USC Digital Folklore Archives / Legends
Legends
Narrative
Tales /märchen

Russian Little Red Riding Hood

Main Piece

The point of this is if you’re a stranger in the forest, don’t just walk into someone’s house. The story is a guy is walking and traveling. He walked into this road in the middle of the forest because he is lost in the woods. At a certain point, he sees this house and it’s getting dark, so he walks into the house. The guy inside is actually very friendly. They had good conversation and he told him interesting things that happens in the forest. Here comes the night. The guy has been fed and that is good. They are happy. Then they both hear the sound of wolves howling. The host changes his face completely. The guest is wondering what happened. The host said, “My friends are hungry, we need to feed them.” He walks outside. The guest waits a little. Then he walks back in with a gun pointing at this guy and is like, “Alright, let’s go feed my friends.”

 

Context

This is a story my friend heard while he was on a camping trip in Russia. My friend specifically told me that this story is meant to teach people not to always trust strangers and to know where you are going. Also, going alone to places you don’t know is a dangerous thing to do.

 

Notes

Imagining someone telling this story to you in a Russian accent definitely makes it more fun to read – my friend who told me the story has a Russian accent. I personally like this play on version of Little Red Riding Hood the best because it is a little twisted and less expected.

Here is a link to many different versions of Little Red Riding Hood: https://www.pitt.edu/~dash/type0333.html

Folk Beliefs
Legends
Myths
Narrative

Buddha Crossing the River

Context:

The informant is a student at USC studying Bio-Chem. In this account, he recalls religious stories that he heard.

In the transcript of our conversation, he is identified as S (storyteller) and I am identified as C (collector).

 

C: Do you have any stories like from your childhood or from growing up? Anything you might want to share?

S: Yea… I’m Buddhist. Kinda forced into it I guess. Both of my parents are from Burma, I guess.

So when I was in elementary, my parents wanted me to hang out with my Burmese friends but I didn’t speak Burmese. There was a session with the monk but during break or down times, they would tell us stories and stuff.

It was told by a monk. So… I don’t remember the lesson but, most of the stories are about Buddha.

So there’s this one story I remember:

So one day, Buddha was hanging out with his apostles when this one guy said he knows a monk that surpassed him or something.

He was like, “Where? Bring me to him.”

When we went to the monk, we has all frail and sickly.

The monk told Buddha, “I can walk on water. This was done by strict meditation and following the teachings while starving.” This was obviously a lie.

The monk continued, “You’ve only started your path. I’ve gotten this far already.” He was basically challenging the Buddha.

The monk said, “I bet I can get across this river.”

Buddha: “Why would you do that?”

Monk: “It just proves I’m much stronger. Can you do the same thing?”

So Buddha accepted this bet and the monk proceeded to give a ferryman one penny and crossed the river with on a ferry.

 

S: This story isn’t verbatim, but I guess the lesson that I learned was this: Buddhism isn’t a superstitious religion. It’s very grounded. Each city it went and added their own superstitions to make it different and “holy.”

Buddhism is about self-actualization and helping others but it gets muddled in all the lighting candles, and like all the rituals and stuff.

 

Analysis:

It’s interesting to hear religious stories, mostly because of the lessons or explanations that they teach. In this case, the story explores the idea of what Buddhism is or isn’t. It also teaches a fundamental idea in folklore in that, each group makes variations or changes to something that they learn in order to adapt it as their own. This is the same case in religion as each group adds on their own superficial things which may distract or draw away from the core beliefs.

general
Legends
Narrative

Abandoned Nunnery in Oklahoma

Text:

KM: “Apparently there’s this like abandoned nunnery out somewhere in Tulsa, and I had a couple of my friends who got there, obviously trespassing to this place. But it was like, I don’t know, but there were rumors that there were like tapes that were still there even though the place was like abandoned that like showed like really bad things I think that happened there. So they go out there at like night, and they say – there were like 6 of them I think, 4 or 6 or them, and they were like okay we’re going to split up and we’re going to search for these tapes. And so, the person who told me this, he and this other guy, they went up like upstairs, and they were like searching for stuff. But um, my other friend, he went in the basement and they actually found the tape. And when they like picked it up, the like lights flickered in the building. And so, they had to like get out of there and apparently the tape is supposed to be like super creepy and stuff and my friend was just like keeping it in his car for the longest time.”

MS: “Did you ever play the tape, to see what was on it?”

KM: “No I don’t think so – it was a VHS tape so I don’t know. I never really followed up. I’m pretty sure the tape is just in my friend’s car still.”

KM: “But for the longest time, I felt like I was haunted by the nuns after hearing this story because like weird stuff would happen with like my phone and I was like “the nuns are haunting me” so I was convinced… My Twitter AV, this is like stupid, but my Twitter AV, which is like your profile picture on Twitter, I would upload it and it would always just turn to black, just like a black picture and I could never like change it back, and I was like I’m really being haunted by these nuns for listening to this story. Because I think part of the legend was that once you hear the story, or once you know about the tapes, they would target you too so I just remember feeling distinctly uncomfortable knowing this.”

 

Context:

The informant is a Chinese-American college student from Tulsa, Oklahoma. This conversation was part of a discussion among a group of similarly aged people about their high school experiences growing up in various parts of America. The content has been lightly edited, and the removed content is indicated by ellipses.

 

Interpretation:

Even though this is not a first-person account of visiting this apparently haunted nunnery, it still provides us with information because this is how legends typically spread – the informant believes she was haunted by the nuns even though she never took a part in directing interacting with the legend herself. She may have experienced the same “haunting” things even if she hadn’t heard the legend but having heard it, she automatically used its mysterious nature as a way to justify inexplicable things in her life. Also interesting is how the mysterious nature of the tapes gives them their value and so even though they were taken from the original site, they were never actually played to verify the legend one way or the other. This may be an instance of the fear of the “other”. For the modern generation, VHS tapes are not something familiar and have this spooky quality because of that.

 

 

Folk Beliefs
Legends
Narrative

Burbank Parrots

A flock of vibrant green parrots are known to roam the skies of Burbank, settling down in any tree large enough to hold the entire flock while filling the morning air with a chorus of squawks that make residents wish they could wake up to songbirds chirping for once. T.T. doesn’t know exactly where they came from but has heard different stories. All say that the birds were smuggled in as illegal pets but escaped to inhabit the wild concrete jungle. Some say it was just a few birds who escaped from the singular smuggler, and then proceeded to breed . into the flock that exists today. Others claim the smuggler brought a bunch of birds and was able to sell them, to spread them out and then a bunch of those birds individually escaped. Either way the current size of the group (tens upon tens of “loud hecking birds”) suggests that the birds have been around and reproducing for some time.

The parrots stand out to people who live in Burbank for being so obviously foreign. Burbank is a suburb with sparrows and squirrels. The most exotic animal sightings are usually coyotes up in the mountains. In that environment bright green parrots stand out, and they don’t even try to hide. Their flock conspicuously chases off more outnumbered ravens and whatnot that people are more used to seeing around Burbank, and again they are very loud. If they hang out in your neighbor’s tree that morning, you’ll know. The fascination with the parrots speaks to a deeper cultural fascination with exotic, outside things. For all its social liberalism, Burbank is still a very white, sizably old population so the interest in exotic birds being imported by plane (the city has its own busy airport) probably ties into an unspoken interest, possibly an anxiety, surrounding the different people from all over the world constantly arriving by plane. Of course Burbank doesn’t exist in a vacuum so this local legend also exists in personalized forms for other places in Southern California such as Pasadena, which can be found here: https://laist.com/2018/07/10/pasadenas_parrots_are_annoying_af_but_may_save_their_species_from_extinction.php

Legends
Narrative

How 420 Became the Stoner Number

Main Piece

OK so pretty much what the story of the Waldos is the story of how four twenty became the stoner time as well as the stoner number. And pretty much, there was this group of high school students in San Francisco that every day- well like a small part of San Francisco- where every day at 4:20 after school they would meet at this one statue to smoke weed and shit. And that was just because like that was the most convenient time to like go home, get your stuff, come back, and smoke weed with your homies. And pretty much because of the Deadheads that were following around the Talking Heads? the Grateful Dead? and stuff at the time pretty much they met those kids and picked up that lingo from them, and it got spread across the entire country. And now 420 is the stoner time. Congratulations, you now have a piece of stoner folklore.

 

Background

The informant is well-versed in stoner culture, to say the least.

 

Nationality: American

 

Location: Los Angeles, CA

 

Context

I was talking about the collection assignment and they had talked to someone about it before and wanted to tell me their favorite piece of folklore.

 

Notes

This is a textbook legend, and a really fun one at that. It’s obviously taking place in our world, because you have the Grateful Dead and the Talking Heads, but it’s unclear if it’s true of not. Would those huge bands ever really have the chance to talk to some high school kids long enough to pick up their lingo? Who knows, and doesn’t matter!

 

Legends
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Legend: How to Catch a Thief

This is an old Irish legend and ritual.

Theft was not taken lightly in Ireland, and the Irish people had a ritual in order to classify these criminals as thieves and make known to others that the crime they committed was indeed theft.

The legend goes that, if someone convicted of theft died, as they were buried and put into a coffin, the diener, the person who handles the body, would raise the person’s right arm up.  This would let everybody else know that the man or woman was a thief and lived a life of crime.

Content:

The informant who told me this story is a long-time family friend of mine (she is a friend of my mother’s and I have been close with her children for most of my life).  Her heritage stems from Irish culture, and she was told this legend by her mother.  Her mother was born in Ireland and knows much about Irish folklore, and through many stories about her heritage, the informant has kept them in her mind for many years, for learning about ones past and background is something one does not forget.  It is interesting that such a small-scale ritual has been passed down through their family.  She loves everything regarding her culture, and it is no different in this context.  She did admit that the legend is somewhat invasive and creepy, but it was from old Ireland, and back then customs were very different compared to today’s world.

Thoughts:

I found this legend surprising.  I am Irish as well, but I have never heard of anything like the legend I was told, but it nevertheless fascinated me.  Theft was such a big deal that, when deceased, the dead would be branded as a thief even after his death, and upon hearing the legend made me realize that the Irish were not to be stolen from.  The process is in fact creepy and invasive, but I realized that it was due to the pride that the Irish hold over living a life free of crime and full of drinking.

Legends

Legend: The Treasures of Captain Kidd

The legend is that before Captain Kidd was convicted and executed for piracy, he buried treasure all throughout New England: Connecticut, New York, and even areas of Canada and Nova Scotia.  But in Maine, it is rumored that Kidd buried a lot of treasure near the town Wiscasset.

The coast of Maine was pretty quiet and has tons of islands and a coastline that’s actually longer than California’s.  it has tons of places to safely hide treasure and to maybe even hide from other pirates and the navy.

The treasure included gold, diamonds, rubies, and silver and enticed all who heard about it.  However, Captain Kidd never gave up the location of his treasures and created the legend of Captain Kidd and his buried treasure.

The legend has resulted in years of trying citizens competing in a treasure hunt but they haven’t found it yet.

Context:

The informant is one of my close friends I met during my time here at USC.  He is from Maine and heard about the treasure of Captain Kidd from his friends back home.  He is fascinated by the legend of a vast wealth buried beneath his feet and has been intrigued by the legend since he heard about it.  It is a well-known legend that has spawned years of searching for it, even tempting the informant to try and find some, though he knows he won’t prevail.  The idea of having untold riches buried underneath your home is something that will remain a mystery for all who live there.

Thoughts:

I am always fascinated by legends like this.  Growing up and watching the Pirates of the Caribbean was really my first real introduction to anything related to pirates, and the stories they have and the adventures the go on have always fascinated me.  The life of a pirate is thrill-inducing and dangerous, and I believe that there truly is treasure scattered around Maine and New England, and the idea of discovering even a small portion of it is exciting to think about.  The legend of Captain Kidd was one I had not known prior, and upon learning about it made me feel like a kid completing a scavenger hunt.  The historical background of the legend is interesting in its own right, and coupled with the mystery of a vast fortune only adds to it.

 

For other versions of the legend of Captain Kidd and his treasures, visit

“Pirate Captain Kidd’s ‘Treasure’ Found in Madagascar.” BBC News, BBC, 7 May 2015,

www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-32621444.

general
Legends

Urban Legend: The Children with the Black Eyes

I’ve lived in Texas for about a year now, and all the locals I work with have told me a lot about the mysterious events that are connected with the state.  The creepiest one I’ve heard is The Children with the Black Eyes.

In the nineties, a man was returning to his car after work when two kids knocked on his door asking for a ride.  He could tell the kids were odd in some way, and he became very anxious and scared.  He looked away from the kids for a second, and when he looked back, their eyes turned pitch black and they started screaming at him to let him in.

Obviously he drove away, and later he spread the word about the event.  Weirdly enough, other people who heard about his experience came forth and said that they and others have had similar encounters.

Context:

The informant is my sister.  After college, she moved to Texas for her work at FedEx.  Her colleagues told her about many folkloristic and supernatural legends about the state, but this one was the one she feared most.  She is not a fan of real supernatural encounters—she would rather watch fabricated stories on television—and was scared during the entire work day.  The knowledge is fairly fresh in her mind, having heard it less than a year ago, and when I confronted her in order to obtain interesting examples of folklore from her new home, this was the first one that came to mind.

Thoughts:

In contrast to my sister, hearing about the supernatural, hauntings, and real-life ghost stories is both scary and intriguing.  Safe in my California residency, I have no need to fear these children, but I can empathize with the origin story and the man involved.  I think this legend is different from most others because it was not just the one man who encountered the children, but many people; this statement gives the legend more validity—I actually believe that instances like this did occur—and makes for a more enticing and interesting legend.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Folk Beliefs
Holidays
Legends

Leprechaun Traps

The following is a folkloric tradition that my informant participated in when she was young. My informant is a 45 year old women with Irish heritage. The informant will be referred to as M.

Text:

M: When I was young my brother and I used to set up traps for leprechauns and try to trap them. We would put out chocolate gold coins, and set a combination of traps for leprechauns. Some were holes with false tops, so the leprechaun could fall in and not get out, others were boxes that fell on top of the leprechauns when they went to grab the gold. We never caught any leprechauns, but the traps were often set off, and much of the gold was missing, as if the leprechauns always outsmarted us. I made these traps when I was about 5-7 years old.

Context: M got the idea for her trap from her grandmother, who was from Ireland. M’s grandmother told her that she had often seen leprechauns in Ireland and M was inspired to try and catch a leprechaun. M said that this activity was one of her favorite things as a child, the idea of imaging a leprechaun and catching one enthralled her. M thinks the message behind this act is allowing children’s imagination to thrive and grow. M also emphasized that is was a good way to share culture, because a lot of non Irish children also wanted to make leprechaun traps and catch a leprechaun. M says that for her entire childhood she always wanted to go to Ireland because she thought it would be much easier to see leprechauns there, just as her grandma said.

Analysis: I relate to this story especially well. When I was in kindergarten my teacher helped every student in the class create a leprechaun trap out of a shoe box on Saint Patricks Day. Similarly to M, when we came back in the morning, all the traps had been set off but there were no leprechauns to be found. The teacher told us that when she came to the classroom that morning, she had seen the leprechaun running off. All of us in the classroom went crazy looking for the leprechaun all day. Similar to M, this was one of my fondest memories from childhood. This idea of setting a leprechaun trap, shows the imagination, and creativity of children. It represents children as pure and having wild imaginations, believing things without question. It also shows parents and older adults trying to help cultivate and encourage this creativity and imagination. 

Legends
Narrative

Ghost Story- Personal Narrative

The following personal narrative was told to me by my friend from Saint Louis, age 19, he shall be referred to as N. He his of Italian ethnicity, but both his parents were born in Canada, however N was born and raised in Saint Louis.

Text: I don’t remember doing this, but my mom always told me a crazy story about me. One weekend, my neighbors were gone and my mom and I went over to their house to feed their cat and take the trash out. I was only about 6 years old. Anyway, according to my mom, we walked into the house and I started staring at the couch. My mom didn’t understand why, but I kept looking at the couch and eventually pointed to the spot I was looking at and said “Mom, there’s an old lady sitting right there.” My mom told me that this was not true and tried laughing it off. But I was insistent, and kept telling my mom that there was an old woman sitting right there. My mom began to get concerned, and she grabbed me and we ran out of the house. When the neighbors returned, my mom told them that I had apparently seen the ghost of an old lady sitting at the house. The neighbor started crying. My mom didn’t know this, but our neighbors were gone that weekend at the funeral of one of the neighbors mother. Apparently the neighbors mother had always sat on the couch watching TV, and the neighbors were comforted by the fact that their mother was still doing this, and that she has passed on to a better, happier life.

Context: This story was told to me by my friend N, who is 19 years old and while Canadian, has lived in Saint Louis most of his life. N described to me that his mom often tells him this story, but N himself has no recollection of it, as he was only 6 at the time of this event. However, because N trusts his mom, N believes this story fully, and believes in ghosts and the supernatural because of it. N remembers this story because it is crazy to him that he saw a ghost and doesn’t remember it. N said he doesn’t know what to think of this event. He doesn’t know whether or not to think it’s scary and freaky that the ghost of a dead grandparent was at the house when nobody else was there, or whether to think it was comforting that our ancestors are watching over us.

Analysis: This piece of folklore was especially interesting to me. Usually when I hear a ghost story, it is a distant story of someone who I didn’t know who had seen a ghost, which makes it pretty easy for me to pass off and not believe it. But, since this story came from and occurred to a friend of mine, who I know and trust, it made it hard to pass off as some random ghost story and made it much more believable and realistic. I think this memora is important to N because it is a really cool story that people are always interested by. It goes to show people’s fascination with the supernatural, as well as the social and conversation the develops from sharing stories and folklore. It also shows how reliant people are on folklore from their parents or elders. N has no recollection of this event, but because his mom told him it happened, he believes in supernatural and ghosts, showing just how much influence our parents and other older individuals can have in our thinking. Also, the fact that this happened to N when he was a young child is also very important. It demonstrates the idea that children are pure and innocent, and more liable to believe in the supernatural. The final thing this folklore shows us is the idea of ancestors looking over us and the idea of a friendly ghosts, contrary to the frequent scary and evil ghosts seen in movies.

 

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