Say it's ain't so, Paul!

Was Paul Bunyan a fraud?

Is there really a distinction between folklore and fakelore? The Red River Lumber Company is long gone. There is no copyright. No one can claim Paul Bunyan as their own (although I’m sure Disney will try). There is no official Paul Bunyan anthology. We know about Paul Bunyan because people hear the stories and pass those stories onto others.

Sometimes we get into idiotic purist arguments. Some of those original stories may be able to trace their origin from some hack who was trying to earn another paycheck, but I’m sure Aesop would also clear his throat and pass around the hat after he told his folk lore tales. The fact is that people hear these tales, enjoy them, and pass them on. They sometimes make up their own, or maybe confuse one tall tale with another. (“And then Paul Bunyan went on TV and said, ‘Regardless of what they say about it, we’re gonna keep Checkers’.”). Doesn’t that make them folk tales?

So what if the stories were cleaned up a wee little bit from the lumber camp version as they became children’s stories. ("Paul Bunyan and the 10,000 loose women? Maybe for the children’s book, we’ll rework that as Paul Bunyan and the 10,000 lakes"). The Brother’s Grimm’s did the same thing, and we still consider them folk tales. (“And, then Little Red Riding Hood climbed onto bed, and said to the wolf, ‘Oh my what a big… big…’, …uh…, Okay kiddies, I think we’ll just stop here and read about Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel.”)

The tales of Paul Bunyan are just as much folk tales as the story of Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer (and his friend, the elf who wants to be a dentist).

I accept the distinction between fakelore and folklore. Robin Hood is folklore. Pecos Bill, a character invented by 20th century writers, is fakelore.

Paul Bunyan has often been derided as fakelore, but that is unfounded and, typically, based on lack of knowledge: The Paul Bunyan stories were already widely told when the first commercial writers began retelling them. Some of the specific stories, but not the character himself, could be characterized as fakelore. There is a pretty good discussion at the Wikipedia article on Paul Bunyan.

The column says that Red River’s Bunyan looked like Shirley Temple with a mustache.
Say it ain’t so, Shirley!

Were people sniffing the pine tar?

Thanks for digging that up. :slight_smile: Looks more like “Little Orphan Annie with a mustache” to me.

The picture looks, to my eye, intended to represent a French Canadian.

I always thought that brawny hunk who appears on packages of Brawny brand paper towels must be intended to portray Paul Bunyan. (Note the forest in the background.) :dubious:

Folk legend defines America.
The cutter of the wilderness: Paul Bunyan = The car culture: Muffler Man = The cosmos of the future: Space Man

All of these figures were made by International Fiberglass of Venice, California.

I did not know that! Very cool information.

And for the when the Muffler Men were feeling a bit randy, they also made Uniroyal Gals. Hot stuff.

And Public Art — most notably Public Sculpture, after Architecture — defines the highest visible culture of a people. London, and most European major cities, are filled with many statues ( in London’s case many of the Hamo Thornycroft type & in Venice the Horses ), and all over Asia there are large monuments to leaders and peoples: these, and those in the Wikipedia article from post 02 of the same ilk, show that America’s sculptures are unique and representative.

One generally reads of earlier statuary of the Confederate General variety — Albert Pike, Forrest, Lee, Sidney Johnson etc. etc. being threatened with air-brushing by censors; so it is good there are artistic forms all Americans can find pleasing.

Back when I was in school (1970’s) I read a pretty good collection of Paul Bunyan stories. Any good collections for sale now?