USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘mascot’
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Tales /märchen

The Tiger’s Whisker – Korean Folktale

TEXT: Once upon a time, there was a woman with a husband who had just come back from a war. When her husband came back from the war, he was a different person. He used to be very kind and loving and stuff. But after the war, he was very harsh and short-tempered. He would snap at her if she had said something that he didn’t like. So the woman went to a local witch and after explaining her situation to the witch, asked if she had a potion that can change her husband back to who he used to be before the war. The witch said that this would be a very difficult potion to make but she did have a recipe for a potion that can help her with her husband. The witch told her that she needed the whisker of a live tiger to make the potion. The woman told her that that would be too difficult and almost impossible. The witch told her that if she did not have the whisker, she would not be able to help.

So the woman went home and made a bowl of rice smothered in meat sauce and brought it to the side of a mountain where a tiger lived. She left it on the edge of a cave and left. The next day, she went back to the mountain and saw that the rice bowl was empty. She replaced that empty bowl with another bowl of rice smothered in meat sauce. She repeated this for multiple days, weeks, months. Eventually, one day, when she was replacing the bowl of rice, she noticed that the tiger had been outside of its cave, waiting patiently. The next few days, she noticed that the tiger was closer and closer to where she normally put the bowl of rice. One day, she decided to stay by the rice bowl to see if the tiger felt comfortable enough to come and eat while she was watching. The tiger came and started eating the bowl of rice, and she even softly pet his head as he ate. The next day, the woman went back up to the mountain where the tiger lived with a bowl of rice and a pair of scissors. While the tiger was eating the rice, she carefully cut off a portion of the tiger’s whiskers, making sure that she did not hurt the tiger.

The next day, she ran to the witch and brought her the tigers whiskers. The witch grabbed the whiskers and threw it into the fire. The woman was very angry. The witch said that if the woman can tame a wild tiger, then why can’t she do the same for her husband. If she can gain the trust of a tiger, then why can she not be just as sensitive and caring for her husband, learning to gain his trust again.

CONTEXT: I asked my informant if she knew any Korean folktales while I was driving her to Orange County. She asked me if I had ever heard about the story of the woman and the Tiger’s whisker. I told her no so she started telling me the story from her memory.

INFORMANT: My informant originally learned of this folklore when she was in junior high school during her Korean Language school that she attended every Sunday after church. She remembered this story primarily because she had to learn it in Korean. This meant that she had to read it over and over again. She also had to practice telling the story in Korean. However, when she told me the story, she told me the story in English because that is her primary language.

My informant really likes the story because she thinks that it has a really good meaning and moral behind it. She likes the fact that the story emphasizes diligence and working at something. She liked how the story was saying that if you work hard at something continually without giving up, you would be rewarded.

MY INTERPRETATION:  My interpretation of this story aligns with my informant’s views of the story. I think the point of the story is to learn how to be sensitive and adapt to people who may be difficult to deal with. Similar to how someone would be very cautious around a dangerous wild animal, the same level of care and caution is required when dealing with people that are difficult. It’s clear that the husband comes back from the war a different person because of the trauma associated with war, or PTSD. If we truly care about something or someone, this story says that we must diligently care and be sensitive to them.

This tale is clearly not meant to be seen as a factual story that happened in the real world. The purpose of this story was primarily to get the meaning of the story across. There was a moment of implied causation within the story that I realized was there after I rewrote what she told me. When the woman in the story first sees that the bowl of rice was empty, it is implied that the tiger had eaten the bowl of rice.

Also, the use of the tiger and rice seems to be a cultural detail, rather than a universal one. If this story were to be told from an American perspective, I would think that the animal would be a lion, primarily because we view lions as the top of the food chain. When it comes to food, I would think that an American folktale would incorporate something specific to America, not rice. Tigers are strongly associated with Korean culture. Everything from the Korean Olympic mascot to children’s television shows, tigers are often used to represent the Korean culture and tradition. This seemed far more real to me when I asked my informant if she knew other stories and she listed off a few other folktales that she knew, all incorporating tigers.

Gestures

Taking Care of Tirebiter

Item:

“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.

 

Context:

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.

 

Analysis:

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.

Customs

Paper Shredder Mascot

Paper Shredder Mascot and Toilet  Paper Throwing

Tradition

 

When talking about silly mascots, my informant said his school’s nickname was the Papermarkers, since the town was built around a Georgia Pacific Paper mill in the 1930s. He claimed that their mascot was a ”big-ass shredder” and that students “throw toilet paper on the court/field/etc in order to celebrate rather than throwing confetti (since the mill makes paper, which is close enough to toilet paper). It is kind of odd, but definitely cool how a mill that is probably going to shut down in a few years defines our high school’s culture and pride as the ’Papermakers’. “

 

 

Thus, the mascot commemorates the town’s history. Moreover, the tradition of throwing toilet paper does the same in a way that students can get involved and revel in their towns past glory. Also, throwing toilet paper—which is often associated with fecal matter—when beating an opponent suggests that the school is cleaning up the opponents, comparing the other team to poop. Thus, the tradition of throwing toilet paper reinforces their history/their identity  as a community while celebrating their dominance over the opposing team.

Photo courtesy of: http://coachesaid.com/Content/ContentImages/Camas-mascot-25.jpg

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Legends
Narrative

Contemporary Legend – Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana

My mother went to Purdue University for her Bachelors degree.  My father went to Notre Dame and I am attending the University of Southern California.  There is a lot of fighting in my family about who is the best team.  One day we got into the discussion of our mascots.  By far my mom, a boilermaker, has the most unique mascot.  She began to explain the legend behind how they got their name.  She described it as the “Purdue lore” that everyone knew.

A long time ago when Purdue was just getting started, they did not have a name to call themselves.  When Purdue was playing a game against Wabash collage in 1889 in Crawfordsville all the local newspapers were there reporting.  She said there were so many reporters there that they made up for the lack of turnout of fans.  Purdue won the game by an astounding 18 to 4, “Of course we won” my mom added.  The papers started to write about the game.  They called the players of Purdue big burly brutes, and hulking men.

But then two years later Purdue played Wabash Collage again.  This time they won 44 to 0.  Even more reporters were there this time.  Even more fuss was made about how big Purdue’s men were.  They called the Purdue players “a burly gang of haymakers, cornhuskers, log haulers” and finally boilermakers.  The school decided they liked being called the boilermakers, and the name has stuck until present time.

My mother is still very proud of her school and her team the boilermakers.  The first time she told me they were called the boilermakers, she laughed.  The name is not very scary, not very intimidating, and kind of embarrassing, but she will always be a boilermaker.

http://www2.itap.purdue.edu/periodicals/Boilermakers.leg.html

March 2007

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