This deep dive into the origins, motivations, and logic of thirteen of Taiwan’s best known urban legends combines historical, psychological, and sociological perspectives to pose an important question: what do these oft-told tales tell us about the hopes and fears of contemporary society?
Spread by word of mouth and internet memes, urban legends are the just-so stories of contemporary life. Though widely known, we rarely delve into the origins of these stories, nor bother to ask what truths these untruths have the potential to reveal.
Each of the thirteen chapters of this book begins with a retelling of one of Taiwan’s best known urban legends, and then proceeds to analyze the scientific and historical plausibility of the tale. Readers learn about the times in which the legends arose, how they have been passed on and altered over time, and, finally, the societal anxieties and fears that might motivate the construction of such yarns.
Author Hsieh Yi-An categorizes urban legends into five broad types: collective memories of horror (plane crashes, disasters, etc.), universal legends found across the world (muggers who steal their victims’ organs), fears associated with specific locations, historical tales that reflect contemporary politics, and monster stories. After years spent researching this last category, Hsieh has recently expanded the scope of her inquiries to include all urban legends, treating readers to a feast of Taiwan’s favorite oft-told tales perfectly complemented by enlightening historical and psychological analysis.