22nd Annual Perspectives on Contemporary Legend Conference
21-24 July 2004
University of Wales, Aberystwyth – Abstracts
Mikel J. Koven
Welcome to the annual conference abstract issue of FTN. Despite writing this introduction a good week before the actual event, the 22nd annual Perspectives on Contemporary Legend conference and ISCLR annual general meeting looks set to be the largest meeting the society has held since 1997 (possibly even longer, but I only have, even partial, data since ’97). This year, there are 34 papers scheduled, with an estimated additional 16 delegates attending, but not presenting. (If anyone has data figures from the years prior to ’97, please forward them to me, as these are useful statistics.)
In finalizing the panels of papers, despite very clear thematic clusters, I tended to avoid organizing themed panels in the end (unless specifically requested, as in a few cases – for details of the schedule, see FTN 58). One of the great things about the PCL conferences are not only the 40 minute presentation times but because there are no concurrent sessions, everyone sees everyone else’s paper; by mixing the presentations running order away from thematic panels, what I think emerges is a clearer representation of the diversity and strength of the current research into contemporary legendry. No longer can we dismiss any aspect of our fields as being anomalous, when they so clearly intersect – which I think the abstracts below indicate. In particular, the research into the dissemination of folklore through various forms of mass media – film, television, advertising, the Internet, etc. – seem to show signs of definite maturation. As folklorists, we no longer seem surprised to find that popular culture knows what we know, and that it knows that we know that it knows. And yet, despite this clearly dynamic dissemination of folklore, in true Toelkenian sense, the traditions of folkloric dissemination are also in evidence, word-of-mouth narratives are still front and centre in these papers. Without wanting to appear overly optimistic, this 22nd annual ISCLR conference seems set to mark a new maturation of folklore studies wherein the mass mediated and traditional oral narration are seen to be less problematic disseminators of contemporary legendry than ever before.
Landscape, Legend and Hyperbole: The Wreck House Wind Phenomenon in Newfoundland
Sir Wilfred Grenfell College
Abstract not available.
Piratelore and Touristlure in Legendary Coastal North Carolina: Blackbeard’s Revenge, Nags Head Land Pirates, and “The Day the Booze Yacht Came Ashore”
East Carolina University
A folklore colleague who lives and works in the southern Appalachian Mountains once teased me with “What is this thing for pirates you have down there?” Indeed, historic pirate individuals, infamous and anonymous, and generic pirates as team mascots, pirates on shore and at sea are coastal North Carolina regional icons just as are the fictive images and tales of the long-lost Virginia Dare; the remaining five lighthouse spires; and the porches, house foundations, driveways, and graves border-lined with “Carolina conch” shells.
This presentation (with images) addresses three legend-based traditions of the North Carolina coast whose enactments help negotiate relations among natives, movers in, and people “from off,” especially the summer high tides of tourists whose visitor dollars form the foundation of the region’s economy.
Edward (Blackbeard) Teach (Thatch), a pirate active for a brief period in the late 18th century on the North Carolina coast, is the historical figure central to legends of unmarked troves of buried loot over which hovers a ghostly glow; how the popular tourist destination, Ocracoke Island, got its name; and the athletic team moniker for East Carolina University. Formerly known as the “Teachers,” student athletes at East Carolina Teacher’s College, switched to “Pirates” in 1934, according to the University historian.
Nags Head Land Pirates: Nags Head, a community the northern Outer Banks barrier island chain, is folk etymologized to be the location of “banker” land pirates, folks who would lure ships aground in shoal waters, then loot the ships’ stores. Their method illuminates the image of the name.
“The Day the Booze Yacht Came Ashore”: A locally produced song lyric, set to a familiar tune, tells the story of Harkers Island fishermen “wracking” the beach one day for bottles of rum jettisoned from a smugglers’ boat run aground near Cape Hatteras. Ascribed by some local promoters as “the Carteret County anthem,” the booze yacht lyric depends on an insider’s cultural geography of the island for interpreting its references and is the legend-based tradition most particularly designating differences between “hoi toiders” and the “dingbat” outsiders.
These legends and their constellated elements of commercial tour enactments and souvenir artifacts provide means of connecting and communicating with outsiders, legitimizing a kind of loosely termed piracy as a seasonal livelihood. More meaningfully, perhaps, these piratical tales constitute means by which insiders hold and adapt their senses of place in time, in a region where wind as well as lunar tides relentlessly over wash and recede from the sand beaches and marshy margins, first inundating, then uncovering clues to the cultural importance of pirates in coastal North Carolina.
"St.” William of Norwich and the Blood Libel: Revaluating the Legend
The Folklore Society
The story of the death of a young skinner’s apprentice in Norwich (UK) in 1144 is well known, as are accusations that he was crucified by local Jews, who took refuge in the castle at the invitation of the gallant Sheriff of Norfolk. It is also well-known that this was the beginning of the Blood Libel Legend in Europe and that from this incident sprang over eight centuries of the persecution of Jews. This paper reviews the legend in its contemporary context and challenges some of the scholarly assumptions about its influence.
Einstein’s Pants and Buddy’s Comps: Straddling the Line between Gossip and Legend
Memorial University of Newfoundland
This paper looks at one particular anecdotal legend that is in circulation in the Department of Folklore at Memorial University, concerning a failing performance on the PhD comprehensive examinations of a former student who, despite this initial stumble, has since gone on to a successful academic career. The anecdote circulates primarily among the students who are in preparation for their own PhD exams, and typically follows a narrative joke structure, much like the “Hassidic Tale” parodies of Woody Allen. Included in the narrative is a simple explanation for why he originally failed. The identification of a specific person, the explicit advice contained therein, and the structure of the narrative combine to help explain its perpetuation in the oral tradition of the department as part of the occupational folklore of graduate student life.
Of interest is the reaction by faculty to the discovery of the narrative in the tradition. For students, the subject of the narrative is a character from the historical past, albeit a recent past. In the measurement of time understood by students (which one could suggest is two years, the length of time for a Master’s student to cycle through the program) the subject is two, three, or an indeterminate number of generations removed. For faculty, who measure time more in terms of faculty appointments, the subject is far more “recent,” and the existence of the narrative is tantamount to gossip, and pernicious gossip at that. For students, however, the historical reality of the incident is subsidiary to the legend’s function as an opportunity for the negotiation of a truth claim.
The legend appears to serve three functions for those about to take their exams: (a) it is pedagogical in that it suggests the appropriate form of exam preparation and the possible effects of not following it; (b) it is palliative in that, by attributing the story to a historical person who has been shown to have ultimately succeeded despite this setback, it demonstrates that it is not a worst-case scenario; and (c) it is entertainment in that is adds to the body of graduate student “local character” lore. By circulating an embarrassing narrative about a “legendary” character who is known by reputation to have ultimately been successful in his field (cf. Reuss), an object lesson is perpetuated demonstrating the indirect path to success, much like the legends concerning Archimedes’s Bathtub (Brodie), Plato’s account of Thales falling into a hole while looking at the stars (Plato. 174a), and stories of Albert Einstein, both of failing math in school and of being so lost in thought that he would on occasion forget to put on pants (Stewart).
Allen, Woody. “Hassidic Tales, with a Guide to Their Interpretation by the Noted Scholar.” The Complete Prose of Woody Allen. New York: Wings Books, 1991. 205-212.
Brodie, Ian. “Archimedes’ Bathtub: A Very Old Contemporary Legend,” Paper, Perspectives on Contemporary Legend, Corner Brook, June 2003.
Plato. Theaetetus. Trans. John McDowell. Oxford: Clarendon, 1973.
Reuss, Richard A. “‘That Can't Be Alan Dundes! Alan Dundes Is Taller than That!’: The Folklore of Folklorists.” Journal of American Folklore 87 (1974): 303-317.
Stewart, Nick. Review of Croc 2 (Video Game). The Adrenaline Vault. May 4, 2000. <http://www.avault.com/reviews/review_temp.asp?game=croc2>. Accessed March 24, 2004.
Tye, Diane. “Aspects of the Local Character Phenomenon in a Nova Scotian Community.” Canadian Folklore canadien 9.1-2: 1987. 99-111.
“Urban Legend” – Still Booming, Despite “Vanishing”
University of Utah
In my paper “The Vanishing ‘Urban Legend’” (ISCLR 2001 conference) I suggested that “the ‘urban legend’ has much less vitality as an oral-narrative genre than in its glory days from the 1960s through the 1980s” and that examples “have mostly migrated from folklore into popular culture where they are stereotyped, standardized, exploited, commodified, and re-packaged [with] the most common medium for their circulation [being] the Internet.” Not that there’s anything wrong with that; and not that urban legend scholars lack data still to collect and study.
In my paper “’Urban Legend’ as a Household Phrase” (ISCLR 2003 conference) I presented an informal review of how dictionaries and the mass media have adopted the term and modified its meaning. Examples ranged from items published in The New Yorker to Weekly World News and included such oddities as a question on the TV game show Jeopardy, several Hollywood films, and references in the press to a football coach whose first name is “Urban”. Not that there’s anything surprising about that; all anyone needs to do is “Google” the term “urban legend” on the Internet to discover how widespread its use has become.
This paper continues my survey of how the genre and the term “urban legend” flourish in the mass media and on the Internet, even while continuing in a seeming decline as an oral-narrative tradition. Examples, again, range widely to include comic strips, a cross-word puzzle, a board game, various television series, a neoconservative website, a murder mystery written by a Japanese author, and more.
From FOAFtale to media legend: the case of the Smiley Gang
Legends are not only transmitted orally, but by any available and relevant media (Smith 1992:42). Among those means of transmission, the mass media seem to occupy a privileged position: according to Linda Dégh, they “may constitute the greater part of the folklore conduit”(1994:25). Has the old-fashioned FOAFtale been made obsolete by the proliferation of media legends? How do legends adapt to different media of transmission?
During the autumn of 2003, the Netherlands was shaken by a minor rumor panic sparked by the story of the Smiley Gang. This ethnic gang was said to corner women and force them to choose between “a rape or a smile”. The ones that opted for the smile received a razor slash across the face which left a hideous smiley-shaped scar.
In recent years, this legend has also circulated in Belgium (2002-2003) and France (1999-2000). Earlier versions, omitting the infernal choice but featuring the smile-like mutilation, were current in Glasgow as early as the nineteen fifties; around 1989 the razor mark was known in England as the Chelsea Smile. Whereas the UK versions focused on hooligans, the continental ones thrived on ethnic fears. The 2003 Dutch version appeared in the context of a moral panic concerning random violence by immigrant youngsters.
Initially spread by word of mouth, the Smiley Gang legend got its biggest boost from the media. It featured in newspapers and television and radio broadcasts, it was spread by e-mail chainletters and discussed in newsgroups, in weblogs and on Internet message boards. Although the established news media consistently relayed the denials of the police and the viewpoints of contemporary legend experts, it is likely that their coverage augmented rather than diminished the number of people that knew and that believed the legend (cf. Kapferer 1990).
Dégh, L. American Folklore and the Mass Media. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994.
Kapferer, J.-N. “Le controle des rumeurs. Expériences et réflexions sur le démenti”. In V. Campion-Vincent & J.-B. Renard eds. Communications nr. 52: Rumeurs et légendes contemporaines. Paris: Seuil, 1989. 99-118.
Smith, P. “‘Read all about it: Elvis eaten by drug-crazed giant alligators’: contemporary legend and the popular press”. Contemporary legend 2 (1992): 41-70.
MSH Maison des Sciences de l'Homme
Different categories of changes linked to contemporary legends will be discussed in this paper. First three types of changes linked to messages circulating on the Web.
Changes for the researcher, after he discovers a hitherto ignored context: My example will be about the “Killer banana” message and how its meaning evolved when I discovered that a polemic on the dangers of the killer bug also known as “necrotizing fasciitis” had taken place in the years 1994-1995. In this new perspective, it seems probable that the message was mostly a parody, which I had not understood.
Changes of a joke: a “rural” story recycled and enriched by re-drawing the prisoner’s character so as to enhance the social critique embedded in the story. Example of The Potato Patch/Ingenious Prisoner, Palestinian opposing Israelis or Afghani opposing Americans.
Re-use of the Tale Type 759 The Angel and the Hermit within an edifying message, accompanied of an injunction of multiple sending.
Next, the changes of contemporary legends by their use in different genres. The example will concern “The Scuba Driver in the Tree” which has been used by books and movies, and especially in the little known genre of the criminal enigma.
“Footless Ghosts, Demon Dolls, and the Internet”: The Dialectic of Traditional and Contemporary Legend in Japanese Visual Storytelling
Penn State Hazleton
In the European world, the realm of animation has, with few exceptions, been assumed to be a non-serious one specializing in children’s entertainment. In Japan, however, a culture with a long history of storytelling through graphic arts, mangas (graphic novels or “comic books”) and animes (animated TV series and movies) have become important forms of artistic expression, appealing to all ages. Japan, not incidentally, also has a rich tradition of legendry that often forms a ground for such visual storytelling. Some attention has been given the use of Japanese legend in art movies such as those directed by Akira Kurosawa. More recently folklorists have noted the success of the American horror film, The Ring, based on a Japanese legend-based thriller, Ringu, concerning a mysterious video that kills its viewers exactly a week after they watch it.
Traditional Japanese ghost/supernatural legends were collected intensively in the 20th century under the impetus of the Japanese ethnographer Yanagita Kunio, and some works in English (notably Iwasaka and Toelken 1994) have appeared based on his work. These define the most esoteric, Japan-specific traits of the genre. However, of late Japanese visual storytelling has become nothing if not internationally eclectic. Plots have regularly included characters and plots from European history, literature, and mythology, and elements of Anglo-American culture are constantly used for their “exotic” and potentially dangerous overtones. Thus it is not surprising to find that contemporary, internet-circulated “urban legends” have emerged as an influence on Japanese popular culture. However, besides James Kirkup’s brief FOAFTale News notice (1989), there have been few discussions of Japanese contemporary legends in English.
This paper will present and discuss some examples of contemporary legend-telling from manga and anime of the last decade. One example, from Cardcaptor Sakura (1996) is based closely on traditional Japanese legend motifs involving the haunting of a young girl by a yurei, or prematurely deceased woman. While the image of the “ghost” and its exorcism are both traditional, the plot includes many modern-seeming elements, such as a ritual enacted by schoolchildren similar to the Anglo-American “legend-tripping.” Another, from the radically eclectic Mystical Detective Loki Ragnarok (2003), adapts a more internationally widespread plot in which a dead child’s doll becomes possessed by a malign spirit. A third example, drawn from Chobits (2002), looks more explicitly outward to Western-influenced ways of transmitting such stories as “urban legends” over the Internet and testing their credibility through quasi-scientific “myth-busting.” Nevertheless, even this thoroughly “debunked” legend turns out to have a substantial grain of truth to it, as its place in the larger anime narrative demonstrates.
Iwasaka, Michiko, and Barre Toelken. Ghosts and the Japanese: Cultural Experience in Japanese Death Legends. Logan: Utah State University Press, 1994.
Kirkup, James. “Truth Stranger than Legend: Contemporary Legends in Europe and the Orient”. FOAFTale News 15 (September, 1989): 2-4.
Deranged Psychopaths and Victims Who Go Insane: The Depiction of Mental Health and Illness in Contemporary Legend
Memorial University of Newfoundland
Numerous contemporary legends involve the psychopathic actions of what Michael Goss has called the “urban maniac”. As Goss notes, these legends use “transient, unpredictable and totally irrational psychopaths as their theme, and make all the gore, carnage and cruelty credible by engaging our preconceptions about ‘psychopaths’ and other dangers” (Goss 1990:95). Goss goes on to say, “While never inviting us to question whether such maniacs exist outside fiction (and by implying that they certainly do!) much of the appeal of these stories lies in their gross entertainment value... but nevertheless, they still encapsulate certain values and act as cautionary tales”(1990:95).
This paper will explore the portrayal of mental health in contemporary legends focusing on the values inherent in depictions of psychopathic killers, quietly “mad” neighbors, victims who go insane, and others. Taken as a group and read as parallel texts, these narratives construct and present a complex of images of mental health and illness set in changing historical and cultural contexts. Together, the narratives create explanatory categories for mental illness and demonstrate popular understandings of “madness”: they equate insanity with visibility of difference; they explore the gendered associations of male aggression and female passivity; and, they pinpoint areas of socially tolerable and intolerable deviance. This paper will attempt to address patterns of representation of mental illness and explore related fears and anxieties as well as considering the relationship of these narratives to 19th century notions of lunacy and more contemporary issues concerning deinstitutionalization.
Aids Legends in the Chicano Community of South Texas: Tellers and Gender
University of Texas-Pan American
The goal of this paper is to test the hypothesis that a systematic survey of AIDS legends will lead to important information about the teller and the social context of these narratives. The paper will discuss the theater seat needle, the telephone slot needle, the sexual relations, and the nightclub versions of AIDS legends.
The 149 legends in the study include demographic and contextual information which make such a study possible. These legends were collected in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas, a Mexican-American culture area with a population of 1,000,000.
The paper will discuss: (1) the different variants of the story, the most common one seems to be the theater seat needle story. 47% of females and 30% of the males are acquainted with the narrative; (2) the relationships between the tellers, their gender and the legend itself, e.g. a statistical review of the legends shows that more of the women (61%) believe that the events in the story are true than males (41%); (3) the story was passed from individual to individual, e.g. 75% of the males to 55% of the females heard the stories from a friend; and (4) among the settings the narratives were related from one person to another, the data show that, e.g., more women (58%) than men (43%) have heard the story while talking casually.
It is hoped that this analysis will shed light on the overall social context of these AIDS legends.
‘But Who is Betty Crocker?’: The existence of ‘real’ and ‘unreal’ people and personalities in contemporary international packaging.
Arts Institute at Bournemouth
This paper aims to investigate how and why food packaging incorporates portraits of people/celebrities in the identity and promotion of the product and how this relates to wider marketing and cultural activities.
The paper aims to critically analyze how the face and name of an individual can be used for a limited fashionable period or how it can become an established and enduring symbol of a product, brand or company and a icon within, and as a construct and reflection of, consumerism and popular culture. Much theoretical consideration has been given to the role of celebrity in advertising, television and film however research into, and the interrogation of, the role of the celebrity and non celebrity in everyday high street packaging remains a relatively untouched sphere of contemporary visual culture study - yet it is an area that we handle and read daily.
This paper explores the symbiotic relationship of the various media spheres in relation to packaging design – exploring how people move from a specific media arena (e.g. pop charts or television program) to supermarket shelf and kitchen cupboard and how relationships are formed with consumers. It considers how examples communicate and how we see, read and relate to such and how we can become vexed and challenged by examples when the language and visual signifiers are unfamiliar or multi coded. The paper draws upon key cross discipline theoretical approaches and studies in Advertising, Marketing, Cultural Studies, Design History and Media Studies.
The study questions how and why images of real (e.g. Lloyd Grossman) and unreal (Jolly Green Giant) people are used; how they become historically entrenched as an enduring face of a product or indeed a mere fleeting face on packaging that reflects popular trends and limited fame timescales. The extent to which examples of people on packaging are culture and time specific is considered. Do they have relevance only within specific countries or cultures? Are they able to transcend and cross cultural boundaries of language and identity, and if so, how?
The key lines of enquiry are illustrated through focused brand character case studies – e.g. the Product Originator (e.g. Jack Daniels), the Fictive (e.g. Captain Birdseye) and the family member (e.g. Uncle Ben, Aunt Jemima). The notion of the elusive character is specifically addressed through the consideration of Betty Crocker and comparable cooking enigmas.
The Price of Beauty: Body Modification in Legendry
University of Georgia
Body modification, whether by adding color with rouge, tanning, or tattooing or by removing hair, ribs, or pounds, has long been linked with both cultural aesthetics and personal statement. Some legends uphold cultural aesthetics by demonstrating the importance of body modification, such as reports (in our culture of thinness) of women whose bodies start rotting because of foods lost for too long in the folds of their skin. Other legends may deal with the dangers of excessive attention to cultural preferences, such as the women who destroy their insides or are otherwise punished by overuse of tanning salons. However, because personal statement often conflicts with cultural aesthetics, body modification proves an area of tension that gives rise not only to school or even government regulation (such as Chicago’s 2004 regulation of split tongues), but even more so to legendry which lays out the potential direct consequences. According to legendry, tattooing in general leads to AIDS and hepatitis, but in more specific application may have other consequences, such as when tattooed eyeliner results in blindness (perhaps an update from mascara doing the same). A tongue piercing may lead to simple deadening of the tongue or, through a series of events going from chipped teeth to gum disease to heart disease, may lead more drastically to death. A nipple ring may lead to loss of one’s breasts before death, a navel ring to the destruction of one’s internal organs, and genital rings to a torn clitoris.
In this paper, using legends collected mainly from University of Georgia students, I shall explore some of the developments in legendry about body modification as warnings have been boosted (e.g. the girl whose tanning exploits destroy not only her organs but also the fetus she unwittingly carries) and as areas of modification have evolved. Considering legends about modifications undertaken primarily for the sake of beauty and others primarily for the sake of sex (e.g. the men who remove ribs so they can, indeed, perform fellatio on themselves), I shall examine them for gender variation, technologically- and biologically-based fears, and determinations of cultural acceptability.
Takes on Texts: Readings of Local Legends
Memorial University of Newfoundland
The intricacy of common academic readings of folk texts – like a legend or a tale – can strike the non-academic reader as "over the top." Or, to alternate that metaphor to Geertz's, too "deep." More is read into the original text than would be by some non-academic preferences. Teaching folklore courses has shown me that many introductory students find deep readings of tale and legend texts well beyond their native limits of appropriate interpretation.
Nonetheless, when asked to read (or read from, or read into) texts themselves, introductory, local students – naive, or near-naive, readers – can provide very interesting takes on texts. For two years in my introductory Newfoundland and Labrador Folklore course, I have instructed first-semester students in their end-of-term examination to say why Newfoundlanders have enjoyed telling legends like two short examples before them. The examples are taken from a cycle of humorous legends about a local character told from the 1930s until the 1980s (and to some extent since then, though the subject of the stories died in the early 1980s).
Mosey Murrin lived a hobo's life between Corner Brook and Stephenville. Mosey was a local hero who could speak the truth bravely and pointedly. Although some people thought he was crazy, the funny stories told about him showed him to be smarter than many people believed. When an American tour boat tied up in Corner Brook and tourists started getting off, Mosey was on the wharf. He overheard one loud, wide-eyed American ask, "Well, where are all the savages?" Mosey answered, "They're not all off the ship yet." Local people knew and respected Mosey, but newcomers didn't always have him sized up. One day Mosey was standing inside a fence in someone's garden when a Mountie stopped, hoping to make a bit of sport. "Mosey, I don't suppose there's much between you and a fool, is there?" Mosey looked him in the eye and said, "No sir. Just this fence."
Students report back plausible symbolic meanings that parallel Bengt Holbek's interpretation of fairy tales. These "naive readings" have something to tell us about our own sometimes-hesitant readings of modern folk narrative, and about the peripheral position in the literature, and defensive attitude, we sometimes give deeper readings.
Contemporary Legend and Fraud: E-Mail Versions of the Spanish Prisoner Swindle
University of Paisley
The Spanish Prisoner swindle has been estimated as 400 years old (Nash, 1976). Recently, many e-mail messages have been sent to Britain from a variety of African countries which appear to be the preliminary move fro such a fraud. For example, one message came from someone claiming to be the brother of an arrested rebel leader in Sierra Leone (Hobbs and Main, 2001). This person claims to have 12.8 million dollars, the proceeds of his brother’s dealing in diamonds. The recipient of the message is invited to help transfer the money to Britain by obtaining a bank account. In return for this help a fee amounting to twenty percent of the total fortune will be paid. The message states that the transaction is “risk free”. However, we know from the past operation of the scam that, if drawn into the plan, the recipient will eventually be asked to pay an apparently relatively small sum to cover expenses. Needless to say, they never receive the promised large fee.
In 1989, I suggested that the understanding of contemporary legend could benefit from their being studied alongside related phenomena. It is argued in the present paper that each version of this scam involves a narrative. These narratives are similar in outline but differences in detail. Examples of current e-mail texts will be analysed to consider the possibility that these narratives, which aim to produce a distinctive type of ostension, have been circulated in a way similar to spread of legend texts. Implications for our understanding of contemporary legends will be considered.
Hobbs, S. “Enough to Constitute a Legend?” in G. Bennett and P. Smith eds. The Questing Beast: Perspectives on Contemporary Legend Volume IV. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1989. 55-75.
Hobbs, L and D. Main. “The Prisoner’s Horde: A Traditional Crime”. Letters to Ambrose Merton 26 (2001): 7-9.
Nash, J. R. Hustlers and Conmen: An Anecdotal History of the confidence Man and His Tricks. New York: Evans, 1976.
The Saga of Brothers Voitka in Estonian Press: Origin and Perishing of A Heroic Myth
Estonian Folklore Archives
On March 14, 2000, Estonian special police unit arrested two young men, two brothers, Aivar and Ülo Voitka, who had committed several acts of theft and violence and had been hiding in the forests for 14 years. All Estonians could have been eyewitnesses to this event, as the national TV channel broadcasted news reports on the spot. Many months before this event, the press, supported by popular opinion, had already turned the brothers Voitka into kind of heroes.
After March 14, the Voitka-legend perished quickly. Few months later it was still possible to hear in the media how the brothers managed their life in society – how they listen to the radio, read books, wrote, went to dentist, etc.
The legend of Voitkas merged quickly into modern folklore and pop culture. During the independence of the Republic of Estonia, there has been no other event contributing to commercial trade and the world of entertainment to such extent. A CD came out under the name of Voitka, a literary version of their story has been published, and a movie is coming. Their image was used in commercials; their name was given to consumer goods.
Starting my diachronic overview of the events, I’ll discuss the historical and folkloristic backgrounds for creating the heroic myth of Voitkas, and I try to explain, how criminals may be turned into heroes. Is it a characteristic feature of a postmodern society, where the values are turned upside down, so that it is only natural that criminals change into heroes, like Bonnie and Clyde, or should we try to find other reasons?
Estonian folklorist Oskar Loorits (What is the origin of Heroic Myths, 1933) noted the existence of two opposites, sympathy and antipathy, as important factors in creating a heroic myth. In one hand, the brothers were thieves and criminals who robbed shops and kept their prisoners tied up for hours. On the other hand, the fact that they managed to survive in the woods for so long, that they did stick together and preserve their human dignity, and that they limited themselves to minimal violence, arose sympathy. Taboo on murder in heroic protagonists is rather important also in other traditional cultures; the same is true for humorous elements (see e.g. Heroes or bandits: Outlaw Traditions in the Carpathian Region. 2002). This story, so unprecedented in our modern time, was told through the media usually with humor.
Following the discourse of Voitka’s story in the media, one notices that different aspects of their saga communicate national ideology and national self-perception as a people of nature, but also an idealized image of fighting for freedom in our (recent) history. Estonians still like to consider themselves the people of forests and wilderness. Although almost one half of Estonian territory is covered with forest and marshlands, almost 80 per cent of the population lives in towns and larger villages. Thus the symbol of resistance from out recent history has been men hiding in the woods (“forest brothers” – the popular Estonian term for patriotic partisan in 1941, 1944 etc).
Big Fear in a Small Town
Estonian Literature Museum
The paper observes different legends (scare stories) that spread throughout a small Estonian town in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The source material is interviews recorded in different small towns and rural regions in the 1980s and later. Also the few “news stories” recorded by local correspondents about actual events in the1950s and the 2000s biographies and oral history collection submitted manuscripts.
“The manner in which human action and purposive appropriation inscribes itself upon the earth is an iconography of human intentions. Its mirror image is speech itself, which in the act of naming, memorializes these intentions, makes of them a history-in-dialogue” (Weiner 1991, 50). The stories viewed this time are not set in a specific landscape or place although the narrators name several locations and people; rather they focus on the emotions they have experienced or emotions they have been afraid of but never experienced. The stories are in dialogue with the once-felt fears and this history-in-dialogue as local folklore. The stories express certain stereotypes and bear historical oral memory with the help oral narratives.
The stories treated consist of chain motifs/ narratives about blood-takers and black cars that take people away, sausage factories where sausages and minced meat are made of human meat, of women who together with their new lover tie the child from a previous marriage to a tree in a forest, of women who bury or boil their child at the lover's command, etc.
Many of these stories were widespread throughout the whole Soviet Union territory and Eastern Block countries, some of them found in variation in 19th century literature and are reflected also in folklore.
These stories reflect suppressed social tensions, fear, rumors blending with media news and real events; in several cases the story is indeed with factual historical and demographic tendencies. Today, the social background of many of these stories has changed to the extent that they can no longer be told. Part of the former true stories are even today accepted as an absolutely certain event and are used to portray Soviet times.
The Folklore Files, or how The X-Files understands and uses folkloristics
University of Wales, Aberystwyth
Leslie Jones, in writing about Fox TV’s phenomenally successful series, The X-Files (1993-2002), noted “In many ways, the X-Files themselves – those cabinets lined up against the wall behind Mulder’s desk and under the window – constitute a motif index to contemporary legend” (Jones, 78). As a folklorist watching The X-Files, Jones was able to identify how the series presented specific aspects of folkloristic discourse. This paper desires to take Jones’ argument further: not only did The X-Files avail itself to specific folkloristic narratives – but is further steeped within folkloristics, the academic study of folklore; that is, the series foregrounds specific debates within folklore research as a means of decentring colonialist assumptions about the Other.
This paper will discuss one episode in particular: “El Mundo Gira” (4.11) wherein Mulder and Scully investigate the apparent attacks of a “chupacabra” on a migrant community on the US-Mexican border. From Jones’ perspective, identification of the chupacabra motif itself is of sufficient interest for folklorists, although some might be disappointed that the chupacabra story is here fused with both alien invasion and werewolf lore: in other words, the episode violates most of the verisimilitude with the oral tradition.
But “El Mundo Gira” goes beyond the mere collection of folklore types and motifs, it juxtaposes the two major folkloristic paradigms pertaining to supernatural belief traditions: Lauri Honko’s “cultural-source hypothesis”, wherein the supernatural is encountered because the experiencing culture is expecting such phenomenon, with David Hufford’s “phenomenological approach”, which presupposes some experience at the heart of all supernatural encounters, and what differs is the cultural explanation of the experience. The episode even appears to be so grounded in these folkloristic debates as to include Hufford’s work on “traditions of disbelief”, wherein the act of disbelieving is as complex a cognitive process as believing itself.
This folkloristically-informed discourse ran throughout the series, not just this single episode. The series, as a whole, in availing itself to contemporary folklore debates offered television audiences (world-wide) alternative world-views in understanding “the Other” within American culture at the fin de siècle.
Contemporary Legends from Karst Region of Slovenia Compared to Fairylore and Traditions of Belief
Institute of Slovenian Ethnology
The paper will present and analyze narratives lately collected on the Karst region of Slovenia, mainly from Snežnik Castel and its Forest. These stories can mostly be defined as contemporary legends, but have much in common with narrative traditions, mainly folk tales and local mythology. The analyzed legends mention ghosts, witches, fairies and other mythological creatures from Slovenian traditional mythology, but their contents are greatly changed and they are narrated in the style of contemporary legends.
On the basis of precise comparison and study the author tries to outline the boundaries between the two genres as they appear in Slovenia, and to define the characteristics of one and the other. Also taken into account are the circumstances in which one and the other genre of narration is being told.
Bennett, Gillian, “What's ‘Modern’ about the Modern Legend?”. Fabula 26 (1985), 219–229.
Buchan, David, “The Modern Legend”. In A.e. Green & J.D.A. Widdowson.eds. Language, Culture and Traditions: Papers on Language and Folklore presented at the Annual Conference of British Sociological Association, April 1978. Sheffield: CECTAL Conference Papers Series 2, 1981.
Dégh, Linda & Andrew Vázsonyi, “Legend and Belief”, Genre 4 (1971): 281–304.
Dégh, Linda. “What is the legend after all?”, Contemporary Legend 1 (1991): 11–38.
Nilsen, Don L.F. “Contemporary Legend: The Definition of a Genre” Kansas English 75 (1989): 5–9.
Piko-Rustia, Martina. “Sodobno pripovedništvo na Koroškem”, Glasnik SED 1-2 (2001): 65–67.
Variation in Form and Intensity of Belief in the Banshee
Memorial University of Newfoundland
In The Banshee: The Irish Supernatural Death-Messenger, Patricia Lysaght asserts that belief in banshees is fading in Ireland, but she makes this assertion cautiously and acknowledges the problems involved in assessing degree of belief. For instance, she points out that some people are at neither one extreme nor the other of the continuum between complete belief and firm disbelief, but somewhere in the middle. She also notes that from time to time people change their beliefs. Similarly, Gary Butler, in his article “The Lutin Tradition in French-Newfoundland Culture: Discourse and Belief” suggests that a declining belief tradition may temporarily find renewed life n the individual interpretations of some people. Butler explores what this looks like be discussing the fairly beliefs of several informants. He argues that strength of belief is not the only variable that should be considered when discussing the form that belief takes.
Like Lysaght, I suspect that the banshee belief tradition is fading, but it seems clear that both the strength of belief and the specific form belief takes vary from person to person. In this paper, I will explore the forms that belief (or lack of belief) in the banshee tradition takes for at least two different informants. One informant, an older man from the East Coast of the United States, reports that, although he learned about banshees from his grandmother and great-aunt during his childhood, the tradition was not taken seriously in his family at any time in his memory. The other informant, a young woman from Ireland, reports that she has some belief in the banshee tradition, but that it is a lesser degree of belief than both the belief she held as a child and that held by previous generations of her family.
I will also examine archival material about the banshee belief tradition collected in Newfoundland during the 1960s and 1970s, to assess, to the degree possible, the intensity and the form that belief in the banshee tradition took in Newfoundland during the twentieth century. As part of my exploration, I will discuss the extent to which Butler’s examination of the beliefs of his informants can be usefully applied to both the archival material and the material from my informants.
"Elvis Gratton": Quebec's Contemporary Folk Hero
Memorial University of Newfoundland
In 1981, a controversial film director by the name of Pierre Falardeau, created a character who would soon join the ranks of folk heroes in Quebec. His name is Bob "Elvis" Gratton. Bob "Elvis" Gratton [the film Elvis Gratton now incorporates: Les vacances d'Elvis (1983), Pas encore Elvis Gratton (1985), and Elvis Gratton, le King des Kings (1985) in one compilation.], who is mostly known under his alias “Elvis”, is a blue collar middle-aged man who enjoys his occasional beer, is extremely proud of his “gros garage” (large automotive garage) and is an active Elvis Presley fan who truly believes he has the “King” in him.
Elvis Gratton is first introduced to Quebecois film screens dressed as Elvis Presley (the later years) in a look-alike talent contest and wins first prize: an all-expenses paid trip to Santa Banana, a fictitious South-American island suffering political turmoil at the hands of a dictator. The plot thickens as Elvis and his wife are propelled in a series of events that embarrassingly stereotype the Quebecois vacationer and includes a few tourist traps set by locals. This film is light compared to Falardeau's previous and more serious films dealing with Quebec's social values and political independence. Elvis Gratton is a satirical version of the stereotyped Quebecois male, a character who embodies Falardeau's questions about a possible social reform in Quebec.
It was after Falardeau's 1994 film, Octobre, providing a supplementary theory to the assassination of the Minister of Labour, Pierre Laporte, by members of the FLQ (Front de Liberation du Quebec) during the “Revolution tranquille” in Quebec, that Falardeau resurrected Elvis Gratton in his 1999 sequel Elvis Gratton II: Miracle a Memphis. As though to dilute his political statements in a semi-farcical manner, Falardeau reintroduced Elvis Gratton prior to his powerful representation of the “Patriotes” executions in his 2001 film 15 fevrier 1839. This June 2004, Falardeau is bringing Elvis Gratton back to the screens in Elvis Gratton III.
Although some may not consider Elvis Gratton to be a folk hero such as Jos Montferrand, or Ti-Jean in Quebecois legends, Elvis Gratton does share the characteristics of heroes. In a sense, he is a contemporary messianic hero like the medieval Welsh hero Owain Glyndwr, awakened from his slumber when the nation needs to reexamine political and social values. This paper will illustrate how Elvis Gratton achieves this role by investigating other heroic figures such as Jos Montferrand, and Ti-Jean in Quebecois legends and how, comparatively speaking, these characters share the fundamental role of folk hero; that is, a character who is known, talked about, and is an embodiment of concerns and social focus shared by the particular groups. It is by presenting and representing this character that Quebec may laugh at itself and reflect on certain stereotypes which are shared by the Quebecois and believed to be true by other Canadians.
Public Reactions to the SARS Virus: Rumors, Panics, and Pseudo-Preventatives
Memorial University of Newfoundland
Since its appearance in China in November of 2002, the SARS virus has achieved infamy seldom seen among diseases, sweeping through media and Internet sources to create a panic that left thousands of people halfway around the world wearing surgical masks in attempts to protect themselves from perceived harm. Extraordinarily, the virus's non-age-adjusted mortality rate was, overall, only one in five; a significant risk, but nothing compared to the 90% rate of the Ebola virus, or even the 22% rate (in Canada) of common pneumococcal pneumonia, neither of which have a media frenzy to parallel that of the SARS virus.
The disease itself was not isolated and named until March of 2003, but within days rumors began to surface on the Internet and in the media. By the end of the month it was not uncommon to receive emails with headlines such as “SARS virus found in Asian restaurant!”, and as early as April 3rd The Boston Channel was printing refutations of the illness being found in Boston's Chinatown businesses (www.thebostonchannel.com). By the end of the summer newscasts were rife with SARS reports, and email and mobile phone text message boxes around the world were piled high with the rumors. Public reaction was immediate and, in many cases, drastic. Besides the aforementioned surgical masks, people turned to such "preventatives" as mung beans (www.khmer440.com), herbal teas, boiled vinegar, infusions of cicada skins and silkworms, and even smoking (www.gripsomeweb.com). And, of course, stories of the disease being actually a man-made plague soon followed; rumormillnews.com featuring articles with such titles as "SARS Kills 50% [of] Patients Over 65 - A Perfect Age Specific Weapon".
The intent of this paper is to examine these rumors and attempt to extract from them reasons behind the popularity of the SARS virus. It is my hypothesis that the development of SARS rumors closely parallels those of AIDS rumors, though on a much tighter timeline, and public familiarity with these AIDS rumors may have led to a society much more likely to be influenced by rumors involving outbreaks of contagious diseases.
“Altoids: The Curiously Strong Peppermints”: The Commercial Appropriation of an Urban Legend
At the outset of the presentation some discussion will briefly highlight examples of commercial and urban legends. Some of the authors would include Brunvand, Fine, Koenig, Kapferer, and Morgan and Tucker. The core of my work is on a recently widely circulated urban legend concerning the mint, Altoids, and oral sexual enhancement. Secret Blowjob Goddess Societies and the sexual behavior of Monica Lewinsky and President Bill Clinton were key factors in the legend. My research implies that the marketer appropriated the legend and incorporated elements of it into its advertising strategy. As well as the Monica look-a-like in the ads, catchy slogans such as "You're Trashy," "Pleasure in Pain," "I Want to Hear You Scream," were used and popularized.
I will discuss Allport and Postman's (1965) concepts of rote and embedding: these factors allowed the marketer to accentuate a unified impression about Altoids. A selection of Altoids ads will be incorporated into the presentation of this contemporary legend
"Waiter, there's something disgusting in my legend": "Food contamination, disgust and the recall of Contemporary Legends"
University of Paisley
Academics across a number of disciplines have attempted to understand why people remember and repeat contemporary legends (CL’s) and rumors. Psychological studies of this area have their roots in the pioneering work of Bartlett (1932) and Allport & Postman (1947). However, it is only recently that psychology has again returned to examine further aspects of why CL’s and rumors are told. One such aspect is the function of “disgust” within the story and the subsequent role of this disgust in the likelihood of the story then being repeated (Heath et al 2001).
The present investigation uses Angyal’s (1941) theory that feelings of disgust increase in direct relation to the vicinity and contact with the human body and contaminated foodstuff. The experiment examines the effect of systematically varying four levels of disgust within three CL stories, each of which contain themes of food contamination. The twelve stories were recorded onto a minidisk and each subject in the experiment listened to one of the stories. After hearing the story, subjects were asked to work on a difficult non-verbal problem for seven minutes, to avoid any rehearsal of the story. The subjects were then asked to recall the story they had heard earlier. Subjects’ recall was recorded and it was hypothesized that stories with high levels of disgust would be recalled better than those with lower levels. Quantitative analysis of the resulting stories involved examining omissions and changes made by subjects. Certain aspects of the texts, such as proper nouns, story providence, and story length were used as markers to enable a comparative analysis of the accuracy of story recall in relation to disgust levels.
The Pretty Nun’s Kiss
Birkbeck, University of London
After more than twenty years, certainly longer than the existence of ISCLR, I have been plagued by an apparent contemporary urban legend. It was the work of a black glad religious figure in the Sunday morning pub session who, with missal clutched to his left breast, a pint of ale to his right, and with priestly mien and a lexicography worthy of the saints told how he, a wartime displaced person was employed doing odd jobs for the Roman Catholic Church. While grouting floor tiles for the Roman Catholic cathedral of St. George, in Southwark, between Waterloo and Blackfriars Road, he overheard a pretty young bnun confess to kissing a dying man on the lips. The priest gave her absolution, but the story the eavesdropper told was a matter of anxiety to all who told it.
After many defeats, arguments over the passing years, I was entertained by the Italian ambassador in London, helped by the Italian Institute of Cultural Affairs, the Italian newspaper, Corriera de la Sera, many Italian waiters and others. The search for a solution and the answer was well worth the wait. And references to my school-day studies of lying and veracity are worthy of recollection.
“Do You Think There is Going to be a Strike?”: The Function of Rumor During Recent Faculty Contract Negotiations in Pennsylvania
Abstract not available
Within These Haunted Halls: A Case Study of the Legends at Memorial University of Newfoundland’s St. John’s Campus
Memorial University of Newfoundland
Did you hear about the maniac who attacked the university campus? Did you know the library was built backwards – and that it is sinking because the architects did not take the weight of the books into account when they designed the building? And what about the professor who decides students’ marks by throwing their papers on the stairs – whoever’s lands higher gets the higher mark. Did you know that if the professor has not shown up after ten minutes, class is dismissed? Or that if your roommate commits suicide during the school year, you are assured of an automatic ‘A’ average? This is just a random sampling of the campus legendry that circulates in universities. And Memorial University of Newfoundland is no exception to the rule. In fact, not only is the Queen Elizabeth II library sinking and built backwards, but it is also haunted. And not by one of the many people who have allegedly jumped from its roof.
Hauntings, however, are not unique to the library. Burton’s Pond on campus is the location of several drownings and restless spirits haunt the area – and the nearby residences. The Science building is home to the ghost of a suicidal janitor and the fourth flour Folklore wing of the Education building is rumored to have its own ghostly presence.
While there are no old chapels or ancient ivy-covered brick buildings on campus, there is an elaborate underground tunnel system to protect students from traversing outdoors during the harsh months of winter. And it is believed that in those very tunnels a young co-ed was pursued and attacked by a maniac. This is but a small sampling of the legends that have spread around the MUN campus over the years.
In this paper, I choose to focus on building and supernatural legends of the St. John’s campus of the Memorial University of Newfoundland. How have the texts changed throughout time? Which students are more prone to telling – and believing – these tales? Are they more prevalent amongst undergraduates or graduate learners; first year students or university staff? How do these legends serve Memorial University’s sense of identity? To be student is to be in a state of transition and these legends serve to illustrate the need to make sense of a strange new world while also reflecting the uncertainty of the university experience and what lies beyond it.
They are among us and they are against us: Contemporary horror-stories about Muslims and immigrants in the Netherlands
In the weeks prior to Christmas 2002, there was a tale circulating in the Netherlands, saying that Muslim terrorists were supposedly planning to bomb a traditional Christmas market. Target of the attack would be the famous Christmas market in Oberhausen (just across the border in Germany), but in other versions of the tale, Dutch Christmas fairs were mentioned in Maastricht, Sittart and Heerlen. These rumors were discussed in the news media as well. In fact, the story was just a new version of the urban legend that emerged shortly after the terrorist attacks on September 11th 2001 - an urban legend, by the way, that has been circulating for almost a century, featuring varying aggressors.
Another older legend about hooligans and the so-called Chelsea Smile crossed the Channel in 2000 and traveled from France to Belgium, reaching the Netherlands in 2003. According to the story, Muslim immigrant gangs force young native women to choose between group rape and an Angel Smile (or a Smiley). If the women choose the smile, their mouths are cut open from ear to ear with a knife. Although police and journalists investigated the rumors seriously, a victim was never found.
In 2002 the Netherlands were startled by other accounts in the media concerning rapes by gangs of immigrant boys as well. During a period of sixteen months, a 13-year-old girl from Assen was kidnapped no less than twenty times; she was supposedly abused as a sex slave by a group of Moroccan boys. A 13-year-old girl from Hoogezand told that she was tied up and raped at home by a gang of Turkish boys, who subsequently burned down her house. Police investigations revealed that both girls had lied. The girls had just recycled a narrative scenario that was already present. Many Dutch natives believed the tales, because the accounts more or less confirmed what a lot of people quietly believed: “Those Muslim immigrants cannot be trusted”.
Tales can tell us a lot about latent fears in society and about the representation of ‘The Other’. Some stories are true, others are not, but many of them must be situated in the twilight zone somewhere in between. Events appear to provoke stories, and in turn, stories provoke events. In folk narrative research, Linda Dégh and Bill Ellis refer to the interaction between legend and life as “ostension”.
Humor as Cultural Critique In Maltese Contemporary Legends
University of Malta
Two specific cycles of Maltese contemporary legends focus on prominent public personalities in modern Malta. They are built on realistic traits of their character, yet intended as counter-hegemonic, resistant and critical of the political and social structures on the island in the second half of the twentieth century.
This paper will explore the various ways that legends can act as cultural critique. Research on contemporary legends in Malta is still in its initial stages. Yet, this genre of coded narratives expresses fear and ridicule of priests and political power through representations of inappropriate political and clerical behavior. The stories are not told as true, yet they provide commentary on priestly and political power and fallibility in recent colonial history dominated by the Politico-Religious Question (1958-1971). The constant protagonist/victim of the respective cycle is always problematic, either Dom Mintoff, former charismatic leader of the Malta Labour Party and former prime minister of Malta, or Rev. Prof. Peter Serracino-Inglott, a philosopher and a former rector of the island’s only university. The jokes, at times verging on the obscene, parody key elements in their public careers, intended to humiliate them to the extreme as to transgress social codes which they were expected to defend during their leadership. The paper also examines the interplay of local oral history and contemporary history.
The more I work with these narratives, the more I recognize how the stories are constructed to reflect not only the personal and very private traits of the two protagonists of the stories, but how they also display a Maltese worldview at different levels of a society in transition.
Witches of Reality - Contemporary Legends in Witchcraft Trials
The records of Swedish witchcraft trials are a gold mine for folklorists interested in among other things migratory legends. When these legends are considered as contemporary it is possible to understand how society, and in some cases the witches or wizards themselves reacted to the legends. The trials often contain legends in abundance; sometimes it is possible to detect how these had evidently been used by the witches themselves to enhance their importance and explain how powers were derived from different supernatural beings - by the courts usually considered to be the Devil himself.
Legends, charms and rituals were used as evidence. Eyewitnesses swore to having used traditional rites to reveal the accused women or men, and tales of transformations and shape shifting were accepted as not only possible, but as actual facts. Were legends ever recognized as legends, or was the fact that something had occurred in other places always considered contributory evidence?
Legends of Ghosts in Contemporary Swedish Folklore
This paper deals with legends and experiences of the supernatural in contemporary Sweden. Even today beliefs in ghosts, spirits and other things exist and still a living tradition. About 20% of the population in Sweden today claim that they believe in ghosts. In legends and supernatural experiences we find what people think about the supernatural today. Some of the beliefs are the same as those that existed in the 19th century, others are new and influenced by urban society and beliefs typical of the 20th century, such as New Age and occultism. Many of the legends that existed in the peasant society still exist, but in some cases they have changed. The stories are much the same but the explanations have altered. When a house is believed to be haunted people no longer think that the haunting is caused by a murdered child, nowadays people instead explain the phenomena by saying that an evil person lived there. New motifs and legends have also appeared.
In contemporary folklore ghosts can be dangerous, but mostly they are friendly or do not seem to be aware of the living. Ghosts can for example help people, they can appear in front of the living and reveal secrets. In some narratives and experiences a person appears in front of a living relative or friend at the time of his death. Other experiences and stories deals with frightening experiences, haunted houses and manors, poltergeists, strange sounds, knocks on the door, haunted objects. It is also believed that the ghost can move objects, push people and even hide objects.
Representations of the Devil on St. Valentine’s Day and the Legendary Characteristics That Put Him There
Memorial University of Newfoundland
Few would perceive any natural connection between the celebrations of St. Valentine’s Day, a time for romance in anticipation of spring’s seasonal splendor, and representations of the Devil, a harbinger of dark times and deeds. Indeed, as one young woman said, it could be seen as "oxymoronic, because you’ve got love and hate together” (Butt). Yet somehow, such a connection has been made, and images of the Devil in association with the romantic holiday treasured by young lovers are not especially difficult to find, though they are still far from common. Of all the wide array of mass-produced Valentine’s Day products available to shopping lovebirds, those bearing the image or traditional traits of the Devil represent a very small proportion, perhaps no more than one percent. While some of these products may be found in local malls, department stores or gift shops, valentine paraphernalia with devil imagery is far more readily available from online vendors. It is not, however, the extent of the Devil’s representation in stores or on websites at this season that is significant. That he is there at all is the point of interest, and this paper will seek to examine the appearance of his “likeness” in such an unlikely context.
Focusing primarily on these mass-produced material goods, I will explore how images or traits of the Devil are carefully incorporated into goods created specifically for Valentine’s Day, and what sort of items tend to bear these marks. While descriptions of the Devil have varied throughout history, they have also tended to fall within discernable parameters, and thus most people have some concept of his appearance. When the Devil appears in Valentine’s Day goods, it is not likely to be a case of mistaken identity, but a coded message regarding sex. While some of these products are cute and cuddly, allowing for plausible deniability at the very least, others are more explicit in their message and or presentation. Thus it is worth investigating how consumers perceive these images of the Devil, representing such a small portion of the consumer market for valentine gifts, and why someone would wish to purchase them. Finally, this paper will look at historical representation of the Devil and the connections that do indeed lie between the celebration of St. Valentine’s Day and historical representations of the Devil.
Not that new but quite adaptive: three cases of contemporary legends
Enzyklopädie des Märchens
Contemporary legends correspond to the concerns of our times. It is a well-known fact, however, that many of them are updatings of older stories.
In my paper, I will discuss three cases. The first is “The Wife Left by the Roadside”. Part of the ‘folklore of the motor car’, this legend especially recurs in newspapers and underwent a couple of changes in the course of its transmission since 1957; some of the cases that have been reported may even be based on real events. Its character is mostly anecdotal and it is especially used to ridicule women.
This legend type – and most notably a group of variants such as the one collected from oral tradition by Gillian Bennett in 1981 – is paralleled by an episode from the life of Mohammed’s favorite wife, Aisha bint Abi Bakr, who got lost in the desert in the 5th or 6th year of the Hegira (637 or 628 A.D.). The ensuing slander and political intrigues caused a scandal which led to the regulation that a married woman’s conviction for adultery requires the testimony of four eyewitnesses and which applies in Islamic law up to this day. However, although the episode has been reported in several important historical works – Mohammed’s basic biography by Ibn Ishâk, among others – it does not seem to be generally known within the Muslim community and is apparently considered a thing better not to be talked about.
One of the most dramatic legends in contemporary lore is “Aids Mary” which expresses contemporary fears of sex-related dangers. It has been traced back to the early 20th century tales about ‘Typhoid Mary’ and Maupassant’s short story “Le lit 29" (1884). Seen in the light of the folklore of disease, it might even be linked with medieval fears of leprosy. In this paper, however, I will discuss the “Aids Mary” legend in the context of a late 19th century biographical account which serves the construction of a personal legend.
I will also briefly discuss an antecedent for a piece of thievish trickery which is less well known than the aforementioned legend types. Still, it has been recorded in several countries; as it apparently lacks a generally accepted title it may be called “Expensive Tickets” (see also Brednich, Die Spinne in der Yucca-Palme, no. 36 b).
Vishnumurti of north Kerala: the incarnation of Lord Vishnu in folk ritual
Origin of Vishnumurti: Geographical origin from Pallikkare and Palayi nearest to Nileshwar in Kasargod district .The myths of Palanthai Kannan and Palayi Prappens when analyzed, will highlight the cultural and social back ground of Vishnumurti. In naming the Thiyya Community noble man Kannan to, Palanthai, the Koyil Kudipadi family at Jeppu, Mangalore in South Karnataka is also associated with this. The landlord and the ruler Kuruvadam Kurup (Nair community) is said to be the wicked man behind the absconding of Kannan to Mangalore. Kurup`s right hand Kanathadan from Pallikkara plays a role of trustworthy friend and betrayer. The construction of the main shrine of Vishnu at Koyamburam so called Valiyaveedu as a punitive and attractive measure of the God Vishnu. The rituals at the Temple the Thondachan –revered Kannan as teyyam etc are to be highlighted.
The supremacy of the deity of workshop – Vishnu at Alladath Swaroopam – is demarcated in this ritual. The rebirths of the God Vishnu in natural costumes, the imaginary folk god origin are the creation of downtrodden cast ‘Malayan’. The noble man Krishnan turned to become Parappen by the blessing of God Vishnu in a dream, and the place name ‘Palayi’ resembling Palazhi of God Vishnu are the other as facts in Parappen`s myth.
A fisher folk cast Mukayar of Kottapuram and Muslim Community at the place also associate with this folk god. The socio – economic set up of the area is to be highlighted. The Kayattukaran’s (one Nair, one Maniyani and two Thiyyas) role in preserving the temples, the direct involvements of the other castes etc are to be studied. Thus Vishnumurti originates as a product of belief, grief, imagination and friendship, and the study will shed light on several aspects of the typical Keralite village community.
Underground Railways and Overland Lorries
Contemporary legends travel without stopping at points of governance or regulation, delighting in the more subversive and sometimes even sinister side of human communication. But suppose these narratives that travel the unofficial informational back roads become critical to one’s well-being?
In a country where it is illegal to possess information that can at times become vital to survival, how does such data move from those who possess it to those who need it? In Kurdish and Arabic Iraq, how does someone who must leave the country quickly access the “services” he or she requires? What part does narrative play in these informational transactions? What legends and rumors motivate individuals to try different responses and routes within the asylum seeking process? How do people plan and execute restricted movements in a repressive society, and what information do they use to make their planning decisions? Does it tend to be accurate?
This paper explores narrative work done by the author over the past five years among asylum seeker communities in Britain. Also explored here, as a natural part of the processes that lead to asylum seeking, are the movement of legends, jokes, and pieces of data about Saddam Hussein and his family, and what impact these pieces of information had on the daily lives of individuals within Iraq, particularly Kurdish Iraq.
Deadline for submissions
October 31, 2004.
Next issue out