My informant, JA, is a undergraduate student at the University of Southern California. He moved from his family home in Arizona to attend college in Los Angeles. His family is of German ancestry.
I (AT) am a close friend of JA, and he comes over to hang out at my apartment often. I asked him if he had any folklore he could share and this story was his response.
JA: “So anyways I’m in my psych class, professor to be left unnamed for confidentiality reasons, err, and he’s been like a perfectly good professor the whole semester, like very informative, very smart well-informed guy, older guy, and then he’s like-this last class he’s like yeah I went hiking and I saw bigfoot one-hundred-percent and I’m one-hundred-percent confident in this.”
AT: “What was the story exactly?”
JA: “Uhm… The story was, I’m trying to remember all of the details, but mostly that he was hiking in the woods in like a relatively uhm… popular-not even relatively popular, just like a-some place in Arizona like a wooded area that the guy hikes a lot etc and he was just like yeah I saw him there and he was bigfoot, and he was like eight feet tall and yeah, I’m like a hundred percent certain of what I saw.”
JA: “That was all the detail he really gave on the story. I wasn’t really sure if he was shitting us, but he seemed to believe it and he waited to tell it to us at the end of the year and then that was the last class I had with him and then I haven’t spoken to that professor like since so it wasn’t like a gotcha or anything.”
Stories of Bigfoot are fairly common throughout the United States and Canada. I think this example is interesting because of the context in which the story is presented, and more specifically, the way in which it is presented. In my analysis of this performance, I thought a lot about the lack of information given by my informant. It seems to me that the informant had a very skeptical attitude towards the narrative his teacher was presenting, and framed the whole re-telling of that narrative in a way that implied that the teacher’s story was not to be believed, or that he was crazy, that he broke off from the normal at the last day of class. It occurred to me the link between the negative viewing of the original storyteller’s narrative by our informant and the lack of the actual ability to recount much of the original storyteller’s (the professor) narrative. To put it simply: the informant did not care about the bigfoot story. To the informant, the story was that the teacher was crazy, or weird, and that he presented this narrative on the last day of class, and how crazy that was. But what is lost is much of the original storyteller’s bigfoot tale. I think it’s very interesting how much a narrative can change depending on who is telling it, as in this case the entire narrative is reframed from what was originally intended by the professor’s telling of the story.