Who far could a dog walk into a forest?
Halfway because after that he’s walking out.
“Well, this is the first riddle my dad ever gave me. Uh, you know, I enjoy word play and I think it’s just a light switch that makes people’s heads really turn a bit. Riddles are just a fun way to get a conversation started sometimes, and yeah, I don’t know, it’s just fun seeing people try and figure it out”
“Well, uh, like I said it’s the first riddle my dad ever gave me. We’d often toss riddles at each other back and forth – well, like, once I was older. And uh, yeah, I’m not sure where this one came from before my Dad, but I know my Grandfather also enjoyed word play, so if I had to guess it would be from him. Now I have a bunch of them I ask people if they ever come up. ” Sure enough, this riddle came up when exactly that was happening. I’d asked a group of friends if they had any good riddles or jokes, and two of my friends went back and forth with them. This was the first one that was mentioned.
When I first heard the informant tell this riddle in the group, I had no idea it was an actually important riddle to him. At the time, I was just jotting the riddles down as they were told back and forth between this participant and another. I guess it would make sense, though, that his favorite riddle would come first.
This would be an example of a true riddle as are most of the riddles the informant would be talking about. Those that have a traditional question and answer, that can be guess based on clues hidden in the riddle itself. I believe this participant does it, however, to test an acquaintances intelligence. Not that he expects the other person to guess it correctly, but I think he expects them to enjoy it because of how clever it is. This participant definitely values his intellect and the intellect of his friends, so that would make sense.
“The Aralezs are a kind of mythical creature from Armenia. To put it simply, they are essentially like a cross between a dog or a wolf and an eagle, so basically a dog with wings. Legend has it that they live on Mount Ararat, which is pretty much the most sacred landmark to Armenians. They used to be worshipped along with a lot of the pagan gods and goddesses before Armenia was Christianized and stuff. I guess the most notable thing about them is that they come down from the mountain in times of war to lick and heal the wounds of Armenian people. I’ve also heard of some people entombing their dead relatives in towers so that the Aralezs could come down and revive them.”
This is from my roommate who was born in Yerevan, Armenia, but he and his family moved to the U.S. in the late 1990s, before he was even five years old. However, he has spent most of his summers back in Armenia, visiting family and whatnot. He is fluent in Armenian and speaks it at home. He’s never really believed in the Aralezs, but he learned about it from his grandpa who would always tell him stories, with some involving Armenian mythology.
My (hold note) mommy said if I’d be good she’d send me to the store,
she said she’d bake a chocolate cake if I would sweep the floor,
she said if I would make the bed and help her mind the phone,
she would send me out to get a chocolate ice cream cone.
And so I did
the things she said,
I even helped her make the bed.
Then I went out,
just me alone,
to get a chocolate ice cream cone.
Now (hold note) on my way a-comin’ home I stumbled on a stone,
and need I tell you that I dropped
my chocolate ice cream cone.
A little doggie came along and took a great big lick (slurping sound),
and then I hit that mean ole doggie with a little stick.
And he bit me
where I sat down
and he chased me all over town.
And now I’m lost,
can’t find my home,
it’s all because of a chocolate, chocolate, chocolate ice cream cone.
The informant was my father, a 49-year-old engineer who currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, but who grew up in the area surrounding Austin, Texas. The song is one that his mother used to sing to him and his siblings when they were little. The song was primarily sung right before bed, as well as occasionally on long road trips. The informant says his mother would sing it to the children almost every night, sometimes “perfunctorily,” sometimes smiling and adding “extra ‘chocolate, chocolate, chocolate’s’ on the end.” The informant sees it as a mix of a “bizarre lost kid fairy tale” and a “moral lesson for young kids growing up,” the lesson being, “don’t go out on your own or, you know, you might get lost and never find your way home again.”
This song was collected while I was home for Spring Break and performed in my living room. It was interesting to me because my father also used to sing it to me and my sister when we were children because, “when you’re a parent, you’re looking for, you know, the things to pass down and it was one of my favorite songs as a child.” The tune of the song makes it seem fun and harmless, but there is a dark undertone about the lyrics that I recognized, even when I was growing up. Looking at it now, I think it is less of a moral lesson, and more of a lesson to children about the random, horrible things that can happen to you when you are not expecting them. None of the events that take place are really the narrator’s fault (other than being chased by a dog after he hits it with a stick), and yet the narrator still ends up lost and alone. It is a dark reflection on everyday life hiding within a song for children, as is often the case with old songs and stories created for children.
INFORMANT: “So this is a scary story I used to get told all the time as a kid on camping trips or sleepovers or what have you. I’m totally going to mess it up, but bear with me. Okay, so there was this little girl who lived in a house with her family and her dog, and her dog would sleep right next to her bed each night. And she liked this, it made her feel safe to know her dog was there with her, especially when it got dark and she got scared like kids sometimes do in the dark. So whenever she got freaked out at night, she would hang her arm off the bed and the dog would lick her hand, and she would know he was right there with her.
So one night, the house seems eerily quiet, and she gets scared. She hangs her arm off the bed, feels the lick, and tries to go to sleep again. But something just doesn’t feel right, so in a few minutes she hangs her arm off the bed again. Another lick. So she goes to sleep, and eventually in the middle of the night she wakes up and needs to go to the bathroom. So she gets out of bed, walks into the bathroom, and turns on the lights. The whole bathroom is covered in blood, and the mangled body of her dog is crumpled on the floor – every bone in his body is broken. And she looks in horror up at the bathroom mirror, because there, written in dripping red blood, is the sentence ‘People can lick too.'”
When the informant told me this story, I wasn’t surprised because I’d definitely heard variations of it before. Ghost stories and scary stories are great examples of folklore because there are so many different variants of each story. Certain defining elements remain the same, but details change based on where you hear the story or just who’s telling it. This story in particular seems to utilize the rule of threes: the girl gets one lick, two licks, and the third time she wakes up, the time she goes to the bathroom, is when she discovers the dead dog and the eery message. This is an effective scary story because it makes you go back and think – it’s not showing you the monster, he doesn’t kill the girl or anything. But the listener automatically backtracks and realizes that it was the dog murderer that was licking the little girl’s hand the whole time!
ANNOTATION: Several other versions of this particular story can be found on the scary story website Creepypasta, including this one: http://creepypasta.wikia.com/wiki/Licking
Treat is a new friend of mine. We shared two classes this semester. He’s a sophomore transferring from Norwich University. He is in the same NROTC unit I’m in here at USC. He’s lived in some very interesting places like Italy and the Netherlands. They move around to such cool places because his father is in the military and that’s where his father got orders to. Treat really likes ghost stories and Mythology. It was not hard interviewing him in the least bit. He had stories I had never heard of or could’ve even imagined.
Treat, being a fan of horror and legends told me a story about a dog who choked on some fingers:
“A woman returned from work and found her large dog, a Doberman, lying on the floor breathing funny. So she immediately grabbed the dog and put him into her car and drove him to a vet. The vet looked at the dog but didn’t really find anything at first for the breathing problem…so he said that he’d have to perform a tracheotomy. That thing where you put the tubes down the animal’s throat so he could breathe. He told her that she shouldn’t watch, said the dog would stay the night and the she could go home.
When she got home, the phone was ringing off the hook. She answered it and it was the vet. He yelled into the phone: “Get out of the house immediately! Call the police!” When the vet performed the operation, he found a three fingers were stuck in its throat. He thought the fingers may have come from some dead person in the house.
The police came and found a dead man in a closet with out fingers.
Analysis: The question is…why do stories like this exist. It serves little purpose. Is the message “don’t leave your dog home alone.” Or “get better alarm systems”? There are many variations to this story, sometimes the dog chokes on the genitals of the man, sometimes the dog dies.
Larry and the Dog
informant: Okay so there was this guy and his dog and they were out in the middle of the woods with this house that they were going to redo for his own personal use. Anyways . . . so he decided to just move into the house so he didn’t have to go back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. And then at about 2 a.m the dog starts like freaking out. . . oh his name is Larry. Anyways so [a voice] is like,
“Laaaaaaary, I can see you” and Larry’s like,
“whhhhhhaaaaaat?????”. And he was all freaked out and then the voice was like, “Larry, I’m 10 feet away” and then it disappeared. And then the next night, at the exact same time, the dog started like freaking out and the voice was like,
“Laaarry, I’m on your porch”. And then the next night the dog flipped out again at the same time and was like,
“Laaaaaarrry, I’m outside your bedroom door”. And then the next night, the dog didn’t bark, so he opened his bedroom door and there was the dog . . . . DEAD. And then he heard a voice that said,
“Larry, I’m behind you” and then he turned around and then he died.
Interviewer: Where did you hear this story?
Informant: My friend told it to me at school
Interviewer: Do you know where she heard the story?
Informant: I have no idea
Interviewer: Who do you typically tell the story to?
Informant: I haven’t told the story since like, 5th grade
The informant’s tale is in accordance with Olrik’s Epic Laws of Folk Narrative, specifically and prominently, the law of repetition. The repetition effectively divides the story into discernible narrative parts and the builds suspense for the audience, which is especially important as the story was told orally. Also the age of the informants when she first heard the tale is possibly significant. The informant, in fifth grade, was on the cusp of puberty, as children are trying the sort out childhood fears and anxieties with that of adult expectations. Stories like this bring fears to the forefront so that they may be expelled by the time the children reach adulthood.
“When I was in Elementary school there was this weird scary story, well it scared me to death at the time. This one girl, Samantha told me her babysitter told it to her.
This one girls parents left her home for a night, home alone and when the girl went to bed she felt her dog licking her hand and then heard dripping in the bathroom. Um and then she went into the bathroom and saw that her dog was dead in the bathroom with blood dripping. That was the dripping. And then she went back to her room and there was a man in there that killed her.
Samantha told everybody in our class this story, at least all the girls. She was a few years older than us so she seemed really cool and we believed her. ”
So about how old were you?
“I would say like second grade so seven or eight.”
For how long did this story scary you?
“It scared me for awhile. I would say, I asked my mom about the story and she said she had heard it too. So i stopped being so scared by it because I realized it was fake. But now I don’t know if she said that because it was true or she was just trying to make me feel better.”
Did it change any of your behavior, after hearing it?
“Not really. It just made me more cautious at night. I didn’t want to walk my house at night by myself. But I got over that.”
So this story wasn’t popular amongst the boys?
“No, it was definitely just the girls.”
The informant has provided a cautionary tale warning against children being (left) home alone. It is interesting that the informant noted that the story was directed towards the girls and not boys, even before I inquired again about it. The story warns against young females about being alone and not young boys. It could be said that females are more physically vulnerable than males. Also, girls especially young ones are more often victims of abuse and assault than their male counterparts. I also found it interesting that there is no implications that the girl in the story put herself in the position of being home alone so she is not directly responsible for the repercussions. I’m assuming since the original source of this story was a babysitter, her intention was to reinforce the important of her presence while the girls parents were away. Most elementary school kids perceive themselves to be older than they are and without need of adult supervision so this tale serves as a violent reminder that they still need to be taken care of and protected.
The Killing Doll
My friend, was born in South Korea. She came the States at a young age, before beginning elementary school. She told this story near a campfire that my friends and I held before spring break.
I heard this when I was in elementary school, in the third grade I think. A family friend told me this story, she was a couple years older, in middle school as I recall.
“When I was younger, my family was taking care of a friend’s dog. A day before the dog came, my sister and I visited a garage sale down the street. My sister decided to purchase a doll. It looked like a regular doll except for the fact that it had four fingers straight and the thumb was curled toward the palm. We didn’t think much of the strange hands and brought the doll back home. The next day my whole family decided to go out and locked the dog in the room, and it happened to be in the room with the doll, so that it would not tear up the house. When the entire family came back the dog wasn’t breathing so we took him to the vet and it was pronounced dead. It was only later when we came back home that we realized the doll only had three fingers outstretched.
We had a weird feeling about the doll so the next day we decided to return it.”
I questioned her about this story because I personally heard a similar one in my childhood. The story centers on the strange doll and implies that it somehow kills a living force a night after someone or something is spent in the same room as it. How the death occurs remains unknown.
“I always feel obligated to pet Tirebiter when I walk by. Depending on my mood, I’ll even go a bit out of my way to do it.”
Members of the Trojan Knights at USC (a fraternity dedicated to the spirit of USC and its history) are required to pet the statue of Tirebiter, a dog, whenever they walk by it. The statue is located near the edge of campus, but nonetheless is passed enough for this to be a somewhat regular occurrence. The tradition began because of an actual dog by the name of Tirebiter. The unconfirmed origin story is that a Trojan Knight, about 70 years ago, was on a Los Angeles beach and came across a stray dog. He took it under his care and brought it back to the fraternity’s house. It was taken care of by the group and brought to football games. It eventually became the unofficial mascot of the fraternity, and subsequently for USC given the fraternity’s close association to the school. Because Tirebiter – and his many replacements – have since passed, it’s the responsibility of the Knights to “take care of Tirebiter” by petting the statue. It serves as both a memorial for the original Tirebiter and an homage to part of the fraternity’s history.
The informant shared the tradition and says it’s something almost exclusively done by the Knights. It’s not bad luck to not do it, or good luck to do it — it’s simply a part of their history and a courtesy paid to the memorial of Tirebiter. How the action of petting Tirebiter emerged is unclear, but the reason behind it is passed down between the brothers.
It’s sort of nice to see a school tradition that doesn’t have to do with winning at sports, insulting another school, or going crazy in the name of graduating. Paying homage to a dog the fraternity once took care of is nice. Something funny mentioned by the informant is that bringing a dog to a football game is a standard long gone. The most interesting part of this piece of folklore is that the school adopted a third mascot out of it, and made a rather nice statue out of it. There’s already Tommy Trojan and Traveler — adding a dog seems a bit overkill.
“I don’t understand this one at all: my grandmother always used to say that if you pet a wet dog, you’d get hit by a car. I genuinely do not understand where she got an idea that stupid. But she told it to my dad and all of her children.”
The informant’s grandmother, who received no formal education, was born, lived, and died in Irapuarto, Mexico. The informant is generally mistrusting of all things he has learned from his grandmother, as he refers to most folk belief as “batshit.” Such beliefs hold no weight to him and serve only to be laughed at.