Text: “According to this legend, The Phantom Gator was once a real alligator that roamed the swamps many years ago. One day, it was caught in a poacher’s trap and killed. However, the spirit of the alligator refused to leave its home in the swamp and instead stayed behind as a vengeful ghost. It is said that The Phantom Gator can be seen on quiet nights, swimming through the dark waters of the swamp, its ghostly form visible just beneath the surface. Those who have seen it describe it as an eerie sight, with glowing eyes and a shimmering, translucent body. There was also a related story about a neighbor boy being attacked by the ghost of this alligator and I was told as a child to not go near the reserve where this attack occurred. I obviously didn’t really believe in the ghost alligator necessarily but I was absolutely terrified of the reserve and the whole swamp area and did not go near it.”
Context: It sounded as though this legend was more of a friend group thing but interestingly enough JD claimed it was first told to him by one of his cousins when he was very young (8 or 9). JD, being superstitious was adamant in telling me he “never went near the swamp” that the phantom gator reportedly resided in, even though he was not too quick to believe a ghost alligator was the true danger. But, out of his friend group he seemed to believe the story the most and feared the swamp it related to the most. He said some of his friends had went over near the swamp to explore but he didn’t come along just because he didn’t want to risk anything. He thinks he was so afraid because he got told the story when he was young and only told his friends about it later in life when they were already more mature and grown up.
Analysis: When being told this legend I thought it was very possible that it may have been created as a cautionary tale to warn people about the dangers of the swamps and the alligators that inhabit them. Alligators are common in Florida and can be dangerous if approached or provoked, especially for children who may not be aware of the risks. In this context, the story of the Phantom Gator may have been a way for parents and elders to scare children into staying away from the swamps and avoiding dangerous situations. By instilling a healthy respect and fear of the alligators, parents may have hoped to protect their children from harm. It was likely that the story would have been passed down orally through generations, with each teller adding their own embellishments and twists to the tale. It may have also been shared among different communities and social groups, becoming a popular topic of discussion and a way to bond over shared folklore and mythology in a more general sense. This definitely seemed like a more small scale legend, but because the group that spreads it believes in it and it has yet to be proven untrue, it should be considered a legend. I also think it is likely that similar legends pop up all around Florida by parents hoping to deter their kids from wandering into potentially dangerous areas like swamps.
The informant didn’t initially understand what a proverb was, prompting me to provide an explanation. From there, it only took them a brief moment for one to come to mind.
They stumbled through their recitation, “I have one- well, is it a proverb? I’m sure you heard it before.”
“What is it?”
“All that glitters is not gold.” They laughed, “I heard it from Spongebob. Didn’t really get it until later though.”
RELATIONSHIP – The proverb isn’t something that the informant uses often, but they say that it came to mind because it’s standard, genuinely good advice.
WHERE THEY HEARD IT – The informant first heard this proverb from the Nickelodeon T.V. show Spongebob Squarepants. After coming across it there, they looked to their family for an explanation on its meaning.
USE OR INTERPRETATION – The informant interprets this proverb as “When someone thinks something is good, but it isn’t.” They gave the example of a person getting a dream job they heard was great, only for it to be terrible for them and not what they thought it would be. “It’s something that was precious to them, but actually turned out to be their downfall.”
“All that glitters is not gold” seems like the type of proverb that’s common to know, but not as common to say or hear someone say (at least, in recent times), lending it the status of “an oldie, but a goodie.” The proverb elicits an immediate visual component where the audience compares a mental image of a nondescript “thing” glittering and a piece of gold. The inherent value of gold stands out and serves to contrast the glittering object. By essentially stating “just because it glitters, that doesn’t mean it’s gold,” the audience is immediately warned of their interest in the stand-in for the glittering object. It warrants caution and prevents a leap of faith into engaging with something just the slightest bit glittery.
-) There was a prince who was born in a castle. It is said by a prophet that before he reaches the age of 12, a lion will look at the prince and cause the prince to die.
Thus, the King and Queen locked the prince in the castle, and never let him outside, fearing for any sorts of accidents to happen.
One day the prince (age 11 and a half) was bored and was wandering in the hallway, he sees this intricate design of the lion on the wall paper. The prince imagined that he was playing with these lions and thus he was tracing the lion’s shapes on the wall.
However, in the place of the lion’s eye, there was a nail; and so when the Prince accidentally traced it with his finger, he got cut and got tetanus, and he died from it.
-) The moral of this story is that no matter how hard you try to avoid something, what is bound to happen is bound to happen. This is widely believed by many Greek people, and it is a theme that is deeply ingrained in their culture. In many greek plays and myths and legends, we can see that when the main character tries to escape their fate, fate just leads them right back into where they tried to run away from. (ex: Oedipus.)
-) My Greek friend heard this story from her grandmother, and her mother; it was one of the bedtime stories that was told to her. She performed this to me when she heard that I was collecting folklore stories; but rather than a performance it was pretty concise and flat.
-) I think it is very interesting how the theme of fate is so ingrained in greek cultures; from ancient greek plays, myths, to different folklore tales. Even my friend told me that this is something she believed in. These tales must have played a pretty significant role in shaping her belief.