When we were driving through redwood country in northern California, we came across a colossal statue of Paul Bunyan and his companion, Babe the blue ox. Paul Bunyan is an American legend, a mythical, giant lumberjack. There are all kinds of stories about his adventures. This statue, which was in the parking lot of the Trees of Mystery attraction, had the voice of a man speaking to the tourists who approached the statue to take pictures. Paul Bunyan and I chatted about our trip. It was a neat trick.
The Paul Bunyan stories mostly consist of him being very very very large and doing things with a huge impact. You could say that Paul Bunyan is kind of a deity. He’s larger than life, has unworldly powers. And there are statues of him all over the US where he is revered and honored.
The whole thing reminds me of Hindu shrines, especially the temples dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva and his bovine companion, Nandi. Notice how both of their right hands are raised in the position of a classic mudra. They also both hold weapons. Paul holds his trusty ax, while Shiva has his trident. Paul is almost always portrayed in blue trousers. And Shiva is usually depicted with blue skin. Babe is also always blue. While Nandi is white, there is a species of antelope in Northern India called a nilgai or blue bull. There are so many of them that they’re considered pests.
Shiva and Paul Bunyan also share many similar adventures. They’ve both subdued giant snakes, formed mountain ranges, created rivers or oceans, and generally go about their business with moral indifference.
Could there be some connection here between the Paul Bunyan legends and Indian cosmology?