Monday, June 28, 2021

Fantasy and reality about Paul Bunyan and his connections to Michigan on Paul Bunyan Day

Happy Paul Bunyan Day!
On June 28th, we remember fondly the tales of the big blue ox and a mighty lumberjack. It is National Paul Bunyan Day!

Described as a giant and a lumberjack of unusual skill, Paul Bunyan is one of the most famous North American folklore heroes. In the tales, Paul Bunyan was almost always accompanied by his companion, Babe the Blue Ox.
That's the version of the folk hero of tall tales depicted in American Legends Volume 2: Paul Bunyan from Disney Educational Productions.

Who was Paul Bunyan? Why did he hang out with a blue ox named Babe? Watch the original animated video from 1958 to find out more about this giant lumberjack and his loyal companion.
This is from the middle of the animated short, cutting off Paul's childhood before and his adventures afterwards, including losing to a chainsaw. That parallels the end of the story of John Henry. At least Paul Bunyan didn't die at the end like John Henry did (this is a Disney film for kids, after all) but moved to Alaska.*

It turns out that the legend of Paul Bunyan may have begun in Michigan. Take it away, National Day Calendar!
First appearing in print in 1906, in a story published by Northern Michigan journalist James MacGillivray, Bunyan’s character originated in folktales circulated among lumberjacks in the Northeastern United States and Eastern Canada. One account states that the tales began during the Papineau Rebellion of 1837. In 1914, William Laughhead reworked the stories for a logging company’s advertising campaign. The campaign breathed new life into the growing legendary character of Paul Bunyan. It was the 1922 edition of Laughead’s tales that inspired many others and soon the character’s plaid shirt and far-fetched characteristics spread across all of the United States and Canada.
Continuing with the Michigan connection, I'm sharing a video Andy Grant made for an educational techniques class when he was a student at Michigan State University about The Real-Life Paul Bunyan.

Story about Joe Fournier and Michigan lumbering for TE 408.

Good work, Andy! No wonder you were MSU History's outstanding senior in 2020.

MSU and Michigan both have a connection to the folk hero, as Stadium describes in Michigan-Michigan State Rivalry: History of the Paul Bunyan Trophy Game | Stadium Rivals.

The Paul Bunyan Trophy is on the line in the annual showdown between Michigan and Michigan State. Take a look back at the rivalry from Bo Schembechler to "clockgate" on this edition of Stadium Rivals.
As a Michigan alum, I appreciate this history of a rivalry that's almost as legendary as Paul Bunyan himself.

*That didn't stop people from designating various features as his final resting place. For example, I used to live across the highway from a state park that had a small hill that locals called Paul Bunyan's grave. My response to that is that he's buried in Alaska.

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