USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘pine barrens’
Legends
Narrative

Pineys and the Jersey Devil

“So I grew up in NJ, but not in the part of NJ that’s near new York. I grew up in the part of New Jersey near Philadelphia, and that’s considered South Jersey. In South Jersey, toward the Jersey Shore, there’s an area called the Pine Barrens, and the people who live there are referred to as Pineys. They’re described as not having running water or electricity. They live in a very primitive way, and live in shacks. Their families have lived in the Pine Barrens for generations. And there’s a legend that in the Pine Barrens lives a creature called the Jersey Devil, and if anything unexplained or violent or weird happened, it would be in South Jersey in the Pine Barrens. So people would say it had to do with these people who are not very sophisticated and live just among themselves and don’t mix with others combined with the evil that is the Jersey Devil. People in South Jersey really believe that there is this phantom Jersey Devil.”

Context: The informant was raised in Cherry Hill, South New Jersey.

 

Interpretation: It seems clear that the Pineys and the Jersey Devil are both used as a scapegoat for New Jerseyans’ anger and sadness in response to tragic and/or unexplained events. The Jersey Devil could also be viewed as the embodiment of New Jerseyans’ negative feelings toward Pineys. Instead of explicitly citing the elusive, exclusive Pineys as the root of evil, they can veil their hatred in a more fantastical being and dehumanize whoever is being blamed for such events. For another interpretation of the Jersey Devil, see the “Jersey Devil & Folklore” page of the Pinelands Preservation Alliance website.

 

general

The Jersey Devil

This piece was collected from my friend who grew up in New Jersey. To her, it wasn’t a very important part of her life, but it was well-known where she was from because it’s one of the most popular pieces of folklore from New Jersey.

This is how she explained it to me:

“I’m from New Jersey, and there’s a southern part of the state called the Pine Barrens, it’s filled with trees, it’s a very forest-y area. And for years and years it’s been said that there’s the Jersey Devil that lives in the pine barrens, hence the name the New Jersey Devils, the hockey team… there’s ben songs written about it…stories written about it. There are lot of versions of what it actually is. Some say it’s an actual devil or it’s more like a beast, like an animal. It’s kind of like a yeti or something, to this day people still say they see when they go to the pine barrens. I think I learned about it honestly in school when we learned about New Jersey myths, I’m pretty sure it was mentioned, and the only way is just through word of mouth”

Even though the Jersey Devil is very popular, there’s still not a consensus on what it looks like (or even what it is exactly) So, the legend can be interpreted differently by each person. However, it has been incorporated into things like sports teams, where it might become less folkloric because it would be portrayed in a certain way and would probably be trademarked. Also, the informant described it as a New Jersey myth, however, it would more accurately be categorized as a local legend or folk belief.

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