Folk Beliefs
Magic
Protection

A Falsified Superstition

Item and Context:

“When I was a kid, I read ‘The Adventures of Tintin’ like nobody’s business. Like, I would just devour them. And so, when I discovered that there was one called ‘Tintin in Tibet’, of course I was delighted, being of half-Tibetan ancestry. While I was reading it, I found this superstition in there where one of the sherpas, the mountain guide dudes, tells Captain Haddock, who is notorious for flouting other people’s cultures and traditions, that he isn’t supposed to pass a chorten, a Buddhist monk’s memorial structure, on the right, because it will ‘unleash the demons’. Weirdly enough, when I went to Tibet a few years ago for a family trip, we went hiking up in the Himalayan foothills, where there happened to be a ton of chortens just dotting the hillsides. We were accompanied by a couple of local sherpas, who found it supremely bizarre that I was doing everything I could to veer left as I passed them by, so that I wouldn’t offend anyone. I saw them laughing at me, and so I asked them, simultaneously embarrassed and confused, what they found so funny. They asked me if I’d read any Tintin comics before, and so I told them yes. To my amazement, they started laughing even harder at this. I was growing increasingly upset, and so I asked them what the hell was going on. They told me, trying desperately to keep their faces straight, that they had seen several American and European tourists doing the same thing that I was doing because they had read the Tintin comic. With one final snort of laughter, they informed me that the superstition from the comic wasn’t a real Buddhist superstition, and that the guy who created them, Hergé, completely made it up!”

Analysis:

This is an example of “fakelore”, which later grew into something a lot of people believed in because it was propagated by such a popular franchise, much like the series of Paul Bunyan stories, which was actually created by the logging industry to encourage the locals to believe that logging was a great American tradition. A question is brought up here – if the practice is conducted by a lot of people today, is it still fakelore or is it now folklore? Maybe because the society in which this practice was supposedly traditional never did it in the first place, it’s fakelore, but because there are people who believe in it now because they grew up on the Tintin franchise, it has now transformed into folklore.

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