Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
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Legend: Two men traveling together check into a country inn run by a relatively young widow. One of the men ends up spending the night with the widow, and to avoid any future entanglements he deceptively gives the widow his partner's name before departing the next morning. The man never tells his partner about the incident, and a year later the partner receives an unexpected letter from a lawyer, informing him that the widow has died and left him the inn and a sizeable chunk of money in her will, in remembrance of the wonderful night of pleasure he gave her.
Example: [Ní Dhuibhne, 1983]
Origins: As folklorist Jan Brunvand points out in The Choking Doberman, "fantasies of unlimited sex and of sexual favors granted with no strings attached" are often accompanied by twists of fate or poetic justice in modern legends. In this tale, the two elements blend neatly: a man needlessly lies about his identity to a woman he sleeps with in order to avoid possible future entanglements; as a result, his friend, not he, reaps the unexpected rewards.
As for how old this legend is, its plot had been used so often by aspiring writers that it merited inclusion in a 1946
[Young, 1946]It also appeared the previous year in a humor collection:
An attractive young fellow goes to Atlantic City, for a holiday. He meets a charming girl from Baltimore, and has an affair with her. He does not give her his right name — instead, he gives her the name and address of one of his friends in New York City. When he leaves, the girl is in love with him, but to him the girl is just another girl. And he never, of course, hears from her. The girl returns to Baltimore. A short time later, she dies
[Cert, 1945]Last updated: 9 July 2007
Two friends motored home from a fishing trip in Maine. On a lonely country road they encountered engine trouble. Who answered their knock at the nearest farmhouse? Right! The farmer's beautiful daughter. She gave them dinner and let them stay overnight. Six months later one of the friends received an ominous-looking legal document. A frown disappeared as he read it, and then he phoned his fishing companion.
"I say, Tom," he said. "Did you by any chance spend a little time with that beautiful farm girl the night our car broke down?"
"Why, yes," answered Tom sheepishly.
"And did you, in a moment of Machiavellian cunning, give her my name and address?"
"Now, don't get sore about that," broke in Tom. "Where's your sense of humor?"
"Oh, I'm not a bit sore," his friend assured him. "I just thought you'd like to know I heard from her lawyer. She died last week and left me the farm and $12,000 in cash."
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