bunyans-contribution-to-american-folklore/.


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IvyPanda. "Paul Bunyan's Contribution to American Folklore." November 5, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/paul-bunyans-contribution-to-american-folklore/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Paul Bunyan's Contribution to American Folklore." November 5, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/paul-bunyans-contribution-to-american-folklore/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Paul Bunyan's Contribution to American Folklore'. 5 November.

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