Out of the Northwoods
The Many Lives of Paul Bunyan
Every American has heard of the lumberjack hero Paul Bunyan and his big blue ox. For 100 years his exploits filled cartoons, magazines, short stories, and children's books, and his name advertised everything from pancake breakfasts to construction supplies. By 1950 Bunyan was a ubiquitous icon of America's strength and ingenuity. Until now, no one knew where he came from—and the extent to which this mythical hero is rooted in Wisconsin.
While the tales of how the giant lumberjack Paul Bunyan used an entire lake to make pancake batter for his logging crew, or how he and Babe his blue ox logged off the Dakotas seem timeless, the first known Bunyan tales go back only to the early 1880s. In this scholarly (but nonetheless very entertaining) book, Wisconsin historian Edmonds traces the Bunyan stories to their origins among 19th century lumberjacks, shows how they moved out of the North Woods and into print, and looks at how the stories themselves were changed along the way. In his account, the author introduces readers to a genial con man who claimed he invented Paul Bunyan, a spunky university co-ed who collected the tales in logging camps in 1915, and a mild-mannered curator of the Wisconsin Historical Museum whose efforts ensured the survival of the stories' early logging-camp versions. With an appendix containing 100 Bunyan tales as originally collected, this book will appeal to folklorists, historians of popular culture, and readers who want to know the real story behind their favorite tall tales. Annotation ©2010 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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