Connie's Reviews > Paul Bunyan, a Tall Tale

Paul Bunyan, a Tall Tale by Steven Kellogg
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's review
Feb 08, 2010

really liked it

Paul Bunyan. Sheesh, where do I even START?

Well, let's start in the past. Paul Bunyan was a traditional story in folklore, right? Um... maybe not.

Actually, way way waaaaay back in the past, people in jobs such as lumberjacking DID tell these sorts of tall tales. But they weren't coalesced around Paul Bunyan yet. Instead, they told these tales about themselves or about "you know, those anonymous lumberjacks we don't know" or "a friend of a friend". And those of you complaining that this book of Bunyan is "too sweet", well, be careful what you wish for - one notable story I recall has a group of lumberjacks trapped up a tree in winter all peeing together to make a pole to slide down! (Ew!)

Early in the 20th century, around 1910, a journalist had the bright idea to write down a few of these tall tales and pretend they were all about the same person, a Paul Bunyan. And he invented a few things too - there's no evidence, for example, of Babe prior to his invention.

And then 75 years later Steven Kellogg took the seeds from "folklore" and wrote a whole new story using some "traditional" elements (not that traditional - remember, anything that's specifically Bunyan was made up by writers, not by lumberjacks around a campfire!) and some things out of whole cloth.

And that's this book. It's not traditional or authentic - if you want that, go to google and you'll rapidly find yourself with more logging stories (and riverboat stories and mining stories and tall tales of all shapes and sizes) than you know what to do with. It *is* a funny book about the new and old adventures of Paul Bunyan, suitable for kids and classrooms and a great introduction to the wider world of these tales.

And after all - isn't making stuff up what folktales have always been about?

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