Tag Archives: Folk narrative

USC Nazi Tree

Text: Okay, so I heard from other people that the tree in front of that restaurant on campus, they say was donated by a Nazi.


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 heard about this from other students at USC, and I think I did kinda believe them, even though I never researched it myself. The tree they’re talking about is pretty big and noticeable. It kind of makes me feel skeptical, like I don’t really know if I belief this. It doesn’t really make sense though the more I think about it.”

Analysis: This folk narrative about there being a tree donated by a Nazi at USC is an example of a legend. This legend proves how beliefs are crafted as a social process, because of how this legend was spread through word-of-mouth, even if some like the informant are not convinced of its truth. There is definitely an aesthetic to this belief, especially since said tree is quite eye-catching and unique, so it is exciting to have this sort of legend about it. People might find this type of legend more enticing because it is more of a “friend-of-a-friend” legend as the source cited is just by fellow peers.

The Descent of the Kenyans – Myth

Text: Once god had created the land, the sky, and the waters he went to his people atop mount kiliminjaro. He declared that his people were blessed warriors and they were to descend from the heavens to live in the land below. The people who descended became Maasai and Kenyans.

Context: “This is a common myth throughout Kenya. The first time I heard it was most likely from my mom but I heard it retold many times after that. I believe it that our people have a special power and connection to the land out there.”

Analysis: The heart of this myth is not in whether the story is an accurate representation of creation or whether the people are really a chosen people. The myth shows that the land the people live on is a sacred gift that they should be honored to inhabit. In addition it’s meant to give purpose to why the people live. They did not merely happen on accident but were instead sent by god.

Nightwalkers – Legend

Text: Throughout Kenyan villages there are legends of nightwalkers causing turmoil throughout the night. These nightwalkers are believed to be ordinary people who become possessed by spirits or spirits of people who have passed. The nightwalkers typically try to scare people by making noises and throwing objects.

Context: “I heard about nightwalkers when I was still a kid living in Kenya. The kids in my village would tell stories of nightwalkers yelling in the night. I remember my sister would joke and say she’d throw me to the nightwalkers if I was bad.”

Analysis: The legend of the nightwalkers is similar to the western belief in ghosts. It’s likely that the nightwalkers are an explanation for people attempting to play pranks or acting strangely. Despite this the nightwalkers may have some legitimacy as ghosts and possession are seen throughout various cultures and folklore. Regardless of if the legend is true the nightwalkers serve their purpose of providing an interesting story and a ward from children playing at night.

The Ghost of Camp Daner – Legend

Text: Long ago there were a group of campers who wanted to take a swim late at night. The campers decided to dive in fully clothed as a test of courage. But when they jumped in and tried to climb out a ghostly hand had grabbed their legs. Before any of the campers were able to escape they were pulled in and drowned. They say to this day the ghost still lingers in camp waiting to drown unsuspecting campers.

Context: “I heard this story during summer camp in New Jersey when I was maybe 10. All of us were sitting around the fire telling scary stories and one of the campers who had been there before told this story.”

Analysis: This legend seems to be your typical ghost story used to scare young camp visitors. Telling ghosts stories is an intriguing folk tradition that has continued for quite some time. It is also special in the fact telling ghost stories is a folk tradition in a variety of cultures and regions. Ghost stories serve as a means for people to bound and share emotions even if it is fear.

Armenian Tale: Kikoyi Mahy

Կիկոյի մահը

Transliteration: Kikoyi Mahy

Translation: Kiko’s Death

Description by Informant:

There was a poor family who had three girls. All of which were unmarried. One day the dad sent one of the daughters to bring a water from the well nearby. The girl goes to the well and sees a big tree next to the well. She starts thinking or dreaming, “If I get married one day and have a son named Kikos, what if Kikos comes to the well and climbs the tree and falls from it and dies?” She starts crying, “My dear Kikos, why did you die? Oh my dear son, how did this happen?” And she stays at the well and keeps crying and crying as if this truly happened.

Meanwhile, the parents notice the girl didn’t come back, so they sent the second sister to see what happened. The second sister goes to the well and finds her older sister crying at the well. After finding out why she is crying, the sister also starts crying “Oh my dear nephew Kikos, why did you come here and climb the tree?”. Then the third sister joins and also cries. Then the father sends the mother to see what happened to the girls. The mother arrives and finds out what could happen to Kikos. She joins the daughters in crying.

Finally the father decides to go and see what happened to his family. When he comes to the well and finds out the destiny of his unborn grandson, he says “Are you women crazy? Who says that Kikos will come to the well to get water? Kikos is going to become a king. When have you seen a king go and get water for himself? Someone else will get the water for him. Now lets go enjoy life!”. The End.

Background Information: This is a popular Armenian children’s fable/ fairytale. Many different versions, some with more detail than others.

Context: The informant told me about this tale during a conversation in which I asked her to tell me about an Armenian folk narrative that she knows about.

Thoughts: It is clear that this is a story for children. I believe that the moral of the story is to not look too far into the future and worry about things that may never happen. Live in the present and enjoy life. If you are going to thing about the future then think positively, not negatively. I think the story has underlining air of misogyny. It is portraying the women as these highly emotional beings who cannot decipher reality from fantasy, while the only man in the story is pictured as the reasonable one although he does say that his grandson will become a king. I think he says this to be sarcastic and to show how dramatic the women are being.