USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘lie’
Folk speech
Humor
Riddle

Door to Life or Death

Form of Folklore:  Folk Belief (Riddle)

Informant Bio:  The informant was born and raised primarily in Glendale, California; he only left the United States for a two year period (from age fourteen to fifteen) to live in London, England.  Most of his knowledge of folklore is from his mother (of Irish decent), his father (of Persian-Armenian decent), and media such as the internet and television.

Context:  The interview was conducted on the porch of the informant’s house in the presence of two other informants.

Item:    So there’s the riddle of two doors and two guards; one door leads to life, one door leads to death, one guard will always tell the truth and one guard will always lie.  And the two guards are not attached to the doors; the truth teller is not, for example, attached to the door of life, nor is the liar attached to the door of death.  It could be in front of either one.  Your objective is to find out which one… your objective, should you choose to accept it… is to find out which door leads to life, by asking one guard one question.

The answer to the riddle is:  you ask whichever guard you wish, “what will the other guard say is the right door?”  If the guard you ask happens to be the truth teller, he will truthfully tell you that the other guard will point to the wrong door.  And if you ask the liar, “what will the truth teller say?” the liar will lie about what the truth teller will say and will point to the wrong door.  So either way, if you ask “what will the other guard say is the right door?” the guard you’re talking to will point at the wrong door.  And you go through the other one.

Informant Comments:  The informant was introduced to this riddle when he was in the sixth grade.  He believes it is an interesting riddle which helps students develop strong analytic skills starting from a very young age.  Personally, the informant enjoys riddles like this one, mainly because he likes to enhance his own way of thinking.

Analysis:  This riddle is mainly used to challenge those who attempt to solve it.  Having to figure out which question, when addressed to either the liar or the truth tell, would eliminate the importance of which guard you are talking to, forces those who are introduced to this folklore to use logical reasoning and laws of negation in order to identify the door to life.  Though they may not be aware of it, people are strengthening their reasoning skills by hearing this riddle and trying to solve it.  As a pleasant addition to the riddle, the informant added some humor by referencing a famous line from the Mission Impossible films.  By pausing to say, “your mission, should you choose to accept it”, the informant gave the riddle a lightened humorous feel.  This offered a nice balance to the performance of this folklore; the riddle was challenging and yet entertaining at the same time.

Folk Beliefs

If you tell a lie, god will strike black spot on your heart

“If you tell a lie, god will strike black spot on your heart”

My informant was first told this by his father when he thought he was telling a lie. It reflects the strong religious beliefs of his father. I asked my informant what would happen if he had a black spot on his heart, and he wasn’t sure. Despite this, this threat succeeded in scaring my informant into telling the truth.

Game
Initiations
Legends
Narrative

The Glass Eye

The informant has been a professional actor for many years and runs an acting school in Hollywood. He here recounts a few pieces of interconnected folklore which he shares with his class every year. Contained in this are both a legend and a prank.

He begins by explaining how he does voice over acting at his agency (by going in, waiting in the hall, then going into a sound booth) then he launches into…

The story:

On this particular day, I was standing in line and in front of me, waiting to go in the booth, which was across the hall, was Hil Huber with her, ya know, glass eye. And I say “Hey Hil, how ya doin’? How ya doin’?”

She says, “Oh hi David how are you?”

“Good, good.”

And then my buddy Ogie came in and stood next to me. And Ogie’s been a friend of mine for, oh god, like 15 years. And so, we’re sitting there and we started doing this little nudging thing like “You’re too close to me man. You’re too close. You’re too close.” Before you know it, it somehow escalated into a game of capoeira. Do you know what capoeira is? It’s kind of that Brazilian “Oh, I chop at you; I get out of the way; I come back over; windmill kick” kind of thing. [He mimes these moves as he says them.] We don’t really know capoeira but we were kind of in the hallway pretending that we did.

So, me and Ogie are doing the fake fighting thing in slow motion in the hallway, and Hillary Huber is there watching. …with her good eye. [Class laughs.] Uh, and the door to the booth opens and out of the booth comes Kenny Campbell. Kenny Campbell is about six foot five, three-hudred-and-eighty pounds of man.And as he walks out of the booth, I am here, and I’m doing like a chop at Ogie. [Mimed.] And he’s doing like “I get out of the way” like this. [Ducks and spreads his arms.] And he’s down with his leg extended. [Slaps the extended leg for emphasis.]

Kenny doesn’t see. Kenny comes out, trips over the leg, falls shoulder first, the full three hundred and eighty pounds of him, into the sternum of Hillary Huber.

Hillary’s eye pops out. It bounces off the wall in front of me, bounces off the wall behind me, and comes to rest at the center of the hallway. [Nervous laugher from the class.]

And Hillary goes, “Oh my god! Oh my god! Where is it!? Where is it!?” [Clasping his hand over his right eye.]

I’m looking right at it. And it’s looking right at me. But I don’t want to pick it up. Because it was just in her face man! But I feel like I have to so I go “I’ve got it. I got it.” and as I bend to pick it up, I kick the eye. And the eye goes rolling down the hallway and gets lodged under a huge piece of sound equipment at the back of the hall. [This whole bit is mimed.]

At which time Hillary goes, “Oh my god. They know. They all know!” And she runs out of the agency. [Mimed]

Now of course none of that is true you fools! [Uproarious laughter from the class. as well as a cry of “What?!”

There is also a prank involved with the legend:

As I say, Ogie and I have been friends and been at this agency for 15 years. So we know all the people there because at a voice over agency you go in every day. And, when it’s just me and ogie in the waiting room, which happens every week or so, and one of the new people who’ve been there for oh, a week or a month or so comes in and sits down in the waiting room, I look at Ogie and he looks at me and we both know without saying a word… it’s on.

And I say to Ogie “Dude, don’t fuckin’ talk about it.”

He goes “Dude, I couldn’t stop think…”

“Ogie, you’ll get us in trouble.”

“Not gonna get us in trouble. Everybody knows”

“Everybody doesn’t know!”

Until the new person says, “everybody knows what?”

At which point I will turn to them and say,  “well, you know Hillary Huber right?” And then we launch into the story, me telling half, him telling half, it getting more outrageous with every telling. And the person never suspects what kind of a sick fuck would lie about something like that. They never suspect that it’s all bullshit.

He then goes on to explain his reasoning:

He explains that the point of the story is that when someone is lying, they are at their most adamant and sincere because they don’t want to be caught in it. He uses the story as an example of how, when you are auditioning for a detective show you should always play the roll as though you were innocent because liars sound believable.

The story and prank are also examples of liminal folklore in that weather you believe the story/fall for the prank is a measure of how long you have known the informant. If you have heard it before, you laugh along with him as he tells it because you are in his circle.

 

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