Paul Bunyan, Babe, and Bison

For my project, I chose the topic of bison because of the “Blue Babe” carcass of a pre-historic bison that was the museum. I had immediately recognized the name of the carcass as homage to Paul Bunyan’s oversized blue ox named Babe. I have always been fascinated by the story of Paul Bunyan and Babe because I’ve grown up in the northern woodland climate, and so I thought that Paul Bunyan could be an appropriate avenue for this assignment. There have been a lot of various stories that have been told of Paul and Babe, most of the stories centered on terrific feats of human strength. So I felt that it could be easy to take key elements from the various stories about them and spin it off with my own take/story. Plus, they and other key figures helped establish American folklore and the term “tall tale.” Since the stories of Paul and Babe are usually set in the northern woodland areas in forests, I thought it could definitely be intriguing for Alaskans in particular to learn more about. Some of the similarities between the Minnesotan forests and Alaskan forests are there to be explored, and Alaska used to be used a lot for timber and other facets in the logging industry.

I could also talk about the significance of the bison on the Great Plains to the various Native American tribes that used them as a source for food, clothing, and tools. I know that perhaps with a little bit of research, I could find stories and folklore about the bison and their effects on the tribes. I could perhaps include stories of the bison from when they were prominent (pre-1860) to when they were being decimated by white American hunters in order to be driven off of the Plains and onto reservations.

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2 thoughts on “Paul Bunyan, Babe, and Bison

  1. This is a smart idea and if you have trouble looking for folklore on bison, look up the meaning of bison. Bison usually mean stability, strength, prosperity and much more. This could help you create a folklore to tie in with the bison and the Indians. Maybe the traits on bison might be able to give you a deeper connection to why the Indians and many others used bison and if not, then you could always create your own connections that run deeper than the connections you already know about and explain why. You would be created your own folklore or a possible folklore that did exist, but wasn’t told. Maybe even bring in some elements of the actual reason blue babe turned blue but with your own spin like you said. I posted this earlier, but my comment isn’t currently showing so I’m being on the safe side and reposting my comment.

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  2. This is a great idea! The next step here is to start looking for specific retellings of the Babe story. Where does this story appear in print? What are the variations of this story and the ways that Babe is presented and bison more generally are presented? What kinds of effects does this have on the way that we understand the woods, size, and our relationships with animals? I think there will be a lot to write about here. Good job!

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