Big Onion; Origin of "Paul Bunyan" (1904? 1906?)

Charles Doyle cdoyle at UGA.EDU
Thu Nov 29 22:12:43 UTC 2007

It might be of some historical interest to note that the great folklorist Richard Dorson coined the term "fakelore" specifically in reference to Paul Bunyan and his ilk--heroes with little (or no) basis in genuine oral tradition, largely the fabrications of journalists, chamber-of-commerce boosters, literary local-colorists, or writers of children's books, who would often package the tales as "folklore."

For "fakelore" the OED cites Dorson in 1949: ". . . not folklore but what I have elsewhere called fakelore." The "elsewhere" is mysterious; my surmise is that he may have used the term in an article completed and submitted earlier but printed later than 1949. Dorson divided the spelling in the title of his famous (among folklorists!) 1950 article "Folklore and Fake Lore" (_American Mercury_ 70: 335 f.).


---- Original message ----
>Date: Sat, 24 Nov 2007 09:57:49 -0800
>From: Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM>
>1904 is undoubtedly the earliest discovered date, Barry.  For many years the date to beat was 1910.
>  Bunyan was a prominent topic among American folklorists from the '20s through the '50s, but now they mostly don't care. The character appeared in 1914 in an advertising booklet written and illustrated by W. B. Laughead for the Red River Lumber Co. of Westwood, Calif. Ex-lumberman Laughead claimed to have heard his first Bunyan story between 1900 and 1908 in northern Minnestota. He said the original ad campaign was a flop because few loggers had ever heard the name of Paul Bunyan.
>  JL

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