Western Folklore

Vol. 82 No. 1 – Winter, 2023

(Currently in production)



Expression Games, Vernacular Authority, and Legend Fabrication: How Trolls Turned the OK Sign into a White Power Symbol

Sarah Gordon

ABSTRACT: In 2017, an anonymous poster on the online imageboard 4chan started a troll campaign to create the impression that political liberals believed that the OK hand sign, often called “the ring” in academic literature, was a white supremacist hand gesture; the campaign was so effective that the meaning of the gesture has become widely disputed. This paper analyzes the trolling campaign as strategic communication designed to simultaneously cultivate folk belief and undermine folk expression. KEYWORDS: legend, internet, hybridity, mass media, strategic communication

Giving Life to Legends: Material Representation of Ostensive Behavior

Daisy Ahlstone

ABSTRACT: This article explores the relationship between ostensive practice and material behavior as represented by the legend of the thylacine’s present existence in Tasmania. This legend is coded into the physical representations of the thylacine and reinforces the narrative wherever it appears in artwork. A framework of ostensive behavior reveals the complexities of object and narrative, enriching the analysis of legend. KEYWORDS: legend, ostension, folklore, material culture, thylacine

Walking with a Clump of Turf on One’s Head: The Life and Death of a Ritual

Elena Boudovskaia

ABSTRACT: The 20th century saw major changes in the way of life in rural eastern Europe. Traditional folklore that had been preserved for centuries was also changing and disappearing. This paper examines one ritual: namely, a male peasant’s walking on a contested land boundary with a clump of turf on his head. After an analysis of the ritual’s latest versions, recorded from a female speaker in a Carpatho-Rusyn village in Ukraine in 2017–2020, I examine the ritual in its historical perspective and discuss its differences from older versions in other traditions. The changes are attributed to two main factors: the abandonment of old land boundaries under collective farmland ownership, and the narrative’s being shaped by contemporary rural female perceptions of magic, sin, and retribution. The results contribute to the understanding of the mechanisms of changes in traditional rural folklore. KEYWORDS: traditional folklore, ritual, oath, magic, gender


Gregory A. Waselkov, Ed., Native American Log Cabins in the Southeast.
Reviewed by Kathie Beebe

Thomas Michael Kersen, Where Misfits Fit: Counterculture and Influence in the Ozarks.
Reviewed by Drew Beisswenger

Jeffrey Andrew Weinstock, Ed., The Monster Theory Reader.
Reviewed by John Bodner

Scott Hamilton Suter, A Potter’s Progress: Emanuel Suter and the Business of Craft.
Reviewed by Jesse David Chariton

Jeffrey L. Rubenstein, The Land of Truth: Talmud Tales, Timeless Teachings.
Reviewed by Emma Crisp

Sharell D. Luckett, Ed., African American Arts: Activism, Aesthetics, and Futurity.
Reviewed by Jessica Cushenberry

David Crook, Robin Hood: Legend and Reality.
Reviewed by James I. Deutsch

Karl Reichl, The Oral Epic: From Performance to Interpretation.
Reviewed by John D. Niles

Greg Kelley, Unruly Audience: Folk Interventions in Popular Media.
Reviewed by David J. Puglia

Anastasiya Astapova, Humor and Rumor in the Post-Soviet Authoritarian State.
Reviewed by Annika Shinn

Elaine J. Lawless, Reciprocal Ethnography and the Power of Women’s Narratives.
Reviewed by Millie Tullis

Edmund Schneeweis, Festivals and Folk Customs of the Sorbs (Wends).


Wilibald Von Schulenburg, Wendish Folklore: Its Legends, Traditions and Customs.
Reviewed by Charles Wukasch