Childhood
Folk Beliefs

Hold Your Breath Around Strangers

Context:

We began talking while walking from class to lunch when he told me something his mother told him about strangers.

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

 

S: I’m not sure if this counts as a belief but when I was young, I was told that strangers have this scent that would mind control me, so whenever I walked past a sketchy looking stranger I’d hold my breath.

 

C: *laughing That’s awesome. Where’d you hear that?

 

S: My mom *chuckling

 

C: What do you think it means?

 

S: Like why did my mom tell me that?

 

C: Yea

 

S: Like.. to be careful around strangers.

 

Analysis:

As children, we are often told to be wary of strangers and to never follow people that we don’t know because it can be very dangerous. Though I heard a lot of things like “stranger danger,” this is the first time I have heard this particular lesson being taught this way. The idea of holding your breath is not new to me, however, because I hold my breath while in a tunnel after seeing my friend do it. He told me to do it because the air in tunnels is bad for one’s health. It’s interesting that these two seemingly different beliefs use the same idea of holding one’s breath to stop something bad from happening to them.

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