Playing Super Smash Bros with some friends at my house and one of my friends, S, keeps shouting “Wombo combo” while beating us all. S is a 20-year-old male from California who plays Super Smash Bros a lot.
S: *hits me and another person in the game rapidly* “WOMBO COMBO BABY”
Me: “Did you come up with that or did you hear that somewhere?”
S: “Aw nah man, LumpyCPU said it in an old YouTube video but it’s hilarious.”
The video is only 49 seconds and it is clear why S appreciated its value; it’s hilarious. It sounds like two young men getting over excited about their victory in an older version of the game and screaming at the top of their lungs “WOMBO COMBO”. It is clear in the video that other people appreciated the new slang and it created a sense of unity amongst players of this game. It also is a good way to get people around you to laugh by screaming a nonsense phrase that clearly demonstrates excitement.
The original video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pD_imYhNoQ4
While discussing familiar folklore in class I sat with a few young white male peers and the conversation of video game folklore came up. It was clear that all of us were familiar with Fortnite and we realized how much slang has been created from the game. One student, Chris , exclaimed that we would all be familiar with the phrase “where we dropping?” but, most people, especially those who do not play the game, would not understand what this means.
A few of us were circled around discussing folklore when Chris said “yeah and ‘where we dropping’, you guys all know what that means! We are going to Tilted Towers hahaha, but if I said that to my mom she would think that I am dropping something from my hands. It’s definitely only something people who play Fortnite would understand.”
This is a commonly used phrase when playing the game Fortnite because everyone playing the game starts out in the sky in a flying bus and, when you play with a team you all want to drop from the bus and land in the same place. Thus, everyone will ask each other “where are we dropping?” It’s a strategic term that millions of people understand because of the mainstream culture of this game but, not everyone in the world knows, and it is certainly not taught in a textbook.
I sat with a friend of mine from USC and asked her to tell me some folklore from her culture, maybe something mainstream. She is a Japanese girl approximately 20 years old and both of her parents were born and raised in Japan but she was born in California. She and I sat privately and got lunch on campus while she told me of Momotarō.
Momotarō was a child born out of a peach that was discovered by an elderly couple who raised him until he was able to leave his parents and fight off demons that were torturing his people. He wins the battle and returns a hero with his three friends, a talking dog, monkey, and pheasant. She tells me the story is retold in many different forms but as far as everyone knows this is the original which dates back to 1390. She believes it was told to encourage heroism and unity, and to push success out of the youth.
After briefly researching the subject I found that it is ~extremely~ popular in Japanese culture, for reasons I don’t totally understand because I am not from the area. The story has been converted into dozens of different variations including songs and war stories. There is even a festival held every year at a shrine for the young boy.
I work with my friend J, whose mother is from Portugal and father is from Mexico. I asked him to tell me one of his favorite stories that he remembers hearing while growing up to try and get a folktale out of him. He told me this story while we were working, I was the only member of the audience. He said that his mother would tell it to him when he was younger as a sort of fairytale.
The story is called Jose the Beast Slayer. The story starts with a woman being trapped in a wooden home with no door by her father. She is here for years until she eventually is able to escape and fall in love with a Duke. They have a son and soon after his birth the father dies and the son quickly proves himself to be wise and strong. He takes care of his mother for a while while they live in the woods. One day Jose the beast slayer runs into a giant and kills it quickly. He returns to his mother with some gold and the great news and she tells him he should go see the King and tell him of the story. When Jose meets with the king he quickly realizes that the king is his grandfather, the one who locked up the girl in the beginning. They are reunited and they go find the woman and bring her to the kingdom. Many years later when the king passes away and Jose the beast slayer becomes the new king of the land.
This to me as many of the elements of a typical folk tale. The hero is Jose, the protagonist is the giant. There is a brief love story. There is a happy ending of a reuniting family. The protagonist shows strength and intelligence beyond his years. The story inspires happiness and unity. I was surprised that there was nothing specific in the story that related to the culture of Portugal, but I didn’t consider that a loss or odd. The start of the story reminded me a lot of Rapunzel which also doesn’t represent one culture either.
My friends and I were discussing the ongoing popularity of Internet challenges and where this all came from. It is clear that people do just about anything for some Internet fame. One of the earliest challenges that we could remember was the cinnamon challenge which we recalled to be happening at the end of our middle school experience. The challenge involves putting a tablespoon of cinnamon in your mouth and trying to swallow it without drinking anything and then posting a video of it on the Internet. It came to massive popularity in the early 2010‘s but quickly lost it after the realization of possible health problems.
W: “remember when D—- and I did the cinnamon challenge?”
Me: “hahah yes! And you almost threw up”
W: “yeah that sh** made me sick, I can’t believe we even did that. Why?”
Me: “I don’t know, seemed like a good idea at the time I guess hahah, I’m pretty sure I recorded it.”
W: “where did that trend even come from, I swear Everyone and they mom did the cinnamon challenge.”
Me: “I saw it on YouTube, I think it was some kid I subscribed to.”
Wyatt: “I remember Miranda sings doing it.”
It was at this point that I realized that we had stumbled upon some folklore. Although just about everyone knows about this challenge I wondered who may not. We also mostly wondered where this originally started. Was it YouTube? Or was it somewhere else first? After some short investigating I discovered that the first documentation of the cinnamon challenge was in December 2001 but the idea made its way to YouTube in 2006. The massive popularity that we all remember was in January 2012 but only lasted about half the year then fell off again. I would consider this an American folklore for people born just before the start of the Internet age and after.