Tuesday, April 24, 2018
U: Urban Legend
We've all heard the stories...a friend of a friend who found a mouse in a Coke bottle or saw Elvis at the mall. The urban legend is widely seen as a form of modern folklore--cautionary tales set in our contemporary times. They're usually funny or macabre or flat-out gross. They can be specific to a particular culture or location, or they can have wider relevance. Back in the day, they were often passed from one person to another via the age-old tradition of oral storytelling. When I was in sixth grade, our class spent a few nights up in the mountains for Eco-Week. I still remember hearing the story of Stumpy, the kid whose legs were burned off below the knees who supposedly roamed the woods around the cabins. It's kind of funny when I think about it now, but at the time, I was terrified.
Many urban legends revolve around creatures (Bigfoot, Chupacabra), aliens (Area 51, crop circles), our bodies (we only use 10% of our brains, swallowed gum doesn't digest for 7 years), sinister figures (Slender Man, clowns), and politics (too many to list here). These stories serve many of the same purposes as ancient myths and fairy tales: reinforcing social beliefs, expressing our fears, and/or providing an explanation for complicated, even illogical, events
In the age of the internet, urban legends can and do spread instantaneously. And perhaps that's the biggest cautionary tale of all.