My informant for this one was my mom. I asked her if she had any interesting stories on folk narratives and she brought up the legend of the Chinese Jade Dragon. She talked about how in Chinese culture, dragons represent strength and good luck, and jade represents wisdom, courage, and beauty. Together, a jade dragon is a symbol of good fortune. She mentioned how many shops would have a jade dragon placed inside to attract good business and prosperity. She said that she had gotten one for our home for my health because I had asthma and a bad dust allergy as a kid, and the pollution in China gave me really bad allergic reactions, causing my face to swell up, and I would have trouble breathing probably.
For as long as I can remember, my family has always had the same jade dragon in our living room as our good luck charm and protector of the house. It’s a family tradition to rub the dragon’s head or back for good luck. After we moved from China to Canada, my mom made sure to have our jade dragon shipped over to our new home. I practically grew up with that dragon, it’s been with me for most of my life and it has been very loved and well taken care of by my family. In a sense, the dragon has fulfilled its duties because after we moved to Canada, I no longer had asthma, and my dust allergy became much more manageable. Moving out of China was the best thing that could have ever happened to me and I’m really fortunate to have been given that chance.
My informant K is a good friend of mine and their entire family loves gnomes, their mom most of all. They have a variety of different gnomes in all shapes and sizes in their front and back yards and they believe them to be a good luck charm. They also have special gnomes for every holiday, like Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, and they even have pink gnomes for Valentine’s Day. K was born in Sweden and they have a lot of family that live there still, so Swedish culture is a big part of their family. K told me that in Sweden, gnomes are called “tomtes” or “nisses” and they are house gnomes who live under your house and protect buried treasure.
I always found K’s story about gnomes so interesting because I didn’t even know what a gnome was before I moved to Canada and I never would have guessed how important they were in some cultures. K told me that when they were younger, their parents told them and their younger sister stories about how gnomes bury treasure in the bushes every winter, and their parents would hide gold coins for them to find. They would even put out little dishes of food for the gnomes. I think it’s really amazing how their culture is able to bond their entire family together. K said that they would decorate and set up gnomes together, or gift them to each other for birthdays or as Christmas gifts.
When my informant O was younger, their older brother told them a Creepypasta (term for horror-related legends) legend about Jack the Ripper. He told them how Jack would come to your window every night and he would test you by scratching on your window. If he didn’t scratch your window it meant you were safe, but if he did, it meant that you were a possible target. Unfortunately, O had a tree close by her bedroom window, so sometimes the branches of the tree would graze her window late at night, causing an eerie scratching sound which terrified them. O said that they would get panic attacks and often had trouble sleeping thinking that Jack was going to get them in their sleep. One night O’s panic attack got so bad that they started crying and screaming and their dad ran in, worried about what had caused their reaction. After they explained the situation to their dad, he scolded O’s brother for scaring them and he cut down the branches near O’s bedroom window that very night.
I also have an older sibling who is ten years older than me so I have had my fair share of horror stories that my older sister has told me growing up. She would also try to convince me that I was adopted when I was younger because I don’t really look like either of my parents by telling me that my birth certificate was fake. I can definitely relate to O because I have had so many experiences that are similar to the story she told me. My sister is a really big horror fan, so she watched and read a lot of horror stories. She would always try to scare me by telling me scary stories and legends about our hometown and I remember many late nights of running to my mom’s bedroom because I was too scared to sleep in my room as a kid.
When I asked my informant M about any stories they might have had about surrounding legends, they thought of the time when their high school English and Creative Writing teacher was sure that her old classroom was haunted. M said that she would always stay late after school was over to finish work, and suddenly one day, people started asking her if she was at school when she wasn’t there because they saw someone in the window of her classroom. The description of the figure was always the same, a woman dressed in white. She told them that it wasn’t her that they saw and that they must have mistaken her for someone else, but it kept on happening and people would joke that a ghost was haunting her classroom. She was staying late one night, as usual, when she suddenly encountered the womanly figure that everyone was talking about. M said that nobody knew exactly what had happened, but apparently, things started to fall over in her classroom. The experience spooked their teacher enough that she made the administration give her a different classroom the next year and now she always leaves the school as soon as the bell rings.
I found this story funny, but I also felt bad for their poor teacher. I’m not going to deny that her classroom was haunted, but she might have also been especially tired after a long day of work that day and her brain conjured the figure up. I also don’t think people telling her that a woman-like figure dressed in white is always inside her classroom when she is not there helped her imagination. It sort of reminds me of Sydow’s term, memorate, where she is relating a personal experience to a spoken narrative. I never thought a classroom of mine was haunted, but a lot of people, including myself, in elementary school thought that our language teacher wasn’t human. She was not a nice person and she had a way of smiling and staring through to your soul that frightened many of us and we thought that she was a creepy alien in disguise as a human.
Context: The interviewee, D, is 19 years old and they were born and raised in Mexico. They told me that when they were a kid, they accidentally made this gesture while trying to get their family dog to sit down. When D’s dad saw what they were doing, he asked them why they were cussing out the dog. D obviously did not know what the gesture meant, so their dad explained it to them. That’s how D found out that this gesture was basically a way of saying “F*** you” to someone.
Analysis: There are a lot of gestures that mean very different things depending on where you are in the world and so it’s important to keep that in mind, especially if you decide to travel internationally. When I moved to Canada from China, there were a lot of words and gestures that I didn’t know the hidden meaning of. I never knew this gesture was a way to cuss at people until D told me. However, I was unable to find the origins of this hand gesture because it’s rather hard to describe what I’m looking for online. I actually make this hand gesture quite often, but only towards myself and not other people thankfully as it’s how I check my nails and cuticles to see if they need fixing.