Are the Tales of Paul Bunyan based on a real person?
While doing an investigation at Wisconsin’s historical society in Madison I stumbled upon an interesting research document that advocates that folklore hero Paul Bunyan may have been based on a real Wisconsin lumberjack.
Charles E. Brown, former curator of the Museum of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin and secretary of the Wisconsin Archaeological Society published a pamphlet in 1922 titled Paul Bunyan Tales.
Brown collected and preserved a substantial amount of folklore on Wisconsin Indians, lumbering, steamboating, local history, and related topics which he published in pamphlet form, according to the Wisconsin Historical Society.
In his records regarding the tales of mythological hero Paul Bunyan the forward states: “All lumberjacks believe, or pretend to believe that he really lived and was the pioneer in the lumber country, some of the older men even claim to have known him’ or members of his crew.” In Wisconsin the location of one of his camps is stated to have “been 45 miles west of Rhinelander.”
The tale of Bunyan suggests that he was of immense size and uncanny strength, “Bunyan was a powerful giant, seven feet tall and with a stride of seven feet. He was famous throughout the lumbering districts for his great physical strength. So great was his lung capacity that he called his men to dinner by blowing through a hollow tree. When he spoke limbs sometimes fell from trees. To keep his pipe filled required the entire time of a swamper with a scoop shovel.”
You can read Charles Brown’s Tales of Paul Bunyan here.
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