Playing with Fire and Wetting the Bed


DerShann is currently a student at USC, majoring in Philoshophy. His family are from Tsingtao, Shandong, China. He likes to play the game League of Legends, and the following folklore is collected during some of the games we played together via the voice chat chanel.

The Main Piece:

DerShann: If you wanna know about folklores, I know a lot. One big folk belief is that if a kid plays with fire, he will wet the bed.

Me: Cool. So, where did you learn that from, and what do you think it means?

Dershann: I just heard it from other people in my hometown. Everyone says that. What it means? I think it is just a way to warn kids so that they don’t do dangerous stuff.


Fire stands for, of course, fire. And wetting the bed is connected to urine, or water. If we look at it in this way, we find that in this folk belief, people draw on two extremes, or two opposing elements. People are using one side to warn against the opposite side.

I found an interesting part in the book Dora, Fragments of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria written by Freud. In the book, Freud also connects fire with bedwetting. He draws the links between 1. Dora’s habit of bedwetting, 2. the fire in Dora’s dreams, 3. Dora’s habit of masturbation, or her sexual impulse. Freud first points out the interconnectedness between fire(both the dream and playing with fire) and bedwetting, then expanded the idea of playing with fire, or just “fire,” to the implication of sex, which points to Dora’s masturbation.

I think this kind of Freudian interpretation might also be employed to explain this folk belief, or, maybe it’s the other way around, that this folk belief might be utilized to explain the Freudian analysis.