The Wetfoot Blog

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Pauline's Story

Our depiction of Pauline Bunyan that hangs in Nash was made in the 1950's. Created by famous illustrator Nancy Ekholm Burkert whose work you may have seen in her illustration of Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach. I doubt she may have never known that her painting of this giant woman would have been looked up to by so many. Our Pauline is known as a ruff gruff lumberjill, but upon searching for actual stories about Pauline, I couldn't find much at all.

There is not much folk lore behind Pauline Bunyan. Ol' Paul stories date back to the Civil War. Stories of a larger than life axe toting lumberjack - men of men. From there the stories escalated into tall tales. But Pauline is different. She doesn't really have a story. The earliest account of Pauline I can find is a 1929 summer camp event where numerous camps would come together for lumberjack type games. With women competing in these events along with the men, the Paul Bunyan award turned into the Pauline Bunyan award - just a female take on the male figure. From there to now, Pauline is mostly used to describe a woman that does burly and outdoorsy things - chopping wood, predominantly. 

Some stories put her in the camp cook, camp seamstress - no one can sew a button like Pauline. But again, these stories are rare and hard to find. There some are accounts of Lumberjanes and Lumberjills, even a few mentions of Paula Bunyan, but still not much substance to be found anywhere. And again, these are all ways to describe women doing burly things. 

With our Pauline just finishing her makeover / reconstruction a la Joan Christgau, I thought it would be a good idea to create some folk lore behind the giant woman that is Pauline. If you have any stories, or ideas of what Pauline depicts or means to you - by all means tag a comment on this post and help create this legends identity. Until then, Pauline will be taking a little R&R until Nash construction is completed. 

Joan will be working on Paul next. One of the things she mentioned is not making him look so scary, maybe put a few more teeth in his mouth. We'll get pictures up as her work progresses. 

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