De’myth’tifying Minnesota

PHOTO: Lorie Shaull, Flickr CC-BY

A couple weeks ago I reviewed a new novel reframing the Paul Bunyan myth that still prevails in Minnesota tourism and culture. Today, I share a new essay for the Minnesota Reformer entitled “Paul Bunyan and the weight of myth.” This piece digs deeper into the Bunyan story and how it shaped the cultural perception of generations of Minnesotans.

Here’s an excerpt: 

The problem with history is that everybody gets the myth while few get the whole story. Myths are validating and fun. Truth often isn’t. Then, when facts challenge myth, defensiveness kicks in. Are we really canceling Paul Bunyan? Stories create an emotional truth that few are willing to surrender. 

Politics and religion are just stories by another name.

Read more in “Paul Bunyan and the weight of myth” at the Minnesota Reformer.

NOTE: I was working on this essay in January when when MinnPost published this fine MNopedia piece by Kasey Keeler. Keeler’s work shares some additional fascinating history about the Bunyan myth and its intersection with Ojibwe history. When you read it, you’ll know why I banged my head on the desk after I saw it.


  1. Joe musich says

    Thanks for the additional reference. The casinos on native property have hardly dented the money owed. I say that as the nonsense regarding the complaining regarding the returning of Upper Red Lake land is brewing. Another reason the state flag needed the change it received.

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