Minnesota Folklore

The following is a list of the folklore, fables and mythical people and places in Minnesota that have been written or mentioned in popular media. Some of these have been passed down through generations of Minnesotans and become part of Minnesota culture.

  • Dumb Laws – Strange Laws (fact or fiction)
    Thousands of web sites highlight the “Dumb Laws” in Minnesota, yet most of these laws are fictitious. Click here to view a listing of the supposedly “dumb laws” or “strange laws” associated with Minnesota.
  • Paul Bunyan (Mythical Folk Hero)
    Paul Bunyan is not so much exclusive to Minnesota, but the stories about him told in Minnesota talk about this larger than life lumberjack who lived in the “North Woods”. It’s told that he could cut down an entire forest of trees in one fell swoop of his axe. In Minnesota, there are dozens of statues and monuments scattered around Northern Minnesota dedicated to Paul Bunyan and his companion, Babe the Blue Ox.
  • Kensington Runestone (fact or fiction?)
    The Kensington Runestone is an actual stone that was found in Alexandria, MN in 1898. It has markings that are similar to those made by Viking explorers from the 14th century. The stone has been researched over and over again by scholars who state that it’s authentic, yet one of the world’s foremost experts in runology  (Aslak Liestol) has expressed much doubt. If authentic, it would prove that the Vikings reached America about 200 years earlier than Christopher Columbus.
  • Frostbite Falls, Minnesota (fictional name based on real location)
    From the American animated TV series Rocky and His Friends and The Bullwinkle Show. For more information, view our The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show page.
  • Haplin, Minnesota (fact or fiction?)
    Based on the 2010 ABC television series “Happy Town”. For more information, view our Happy Town – Haplin, MN page.
  • Hiawatha (fictional Native American)
    Hiawatha (in terms of association to Minnesota), was Minnehaha’s lover’s name from the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s 1855 poem “The Song of Hiawatha”. You’ll find Hiawatha’s name associated with streets and other landmarks around the city of Minneapolis. The fictional “Hiawatha” associated with Minneapolis is not the same “Hiawatha” who was a co-founder of the Iroquois Confederacy long ago.
  • Lake Wobegone (semi-fictional location)
    Lake Wobegon is a small town created and written about by Minnesota native Garrison Keillor. Keillor has said that Lake Wobegone is located in rural Minnesota and in a National Geographic article, he associated Lake Wobegone to actual Minnesota towns like Freeport and Holdingford. Keillor has lived in Freeport, MN so it’s likely that Lake Wobegone is more fact than fiction.
  • Minnehaha (fictional Native American)
    Minnehaha is a Ojibwe Indian character from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s 1855 poem “The Song of Hiawatha”. You’ll find Minnehaha’s name associated with many places in Minneapolis, such as Minnehaha Falls, Minnehaha Park, Minnehaha Creek, Minnehaha Academy. Minnehaha translates to “waterfall” or “rapid water” in the Dakota Indian language
  • Minnesota Fats (fictional character)
    Minnesota Fats was a fictional pool player in the 1959 novel, and 1961 film titled “The Hustler”. New York City born Rudolf Wanderone adopted the nickname “Minnesota Fats” later on after the film’s technical director (Willie Mosconi) stated that  the “Minnesota Fats” character in the film was based on Wanderone.
  • Nokomis (fictional Native American)
    Nokomis was Hiawatha’s Grandmother’s name from the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s 1855 poem “The Song of Hiawatha”. You’ll find Nokomis’s name associated with Lake Nokomis and the Nokimis neighborhood in Minneapolis, as well as other landmarks around the city of Minneapolis. In the Ojibwe language, “nookomis” means “your grandmother”.
  • WJM-TV (fictional network)
    WJM were the call letters for the television station that Mary Richards (Mary Tyler Moore) was working in the “Mary Tyler Moore Show”. In the series Mary Richards was employed in the newsroom television station WJM, the lowest rated station in its market. All of the opening scenes were filmed in Minneapolis. The show garnered three Emmy Awards as “Outstanding Comedy Series” in 1975, 1976 and 1977.

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