USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘killer’
Narrative
Tales /märchen

Story of Repentance

Informant Background: The informant is a student in Los Angeles. His family is originally from Indonesia. His parents moved to the United States and they now live in New Orleans. He speaks only English but he said his family still practice many Indonesian traditions especially folk-beliefs. He travels back once in a while to Indonesia to visit his relatives.

 

A serial killer who has killed hundreds of people realized at the end of his life how much evil he committed. He thought to himself something like: what am I going to do? Then he had a revelation toward the end of his life. He then heard of this city which consists of good people…you know where those people can teach him how to become a good person if he can reach the city…The people of that city can also teach him how to repay his since so he can reach salvation.

So this guy, the serial killer, starts walking to the good city. But he was really old, you see, so the serial killer dies on the way to the good city. The angels then wonder if he should go to heaven since he did have the intention to become good, or hell since he never made it to his destination. They decided to take the distance between his starting point and the city of good. If the man passes the half way point then he would go to heaven. But he didn’t pass the test, so an angel carried him pass the half-way point and brings him to heaven. So basically this story is pretty much saying that the intention to become a good person outweighs the evil in the past.

A story of repentance form Indonesia. The informant was told this story by his grandparents from Indonesian. The goal was to teach children to be good, want to be good, and continue to do good things despite past mistakes. The intention of the story was to teach that wanting to become good outweighs the bad things in the past.

 

 

I think this story reflects similar principles as karma. The serial’s killer intention to become good is so that he can go to heaven. He knows that his evil past will result in evil ends for him. He is doing good to expect good things in return. It is also evident that the intention to become good is so that he can eliminate or counter balance the evil he committed in the past. I think this story indirectly teaches children about karma and the consequences of good and bad actions.

This also reflects the idea of the ideal binary opposition in morality: the good and the bad. The character and the city are set as complete opposite of each other. The two are separated into pure ideal of how to judge morality. The killer is characterized as the definition of extreme “bad” while the city is defined as extreme “good” and filled with good people. The criteria of judging the good intention of the killer is a binary where the boundary is the halfway point of his journey.

This binary opposition of good and bad is blurred when the angel carried him pass the half way point so he can go to heaven due to his good intentions. The fact that only the intention to become good saves the killer from going to hell, in my opinion, makes the story effective. Since the goal of this story is to encourage people to have intention to do good things regardless of their past, the fact that the killer went to heaven shows how easy it could be to correct the evil past through simple change in attitude.

Legends
Narrative

Always Check the Backseat

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“So there is this story about a girl at a gas station filling up and she sees [a gas station attendant] and this person is being really odd and waving and trying to get her to come to him and stuff so she gets scared and gets in her car and drives off. But apparently the attendant was trying to get her to leave the car because the attendant saw someone hiding in her backseat. And I think I heard this from my sister or something and apparently it might have been inspired by something that might have been true. And that’s why my sister tells me to always look in the backseat before I climb into my car because she’s scared someone will try to kidnap me. Either that or kill me, but I think I don’t know.”


The informants sister told her this piece of folklore. I have heard this piece of folklore many times. From what I can gather, there are two main versions of this piece of folklore. There is a version with a gas station attendant and a version with a motorist. Usually, in the gas station version, the attendant sees a would-be killer hide in the backseat of the woman’s car. The attendant then finds a reason to call the woman over to his office. The reason can vary a lot ranging from claiming the woman provided him with counterfeit money to telling her that her car needs an oil change. When the woman enters the attendant’s office and the woman is told discreetly that there is someone hiding in her backseat while the attendant locks the door and calls the police.

In the motorist version, a passing driver sees the killer rise out of the back seat while the woman is driving. This prompts the driver to flash his lights at the woman, trying to warn her. However, all the woman sees is that there is a car following her flashing its lights and panics. Eventually she stops somewhere in a panic, calling for police and the driver of the other car points out the would-be killer.

In both of these stories, the almost victim is always a woman. Perhaps this is popular because as a society we believe women to be vulnerable and in need of saving. Additionally, both versions hit home the idea that things are not always what they seem. In both cases, the strangers trying to help the women both seem like they represent trouble of some kind. When, in reality they were trying to save the woman. This piece of folklore also serves as a warning to women to be cautious when out and about alone, as the woman would have been murdered had a stranger not intervened.


Both versions and more information can be found in the following:

Brunvand, Jan H. Encyclopedia of urban legends. Santa Barbara, Calif: ABC-CLIO, 2012. Print. 358-351

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