The following story is based on a true story. It is about a childhood experience of The Bridge Magazine’s editor. ‘Strange people, strange culture’ was selected and published in a fiction and poetry book, Ripple, published by Kingston University Press, London (2008, p17-18). Explore its roots and influence
From the fear of the Loch Ness Monster in Scotland, to the Phantom of the Opera in Paris, geographical distance has not prevented Fetba in West Cameroon’s stories bridging cultural divides.
Urban legends are believed to be modern day fairy tales. Just as Snow White and the Seven Dwarves or Puss in Boots were spread by oral tradition, urban myths are spread by word of mouth, creating contemporary folklore, often with a moral sting in the tail.
George Orwell once said: “Myths which are believed in tend to become true.”
George Orwell (1903 – 1950) was the pen name of British novelist, essayist, and journalist Eric Arthur Blair.
Strange Tales, Strange Tails
The Loch Ness Monster
Also known as ‘Nessie’, the Loch Ness Monster is said to ‘lurk’ in the deep waters of Loch Ness in Scotland. Once portrayed by the first photographer, a London surgeon as ‘something with a long neck arched over a thick body’.
The Phantom of the Opera
The Phantom of the Opera is believed to be a ghoulish ghost terrorizing the cast and crew of the French Opera House while tutoring a chorus girl. He has been portrayed always as wearing a mask to hide a congenital disfigurement.
Urban myths have inspired countless books and films
The following story is based on a true story. It is about a childhood experience of The Bridge Magazine’s editor. ‘Strange people, strange culture’ was selected and published in a fiction and poetry book, Ripple, published by Kingston University Press, London (2008, p17-18).
Explore its roots and influence
Strange People, Strange Culture
As we were playing hide and seek, Carol’s mother was getting lunch ready. My grandma called out my name twice. The houses were close enough to each other for me to hear her shouting; but I pretended I could not.
The aroma of the fresh tilapia was teasing my appetite. I really wanted to share the lunch with my friend.
I wished my grandma would busy herself by feeding her chicks and goats in the farm and forget about me for a while. It happened. There was no third call.
The lunch was ready at Carol’s house. I needed no special invitation to share lunch there. I just had to be on time. My mum would kill me as she always reminded me that it is totally inappropriate to manage to have lunch, unexpectedly, at other people’s houses.
‘Sweet plantain, jacket bananas or rice?’ said Carol’s mum.
‘Sweet plantain please’ I replied, keeping my eyes wide open, trained to the move of wooden spoon that Carol’s mum was using to serve the soup. Another way to influence her so she would serve me one of the largest chunks of fish.
I was about to grab the best chunk when Carol’s mum asked me to make sure my hands were clean before having my lunch.
I hate to put off things. Why do I need to wash this mud off my hands?
Does it really matter? I used to eat mangoes fallen from the trees and nuts with
I grabbed a roasted chunk of fish. There was silence, the sort they have in cowboy
films, when the gunman enters the small town.
To break it, I asked, ‘What type of fish is it?’
‘Don’t be silly’, said Carol, ‘It smells like fish, it looks like fish, but this is not fish.
It is the tastiest snake’s flesh you will ever find.’
My blood went cold. I was shivering like a leaf falling in the wind.
I got a stomach ache.
I knew my stomach was empty but I couldn’t stop myself from vomiting.
I cried my eyes out to feel better.
We do not eat snake in my tribe.
Moreover, it is believed that people who have eaten snake will later develop snake
skin on a part of their body.
I do remember seeing a few people with snake skin on their cheeks, their shoulders
and their fingers.
It took me a few years to be able to eat in other people’s houses and even in some
Whether or not it is a justifiable fear or a superstition that is another question. But for sure, from Great Britain to Cameroon, via France, urban myths and legends still survive borders from generations to generations: whether embellished or altered as they are retold.