Each one of the 50 U.S. states has its own feted folk hero and we’ve cataloged every single one of them here. Some of them are real-life figures, while others are the stuff of legend. In either case, they provide a wagon-load of fascinating stories, ranging from the implausible to the hair-raising. The folklore tales include a smart bunny, a man made of steel, two king-killers, and a 35-foot aquatic beast. Read on to find out about the principal folk hero in your state.
Alabama — John Henry
John Henry, an African-American railroad worker, features in a number of folk ballads. The legend has it that he was a man of exceptional strength, capable of performing astonishing feats. He competed with a steam-powered machine to see who could dig a hole for dynamite into a mountainside the quickest. Henry won, but died soon after, a victim of his own exertions. According to The New York Times, the myth might be based on a real character.
Alaska — Kiviuq
Kiviuq is a character from the folklore of the Inuit people of Alaska, although his fame stretches into Canada and across the sea to Greenland as well. He led a nomadic life, never settling in one place and traveling across land and water aboard dog sleds, kayaks, and even fish. Kiviuq is famed for the ferocious and ultimately victorious battles he fought against various formidable sea monsters.
Arizona — Lozen
A real-life Apache woman, Lozen lived in the 19th century. It was in the 1870s that she took on heroic status for her determined resistance to the encroachments of settlers on ancestral Apache lands. Her brother Victorio led an uprising in 1877 and after he was killed in battle she became leader of her people. For a time she fought alongside another legendary but real-life character, Geronimo.
Arkansas — The Arkansas Traveler
This story revolves around a prominent Arkansasan of the mid-19th century when the state was still young, Colonel Sanford C. “Sandy” Faulkner. As the story has it, Faulkner was strolling through the forest one day when he came across a tumbledown shack. Curiosity piqued, he peered inside. A single occupant was in the cabin; this man handed Sandy a fiddle. The two began a duet, improvising a song that was to become the famous ballad “The Arkansas Traveler.”