Big Joe Mufferaw

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Statue of Mufferaw in Mattawa, Ontario.

Big Joe Mufferaw was a French Canadian folk hero from the Ottawa Valley, perhaps best known today as the hero of a song by Stompin' Tom Connors. Like Paul Bunyan, he made his living chopping down trees. The name is also sometimes spelled Muffero, Muffera, Muffraw, and Montferrand. The last spelling is more common among francophones; anglophones who had trouble with it used one of the other spellings.

In addition to being the subject of many Paul Bunyan-esque tall tales, Mufferaw is sometimes enlisted as a defender of oppressed French Canadian loggers in the days when their bosses were English and their rivals for work were Irish. In one story, Big Joe was in a Montreal bar, where a British army major named Jones was freely insulting French Canadians. After Big Joe beat the major, he bellowed, "Any more insults for the Canadians?"

Some Mufferaw tales take place in the United States.

A real strongman, a logger in the Ottawa Valley timber trade by the name of Joseph Montferrand lived from 1802 to 1864. French Canadian writer Benjamin Sulte told this man's story in a 1975 book. He also is the subject of a chapter in Joan Finnegan's 1981 book Giants of the Ottawa Valley and her 1983 book Look! The Land Is Growing Giants. Bernie Bedore of Arnprior also wrote several books recounting Joe's adventures.

A statue of Joe Mufferaw was erected outside of the Mattawa Museum in Mattawa, Ontario, during the spring of 2005. It was carved by local carving artist Peter Cianafrani, and was his last statue before he died later in the spring. A plaque commemorating his name sits at the base of the statue.

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Bibliography
  • Bedore, Bernie (1975), The shanty: a story from the Ottawa Valley of Canada, Arnprior, Ontario: Mufferaw Enterprises 
  • Bedore, Bernie (1979), Tall tales of Joe Mufferaw, Toronto, Ontario: Consolidated Amethyst Communications