How Well Do You Know American Myths and Legends?

Weston Whitener

Who was the giant logging man who could carry a pine tree over his shoulder?

Paul Bunyan is a beloved character in Northwestern and Midwestern folklore. He's credited with creating Puget Sound and the Grand Canyon!

What was the name of Paul Bunyan's bovine companion?

Very rarely are Paul Bunyan and his trusty helper Babe the Blue Ox shown apart. The legend goes that Babe was blue because she got lost in the great Blue Snow Storm. Paul saved her, and she grew up to be his helper.

Who was Butch Cassidy's fast companion?

Harry Longabaugh, better known as the Sundance Kid, joined up with Butch Cassidy's gang and entered history. His fate has been lost to history, however; most believe he and Butch died in Bolivia.

What was Butch Cassidy's gang called?

Butch and Sundance ran with the Wild Bunch, robbing trains and banks in the twilight years of the American West. The Wild Bunch had one of the longest crime sprees in the era!

Which president refused to shoot a bound bear?

Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt was presented with a captured old bear and refused to shoot it. The act inspired the toy we all know and love: the Teddy Bear.

How would Paul Revere know if the British were coming by land or sea?

"Listen, my children, and you shall hear, of the midnight ride of Paul Revere," begins Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's romantic poem about the silversmith who warned "every Middlesex village and farm" that the British were indeed coming. The facts behind Longfellow's poem are somewhat skewed, but the poem has captured the American imagination for centuries.

What did Johnny Appleseed wear for a hat?

Johnny Appleseed the legend was never without his cookware! Though the mythical character is mainly fiction, John Chapman did exist, and he did bring apple seeds across the American West!

What did Johnny Appleseed wear for shoes?

Johnny Appleseed must have had tough feet, because he wandered the West without shoes! Sadly, the real John Chapman died of exposure.

What were Revolutionary War spy Nathan Hale's last words?

When Nathan Hale was hung by the British, it's said he regretted losing one life for his country. It's historically unclear what Hale actually said as he faced death, but the quote will forever be associated with his name.

What did Hester Prynne have to wear for committing adultery?

Nathaniel Hawthorne's great American novel, "The Scarlet Letter," centers on Hester Prynne's refusal to accuse the father of her illegitimate daughter, Pearl. Her Puritan community assigns her the titular shame.

What was Tom Sawyer's scolding aunt's name?

Aunt Polly has a lot to deal with. Tom always gets into trouble and never seems to learn from his errors!

Who were the two con artists who joined Huckleberry Finn and Jim on their journey?

Huck and Jim assist with the duke and the king's act, until Huck thwarts their final con. The duke and the king get their names from a game of one-upmanship as they introduce themselves to Huck and Jim, the duke going first and the king going second in defining their great stature.

Who was the last of the Patuxet Wampanoag natives, who helped the Pilgrims survive in the New World?

Also known as Tisquantum, Squanto helped save the Plymouth Pilgrims from starvation by showing them how to fertilize their cornfields with fish. He was taken from America and sold into slavery in Spain, taken from there to England and brought back to Cape Cod, where his knowledge of English helped him communicate with the new settlers.

Who is said to have sewed the first American Flag?

Widowed by the Revolutionary War, Betsy Ross was carrying on her husband's upholstery business when she claimed she was approached by the Founding Fathers to sew the nation's first flag. It was Betsy who insisted on using five-pointed stars rather than six-pointed stars in the design, as she thought they would look better. Whether or not Ross actually did make the first flag has not been historically confirmed.

What was Mike Fink's famous occupation?

Mike Fink is famous for many things, but his title will remain "king of the keelboatmen." He was also a rough-and-tumble fighter, a marksman and a world-class boaster.

What prompted George Washington to say, "I cannot tell a lie"?

The story about honesty was a lie! A Washington biographer, eager to earn a profit after the president's death, created the story.

How did "Wild Bill" Hickok meet his demise?

Wild Bill Hickok was shot and killed while playing poker in a Deadwood saloon. Legend has it he held the dead-man's hand, aces and eights, when he was gunned down.

Who led Lewis and Clark across America?

Sacagawea guided Meriwether Lewis and William Clark along Shoshone trails and helped them gain safe passage through the western United States. Sacagawea carried her son, Jean-Baptiste Charbonneau, throughout the journey, usually on her back!

What king of the wild frontier killed a bear when he was only three?

Davy Crockett, the famous Tennessee backwoodsman, went on to politics! He was elected to Congress multiple times, but his title will remain "King of the Wild Frontier."

What pinch hitter didn't pull through for the Mudville 9 when he went to bat?

Ernest Lawrence Thayer's comically disappointing poem, "Casey at the Bat," features a beloved baseball player getting struck out. Casey watches the first two pitches go by, then swings and misses at the final pitch to lose the game.

How did General William Travis supposedly ask his men to stay at the Alamo with him?

Though it's likely not true, legend has it that General Travis drew his sword and traced a line in the sand, asking any man willing to sacrifice his life to step across. Davy Crockett was among those who stepped across the line.

Other cowboys broke horses, but what did Pecos Bill ride?

Pecos Bill performed many feats, but his wrestling a tornado may be his most famous. The legend goes that he broke the Texas twister like a horse!

What trickster animal matches wits with Br'er Fox, and almost always bests him?

The stories of Br'er Rabbit often involve the trickster outfoxing Br'er Fox. He does so with a variety of methods, perhaps most famously with a "tar baby."

Who was the "Little Sure Shot" who starred in Buffalo Bill's Wild West show?

Annie Oakley's sharpshooting is the stuff of legend - and probably historical fact. She is said to have shot playing cards edge-wise from thirty paces, dimes tossed in the air, and cigarettes from her husband's lips!

What famously secret government base is known for UFO sightings?

Area 51 has been called the most well-known secret facility in America. Conspiracy theories surround the base, including that extraterrestrial technology is being stored there. It's created a modern American mythology around aliens and UFO sightings!

What Chicago gangster was famous for orchestrating the St. Valentine's Day Massacre?

Al Capone encapsulated the American gangster myth. His character and characture were bigger than life. The St. Valentine's Day Massacre of 1929 involved a rivalry between Capone and fellow gangster Bugs Moran.

What spooky ghoul drove Ichabod Crane out of Sleepy Hollow?

The dark Headless Horseman replaced his head with a flaming pumpkin and chased Ichabod Crane out of town. The Headless Horseman is seen in many films and TV shows, and he's Sleepy Hollow High School's mascot!

What are antlered jackrabbits called?

Jackalopes have been fabricated by taxidermists since the mid-20th century. The critters are said to live in the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains, sing during nocturnal thunderstorms, and mate only during flashes of lightning.

Who beat a steam hammer at laying railroad track, but died doing it?

John Henry is an African-American folk hero, prophesied to accomplish greatness at the cost of his life. His competition with an heartless machine is poetically wrapped up with his human heart giving out.

What are the ape-like creatures who walk on two big feet in the Pacific Northwest called?

Sasquatch comes from the Coast Salish Indian word "se'sxac," meaning "wild man." The first Bigfoot tracks discovery was made by British explorer David Thompson in 1811, and the hairy creature has captured the popular imagination ever since!

Which legendary outlaw went by William H. Bonney?

Billy the Kid had a short, violent life. He had shot and killed a man by the age of 16, lived on the run, and was shot dead by Pat Garrett by the age of 21. He wasn't dubbed "Billy the Kid" until a few months before his death!

What "gentleman bandit" famously dressed in a white duster and a flour sack with holes cut out for his eyes, and robbed Wells Fargo wagons?

Black Bart was born Charles E. Boles and was famed for his humor and trickery. He's said to have placed funny verses and poems in the empty strongboxes he left behind!

Who was a legendary guerilla leader in the Apache Wars, eluding armies of thousands in the American Southwest?

Geronimo finally surrendered to General Nelson Miles after a four-month chase across 2,000 miles, and so ended the Apache Wars. He was a celebrity, invited by Theodore Roosevelt to his inauguration and to the St. Louis World's Fair!

Who combed his hair with a wagon wheel and died of a toothache in his heel?

The song Old Dan Tucker was a favorite square dance number. It was originally composed by Daniel Decatur Emmett for his minstrel shows.

Who fell asleep for a little too long, then woke up with a long beard in a new era?

Rip Van Winkle appeared in a short story by Washington Irving, who also wrote "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." Irving drew on German and English legends in his story of magical sleep, and the revolutionary changes seen in the 18th century.

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About This Quiz

Each question tests your knowledge of American myths, legends, tall tales and even some historical icons, with four possible answers. Do you think you know American mythology?

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