Section 6. Myth and Allegory


1. Paul Bunyan’s Pictorial Map of the United States depicting some of his deeds and exploits
R. D. (Ray DeWitt) Handy, 1935

R.D. Handy designed and published this colorful map of the deeds and exploits of the mythical figure of Paul Bunyan (and Babe, his blue ox) in 1935. As a giant lumberjack with superhuman strength, Paul Bunyan has been a popular figure in both American and Canadian folklore since the late-19th century, and many lumbering locales, including Bangor, Maine, claim Bunyan as their own. In fact Handy marks Bunyan’s birthplace as the state of Maine on this map–a distinction the states of Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin would likely contest. In this humorous narrative map, Handy has (among many other exploits) Babe the Ox digging the Mammoth Caves, Paul building Niagara Falls as a shower, and then digging the Great Lakes as a watering hole for Babe. It must be noted, however, that Handy’s humor at times veers towards the harmful racial stereotypes and caricatures (particlularly of Black men) that were all too common on the popular pictorial maps of the 1930s. As part of our commitment to teaching with maps and anti-racist work, the Osher Map Library and Smith Center for Cartographic Education staff feel it is important to document and contextualize such instances on materials within our collections.

2. Geographical Guide to a Man’s Heart / Geographical Guide to a Woman’s Heart
Jo Lowrey, 1960

Based on a similar pair of maps printed by the Kellogg Brothers during the Victorian era, this pair of allegorical hearts purports to be a “Geographical Guide” to the innermost emotions (and fantasies) of men and women. Designed by Jo Lowrey and printed in the January 1960 issue of McCall’s Magazine, the world of each heart is divided into lands, states, territories and countries. Modern viewers will no doubt notice that each heart is deeply entrenched in the stringent (and stereotypical) heteronormative gender roles of mid-20th century middle-class America. Men are “big operators” with independent streaks, a desire to garner wealth, and a propensity for a good time before settling in the state of solid comfort, while women are lovers of love and conversation and frivolity, with the ability to spend a brief time in party girl province before traversing the “River of the Good Homemaker” before settling in “Mother Country.” Each heart has avenues, gates, and causeways lining its edges, a multitude of entrances to facilitate the joining of hearts.

3. The Shield of Achilles, as described by Homer, Iliad 18th in 12 Compartments; With ye Heavens and Earth in the middle, and the Waves of the Ocean round the whole Circumference
Unknown Author, 1749

In the Iliad, Homer told the tale of the ancient siege and eventual capture of Troy (Illium) by the Greeks. Chapter 18 describes the shield made by the god-smith Vulcan for the Greek hero Achilles. The shield’s design was an image of all of creation, “the image of the master-mind.” The poem was not, however, clear about the arrangement of the parts. Modern reconstructions agree that the earth was placed at the center, surrounded by the heavens, and that around the edge of the shield was the circular ocean sea. But there has been little agreement about the scenes of life—war and peace; farming and townlife; daily and special rituals—and every drawing of the shield is different.

4. K-12 Illustrated Map: Atlantis City
Beulah L. of Portland (Presumscot Elementary, 5th Grade), 2020

5. K-12 Illustrated Map: Hermes
Avisha M. of Saco (Saco Middle School, 6th Grade), 2021

6. K-12 Illustrated Map: Macedonia
Avella M. of Yarmouth (Harrison Middle School, 5th Grade), 2019

Next Section: 7. Children’s Books and Games