Residence: Los Angeles, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/29/2014
Primary Language: English
Informant: So two summers ago I went to Costa Rica to do a research project with two USC professors, umm . . . so we were talking because there are capuchins. They’re wild and they’re small, but I was still like afraid of them. Because they have teeth and . . . . I walked up on them once and they got mad because I got too close to them. Okay, so I was talking with my professor and he was like oh yeah, “You know primates are dangerous because. . . .” and then he started telling me this story about how he had a friend, but he didn’t give me a name, who was in Africa studying chimps in the wild. And the village he was staying had one on like a leash, he has a collar, and he was like their pet. The whole time he was there he didn’t want to get close to it, because their dangerous and then tend to tear off things like fingers and . . . parts that you don’t want torn off of you. And so one of the last days he was there he finally was like, “fine, I’ll go touch it”, like pet the chimpanzee and he finally got the nerve to do it and he like walks up and puts his hand out to pet it. There would always be like little children always like playing with it and it was fine and he never saw the chimpanzee do anything bad, he was just afraid because they’re like really strong. So he walks up . . . and he put his hand out . . . and the chimpanzee takes it and like looks him right in his eyes and tears his fingers off. Like at least two or three fingers. It was actually not a good story for the professor to tell me because then I was afraid that the capuchins were actually going to eat me, but I’m not sure if that actually happened.
The tale fits the classical definition of a legend in that it may or may not be true. In this case, regardless of the authenticity, it meant to serve as a cautionary tale for the young student. It does so effectively as the student notes that the story instilled even more fear and her and she was further encouraged to stay away from the primates.
This could possibly be a type of Blason Populaire, playing off of the fact that Africa is seen as wild, dangerous, and to be avoided.