Author Archives: Yuanqing Song

Cannibalism in European Urban Legend

Main piece:

The following is transcribed from a conversation between my friend, identified as AF, and I, identified as JS.

AF: There is a story that I heard. I heard this summer. I was working in Europe for this summer, in Prague. And my friend told me the story. You know, my friends and I go out at night and that kind of stuff. And my friend told me the story about girls going home with random guys. I though it was a legit story when I heard the first time until I heard more people knew it.

JS: Oh so it’s not a real thing.

AF: Yea, I don’ think so. Apparently this girl and this guy was at the bar, umm they are like talking. Anyway it’s going really well, so they headed off. She goes home with him, and like they had sex whatever, having a good time. And umm she starts really liking him and he starts really liking her. And throughout the next few weeks or so, she starts to have really weird rashes, on her arms and on her legs.

JS: I know that one!

AF: You know the story? Haha. And so they start to get really bad.

JS: Both of them?

AF: No no, just her. You know she start to living there since they are together and stuff. Umm, wait, take it back, it was for a short period of time. it was like two weeks or so. And so then she goes to the doctor and she was like: “What the heck is those rash?” And the doctor was like: “we don’t know, we haven’t seen this kind of rashes before. It’s none of poison ivy, random things, a cream. You are not allergic to anything. We don’t know what this is.” And they were like: “You know let us just perform more tests.” And then she goes back to the guys house, doing whatever, and she got a call from the doctor while she was at the house. The doctor was like: “Well, you not gonna believe this, but have you working with raw meet or anything?” And she goes: “No.” They were like: “The rashes are associated with a meet tenderizer. The one that tenderize your muscle and everything.” And apparently, the guy is a cannibal. Yea, that was it, When my friend told me that story, I like shocked cuz apparently the guy was like super handsome, just totally your average Joe guy. I was like it’s a good story but not good, you know, not to go home with random people I guess.

Background information:

This story is a popular urban legend that takes place in European context. So, when my informant interned in Prague last summer, she first encountered the story when she and her friend rode on scooters in the park. Her friend told AF the story while riding the scooter and my informant was really shocked because she thought it was a real story. As she heard the story couple times, she realized that it was just a story that went around. However, she definitely thinks that this story does a good job telling people not to go home with strangers. After knowing the story, AF became more conscious about the strangers she met randomly in order to protect herself better.


This piece was collected in an interview with a casual setting. I was having lunch at the cafe and I invited her over to talk about interesting folklore that she knew.


This is not the first time I hear about the stories. I hear a couple times but with different version. But the story always takes place in Europe. It can be a coincidence or simply because people in America like to visit Europe and they feel more mysterious if the story is put in an exotic context. The story often involves in meeting strangers whether in a bar or through dating app. I feel since dating app and party culture become more and more popular among younger generation, people are not too cautious about the people they meet. And that’s why this kind of story starts to go around among younger generation, especially college students, to alert people about their safety issues. This story, although does not fit into the category of traditional legend story, it adapts younger culture and becomes an urban legend.


The Folk Belief of Fairy Cycle/Ring

Main piece:

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the informant and interviewer.

Informant: When my sister and I was little, my friends told us these things called Fairy Cycles. And so essentially what a a fairy cycle is this ring of mushroom that show up in the yard often after it rains outside or just been the weather is a little off. What it signifies is that there’s been a fairy there. However, there is also like a tale that if you go inside of the fairy ring and you sit in the middle of it, you will be possessed. So like if you go inside, the fairy will capture you, just do something bad.

Interviewer: So when you go into the ring, are you being blessed or possessed?

Informant: I don’t really know what it means. I was really little when I heard that and it is just like being possessed by a demon or something haha. Yea, so my sister and I were very interested in fairy and we would also built little houses out of flowers and sticks and natural materials to attract fairy or something.

Interviewer: So do you ever go inside?

Informant: No, we try not to, because apparently there are some evil power or something if you go inside haha. I honestly don’t know.

Interviewer: So do you just watch them grow?

Informant: Yea, they are just there. A lot of the time, if it rains outside, you will see a circle of mushroom under grass, like it could be like just ten or twenty. Sometimes they are bigger mushrooms, and sometimes they are little. And it is said that it is caused by fairies dancing.


My informant heard this piece from her friend when she was little. And because she and her sister were super into fairy, they were always excited when they saw fairy rings appeared. They even built flower houses to attract fairies. The story behind the fairy cycle adds fun experience to her childhood memory.


This piece was collected in a causal interview setting. My informant and I finished our class and were talking as we walked to the USC village together. We then sit in an outdoor space and collected some folklore from each other.


A lot of kids are drawn to fairies. Part of the reason is that there are many fairy tales for kids to read. When thinking of fairies, they are often linked to natural settings like flowers and nature in general, which makes sense for kids to believe mushroom ring is caused by fairy dancing. Often time when talking about folk belief, there are a lot of things that people should not do. For this case specifically, kids are not supposed to sit inside the cycle but rather stay outside. However, if someone accidentally steps into fairy rings, she or he can run around the ring nine times to reverse the penalty.

For more solution to reverse the curse, please see:

Leafloor, Liz. “Do You Dare Enter a Fairy Ring? The Mythical Mushroom Portals of the Supernatural.” Ancient Origins, 28 Aug. 2018.


The Story Behind Japanese Saying: 情けは人の為ならず (One Good Turn Deserves Another)

Main Piece:

“There is a common saying in Japan, in Japanese it’s: 情けは人の為ならず.

Original script: 情けは人の為ならず

Phonetic (Roman) script: Nasake wa hito no tame narazu

Transliteration: the good you do for others is good you do yourself.

Full translation: One good turn deserves another. 

It means when you do things for someone, it’s not for them, it’s for yourself. So, I mean it connects to the story about like, ummm like an old man walking to a winter mountain, then he finds like three stone, umm what do you call those? Like statues of Japanese monk. It’s like a tiny mini one, really cute. And he’s like: “Oh no, it’s snowing.” It’s statue right? Obviously it has no feelings or anything. But then the old man was like:”Oh my gosh. It’s snowing and it’s probably really cold.” So he makes these like three ummm straw hats for those three stone statues and then place it upon them. Then he will like, you know, get along his life. When he goes home, and the next morning, he wakes up and he opens the front door, and then he finds like this chunk of rice. At that time, obviously rice equals money. So what happen was those stone statue, like the monks kind of came to life and came to life to thank him, saying like thanks for the straw hats. Oh I think he makes like straw coats as well. You know, just like something to put on the statue. And like these rice is just to show gratitude and everything. So yea, this is where this saying comes from. So 情けは人の為ならず is just do something for someone, like yea you are helping them but ultimately you are helping yourself. Like it’s always gonna come back to you. That’s like the saying.”


My informant was born in Osaka, Japan. Both of her parents are very Japanese. So although she immediately moved to Hong Kong after she was born, she learned Japanese and Japanese culture from her parents. She knew this saying and the story behind it because her dad told her when she was at a kid. She feels a lot of the time when people do things for someone or even just make friends with someone, they think about benefit or cost they get. But in her mind, because of this saying and the way her dad teaches her, she deems that in order to live a happy life, people need to do things for each other. So my informant is always happy to give out her help and be kind to people even when they are mean sometimes. Growing up embedded with this mindset, my informant feels this saying shapes her action and life attitude.


She is a good friend of mine since we both lived in Osaka for a while. This piece was collected as we had lunch at the USC village. I invited her to talk about her culture and we were sharing thoughts while waiting for the food. The conversation was conducted under a relaxing environment and we both feel pretty comfortable sharing our childhood experience.


Personally, I really like this folk piece because it’s not like other sayings that only have one sentence, this saying has a story behind it, which reflects a lot of Japanese culture. For example, it talks about Japanese monks which are associated with Shinto and Buddhism religions which are the two major religions in Japan. Also, the straw hat and straw coat that are mentioned in the story are also representations of Japanese tradition. Straw hat is often worn by Japanese monks. I remember when I was a kid, I used to watch Ikkyū-san, which is a Japanese anime about the life of a monk. In the show, I often see the character Ikkyū wears a straw hat. In addition, the straw coat, known as mino (蓑) in Japan, is a traditional Japanese garment that functions like a raincoat and is often used in snowy regions. Lastly, the gift of rice reflects the Asian culture as well. If it is a western story, it will probably be gold which is often seen in western fair tales. The presentation of rice shows culture difference between east and west.



Chicken Wishbone

Main Piece:

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the informant and interviewer.

Informant: Remembering my mom used to make chicken when my sister and I were younger, if she was making chicken, she would take out the wishbone and set it to the side. And we would have to let it dry, or hollow out for a day. And next day, my sister and I, we would each pull one of the sides of the bone, and whoever got the larger piece would have good luck. And it is based on how it snaps. If it snaps with a bigger side, that’s what signifies luck. I am not really sure why, but yea…

Interviewer: How do you feel about this activity?

Informant: Umm, so my sister and I would always be excited when we were younger, we don’t really do it that much anymore. It’s just a big part of our childhood. I would always lose.

Interviewer: Is it because she pull harder?

Informant: I think it might just been… I guess one of the leg of the bones, not really a leg, is thicker and my sister would always get the first pick. So…

Interviewer: Is she older or younger?

Informant: She’s older.


My informant was born in San Francisco and moved to Virginia when she was four. She came back to the west coast for college and she felt the culture is really different. For this piece, she knew from her mom, and she and her sister were always excited to practice it when they were younger. For them, it is a way to get lucky, but more importantly, this activity reminds them of their childhood. Though my informant always loses because her older sister gets to pick first, this activity reflects my informant’s caring personality and her family relationship.


This piece is collected in a causal interview setting. My informant and I finished our class and were talking as we walked to the USC village together. We then sit in an outdoor space and collected some folklore from each other.


It reminds me of some similar belief in China. But instead of chicken bone, we flip a fishbone, and if the tip stays on the top, it represents good luck. This activity usually takes place during family dinner and is viewed as a fun competition among kids. The chicken wishbone activity mentioned above, not only brings fun and excitement for kids, but also stimulates better bonding among siblings. Although sometimes some kids lose and get disappointed, it is still an important part of their childhood memory. A lot of the times, I find that people practice certain activity not because they truly believe it, but because it adds fun to life, or it makes them feel better. For the case of my informant, even she is not fully convinced that wishbone brings good luck, she still gets excited when she is a child.


Jumping the Broom at Wedding

Main Piece:

The following is transcribed from a conversation between the informant and interviewer.

Informant: We do jumping the broom. That’s one, that’s like black tradition. Yea, after you get married, and before you walk down to the aisle as Mr and Mrs, you jump over the broom at the altar.

Interviewer: What does that mean?

Informant: I honestly don’t know, it’s just like new beginning, like a wish luck type of tradition.

Interviewer: Does that mean anything to you?

Informant: It’s just like a tradition. Everyone does it.


My informant is African American, and her entire family is originally from Louisiana. They are all Creole descendants. Jumping the broom is a typical African American tradition at a wedding ceremony, so my informant is aware of this tradition as she goes to different weddings, mostly her relatives’ weddings. Though she does not know what exactly does jumping over the broom signify, she still follows this tradition as she grows up with this culture.


This piece of folklore was collected through a quick interview after class. My informant and I knew each other when we first came to the college, so the setting was really causal and both of us were relaxed.


It is interesting to find that my informant is not really aware of the meaning behind the tradition of jumping over the broom, but she still follows it. A lot of the time, people do not fully understand the custom, but because they grow up practicing it, it becomes a habit. Similar to my experience, from the place where I grow up, China, specifically, there are certain food to eat for certain festivals. Usually, there is meaning behind each food and reasons why people eat it. However, most of the time, I do not know the symbolic meaning, but rather consume the products. Especially, when my mom buys the food for the family members, we rarely question the deeper meaning behind it. In such case, folk food almost becomes a commodity rather than a representation of culture.