Re: legend of Greyfriar's Bobby

From: Kate Distin (
Date: Thu 26 Jan 2006 - 14:23:49 GMT

  • Next message: Price, Ilfryn: "RE: legend of Greyfriar's Bobby"

    Scott Chase wrote:
    >> From: "Price, Ilfryn" <>
    >> Reply-To:
    >> To: <>
    >> Subject: RE: legend of Greyfriar's Bobby
    >> Date: Thu, 26 Jan 2006 13:18:38 -0000
    >> These may be 'pre urban' legends
    > I tried snopes with no luck using "greyfriar", "greyfriar's", and "skye"
    > as keywords. "terrier" produces some hits but not anything to do with
    > the "Greyfriar's Bobby" legend. I wonder how much truth is in the
    > legend. Was there anything to the story that got it started and perhaps
    > embellished a bit?
    > Beyond the truth status, my main concern is the emotional impact of such
    > stories, regardless of veracity. After reading MacLean's Triune stuff,
    > I'm still not fond of his oversimplified general theory, but he did get
    > me thinking more deeply about emotion and its neural correlates. Why did
    > I get choked up seeing a dog depicted sitting at its master's gravesite?
    >> Another is the dog that sat on the tuckerbox nine miles from Gundagai
    >> (NSW Australia)
    >> An excerpt from
    >> "The story of the faithful dog is quite possibly a romanticised
    >> version. The refrain from the supposedly original verse about the
    >> dog was:
    >> Then the dog sat on the Tucker Box
    >> Nine miles from Gundagai.
    >> But it's been said that in the "actual" original, it wasn't "sat" that
    >> the dog did."
    > Dogs do have accidents.
    > There's been many stories of dogs saving their families, perhaps barking
    > to wake them in case of a fire or seeking help for an injured owner.
    > These things are very popular news for news material. There could be
    > some embellishment in such stories. But why the embellishment? Is there
    > something deeply emotional in such stories that adds to their appeal or
    > relates to a tendency to exaggerate the details?

    And how much of this is genetic, how much learned culturally? I'm wondering whether this response to doggy tales is universal, either across or even within cultures.

    For instance my husband gets much more gooey about cute kittens and cats than I do - and certainly his dad's side of the family were real cat people whereas my family of origin can pretty much take cats or leave them. Whereas I'm much more of a sucker for puppies, which I'm sure is largely because we always had dogs in our family. And my mother-in-law is steadfastly unemotional about any animal at all because she's a farmer's daughter and regards them all as either stock or working animals.

    And it's not just about the felt emotional response. I think we have differing tendencies either to anthropomorphize cats/dogs or to take other people seriously when they do. You know, "my cat understands every word I say" - do you think "yeah, right" or "mine does too"?

    On the other hand there does seem to be a strength of response to animals, either positive or negative, which is more universal. We're about to start puppy-walking for the Guide Dogs (i.e. having a puppy to live with us from ages 6 weeks to 14 months, before it's old enough to train as a Guide Dog) and I have yet to encounter a neutral reaction to this piece of news. People find the prospect either delightful (because they love dogs and/or think it a worthy cause) or apalling (because of the thought of having a dog at all, or of giving a puppy up after a year, depending on their own feelings about dogs).

    But is even this strength of response universal, or is it specific to my culture? I'd be interested to learn the distribution of these sorts of legends across cultures. It's no surprise to find them here in the UK for instance because we are the most awful sentimentalisers of anything animal-related. But are the same sorts of stories as newsworthy in cultures with no tradition of keeping pets, for instance?


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