Essay Sample on Urban Legends: Exploring Society Through Tales

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1814 Words
Date:  2023-01-11


Urban legends are tales that are common both from the past until today. Their stories play a significant role in society ranging from entertainment purposes to explain why something exists as it does among members of the community. The stories, no matter how scary they may be seen as a message intended to be passed despite some of them having a joking nature. Based on Brunvand's assertion the urban legends may help a person to understand the culture of a modern society using the tales. The tales create fear to some and to others they are a source of entertainment and study of current practices. This paper seeks to discuss the urban legend's tales serving an entertaining and recreational role in modern society with fascinating examples explaining the engaging nature (The Conversation, 2017).

Is your time best spent reading someone else’s essay? Get a 100% original essay FROM A CERTIFIED WRITER!

Brunvand's assertion from "The Boyfriend's Death" is that legends exist as folklore narratives in our culture. Three elements are to be fulfilled for them to be called a 'cultural symbol' which are; there should be a story with a basic appeal, an actual belief based on a foundation and a moral message behind the story. He gives an example with "The Boyfriend's Death" story which he explains that it brings not only an interesting story but also a story that is true so that it can teach a valuable lesson to the people listening to it. Much as jokes form part of oral tradition to make it interesting, they have a fictional, humorous and brave nature while legends, on the other hand, are true, serious, linger and tend to be slower. Legend often requires more effort in narration than a joke. The messages in a legend are definite and clear they come in the form of warnings or to serve poetic justice. The secondary purpose is to bring out through metaphor or symbolism regarding the nature of the behavior of people and social conditions providing criticisms on the two issues. His explanation in the story "The Boyfriend's Death" is that it teaches young people to be aware of dangerous situations and the symbolic levels of fear among women and young people who fear to be among strangers when they are away from their home. Folklore must fill a genuine need in society for it to be retained whether it is entertainment or to pass across a message or explain unusual events.

I agree with Brunvand's position that some stories may rise to form a cultural symbol. His view that the brig up not only is for entertainment but teaches a community on that which they should or restrain from engaging in for safety. Their nature of bringing up misdeeds and exciting or woe to the audience and the aspect that some of them are true and others just having fiction nature people enjoy them. There is no particular reason why some legends are passed down to many generations thus forming some culture or have moral teaching behind them. Some ideas tied together try to explain why people believe the legends that it is because of the nature that legends trigger emotions like fear, anxiety and the conditions that change day in day out in the society. The legends can survive being scrutinized and the time factor that triggers them to be passed down to the future generations. I agree with this view because there are stories of legends that have been told for a very long time in history and they still exist. The fear instilled and the lessons learned together with the thrilling nature all help the stories remain and to always have a particular belief. The stories do not have one theme, but different accounts have different ideas that make them very interesting and appealing even to the generations that the stories are being passed to with no doubt. The aspect of validation of fears also proves the claims that are intended to be given to the generations (Cantrell, 7).

"The Licked Hand" is an excellent example of an urban legend that gives a story an old lady who had the little dog that she lived. On one day, the old lady heard on the radio that a murderer had escaped from jail and that people should be careful and they should lock all their doors to maintain their safety. The old lady closed all the windows and left one tiny one that would let some air. In her mind, she thought that a murderer would not be able to come into the house through the small window that she had left open. Later that night she went to bed as usual, and to her, everything was fine since she used to put her hand down and the dog would lick it. In the night she heard a dripping sound, but it was not from the kitchen but from the shower where she found her dog dripping blood with all intestines hanging outside. Looking right on the mirror it was the murderer who was in her house and right behind her to make matter worse (Emery, 2014).

The moral teaching behind the story can be explained that we should always be attentive and follow instructions especially when we are warned regarding a particular danger resulting from failure to follow instructions conveyed. A child or even a community being taught may be narrated to this story that will help them to learn how always to be careful and follow instructions given to them. They should take heed without underestimating any situation that they may have been warned. Had the woman been through enough and not ignored the warning and ignore the small window, the murderer could not have come into her house, and her little dog could not have died. We should always be careful and avoid being ignorant of warnings given to us in whatever circumstance. The urban legend is a perfect example that a parent or a teacher can use to educate the children it has been passed down till today and still will continue. What an urban legend teaches influences how far the story will go and in the circumstances that it is told to the young people in a society.

Another story is that of "two headlights do not necessarily equal two motorcycles." This story explains that two persons were riding two motorbikes on a road that seemed to be foggy and one said to the other to view how he wanted to scare the ones who were coming in a vehicle. The intention was to go over the oncoming vehicle, and he started the engine towards the car as his friend observed. Nothing scared the others; on the contrary, it was he who ended up being injured as he tried to cause injury to other people. The story has been retold from the 1990s when the one who tried the action like the one in the story being retold went over the incoming vehicle but was able to survive the injury that he suffered as a result (Breakey, 2016).

The story teaches that when one should not try to destroy others to satisfy sadistic feelings. It is good that we be mindful of what we do and not try to destroy other people for as a person tries to destroy another, they end up suffering instead of the person whom they intended to sustain. This teaches that people should always have good intentions and should treat others the way that they also want to be treated. The urban legend can also be used to teach children since some like playing games or just bullying others. This would teach them to become useful members of society and live in harmony with each other while considering always to BE having good virtues in them.

Some urban legends may have the scary nature in them, but they do pertain to a particular culture like the one of "Bloody Mary" which is said to be one of a woman was a witch and was convicted and killed. The notion is that when one switch off the lights goes to the mirror and mentions bloody Mary three times, then one will see her on the mirror. Nature is only to terrify people. The story draws inspiration to write books and having opinions about the culture and religious explanation to why some events occur and why they are carried out in a particular manner and not in a way that one may be expecting them to be. It is indeed true that most of these stories when told from the original form portray the initial feelings and opinions from the community that existed during the time that the event occurred (Howard, 2016).

Folklore for it to be retained in culture has to play the role of filling a need in the particular whether entertainment or a moral lesson or even to validate the ideals of a specific religion. Brunvand explains that legends are used to describe events that seem supernatural or impossible for us humans. They may be at times scary or shocking, but they serve the purpose intended. Most urban legends have that message in them which Brunvad tries to explain in his writings. They have a new nature and tend to have an explanation for things that seem impossible for us as rational human beings. The claim by Brunvad has stipulated three conditions required for an urban legend to be one that has a symbolic cultural nature. The above examples both have moral teaching behind them and can also be used for entertainment. They fulfill the requirement that Brunvand stated in the article.


The stories provided above give meaning to the argument by Brunvand. Most urban legends when looked at especially from their original form serve a purpose. They fulfill the condition for them to be termed to have the qualities of cultural symbolism which is an important aspect required for urban legends to entail as essential characteristics. Urban legends serve the purpose of making events or things that may seem unreal or unrealistic be explained to the level of human understanding. They can be used on different occasions be it at school to educate and teach children to be it for entertainment during camping or to affirm the belief of a particular religion. They serve an essential role in society and should not always be taken to have a false or joking nature.

Work Cited

The Conversation. Why urban legends are more powerful than ever. 2017. Accessed 5th May 2019.

Cantrell, M. Urban Legends: Why Do People Believe Them? 2010. Accessed 5th May 2019.

Emery, D. Humans Can Lick Too. 2014. I have accessed on 5th May 2019.

Breakey, J. Motorcycling Greatest Urban Legends. 2016. Accessed 5th May 2019.

Howard, K. The True Story of Bloody Mary, The Woman Behind The Mirror. 2016.

Cite this page

Essay Sample on Urban Legends: Exploring Society Through Tales. (2023, Jan 11). Retrieved from

Free essays can be submitted by anyone,

so we do not vouch for their quality

Want a quality guarantee?
Order from one of our vetted writers instead

If you are the original author of this essay and no longer wish to have it published on the ProEssays website, please click below to request its removal:

didn't find image

Liked this essay sample but need an original one?

Hire a professional with VAST experience!

24/7 online support

NO plagiarism