USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘vampire’
Folk Beliefs
Tales /märchen


Pontianak is a female ghost, or the Southeast Asian equivalent of the vampire. A woman could become a pontianak by committing suicide upon discovering that her husband is cheating on her, or if the woman dies during pregnancy. They live on banana trees, and there are many banana plantations in Malaysia and Indonesia. When I was a kid, my grandmother would warn me not to get too close to banana trees. Or don’t look up when you’re near a banana tree. They like to hang upside down too. I’ve never seen one and I haven’t known anyone who’s seen a pontianak, but they’re usually seen by village folks. Pontianak have long black hair, long fangs, and a white dress, and they usually haunt only men. They don’t suck blood like Western vampires do, but they suck out your organs.

The informant grew up hearing stories about the pontianak. The legend of this creature could be a reflection of expected gender roles in Malaysian and Indonesian societies, and also fertility and faithfulness.



My informant told me of various rumors circulating the USC campus about Folklore professor, Tok Thompson. There are many suspicions of Professor Thompson’s wild nature outside of the classroom. She stated that she has overheard some of her classmates talking about beliefs that he could be a vampire or a werewolf. Their suspicions seemed validated by his hatred for garlic. The dead giveaway though, as she explained is the red bull and coffee that he comes to class with everyday, without fail. She stated that he must be in need of a pick-me-up after being up all night prowling the streets. Furthermore, his knowledge of vampire and werewolf folklore is suspiciously extensive.

Her belief as to why this legend about professor Thompson is passed around is because of how unusual a professor he is. Students need an explanation for a Professor who has dedicated his life to the discipline of folklore.