Eponymous Tales

Little Red The primary purpose of folklore is not to entertain, but to educate. They explain why things are the way they are, why they are called what they are, or why society has certain social codes. In the raw, like many folk songs, the general moral is "obey society's dictates or come to a bad end". This is kind of rough and not usually how they are presented in modern society.

In fact, if you look at most kid's entertainment, they plot generally involves kids witnessing something. They try to bring it to the attention of adults, who dismiss it, or their interpretation of it. The kids go on, defy the adults, deal with the problem themselves. They save the day, the authority figures are humbled, and it is considered a happy ending.

Sure, this kind of plot sells. It's what the kids want to hear. But what does it teach our children? That sometimes gets to me.

Clearly the stringent and confining message of traditional folklore is not something that children today will swallow easily. Yet equally clearly I think there is a need in modern society for something with the same standards enforcing role that folklore met of old.

This was the inspiration for the following stories. Although they are more cautionary tales than eponymous tales, they try to explain why we do certain things certain ways, in a humerous way. Since children are largely conditioned against doing what adults say (it isn't cool) they are largely absent here. The lessons presented are all presented by example.

This work needs illustations. I'm working on a few friends for them. But if you are inspired enough by them to do your own, or have ideas for other Eponymous Tales, by all means let me know.


January 2001

Why are STOP signs red?

Back when TVs were black & white STOP signs were all yellow. A girl named Dustmop used to love to play in traffic. On the corner near her house she would jump out when cars were passing and chase them like a dog. She used to love to hear their tires squeal as they swerved to miss and the horns were like applause.

One day she decided to play with a bus. But busses are much bigger than cars. Its tires squealed but they did not stop it fast enough. It hit Dustmop so hard that it turned her inside out and her blood flew through the air. Some of it hit the STOP sign and turned it red. And so it has been ever since.

Where did light switches come from?

Back when TVs were black & white there weren't light switches. Instead there were just wires hanging out of the wall. When they wanted to turn the lights on or off they had to twist the wires. If they weren't careful enough they got fried to a crisp! This was sad but since they had no other way to turn the lights on or off they had no other choice.

In one of these houses lived a girl named Teapot. In her family the oldest child was in charge of turning the lights on and off. But her three older brothers had all be fried to a crisp twisting the wires and now it was her turn. She had a one legged doll she didn't like. Rather than twist the wires herself she taped them carefully to her doll's hands and stuck her in the hole where the where the wires were. When she had to turn the lights on and off she pulled the dolly's leg up and down and the doll twisted the wires together and apart. Never once was she fried to a crisp.

Everyone thought this was such a good idea they did it themselves and now everyone has light switches.

Why are power lines in the sky?

Back when TVs were black and white power lines used to run along the ground. This was OK but every now and again someone would stop on one and be fried to a crisp. This was sad but since everyone needed power, there was nothing else to do.

There lived a boy named Telephone in a house with a big power line on the ground outside. He used to have many friends but when they came to visit they kept stepping on the power line and one by one were fried to a crisp.

He was lonely and tired of this and decided to do something about it. He went out back and found two big poles. He then carefully taped the power line to one end of each of the poles and stuck the other end in the ground so that the power line was high up and no one would step on it.

Everyone saw how many friends and did the same thing themselves. Soon everyone was doing it and now all power lines are on top of telephone poles.

Why do TVs have glass in front?

Back when TVs were black and white TVs didn't have glass in the front. One night a little boy named Sprocket was watching a scary TV show. It was really scary, even though it was in black and white. As it got scarier and scarier he sat closer and closer to the TV. Suddenly at the scariest point the monster reached out and started to drag Sprocket into the TV. Luckily his sister Fork was there. She dragged Sprocket back out and put a fish tank in the hole.

Everyone saw this and thought it was a good idea. They all started doing it and now all TVs have glass in front and monsters only rarely reach out and grab nearby children.

Why do cars have seat belts?

Back when TVs were black and white cars had no seat belts. This was sad because when there were accidents everyone would fly out the windshield and die. Even from the back seat!

One day a boy named Stair and his sister Post went for a ride in their car. They had left in a hurry and Stair had not finished dressing. So he finished in the car. By mistake he had looped his belt around the seat as well as his pants.

There was an accident while they were driving and his sister flew through the windshield and died. However he was held in place by his belt and lived.

Everyone thought this was such a good idea that they did it themselves. Now all cars come with seat belts.

Why do drains have grates?

Back when TVs were black and white drains didn't have grates. They were just open holes in the ground. Occasionally children would walk around playing with their Game Boys, fall into the drains, and be washed out to sea. This was sad because sometime they would be caught by factory ships and turned into tuna fish and other times they would wash up in another city and almost never got back to their original parents.

Sofa was a boy who played his Game Boy so much and had been washed out to sea so many times he couldn't remember his real parents. He was so afraid of being washed out to sea again and being turned into tuna fish that he took the screen door from the house and put it over the drain. Now he could wander around playing with his Game Boy and not fall into the drain.

Everyone thought this was such a good idea that they did it and now all drains have grates.

Why do cars have headlights?

Back when TVs were black and white cars had no headlights. When children would play in the street they wouldn't always see them and would get squashed flat. This was sad but since there were no headlights that was just what happened.

A girl name Chair went out one day with a flashlight. With it she would look left and right for cars so she wouldn't get squashed flat. Unfortunately as she looked left one day a car came from the right and squashed her flat. But her flashlight stuck in the front of the car. For the rest of the night it shone from there and no children got squashed.

Everyone thought this was such a good idea that they did it too and now all cars have headlights.

Why do doorways have doors?

Back when TVs were black and white there were no doors in anyone's doorways. Instead anyone could wander in and out when they liked. Occasionally at night wild dogs would come in and drag children off to be devoured. This was sad but since they didn't have doors, what could they do?

One night a little girl named Hairdryer lay sleeping in her bed. A bunch of wild dogs came in and started to drag her off to be devoured. On the way through the dining room she grabbed hold of the table and as they dragged her through the doorway it got stuck and they couldn't devour her.

This worked so well they taped it in place. Everyone thought this was such a great idea and started doing it themselves and now everyone has a door in their doorway.

Why do we have toilet paper?

Back when TVs were black and white there was no toilet paper. Everyone had to use their hands and they were all dirty and smelly and had no friends. But without toilet paper they couldn't do anything else.

One day a girl named Saucepan sat on the toilet reading this book...

[page missing]

And everyone thought it was a good idea and now everyone has toilet paper.

Why does food come in cans?

Back when TVs were black and white food did not come in cans. They just piled it up on the shelf. It made a big mess in the shopping cart and a lot of kids ate succotash.

One day a boy named Fishtank was at the grocery store with his parents buying food. He really didn't like succotash and so when they bought food he put it into his coke can before putting it into the shopping cart.

Everyone saw this and thought it was such a good idea that they did it too and now all food comes in cans.

Why are Red Hots cinnamon flavored?

Back when TVs were black and white Red Hots were not cinnamon flavored. They weren't red either. Back then they tasted like gasoline and were called White Hots. Kids really loved them because they made their mouths tingle an awful lot. The only problem is that sometimes if they sneezed after eating one their heads would explode. This was sad but there were so good it was hard to stop eating them.

Colander was a young girl whose favorite candy was White Hots. She was ever so worried about having her head explode after eating one. One day in the candy shop she had an idea. Instead of spending all of her allowance on White Hots she also bought a packet of Life Savers. One by one she passed each White Hot through the middle of the Life Saver. The Life Saver steamed and bubbled with the heat from the White Hot but it cooled the White Hot down enough so that it only glowed Red and tasted of cinnamon instead of gasoline. They didn't make her mouth tingle as much but she ate a whole packet and sneezed several times without her head exploding once.

Colander thought this was so clever that she turned lots and lots of White Hots into Red Hots, sold them to all her friends, made lots and lots of money, and is now the President of a large corporation. Now everywhere you go you can buy Red Hots and all of them are cinnamon flavored.