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By Gillian Bennett

Simply because they're so usually informed as information, modern legends strength us to reevaluate existence as we all know it. They confront us with macabre, marvelous, terrible, or hilarious characters and occasions that appear to return instantly out of myths and folktales, yet are provided as brand new occasions. the trouble is that it isn't in any respect effortless to make your mind up no matter if those usually demanding tales might be handled as trustworthy or brushed aside as fable. The legends explored during this booklet are the most strange, ugly, and politically delicate tales within the modern legend canon. At any second a physique should be invaded by way of noxious creatures, intentionally contaminated with lethal disorder, or raided to supply donor organs for ailing foreigners. those are "winter's tales," the stuff of nightmares. during this publication Gillian Bennett strains the cultural historical past of six legends, recognized in Europe and the United States from medieval occasions to the current day. showing in broadsides, ballads, myths, historical and smooth legends, novels, performs, movies, tv indicates, and tales instructed within the oral culture, those legends should not simply foolish stories that are disregarded as trivial and unfaithful. They display a lot concerning the matters and fears of daily life and exhibit the boundaries of data and gear within the smooth international. Gillian Bennett is the writer of "Alas, bad Ghost!": Traditions of trust in tale and Discourse and Traditions of trust: ladies and the Supernatural and coauthor of the traditional legend bibliography and reader. She lives in Stockport, uk.

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Additional resources for Bodies: Sex, Violence, Disease, and Death in Contemporary Legend

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The patient’s mouth was fastened open, and a freshly toasted piece of bacon put near it. The thirsty “worm” heard the running water and came out into the man’s mouth, where it smelt the meat and sprang on it, fixing its claws in it. The “wise man” then threw the bacon into the water, and the man rapidly recovered. (Westropp 454) Now snakes adore fresh milk, and the only way to save somebody suffering from a snake inside, is to bend the sufferer’s head over a bowl of new milk and at the same time to hold a strong band tight against the person’s mouth like a noose.

And they concluded, of course, that the boy was possessed by the devil. It particularly impressed them that when the suffering boy was led to take some fresh air near a pond with croaking frogs, his stomach frogs croaked loudly in reply. 19 The medical men were dismissed and the exorcists took over. 20 On one occasion, the onlookers thought they saw a large snake put its head out of the boy’s mouth. “In the meantime,” Bondeson reports, “a physician had dissected one of the vomited [frogs]. It had several half-digested insects in its stomach, evidence that the frog had been alive outside the boy’s body shortly before it was vomited.

These continued demonstrations of fraud finally put the theory to rest as a respectable medical hypothesis. Bondeson suggests that belief in “animals inside” as a cause of disease did not survive in Europe after the early 1880s but was transported to the United States and thrived there until the end of the century (42–43). As the table in the appendix to this chapter shows, this is not quite accurate: of the fifty-one Bosom Serpent accounts collected after this date, twenty-six come from the United Kingdom, Ireland, or elsewhere in Europe, and though the 21 22 ANIMALS INSIDE events in some of the stories may have occurred well before the time they were recorded, many others are said to be contemporaneous.

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