Tag Archives: elementary school

Underground Dinosaur Legend

Text: So it’s actually from elementary school, but we had this like Legendish thing where there was supposedly a basement in my elementary school. And like, you could tell because if you like, knocked on the floor, whatever, it sounded hollow. And so there’s like a basement underneath. And like a long, long, long time ago. They trapped this dinosaur down there. And like with the leftover food from the cafeteria, they like fed it to make it happy and like. And then they would say like, oh, and if you dig up the sand like in the playground if you dig far enough, you’ll find like, fossils and other things. But that was like our lore.


Informant is a freshman at USC studying Aerospace Engineering, originally from Tulsa, Oklahoma. We are sitting in a USC dining hall as she shares between bites of her pancake. She is excited and enthusiastic as she remembers her stories, using frequent hand gestures to emphasize her points.

“I learned it from the other kids at summer school in Oklahoma. A lot of people knew about it. But, like, we really only talked about it in summer school. I don’t know, like outside of summer school, we didn’t really. And when I was like, fifth grade and stuff, we didn’t really talk about it anymore. But it’s still in the back of my mind. It made it feel kind of interesting because I was like, oh, what if it’s true? Like that would be so cool and interesting. Like, I don’t know, because I kind of like mysteries. And I like not knowing something, you know, like something’s possible. Even though that definitely was not. I was like still kind of hoping that there was something there. I think I believed it at first. At first I was like maybe not a dinosaur was down there, but like the fact that for some reason I thought it was proven that it was hollow underneath. So I was like, what is down there?”

Analysis: This legend is an example of socially negotiated belief. The purpose was to confront individuals with what they actually believe, and present evidence like the floor sounding hollow in order to make one question what they believe to be possible. And even if one It’s evident that beliefs are crafted as a social process, especially within this specific demographic of children who are high on the continuum context, meaning they are more likely to believe this legend. This type of legend might be more plausible in this society of elementary school children as this is the time they are new to learning about dinosaurs and fossils and such items.

The “S” (Cool S)


The “S”/Cool S



My informant describes the “S” or the “Cool S” as a drawing of an “S” in a graffiti-like style. She has first seen it during elementary school, where classmates would draw this “S” in their notebooks or the margins of their papers. She interprets it as something kids would also teach each other how to draw. It consists of two rows of three lines that are connected to make a pointy letter “S”.


I interpret the “S” as mostly children’s folklore. The “S” has very unclear origins outside of school because it is where people learn about it and how to draw it. I notice that this spread simply through children learning and teaching each other. This iconic drawing’s origin may have been lost most likely because it was children who spread it. The graffiti style of the “S” could also imply rebellion. In many schools in America, gang signs and anything that could resemble a gang symbol are typically banned. While the “S” does not particularly represent anything specific, children still gravitate drawing and spreading this symbol just for some inconsequential malicious compliance.

Barney Parody Song

“Joy to the world, Barney’s dead
We barbecued his head!”

Context: The informant is a junior at USC, originally from Illinois. She told me that children from her elementary school would sing this song to the same tune as “Joy to the World,” and while there’s more to the song, she doesn’t remember it. She hasn’t sung it in a very long time and does remember there being different versions of the song as well. The “Barney” referenced is Barney the purple dinosaur from the children’s show Barney & Friends.

Analysis: From my experience, a lot of elementary schools had parody songs related to violence against Barney, but this was the first I had heard of that wasn’t actually to the tune of the show’s theme song. Regardless, this, as per Jay Mechling’s chapter in Elliott Oring’s Folk Groups and Folklore Genres, reflects one of the antithetical categories of children’s folklore: parodies. Violence against Barney is a purposeful subversion of the show’s theme (a theme that starts with “I love you, you love me, we’re a happy family”) and, considering Barney was a cornerstone of many childhoods, almost seems to function as a rejection of that childishness. I think that as we grow up, it becomes “cool” to be more like the older kids; it becomes “cool” to associate with more taboo concepts like sex and violence. It becomes “uncool” to continue to believe in the blissfully unrealistic world Barney portrays, or to engage in displays of earnest emotion. Parodying violence against Barney seems to function as a way to divorce oneself from that childishness and start moving more towards adulthood. It reinforces social dynamics between age groups and shames those who still like things deemed as “childish,” defining social norms that persist far beyond childhood.

Mr. Magic

Informant AJ is a university freshman from San Jose, California. AJ attended a San Jose elementary school since he was five years old.


“Unfortunately, after some time, students noticed that one staff member who we called Mr. Magic wasn’t appearing in the classrooms anymore showing off his awesome magic, but we didn’t really think too much of it. I can’t remember if this was in elementary school or after I moved on. I just remember my family was telling me that he was caught stealing money from the PTA and keeping it for himself, so that was a very disappointing story, and it wasn’t really shared with the community. I can’t necessarily confirm this story but this is just what I’ve been hearing from a couple people.”


“Mr. Magic was a guy who did magic for his students at our elementary school. Some of his tricks were very nice but other tricks were definitely just because we were pretty gullible. Quite frankly, they weren’t the greatest tricks but overall it was pretty fun to see what he had for us students. He was very well-liked by most of the students, and was definitely a people person.”


The fact that Mr. Magic was affiliated with an elementary school contributes to the creation of the quasi-legendary figure of Mr. Magic. As is customary in the United States and in numerous other countries, there is a distinctly separate identity for children than there is for adults. This may constitute what stories, games, clothing, or behavior is appropriate, but especially dictates to what extent a child or adult is allowed access to information. Following the creation of the printing press in 1450 and the emergence of widespread schooling was the emergence of a complementary childhood identity that separated from adults, whereas beforehand, children were seen as small adults and expected to take on many of the same responsibilities. This would explain why students such as AJ were left in the dark at the time, paving the way for folk narratives to emerge both about his dazzling status as a well-liked magician, and of his mysterious disappearance.

Bloody Mary in the Bathroom – Legend


J is a screenwriting second-year at USC, raised in Canada but moved to American when J was 10 years old. The below text is a story told among the female students at J’s elementary school.


When J was in elementary school, there was a bathroom where people said that a girl had died in while she was a student in school who continued to haunt the bathroom because of how gruesome her death was without finding peace. Her spirit believed to be lingering there resulted in the creation of their own version of Bloody Mary. Students would say that “Bloody Mary lives in that bathroom.” They could tell because it was the very last stall and one of the pipes on the toilet had a splash of red paint on it, which students thought was blood. J themselves would go to the stall at the end of the day, and never got haunted by Bloody Mary. But, J was always on edge in the bathroom, where every little noise or motion may “summon” Bloody Mary, so J never did the “summoning” (saying Bloody Mary) to not chance the possibility of the ghost.


This narrative takes advantage of two legend themes: ghosts and Bloody Mary. Ghosts are an entity that lives on liminal boundaries: the line between life and death, human and non-human, and science and will power. The legend of a ghost forces the audience to question if one’s will truly is strong enough to overrule death, if a death with regret strong enough truly can provide haunting, or if there really is a line between life and death that is invisible to the living. Death itself is enigmatic and frightening for the living, so ghosts are a way people cope with it. For an audience as young as elementary students, ghosts not only become a way to deal with the permanence of death, but also a way to refuse grieving or accepting death, tying ghost narrative back to anti-hegemonic childhood folklore. So, the ghost itself as a literary object in a story subtly questions much of the real world’s ideas of death, maybe even denying them outright. Furthermore, because the legend is also about Bloody Mary, the story also becomes a coming-of-age for young girls. Bloody Mary serves the mark women’s menstrual cycle, a point at which blood comes out of the body, the girl is no longer chained to childhood and has to face harsh reality. Avoiding the bathroom stall avoids Bloody Mary, avoiding growing up as a young woman. An acknowledgement that Bloody Mary is not real (this childhood rumor is not real) marks a turning point in the young female world, that they have “risen above” childhood, gotten their period (marked by blood..Bloody Mary) and became women.