Tag Archives: childhood story

Ghost Story in Primary School

Background: The interviewer and the informant went to the same primary school together in Qingdao, China. Interview asks the informant to retell a horror story that was very popular in their primary school. 

Informant: So next to the gate there was this statue of a woman, she’s playing a harp. And a long time ago there was this girl who stayed in school for longer than usual, cuz you know, she was on duty to clean the common areas in the hall. She was about to leave and she’s the only one left, and when she passed by that statue, she saw the statue woman blink. Then all of a sudden she really wanted to pee, so she went back into the building, to pee of course. Ok she didn’t go into the building, she went to that small restroom near the playground, you know where that is. She got in there, saw a janitor, and that person was wearing a hat and cleaning the floor. She didn’t bother and went in to pee. Then when she’s finished, she couldn’t get out! There was an air wall that blocked her way. Then… she never got out.

Context: This story was really popular in this particular primary school. Almost every student who went there has heard of the story. The interviewer and the informant first heard of the story when they were in second or third grade. Some people heard it from their classmates, and a few heard it from the older fifth and sixth graders. 

Analysis: The statue mentioned in the story was situated near the school gate and near a small school garden. There is a very shallow pool in the garden, and first and second graders are usually prohibited from going into the garden. I think this story serves as a cautionary tale masked with a mysterious, horror element. The physical location of the statue is at a liminal point—beyond the statue is prohibited and possibly dangerous. The girl in the story is in danger when she sees the statue, and when the impact of this terror is translated into real life, young school kids may be deterred by the statue and areas around it. This explains why the story was popular especially among younger kids. For the fifth and sixth graders, the garden and the school gate are no longer dangerous to them. The mystery and threats in the garden lose their attractions, and subsequently the tale is no longer scary. 

The Legend of Saci Pererê: a Brazilian Legend

Informant: The legend of Saci Pererê is a one-legged man who lives in the forest, and he loves to play tricks. He has a magical red cap where he can disappear wherever he wants and reappear wherever he wants. He loves to play tricks and he loves to steal kids’ toys and set animals loose, really he just plays tricks on everything. If anything inside of a house goes awry, it is said that it is Saci Pererê’s fault. Also, the legend says that when Saci Pererê does a spin dance, it is the cause of every forest tornado. The only way to capture him in this swirl is to throw a rosary into the tornado. The legend says that if you come in to steal herbs or destroy the forest, Saci Pererê will come after you with his tricks if you don’t get his permission before you take herbs, as he is an expert on herbs and medicines. The legend is meant to scare away people who came to ruin the forest.

Context: The informant grew up in Brazil and heard this legend during her childhood, which is how the informant felt connected to it: it brought the informant back to their roots in Brazil. This is the way in which the informant interprets the legend: they interpret it in the context of hearing about it and growing up in Brazil. The interview took place in a typical, face-to-face, storytelling situation with the informant.

Analysis:

The Legend of Saci Pererê contains all of the characteristics of a traditional legend: it takes place in our world, in this case, in the forest, it has questionable truth value, and it is about questions about factuality and wondering what is real. This legend has great entertainment value for Brazil: it is a legend that has been passed down through generations in that it is a legend that protects the forest, and the informant even said that there is a National Day for Saci Pererê on October 31; this conveys how popular this legend is in Brazil. However, there is a greater cultural significance for this legend: the legend of Saci Pererê ultimately states how Saci Pererê is protecting the forest through his antics and jokes when people come in searching for herbs. This brings in the issue of bioprospecting, where big pharmaceutical companies hire researchers to go to indigenous cultures around the world, see what herbs and cures they are using, and steal these and put them into their medicine, stealing all of the royalties without giving proper credit to the indigenous cultures. The legend of Saci Pererê is a folkloric way of coping with this travesty: there is a character in the legend who offers protection from this. It is a way for the Brazilian people to offer themselves comfort against the huge pharmaceutical companies who have stolen from them. In this way, it shows how legends can be protective for the people who believe them: it provides comfort, security, and identity for the Brazilian people, and this is applicable to many other legends as well. Therefore, the Legend of Saci Pererê not only has great entertainment value for Brazil, but also offers comfort and protection from the negative effects of bioprospecting.

Annotation: For another version of this legend, see p. 391 of Carvahlo, Leonardo F. B. S., et al. “Teaching Brazilian Folklore through Video Games: a Way to Motivate Students.” Nuevas Ideas En Informática Educativa TISE , 2015, www.tise.cl/volumen11/TISE2015/385-396.pdf.