1017 Paul Bunyan
Jakes tells Shirley about a popular folk hero to American school children.
- Slide Show
- Audio Notes
Jake: Good. How are you Shirley?
Shirley: Not too bad thanks. I thought we might talk about folk heroes today. I don’t really know much about American folk heroes, are there any that you have a favorite or...?
Jake: Actually my hometown in the United States happens to be known as one of the hometowns for Paul Bunyan.
Shirley: I think I’ve heard of that name but I don’t know anything about him.
Jake: Paul Bunyan was a lumberjack. Like, he would cut down trees and he was supposedly a very giant man. He was huge. And I don’t know if he ever actually lived sometime in the past, but maybe he was just a very large man but somehow the stories have been passed down to say that he was as large as a house or as large as a skyscraper. It completely depends on who you ask.
Shirley: Wow, so not sure whether he’s a mythical character or a real character.
Jake: No one really knows for sure.
Shirley: What did he do?
Jake: Well, some people say that he took his ax and he dragged it behind his back across the United States and he made the Mississippi river.
Shirley: So it’s a kind of story to explain why something exists.
Jake: That’s part of it. And also, he had a pet too. His pet is very famous.
Shirley: And what kind of pet?
Jake: His pet was an ox, but it wasn’t just an ordinary ox. It was a blue ox. And it was also oversized to fit with his size.
Shirley: What did his pet do?
Jake: Well his pet I think would just carry lumber for him or something...
Shirley: So about when did this story start? When did Paul Bunyan become famous? Or when did people know about that story?
Jake: Well, I’m not exactly sure, but like your country, the United States is a very young country and has a very young history since the European settlers came there so I think it’s maybe from a couple hundred years ago, maybe at the most.
Shirley: Hmm. Ok.
“Not too bad” is a common response to the greeting and question, “How are you?” It is another way of saying “good”. It is also used to answer many other simple questions. Note the following example:
A: How was the movie?
B: Not too bad, but I thought it would be better.
A folk hero is a real person or fictional character who is famous in a particular community or culture. See the examples below:
- Santa Claus is a folk hero who is famous around the world.
- In our small town, our local firefighter has become a folk hero for his bravery.
A skyscraper is a very tall building. It is called a skyscraper because it is so tall that it seems to scrape, or scratch, against the sky. Notice the following examples:
- We could see the entire city from the top floor of the skyscraper.
- There are many new skyscrapers in Beijing.
A myth is a story that is often used to explain something. Usually, a myth is fictional, or untrue. Mythical is an adjective to describe something that comes from a fictional story. See the examples below:
- A unicorn is a mythical animal.
- There are many mythical characters in ancient Greek stories.
Lumber is what trees are called when they are cut into boards. Wood that has been prepared to be used for construction is called lumber. See the examples below:
- One of the main exports in Canada is lumber.
- I need to go to the hardware store to buy some lumber.