LEGEND

 

FROM: Jan Harold Brunvand, Too Good to Be True: The Colossal Book of Urban Legends, New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1999.

 

Unique, unselfconscious reflection of major concerns of individuals in societies in which legends circulate (tell a kind of truth)

 

WHY TOLD? Show American reactions to situations involving corporate or individual negligence of health & cleanliness standards

 

LEGEND = Rumor + narrative (alleged to be true); lack of verification irrelevant (believability is enough); reflects hopes, fears, anxieties of our time

 

Pseudo-Proof: evidence offered (usually not verifiable) for truth of legend

Pseudo-Witness: always a few people removed from the teller

 

BRUNVAND’s view of folklore: “oral traditional in variants” a.k.a.

“Unstandardized Multiple Variations” (retain fixed central core but constantly change as transmitted ŕ variants differing in length, detail, style, performance technique)

 

3 essential elements

1.   strong basic story appeal

2.   foundation in actual belief

3.   meaningful message or “moral”

 

Longer, slower, more serious than jokes (other major oral genre circulating today)

 

Seem to convey true, worthwhile, relevant information (partly subconsciously)

 

Ongoing basic human need for meaningful personal contact (not replaceable by mass media, pop cultre)

 

Gratify our desire to understand bizarre, frightening, potentially dangerous or embarrassing events that may have happened

 

INTERPRETATION

Need fullest possible data on context; need to ustand structural patterns, variations

Might be cultural symbols

 

CARS – highly mobile, affluent folk

TEENAGERS – fear of moving into adult world (sex, raising children)

CONTAMINATIONS – apparent wholesomeness shocking & dirty underneath

BUSINESS RIP-OFFS – fear/scorn of impersonal nature of corporate power

 

 

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