USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘fakelore’
Folk Beliefs
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Green Man of Portland

Informant grew up and lives in a town neighboring Portland, OR. He now often travels for work, but has and continues to spend time in the titled city when possible. He has a degree in architecture and currently works as a surveyor’s assistant. He likes British television shows, reading, and exploring Portland’s restaurants.

 

 

There exists a thing called The Green Man of Portland. It is in the Old Town area, and you can buy paraphernalia of the guy.

The informant previously thought it was like the area’s own private bigfoot and never knew the full details, but the idea is that you perpetuate it yourself.

The informant recalls, “My personal story is that I came to this spot, having not known about the whole Green Man thing for quite some time, and followed the circuit telling the whole story of the Green Man down 5th and 6th Avenue. And then participated in an even smaller tradition of getting a small Green Man knick-knack and hiding it in the area so that someone later can ‘discover,’ or have a sighting of the green man.”

“You can get ‘I have seen the green man’ items, or little sculptures you can hide so others can find the green man around Portland. I have hidden one. I don’t know if someone found it, but I have to imagine they did since it was still in downtown – that’s part of the charm, a self-fulfilling prophecy. Leave a memento not to be found by you, and pass it off to somebody else.”

The informant has not since found a green man that others have hidden.

 

After checking up on the story, the informant found this description:

The legend goes like this: ever since Portland’s founding there have been sightings of small green archers. Whenever the archer hits someone her vision changes: flowers grow from the heads of passerby, a building called “The Greenwood” appears where there was no building before, and a giant tree towers over the city. On certain nights a great white celestial stag is spied in the skies over Portland. The piece has two components. There are two sculpture and eight “story markers” told as a poem over ten blocks of Old Town and Chinatown. The images in the panels combine the visual language of seventies horror comics and WPA posters. Pedestrians and riders come upon the story in fragments based on their routes through the neighborhood. The neighborhood has a layered, rich history. The legend encompasses all the varied, transitory communities that call that neighborhood home.

 

And here is a picture of the Green Man sculpture that the informant went to see:

 

 

 

Upon further investigation, this shows to be a piece of fakelore – the conception of the story and the placing of the markers downtown is somewhat recent and by a particular artist. But it is working its way into the local folklore – the markers are becoming places of interest, and there is a built tradition of a form of hide-and-maybe-seek (with these objects) that visitors can participate in. Based on the kind of community that exists in Portland, I’m guessing there are already people who like to believe in the story at least a little bit. It fits in well with the eco-conscious attitude of the area.

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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