cover of book

Bloodstoppers and Bearwalkers: Folk Traditions of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula
by Richard M. Dorson
edited by James P. Leary
University of Wisconsin Press, 2008
Paper: 978-0-299-22714-2
Library of Congress Classification GR110.M6D67 2008

Remote and rugged, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (fondly known as “the U.P.”) has been home to a rich variety of indigenous peoples and Old World immigrants—a heritage deeply embedded in today’s “Yooper” culture. Ojibwes, French Canadians, Finns, Cornish, Poles, Italians, Slovenians, and others have all lived here, attracted to the area by its timber, mineral ore, and fishing grounds. Mixing local happenings with supernatural tales and creatively adapting traditional stories to suit changing audiences, the diverse inhabitants of the U.P. have created a wealth of lore populated with tricksters, outlaws, cunning trappers and poachers, eccentric bosses of the mines and lumber camps, “bloodstoppers” gifted with the lifesaving power to stop the flow of blood, “bearwalkers” able to assume the shape of bears, and more.
            For folklorist Richard M. Dorson, who ventured into the region in the late 1940s, the U.P. was a living laboratory, a storyteller’s paradise. Bloodstoppers and Bearwalkers, based on his extensive fieldwork in the area, is his richest and most enduring work. This new edition, with a critical introduction and an appendix of additional tales selected by James P. Leary, restores and expands Dorson’s classic contribution to American folklore. Engaging and well informed, the book presents and ponders the folk narratives of the region’s loggers, miners, lake sailors, trappers, and townsfolk. Unfolding the variously peculiar and raucous tales of the U.P., Bloodstoppers and Bearwalkers reveals a vital component of Upper Midwest culture and a fascinating cross-section of American society.
Richard M. Dorson (1916–81) was a professor of history and folklore at Indiana University and the author of many books on American folk traditions, including American Folklore; America in Legend: Folklore from the Colonial Period to the Present; and Folklore and Folklif: an Introduction.
James P. Leary is professor of folklore and Scandinavian studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where he also directs the Folklore Program and is cofounder of the Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Cultures. A native of northern Wisconsin, he is the author of Wisconsin Folklore; So Ole Says to Lena: Folk Humor of the Upper Midwest; and Polkabilly: How the Goose Island Ramblers Redefined American Folk Music.

“An important re-introduction of an American folklore classic.”—Carl Lindahl, University of Houston

“A collection of traditions, tales, superstitions, practices, and folk biographies that range from the slyly humorous to the bawdy. . . . These are human beings, a folk, not sitting for a portrait, but caught alive as it were in fine amber, a permanent possession.”—Thelma G. James, Journal of American Folklore

“Dorson’s first great book—published amidst Cold War clamoring for Americanism defined in narrow, Eastern-oriented, Anglo-Protestant, assimilationist terms—asserted unequivocally that the Upper Midwest, with its unruly democratic mixture of indigenous and immigrant peoples, its rustic working class babel of Native and foreign tongues, was also an American place, and a quintessential one at that. In writing what he did when he did, Dorson anticipated a whole generation of scholars dedicated to challenging canons by emphasizing the power, worth, and endless creativity of grassroots, plural, hybrid, and creolized cultures fermenting at the margins of staid, hierarchical social orders.”—James P. Leary, from the introduction

    Introduction by James P. Leary	000
    Preface to the 1971 edition		000
    Acknowledgments to the 1971 edition	000
    The Background of This Book		1
    Part I. The Indian Tradition
    1. Indians Stuffed and Live		15
    2. Bearwalkers		26
    3. Tricksters and Thunders		38
    Part II. The European Tradition
    4. Canadiens		69
    5. Cousin Jacks		103
    6. Finns		123
    7. Bloodstoppers		150
    Part III. The Native Tradition
    8. Townsfolk		169
    9. Lumberjacks		186
    10. Miners		211
    11. Lakesmen		231
    12. Sagamen		249
    Notes on the Tales		275
    More Commentary and Tales from the Upper Peninsula		000
    Index		000
“In writing what he did when he did, Dorson anticipated a whole generation of scholars dedicated to challenging canons by emphasizing the power, worth, and endless creativity of grassroots, plural, hybrid, and creolized cultures fermenting at the margins.”—James P. Leary, from the new introduction

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