A lumberjack of huge size and strength, Paul Bunyan is an old folkloric character in the American psyche. He, and his blue ox, Babe, were so large their footsteps created Minnesota's ten-thousand lakes. Babe had 42 ax handles and a plug of chewing tobacco between his ears. He was found during the winter of the blue snow; his mate was Bessie, the Yaller Cow.
Like many myths, this explains a physical phenomenon. Bunyan's birth was strange, as are the births of many mythic heroes, as it took seventeen storks to carry the infant (ordinarily, one stork could carry several babies and drop them off at their parents' home). Paul and Babe dug the Grand Canyon by dragging his axe behind him. He is a classic Americann "big man" who was popular in 19th century America as an exemplar of a minority group.
The myth of Paul Bunyan can be traced back to James MacGillivray, a reporter for the Detroit News. He collected the stories from actual lumberjacks, and began disseminating the legend with the July 24, 1910 printing of The Round River Drive which included the following, concerning Dutch Jake (another mythical lumberjack of great strength) and the narrator participating in a Bunyan-sponsored contest to cut down the biggest tree in the forest.
Other Big Men: