I hate to ask it, but do you know anything about the New Jersey Devil? Isn’t it some kind of horse monster thing?
Ahaha! Gosh, I wish I had my old 4th grade New Jersey book things with me – it had a whole story.
So basically, in the pine barrens of New Jersey lived this couple. And there was some argument between the couple – one wanted children and the other didn’t, something like that. But for some reason, the woman got pregnant, and for some reason – she ate something she shouldn’t, or sold her soul, or something Rosemary’s Baby-esque – the baby came out with hooves and yellow eyes or some shit like that, but the way I learned it, it wasn’t evil or anything, just deformed…
So what does this deformed baby do? Just run and hide? Or does it attack and scare people? Is the couple unmarried? Is it cautionary against premarital sex?
I’ve heard both ways. The way they taught us in school was essentially that we should feel sorry for it and not be afraid, haha – not that they taught it as a true story, it was just a myth.
No, I think they’re married… I feel bad forgetting what the issue actually is between them, but it’s really not talked about very much anymore.
Why do you think that is?
I just don’t think people subscribe to superstitions the way they used to, and also, methods of child-rearing have changed a lot. We don’t talk about Black Peter anymore, only about Santa (perhaps it has something to do with the fact that it’s a pretty racist name). We don’t scare our kids (as much) into behaving by telling them the child-stealer or something is going to steal them in the night if they don’t behave. Instead, we tell them that Santa’s not going to come if they misbehave. Or we tell them we’re going to take away their iPad.
I find most interesting the informant’s admission that this folktale is no longer being told as often as it might have once been, that she doesn’t remember it as well as she should. She points towards the consequences of modernity: rewarding is more a part of culture than telling a child that bad things are just going to happen. Even though this folklore is archived, will there be a point when it is no longer told anymore? Can stories just die out? Their part of folklore assumes that they will be passed from generation down to the next, but is this assumption wholly true as generations of people less believing than the last and more concerned with the factuality of life are raised?