USC Digital Folklore Archives / December, 2010
general
Narrative
Tales /märchen

Tale – Japanese

Momo Taro is a tale about a married couple that could not have a child. They really wanted to have a child and one day a peach pit came to them down a stream and from this a child was born. The child was know as the peach boy.

Momo Taro is a well know Japanese tale about how a child was brought to a couple in a peach pit/leaf/peach. In fact Momo in Japanese means peach and Taro is a common and popular name for a boy. I came across this tale three times while doing this collection project. I was first told this tale by my grandmother, who was able to give me the above description. My mother also told me that tale, but she had more gaps in the tale, and finally Nicky from class was asking about this tale and if I had heard of it. I find it very interesting that my grandmother and mother would know this tale.

I think my mother knows the tale because she can put herself in the place of the married women in the tale. She was unable to have children, and so her and my father adopted both myself and my sister. We are like the boy that was delivered in the peach to the married couple in the tale.

I also couldn’t not help but notice that this is kind of like the English story of James and the Giant Peach. In this tale the boy travels away from evil caretakers and travels by way of peach from England to New York. I think that this is very interesting that two tales have such similar main characters and similar points and morals.

I find that the meaning of the tales is that if you are patient that you will be able to have what you most desire. I also think that these tales are also told so that you know to be thankful for the fact that you have family and that they should also be thankful for you.

Annotation:

Seki, Keigo. Asian Folklore Studies, vol. 25. Nagoya Japan: Nanzan University: 1966

general
Legends
Narrative

Contemporary Legend – Boise, Idaho

There’s a legend that is kind of like a ghost story, but it’s kind of like an urban legend, near Boise, kind of up in the mountains there’s this street kind of on a hill and apparently a girl was run over by a school bus or something, like a small girl, so the story goes that if you park on that hill with your car and you take the emergency brake off and you just sit there the car will move up the hill because the girl is pushing the car up the hill.

This is a ghost story and urban legend in one piece of folklore. Here a girl’s ghost is pushing cars up the hill where she was run over by a bus. The urban legend part is that you can experience this by stopping on the hill and not using you emergency brake. Stephanie heard the story from a friend as they were driving past the hill. They were in a hurry, so they were unable to stop and try the legend out for themselves, so the mystery still remains for them. Another part of the ghost story is that if after you get out of your car you can see foot prints behind your car.

Stephanie thought that this legend continues to be popular because people still go out and try to see if they park on the hill and take their emergency brake off, if their car will go up the hill. She believes that it is popular because if give people something to do on the weekends and when they are really bored.

This also means that the audience that is most likely going to keep this legend continuing are going to be teenagers with cars. If you do not have a car, or can not drive I don’t think that this legend is going to be as interesting for you. I would find it interesting to try if I was bored. It seems like it would be really interesting if something like this could happen.

Customs
general
Legends
Narrative
Protection

Contemporary Legend – University of Southern California

There are a few legends behind why every year Tommy Trojan get wound in duct tape. I come from a family that has had a few generations go through USC and I have heard a few different reasons why Tommy is dressed in duct tape during the UCLA vs. USC football game week. I originally heard from my dad that UCLA had a few students who got a helicopter and tried to dump blue and gold paint on Tommy, but because of the rotor wash and their bad aim, they were unable to get Tommy with the paint. The other story I heard was that they tired to use cow manure, and instead got a lot of it in the helicopter because of the rotor wash. I think I even heard a variation where the helicopter crashed, but I find that hard to believe.

The fact is that this legend has become very much a part of folklore on the campus of USC. Every year the Trojan Knights camp out in front of Tommy to make sure that nothing happens to him. Also, every year he is wrapped up in duct tape. These two fact keep this legend going. The other reason that they legend is still popular is the fact that we would like to think that we are that much better than people from UCLA, and that these stupid plans and actions are signs of our superiority. The thing is I also know a few people who go to UCLA.

The way their story goes, they succeed in getting Tommy with either the paint, the manure, and in one case both, and that it was because of this success that Tommy is wrapped in duct tape every year. At USC we like to think we are taking precautions from keep this from ever working even though UCLA has failed on numerous occasions to try to do something to Tommy.

Another important fact is that the legend is popular to both people at USC, and UCLA, but probably not even know in other school that do not play either school in sports. This means that they legends around Tommy and the duct tape are continued and popular among a small group of people who go to either school.

general
Legends
Narrative

Contemporary Legend – University of Southern California

In the past there was a great visible rivalry between USC and the Cal marching Bands. I have heard that one year there were a bunch of Cal band members that were dressed up in USC band uniforms and that their plan was to go out during half time and make a mess of the half time show for USC on national television. Apparently though the members of the USC marching band were smarter than this and when they were about to take the field they all punched out the Cal members that were in the band that day.

My father told me this legend when I brought up the fact that there must be some folklore that surrounds USC. He found out about this legend when he first started school at USC. He thought about this legend because it always sounded like it could have happened.

He thought that this legend has kept going through all the years because of  the marching band. The marching band has traditionally been one of the bigger and louder college marching bands in the nation, and for this reason people are always trying to compete with the marching band. He believes that this legend continues on because it makes it seem like USC’s marching band was able to prevent something bad from happening to their field show.

Another reason why I think the legend continues today is because today we live in a society that need for us to all be politically correct. It would not be appropriate for our students to try to do that to another school. It makes us long to be back in the old days when things like this were expected rather than worried about.

I also find that this legend continues today because the marching band is still very well known. If the band had not been as famous as it is then I doubt that a legend like this would ever continue to be popular on campus. Again, this kind of legend is only popular among students of the schools because we feel that we need to be a part of our school, and this is just one more way that as a group we build special connections.

Childhood
Folk Beliefs
general
Narrative
Tales /märchen

Folk Belief

Every time I lost a tooth I would put it under my pillow, and in the morning the tooth fairy would leave me a note, in my mother’s handwriting,  and a sliver dollar, and give me the tooth back which I would keep in a jar.

The idea of the tooth fairy is very popular in most western cultures. The general idea is that the tooth fairy comes if you lose a tooth and put it under your pillow, and that the tooth fairy leaves you money in exchange for the tooth.

The interesting part about Stephanie’s tooth fairy tale is that they tooth fair leaves a note, in her mom’s handwriting, and gives her the tooth back. For me I got a little money, like a quarter, but I did not keep the tooth. I find it interesting that for one family the idea of keeping the tooth is expected and that in another the idea of keeping the tooth is very strange.

This is kind of a tale that would be told to young children because they are the ones that are going to be losing teeth. The other reason why the tooth fairy is popular among children is because you are getting a present for something that was yours, you get a sort of reward for losing a tooth.

The other reason why the tooth fairy persists today is because of the interactions between children at school. Many children find out that their friends have been visited by the tooth fairy and I think that may start some other parents telling their own version of the tooth fairy tale.

Annotation:

Wynbrandt, James. The Excruciating History of Dentisty. St. Martin’s Press: 1998

general
Humor

Joke

So, an orchestra rehearsal is going on and the oboe player walks up to the conductor and says that the viola player just broke her reed. The conductor asks why he did that and the viola player responds, “because she just turned one of my tuning pegs and won’t tell me which one.”

This a joke that makes fun of the viola players in orchestras. It makes fun of the stereotype that viola players are the worst musicians in the sting section and that because of this they are often unable to tune their own instruments. This is a popular joke among musicians because we need something to bring some laughter into a very long boring rehearsal situation.

This joke has stuck with Stephanie because she is very close friends with a very good viola player at USC and she is an oboe player. The joke is popular in a broader sense because it can be adapted for many different string instruments and reed instrument combinations. I have hear the joke before and it has been told to be with and oboe player and a cello player, a clarinet player, and a violin player, and with a bassoon player and a bass player.

The ability for this joke to be adapted for many different instrument combinations makes it more accessible to other musicians that just oboe players and viola players. This means that it is more likely to be retold in variations which will help keep it popular among musicians.

general
Legends
Narrative

Legend

This is the legend of the Voodoo Dick. So, there is this mountain climber and he has been to Everest a couple of times, and when you go climb Mount Everest it takes a good month and a half to climb to the top and everything, and so the only problem with going to climb Mount Everest is that his wife gets lonely, and so that last time that he went he cheated on him. She felt horrible and told him and he understands because he is gone for a month and a half, but he wants to make sure that it doesn’t happen again, so he asks his friends what he should do? His friend tells him he knows this guy and that he has this thing called the Voodoo Dick that I’m sure will keep your wife pleased without having her to cheat on you, so he gets this guys number and goes to this guy who’s like this magic type dude and his whole shop is like herbs and spices and weird things. So, he goes to this old man and says his friend told him about a Voodoo Dick, and do you know anything about that? Well, Yes I do, come into the back room. So, he takes him into the back room and says one moment, and so he is shuffling thorough some shelves, and brings this jar this big, dusty, dirty jar filled with this black murky water and you can’t tell what’s in there, and it’s just got this old hand written label that says Voodoo Dick, and so, the old man shows him that this is the Voodoo Dick that you want, let me show you how it works. And, so he untwists the cap and says Voodoo Dick the door, and this enormous, grotesque looking penis, he thinks that it could actually have been an actual human penis persevered, you know it could have been made out of this other thing, he doesn’t know what the old man, sorcerer is capable of making. So the old man says Voodoo Dick the door, and this giant enormous thing comes out and it starts banging on the door, just going at it on the door, and the guy is in shock, this enormous thing just floating through the air hitting the door like that, and then the old man say Voodoo Dick, Voodoo Dick stop right now, and the Voodoo Dick floats back and back into the jar and the top comes back and twists itself back on. So, the mountain climber, he’s impressed by this, and he say you know he explains the situation with his wife and how his wife would like this type of thing. So the guys says yeah, so I will sell it too you for $250 and so he give him the 250 bucks and the guy, the old man tells him that he needs to explain it to him how it works, basically say Voodoo Dick and the object that you want it to do its thing on and then it will do it on whatever you say to do it on and in order to get it to stop you need to say Voodoo Dick, Voodoo Dick stop right now, otherwise it won’t stop until you say that command, so the mans like ok, ok, ok, and so he wants it still and he buys it, and he goes back to his wife and he says honey, I know I am going to be gone for awhile, and I know you are going to get lonely, so I got you a gift. And he shows her the Voodoo Dick and he goes Voodoo Dick the wall, and you know the Voodoo Dick comes out and starts against the wall and the wife is visibly shocked and is like wow, this is going to be amazing, and he says Voodoo Dick, Voodoo Dick, stop right now, and the Voodoo Dick goes and floats back into the jar and the top of the jar twists on. So, he explains to his wife how it works and she loves him for this gift that he got her, and then he goes off and climbs his mountain and maybe three weeks into it his wife starts to feel lonely, so she decides that she is going to use the Voodoo Dick and this is her first time using the Voodoo Dick. So, she gets out the jar and says Voodoo Dick my pussy and the Voodoo Dick comes out and it starts you know having intercourse with her, this penis is going in and out, in and out , and after awhile she starts… at first it feel good, and then you know it get heated, and it get heated, and then she starts to have an orgasm, and in the heat of the moment it’s so amazing for her, it’s the best orgasm she has ever had, but she can’t remember how to get it to stop, she doesn’t remember the command. So she’s like stop Voodoo Dick, stop, stop, and she is like trying to pull it out, but it is just going at it. And, so she is crazy and out of breath, she doesn’t know what to do so she get her car keys and hops in her car, and starts driving to the hospital. And she starts to have another orgasm, and another orgasm, and she is swerving all over the road and she is in complete control of this Voodoo Dick that is going at it. She is still swerving all over the place, and so a police officer starts following her with the sirens and so the police officer is following her, and she doesn’t know what to do and she is trying to pull over, and she crashes into a tree, and she is just sitting there in the car just having more orgasms and so the police officer comes up and knocks on her door and she rolls down the window and she is just sitting the saying Voodoo Dick, Voodoo Dick, stop, stop. And the police officer is like are you on drugs, are you drunk? You’re driving like a crazy person, you just got into a wreck. She is just like Voodoo Dick, ahhhh, Voodoo Dick, ohhhhh, aaahhhhh, and the police officer looks and her and is like what are you trying to say? And all she can say is Voodoo Dick ahhhhhh, and the police officer says, Voodoo Dick my ass.

Jack thought that this legend has a clear meaning and that was that pleasure needs to be in moderation. He also thought that it was saying that it is more appropriate for people to pleasure themselves in more traditional ways than with a “giant, magical, cock.” Jack thought that the legend is telling us that you can have too much of a good thing. He gave analogies of drinking too much and being sick, or eating to much and getting sick.

I would have to agree with Jack on the analysis of this legend, that on a superficial pass it seems just like a long winded joke, but if you look at the hidden meaning there is a lesson to be learned about everything in moderation. I also think that in today’s world that we see jokes and things more along this subject material because it is becoming more socially acceptable to talk about these things in public. I also wouldn’t be surprised to hear about this legend anywhere, it isn’t as time and place specific. It is a little crude and rude, so it might appeal more to unmarried men, or younger people anywhere from high school age, through college age.

Customs
general
Holidays

Tradition – Chinese

During the Chinese New Year it is customary to give what are called Hungbau which are basically red envelopes. They generally have money in them and you are suppose to put it under your pillow. The money isn’t suppose to be spent because it represents your luck for the coming year.

Shishi is originally from China and she told me of the tradition of these red envelopes and how the idea is that if you spend the money from the envelope it is the same as spending all of your luck, so people hold on to this money so that they will have good luck for the entire year.

She told me that she first remembers this when she was a young child, but that she still celebrate the tradition because she wants to have the luck. She had also heard of people that claimed that for one reason or another their luck really was tied to what they did with the money from the red envelopes.

I think that this seems like something that children would participate in. It seems a little like a tradition of Easter egg hunts, something that most children in the United states will participate at some time. It seems like in China the children participate in the red envelopes instead. I think this is very popular because kid would like to think that they can affect their luck.

general
Legends
Narrative

Legend – Switzerland

In Switzerland the border of Switzerland and France there is a separation created by a river. Basically on the Swiss side there is a mountain, it’s like a hill, but it’s just like a rock face. And you look at the rock face and you look at it at a certain angle it looks like exactly like the face of John Calvin the Protestant reformer. The story goes as when he visited the town that was right near there, there was at around the same time that he visited the town, that side of the hill just collapsed and then there was just his face.

Jack believes that since there is a strong following of Calvanists there that this is a legend that is used to further their belief that what John Calvin was teaching was the correct way to view religion. These people hold on to the legend because it proves that this sign is for the approval of Calvanism from God.

I believe this may have also been used by people to bring people to be Calvanist because it seems to be more acceptable if a religion has signs that point to why it is the correct way to view the world. In this case I think the sign of the hill side giving way to an image of John Calvin maybe slightly twisted because we do not know exactly how close this image is to what John Calvin looked like. Also, if you have to stand at a certain angle, to me that would mean that there is a good chance that there are other people in the world that would say it looks like someone else.

Had this happened in another country I think the image in the rock would be totally different. I believe that this is again a legend that is mainly told to people of the area. I think the most likely reason for know this legend would be from visiting the area.

Jack did visit the area and that is why he knows of the legend. I know only because I had asked for some folkloric tales. I believe had I not really asked for some folklore from him for this project that it would be unlikely  that he would have told me this legend.

general
Legends
Narrative

Legend – Switzerland

This is the tale, the three saints of Zurich. Zurich, Switzerland has three patron saints because every town has a patron saint, and the ones in Zurich are particularly interesting because basically, I think it was 500, or 600, when they wanted to convert the city to Christianity, and basically there was this really evil king or whatever who wanted to execute them for trying to convert the city because he thought it was dangerous, so he like, I forget all the tortures he did, but I know he like boiled them in oil, in like bubbling oil and the burned, or whatever and eventually he did some other tortures, but he eventually just cut off their heads, all three of them and the legend goes that he buried them, but their head were decapitated, and the legend goes that at night or whatever that they rose from their graves, holding their heads they walked up the hill to the top of the mountain that was overlooking Zurich, and they carried their heads with them to the top of the mountain and buried themselves on top of the mountain.

Jack thought that this legend was proof of the area’s religious leanings and that this was the miracle that the saints performed in order to be considered saints. The idea he said was that God had to give them a special ability and that in this case it was rising from the dead and walking up the hill and reburying themselves. Jack also thought that this might be a popular legend among religious people because the saints end up closer to Heaven and God because they reburied themselves at the top of a mountain.

I think this legend is again popular with people of the town. It can be used to give the town an identity that separates if from other towns in the surrounding area. I believe that the legend is spread when you visit Zurich. Jack knows about the legend because of relatives that have visited Zurich, and come back and told him about the legend.

Another important thing is that the legend has three saints rather than any other number, I think this may have to do with three being a special number in Western religions. I also think the reburial of the saints at the top of a mountain is also suppose to show that if you were to follow in these saints beliefs that when you die, you will end up being closer to Heaven and God.

Annotation:

Hoffmann, Edith. Nineteenth-Century Pictures from Vienna, at Zurich. Vol. 108, No. 757 London: The Burlington Magazine Publications, Ltd.: 1966

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