Contemporary Legend

“A girl named Karin is babysitting for a family while the parents are away for the weekend.  The first day she is at the house she notices a clown statue that the children are playing with in the living room.  Karin is terrified of clowns so she moves it into a room where the children don’t go.  The next day she sees that the clown statue is back in the living room and assumes the children moved it back in there.  So Karin calls the parents and asks if she can move their clown statue out in the back yard.  The parents tell Karin to grab the children and go in their bedroom, lock the door, and call the police because they don’t have a clown statue and it must be a real person.  Karin does so and the police arrive to find out that the clown statue was an escaped criminal who has a sleeping disease where he falls asleep randomly while standing and does not move.”

Ariella heard this legend when she was fifteen, around the time when she was beginning to baby-sit for several families.  “I originally heard the story from my other Lebanese friend, and the story was told to her in English not Lebanese.  I was about to leave my friend’s house, the night after I baby-sat, when my friend told me the story.  When I heard the story I did not baby-sit for another three weeks because it frightened me so much.”  Ariella claimed that she heard that story a second time from her Asian friend, which can mean that this is not specifically a Lebanese urban legend.  Ariella believes that the story is meant to scare young girls from watching children and that it encourages young girls to work at “actual” jobs.

Through paradigmatic analysis, this urban legend appears to send a message warning to young girls to be careful when baby-sitting and watching other children.  The clown represents an exaggerating version of the troubles that can go wrong through baby-sitting, and the urban legend emphasizes that there is a responsibility that goes into baby-sitting, in this case the protection of the children.  The fact that Karin is scared of clowns poses the idea that Karin herself is still a child, and can present the case that adults should not rely as heavily on baby-sitters to watch their own children, and instead, should take upon the responsibility themselves.  Watching other children is a major task to offer to young girls, and it is possible that this urban legend’s intent is that maybe it is too great of a task to offer.