ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

OUT OF THE NORTHWOODS the Many Lives of Paul Bunyan by Michael Edmonds

Updated on November 5, 2015

Paul and Blue Ox

Paul Bunyan statue in Bemidgi, MN photo from wiki media commons by Ase500
Paul Bunyan statue in Bemidgi, MN photo from wiki media commons by Ase500 | Source

A Book Review

Anyone interested in social history, the culture of lumberjacks, the development of a folk hero and folktales, history of lumbering or Paul Bunyan, Edmond’s book is a must read.
The author has been with the Wisconsin Historical Society since 1982.

It was while looking for lumberjack memoirs to put on line he got interested in the origins of Paul Bunyan. He traces how the legend started from jokes and stories told as entertainment in the bunkhouses of the lumberjacks. In the process he describes much about the life of the lumberjacks of the 19th Century. These rugged men lived in isolated conditions with only the entertainment they could generate themselves for diversion. So they played and sang song, got in fights and told tall stories. Many of the original stories were off color or blue as they say today. That would be expected in an all male population. This aspect of the stories changed as a more popular audience was sought in a Victorian culture.

Edmonds traces how the stories went from the oral tradition to being written down and published for advertising and finally into children’s books. The image of Bunyan changed considerably along the way. Edmonds studied numerous unpublished manuscripts of early editors and found many Bunyan stories which were told by lumberjacks from 1885 to 1915. He”…recounts a saga of lies, hoaxes, thefts, and greed that transformed the private jokes of working-class loggers into mass-market picture books for toddlers.” (from the book jacket notes.)

The book also serves as a social history telling of the evolving folktale from the oral tradition to other forms. It also tells much about the life of the early lumberjacks, as well as the lumber business.

The Bunyan tales were probably told wherever there were lumberjacks from Maine to California. The men themselves often went from one place to another and thus spread the stories. from camp to camp. That is probably the reason we see tributes to Bunyan in advertising a range of products in many different places.

Paul Bunyan Legends


But the origins are more clouded. Tall ales were told in New England around the hearths of colonists about intense cold Winters where words froze in the air and snow so deep it reached the treetops. In the 1899’s many stories were taken west by farmers and others, but Paul Bunyan was not in any of them.

In the 1840’s loggers from Maine went to Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota and brought songs and stories, but they never heard of Paul Bunyan.

On page 2 the author relates “Wisconsin timber cruise Bill Mullhollen told the first reliable documented tales about Paul Bunyan during the winter of 1885-1886 in the upper Wisconsin River Valley,,,”

Edmonds considers certain places in Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota to be important to the Paul Bunyan legend. He gives detailed accounts of researchers and collectors of the legends. The book is illustrated with vintage pictures of lumberjacks. It also has tables and a bibliography.

Even though this book is more about how the Paul Bunyan legend evolved than about the folk hero himself, an appendix is supplied with about 100 Paul Bunyan stories.

© 2010 Don A. Hoglund


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      8 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      I found the book very interesting. No only for the Paul Bunyan information, but because of the insight into the way legends and myths evolve in general.

    • Coolmon2009 profile image


      8 years ago from Texas, USA

      I love this article! I have been fascinated with this story since i was a kid. Never knew it was more to this story till now. I have watched the Walt Disney animated story more than 10 times over the last 30 years. Now I know there is more to the story :)

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      8 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      I'm glad you read my review of the book, which I liked very much.mThanks for you comments.

    • profile image

      Michael Edmonds 

      8 years ago

      I'm glad you folks are enjoying the book. I certainly had fun researching and writing it. I'll be in your neck of the woods (so to speak) on July 22, when I'm giving a book talk at the McMillan Public Library in Wisconsin Rapids at 7:00pm. I'll also be in Minocqua on July 8 and Rhinelander on July 10 (probably), so please drop by.

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      8 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting

    • eovery profile image


      8 years ago from MIddle of the Boondocks of Iowa

      Thanks for the info.

      Keep on hubbing!

    • dahoglund profile imageAUTHOR

      Don A. Hoglund 

      8 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Peggy W

      Thanks for commenting. I just finished reading the book. I think it gives insight into how folktales evolve from the oral tradition to other forms. I wouldn't be surprised if the same thing were true of classics like Grimm's and Anderson s fairy tales.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      8 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Interesting! Thanks for the heads up!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)