1018 The Nature of Myths
Jake shares with Shirley why the myth of Paul Bunyan still lives on today.
Jake: Yes, both. At school I remember having maybe a Paul Bunyan day. It’s not an actual national holiday but at school I think we had maybe one day when I was in preschool or kindergarten where we would just talk about Paul Bunyan. They would show us picture books of Paul Bunyan and we would make art based on Paul Bunyan. Things like that.
Shirley: That’s pretty amazing that he’s so famous and just for making the Mississippi river. Is there something special about the river that makes it important in America?
Jake: Well it’s definitely the most important river in America, I would say. It’s large and it crosses the entire United States down the middle and, yes, the Mississippi river is very important to the United States and especially where I’m from because I live near the Mississippi river in the United States.
Shirley: Are there any Native American stories to explain why the Mississippi river is such a big river and why it’s there?
Jake: I’m sure there are but unfortunately we choose to talk about the Paul Bunyan story more for one reason or another. I’m not sure why it’s the most famous, but I’m sure the Native Americans have much older stories to explain the Mississippi river.
Shirley: So Jake, is he famous for anything else other than making that big river?
Jake: Well, I think it’s maybe just a story about hard work for children and things like that, because they would say he had a huge ax and he could cut down ten trees with one swing and things like that.
Shirley: So, not really an environmentalist.
Jake: Not really. I think the story was invented before the environment (movement) was invented, so it’s a bit of an old story...
Shirley: So do they want children to go cut down trees or what’s the purpose of the story now?
Jake: Well I think it just means work hard and prosper, like many stories in the United States.
Shirley: I see.
Are there any Native American stories to explain why the Mississippi river is so big?
Native Americans are the groups of people who were living (and continue to live) in North and South America before the European settlers came. They are also sometimes referred to as “Indians”. See the following examples:
- Native Americans had different lifestyles depending on the available resources where they lived.
- Unfortunately, Native Americans were treated poorly throughout America’s history.
Unfortunately, we choose to talk about the Paul Bunyan story more.
Unfortunate means unlucky. Unfortunately is an adverb which is the same as saying “it’s too bad that...”. Study the examples below:
- Unfortunately, we won’t be able to finish painting today.
- I broke one of the new wine glasses unfortunately.
We choose to talk about the Paul Bunyan story for one reason or another.
“For one reason or another” can be used to explain the reason for something when you don’t really know what the reason is. It is almost like saying, “I am not sure why we do this, but there must be some reasons.” Notice the examples below:
- My son likes to wear different colored socks for one reason or another.
- For one reason or another, history always repeats itself.
So, Paul Bunyan is not really an environmentalist.
An environmentalist is a person who tries to conserve and protect things in nature such as plants, animals, oceans, rivers, soil, and the air quality. A person or a product that is concerned about the environment is also called “green”. Notice the following examples:
- Hybrid cars are very popular with environmentalists.
- Global warming is a top priority for environmentalists.
The story of Paul Bunyan teaches children to work hard and prosper.
To prosper means to have success. It often refers to financial success but it also can refer to being healthy. See the examples below:
- Since he quit drinking, he has really prospered financially.
- The fish really prosper near this coral reef.
Below are some more great lessons!
Native Americans • unfortunately