Author Archives: Isabel Seely


It’s just as easy to marry a rich man, as it is to marry a poor man.

Sophia: So, umm this is something my mom like just always says to me. I think its ridiculous.

Isabel: Why?

Sophia: My mom is just so consumed with marrying me off and of course she wants me to be like wealthy or what you. You know.
Isabel: When does she use this proverb? In what context?

Sophia: Umm… I don’t know. I guess whenever I talk about boys or like my future or where I want to live. That sort of thing. It basically like always ends in this ‘lesson’ and like, ummm… like need for me to have money.

Isabel: How does this make you feel?

Sophia: I don’t know. I mean I don’t really listen to her anymore, its not something I think I will care that much about. I get annoyed actually. Like I don’t only think about money, I think its gross. I don’t think my mom wants me to be like, like a golddigger. But it annoys me that she even says this kind of thing.

Isabel: Have you heard this proverb said anywhere else?

Sophia: I’ve just heard it from my mom. But my mom says that her mom always used to say it. It’s kind of funny because like my mom says that my grandma would always say it and she acts like that was annoying for her but then she pushes it on me. You know? I don’t know, it’s just funny.

Isabel: Does she tell it to your brothers? (Sophia has two brothers)

Sophia: No! (LAUGH) Such a double standard! I feel like I’m painting my mom in a bad light. Like, she isn’t ignorant or that conservative really. But then she says stuff like this just to me. I think she likes to be accepting but ultimately wants me to be ‘well off’ or whatever.

Examination of this proverb reveals a lot about Sophia’s relationship with her mom, the values within that relationship, as well as Sophia’s own perspective on her future at this liminal point in her life. It is interesting to note the depth of this small piece of folklore. This one saying Sophia has grown up hearing provides great insight into her family dynamic. To begin, we learn that money is clearly an important proponent in Sophia’s future, according to her mother. Additionally, her mom, albeit passively, attempts to influence Sophia’s choices (here, her choice for a mate) by engraining these “easy” notions within her daughter’s mindset. Sophia’s relationship with her mother is also introduced through this explanation of her familial proverb. Sophia was very candid throughout the interview, and although she did not respect her mother’s purpose and believe the message of the proverb, she nevertheless was hesitant to “paint her mom in a bad light”. In this instance, Sophia displays very stereotypical adolescent behavior. She is torn between developing her own set of principles and opinions and loyalty to her mother. She is not quite confident in her own convictions yet adamantly does not take the message of this proverb to heart. Finally, the discussion of the context and audience to which this folklore is performed reveals the gender conditions within Sophia’s family. Due to the fact that her mother does not perform this proverb for Sophia’s brothers, combined with Sophia’s disdain for the “double standard” within her family, it is clear that Sophia’s familial experience is different than that of her brothers. The dichotomy is dictated by their genders. Thus, analysis of this one particular proverb provides a deeper understanding of this family dynamic as well as relationships and purpose within a family in general.

Trinity College Superstition

Olivia: At Trinity, there is a large stone plaque on the sidewalk that boarders the main quad area. Since students must walk over the plaque during the graduation ceremony in their caps and gowns, it is said that you walk on the plaque before that day, you won’t graduate within 4 years time.

Isabel: And everyone at Trinity knows of this superstition?

Olivia: Yep. I forget where I learned it but it kind of just came to be known sometime along my freshman year.

Isabel: What do you think the purpose of this folklore was?

Olivia: Ummm… Well, I think it sort of gave us a sense of community. It was something fun to “know” not to do. It also fostered school spirit and a sense of belonging by being ‘in the know’ I guess.

This tradition has many oicotypes nationally and internationally within the university context. University superstitions not only add to a school’s character, but also unite its students through belief and practice. The knowledge of the superstition becomes a way to identify true members of the group. Additionally, as Olivia stated, the ritual in practicing the superstition provides a sense of spirit. A Trinity student can only walk over the plaque when he/she has graduated and thus, the performance of walking over the plaque also becomes a celebration of degree completion.

Southern Family Right of Passage

Alden: There was a right of passage in my family growing up where we would uhh… it was called ‘seein’ the stars’ and everyone who was ten years old, well we would all go out and uhhh… first, we are in a family of ten brothers and sisters and their kids or whatever. So we would gather around and grab a big rain coat and you would look through the sleeve of the rain coat up at the sky and all our older family members would say how you could see the stars so much better. Then they would pour a bucket of water down there. And uhh, that’s kind of when you became a man! And uhh, yeah, so this was only to the men in the family… and umm, that was the big event, ‘seein’ the stars’!

Isabel: Where does this take place?

Alden: Always at my grandparent’s ranch near Austin. We always do it when the family is all together.

Isabel: What do you think the purpose of this right of passage is within your family?

Alden: Uhhh… well, my family is very southern, very Texan. I think this tradition kind of coincides with that. And as antiquated as this may sound, there is definitely a strong value placed on being a real man. So I guess, uhh, I think this little trick is a fun spirited way to welcome the little guys into our ‘manly’ bunch (LAUGH). It’s an initiation of sorts.

Isabel: Why don’t you think the girls are included besides the aspect of becoming a man?

Alden: Well, it’s kind of like southern chivalry, which is also still very apparent in my family and just around us in Texas. You wouldn’t want to disturb a lady by pouring a bucket of cold water on them.

The Wallace family custom for the male members exposes the family’s strong sense of tradition along with the importance placed on becoming a man. Additionally the ritual coincides with the southern stereotype of men as masculine figures within the family – physically tough (able to handle the surprise of a bucket of cold water in his face) yet respectful of woman in not subjecting the female family members to such a process. It is significant that these gender boundaries have maintained today as society has begun to blur gender expectations. This further highlights the strong sense of tradition within the Wallace family. In addition, the context in which this folklore is performed signifies the value placed on family. The right of passage only occurs when the whole family is together and has been practiced for generations. It then, is not just about the boy getting “initiated”, but is also a significant gathering for the men performing the trick. It is a way in which the Wallace family men come together, intermixing the generations through their celebration of each boy’s transition to manhood. Consequently, this act becomes a form of identity for the Wallace family boys. After the ritual they can call themselves a “Wallace man”, embracing their adolescent development with this identity.

Joshua Tree Contemporary Legend

Ana: This is a story that I’ve heard about one of my friends but I’ve also heard it from a couple other people as well so, I don’t know how true it is. There are these uhhh, four guys and they went to the desert. I think it was Joshua Tree. They went for the weekend and were going to drop some acid. And… while they were there, they umm… started dropping acid (LAUGH). And they umm, and then one of the guys wasn’t feeling the effects so he decided to wonder off into the desert by himself. So he’s like wondering and wondering and he still doesn’t know if the acid is affecting him or not but he kind of got lost so he kept walking. And all of a sudden he sees this thing in the distance and you know he gets closer and closer to this thing. So he’s looking at it and he thinks ‘Oh my god, it’s a… it’s a gnome!’ like he found this gnome in the middle of Joshua Tree. And so he is like freaking out, like he didn’t know if he had even felt the affects of the acid or not but he was shocked that he ummm… found this gnome. He (LAUGH) umm, so he starts to talk to the gnome. He said ‘Hey gnome! Are you a gnome?’ and the figure started to talk back and said bluntly, ‘Yes, yes I am. I am a gnome’. And this guy is like freaking out because he wanted people to see that this was actually true – that he actually found a gnome. So he said to the gnome, ‘Hey gnome, I’m lost but will you come with me? Come with me so I can show you to my friends?’ And the gnome said, ‘Yes. Yes I will’. And so he carried the gnome on his back and he finally made his way back to his friends. And he said to his friends, ‘Guys, guys, I have something to show you!’ and everyone was still tripping but uhh… umm but they all could not believe that he had found a gnome in the middle of Joshua Tree. And they were freaking out that they got this gnome and they felt like they had to show civilization because no one would every believe them if they said they came back from Joshua Tree with a gnome. So they said, ‘Gnome, Gnome, you got to get in the care we have to back to Los Angeles. Will you come with us?’ and the gnome agreed. Then they were driving back and they were all coming down from the acid and umm, they are driving and driving and they’re talking about how they’re going show people this gnome and how it’s going to be such big news. So they look in the back seat, and… they are coming off of the acid and it’s a little kid. It’s this little toddler kid about four years old. And now they pull over and you know, they are freaking out. One of them suggests leaving him on the side of the road, the other said they should bring him to the police station. And they are all freaking out, you know, they are going nuts! So they end up doing the right thing and going to the police station. Ummm… and apparently it was a missing kid that had been lost in the desert for a couple days. So they had found the kid. And, ummm, the other thing was kid had Down Syndrome. And that’s the story of the gnome in the desert.

Isabel: Where did you first hear this story?

Ana: I heard it out to dinner with one of my friends. He said it was his friend. But then I think I looked it up on the internet or something and it was one of those… like they can’t say whether it’s true or not, but I guess its one of those urban legends or something. I definitely heard it another time after Ben told me that first time. And I totally believed it the first time I heard it though. I think it was the way Ben told the story, it was so believable and like compelling.

Both the tone in which Ana narrated this story and the context in which she first heard it indicate that there is a comedic purpose to the narrative. There is a sense of humor in discovering the details of four young guys’ experience with LSD. The story’s conclusion portrays the group of friends as idiotic, enabling the story’s audience to laugh at their ridiculousness. However, contrastingly, the fact that the gnome is actually a toddler with Down Syndrome makes the comedy of it a bit disturbing. The audience is left uncomfortably laughing in reaction to the narrative. However, the story does not seem to make fun of the mental illness, but rather highlights the inane actions of the four guys under the influence. Therefore the comedy of the folklore remains, albeit with an awkward edge because of the Down Syndrome detail.

This piece of folklore exposes the acceptance and prevalence of a drug culture. There is plausibility within the foundation of the story, as the scenario of four young guys taking Acid together is likely. Additionally there are often absurd and exaggerated experiences attached to the use of Acid, enabling the narrative to be entertaining through the anticipation of how their ‘trip’ will transcend.

Dover, MA Legend

Kara: Hi I’m Kara Larmie, I’m 22 years over and I’m from Dover, Massachusetts and umm I’m a senior at USC. So here is my story. It is a story of the Dover Demon, which is a ummm, creature that everyone in Dover, the very very small town outside of Boston that I grew up in knows about and umm apparently it’s a like monkey-like creature, with four legs and like beating, glowing, umm like yellow eyes and its like black and furry like a monkey kind of thing. Umm… and kind of large, like the size of a dog, like a big dog. So people, everyone knows about it, like there’s like T-shirts of it at the Dover market and stuff, umm I don’t really know why. But people in other towns know about it too. And it’s apparently like just this weird unknown creature that people have seen since, I think like the ‘70s. I think that’s when the first sighting of it was and numerous sightings of it were. And people have said that they saw it probably like two or three years ago. I think that was the last time someone said they saw it. But it only comes out at night and its only been seen in these like two particular areas, one in the center of town where there’s like an old railroad track that doesn’t get used anymore. And umm, the other is over by the high school on this like really private road that like leads to the high school, near the edge of a different town.

Isabel: So these spots are the known spots where it would be, if you were to see it?

Kara: Yeah. Those are the only places its been seen.

Isabel: And so you know what it looks like? You’ve seen pictures of the creature?

Kara: Yes, umm… but umm yeah everyone knows what it looks like. Like I think if you googled it you could find pictures of it. Like the Dover market sells T-Shirts of it, they say like ‘The Dover Demon’ on it with a picture of what it supposedly looks like. No one has actually taken a picture of it, people have just described it. And I’ve seen like a uhhh newspaper article from like the ‘70s that had like a drawing of what it could look like from the person that saw it.

Isabel: And is it supposed to haunt you? Is it bad luck if you see it? Is there any meaning behind a sighting?

Kara: I am not sure if there is meaning, but its just weird that people still say they’ve seen this one creature since the ‘70s and that it would still be alive and living around Dover.

Isabel: So it is not a species, it’s one animal that roams Dover?

Kara: It is one thing people keep saying they have seen around our town.

Isabel: Are the areas in which it appears…

Kara: They are really wooded areas.

Isabel: Are they scary or sketchy areas?

Kara: Nooo… they are more just like abandoned in a sense.

Isabel: And do people actually believe that this demon exists? Do you believe it is out there in Dover?

Kara: Yes people believe it.

Isabel: Do you believe it?

Kara: (hesitation) Nooo… I think it’s probably like a dog or something weird. I think they are probably seeing something, I mean I don’t think people make it up. They see something but its probably just some animal. (Laugh) I don’t know.

Isabel: But because it’s characterized as a demon, is it considered evil?

Kara: Hmmm, yeah I guess… I think it’s a demon because its eyes apparently are like these beaming, really really brightly ummm… what’s the word, like piercing kind of eyes. Ummm it makes it looks like a demon. And it’s also black so it like looks scary but I don’t think there’s any myth behind it, like if you see it it’s bad.

Isabel: And if you’re from Dover, and I were to refer to the Dover Demon, everyone would know what I was talking about?

Kara: Yeah, everyone would know.

Isabel: Even older generations or younger generations?

Kara: Yeah.

Isabel: Even the towns next to yours know the Dover Demon?

Kara: Yeah. Yeah, for sure. People have talked about it who live in like Medfield or something.

Isabel: What do you think this story is saying about living in Dover?

Kara: I think its, uhhh… its like a traditional or ummm like a tradition… I mean something that has been known for many generations. It’s kind of a towny thing to know about. Like, I don’t know, people that have lived in Dover for a long time know about it, its not like a new thing. Like my older babysitter told me about it when I was younger.

Isabel: That’s when you first heard about it?

Kara: Yeah, when I was like seven or so. And then I’ve obviously heard it since, just in random conversation, but it’s not a huge thing, like its not hugely publicized or talked about that that much I would say.

Isabel: Do people go out looking for it?

Kara: People definitely made ventures to look for it in the ‘70s I think. I don’t think they really do anymore. But there was like numerous sightings back then. I guess around the same railroad track, only at night, but yeah multiple people said they saw it.

Kara’s description of the Dover Demon is a strong example of a local legend. There is the element of truth and plausibility that perpetuates the belief in the creature, even for those who have not actually seen it. Additionally, the legend relies on trust. Individuals within Dover trust their fellow citizens’ accounts of the demon and thus, the beliefs of the town are based on the citizens’ confidence in those individual witnesses. Furthermore, there is a numinous element to the belief in the Dover Demon, specifically pertaining to the physical description of the creature. The demon’s “piercing eyes” and mysterious nocturnal appearances add a spectral component to the belief. There is also multiplicity within this legend. As Kara discussed, popular culture in Dover has adopted this legendary figure by producing T-shirts and sketches of the creature. Since the 1970s, the Dover Demon has become apart of the town’s identity.

Consequently, the local legend has preserved a sense of community within Dover. The town’s perpetuation of this legend evidently unites its population. All the ‘true’ locals know about the demon and most believe it is still roaming the abandoned railroad track and high school road. Kara poignantly claimed that the belief provided a sense of tradition for her town, thus becoming a vehicle of unification for Dover’s occupants. Investigating this legend reveals the town’s effort to continue stories from their past, creating an identity that links all the generations of Dover together, through their knowledge and belief in the creature.