Saturday, April 9, 2016

Fakelore and More


"When the earth is ravaged and the animals are dying, a new tribe of people shall come unto the earth from many colors, classes, creeds, and who by their actions and deeds shall make the earth green again. They will be known as the warriors of the Rainbow."

~ Native American prophecy

When I read the above, two thoughts came to me.

The first was that this is where the name of the Greenpeace ship that was sunk in New Zealand must have come from. More of that later.

The second thought followed on from the first: Was this a genuine quote and prophecy? It seemed a little too glib, too green and organic.

Looking into it a bit deeper produced some interesting facts and observations.

The above rainbow quote has no Native American origin, it comes from a 1962 book titled Warriors of the Rainbow by William Willoya and Vinson Brown. 

It is one of many internet fictitious stories that at a future time when the world is in crisis there will come people/tribes/groups etc who will save us all. Often these stories and predictions are linked to Native Americans (frequently Hopi) who are seen as pure, uncorrupted and the inheritors of the green legacy.

In the case of the Warriors of the Rainbow book, the prophecy is linked to the Second Coming of Christ. The book’s message has been described as anti-Native American in its Christian evangelising within the context of Native American culture and because of its misrepresentation and misleading depictions of that culture.

The origins and history of environmental activist organisation Greenpeace have been set out in a book The Greenpeace Story. It states that Greenpeace co-founder Bob Hunter was given a copy of Warriors of the Rainbow by a wandering dulcimer maker in 1969 and passing it around on the first expedition of the Don’t Make Waves committee , the precursor of Greenpeace. The legend inspired the names of Greenpeace ships, Rainbow Warrior, that have been, and are, used in environmental-protection protests.

In 1985 the flagship of the Greenpeace fleet, Rainbow Warrior, was sunk whilst in port at Auckland in New Zealand. 

The sinking was an operation by the French foreign intelligence services, the Rainbow Warrior having intended to protest against a French nuclear test at Moruroa. A photographer was killed when the ship was sunk. France initially denied responsibility, but two French agents were captured by New Zealand Police and charged with arson, conspiracy to commit arson, wilful damage and murder. The matter caused the French Minister of Defence to resign. The two agents pleaded guilty to manslaughter and were sentenced to ten years in prison. They spent just over two years confined to the French island of Hao before being freed by the French government.

A memorial in NZ to the Rainbow Warrior sinking.

The Native American warriors of the rainbow fable above is an example of what has been termed “fakelore”, being pseudo- folklore that is inauthentic, manufactured folklore presented as if it were genuinely traditional. The term “fakelore” was originated in 1950 by American folklorist Richard N Dorson.


“Folklorism” is to be distinguished from “fakelore”, the former being the adaption of folklore. Unlike fakelore, folklorism is not necessarily misleading; it includes any use of a tradition outside the cultural context in which it was created. The term was first used in the early 1960s by German scholars, who were primarily interested in the use of folklore by the tourism industry TV commercials with fairy tale characters, and even academic studies of folklore are all forms of folklorism.

Closely related to fakelore is The Disney Effect, the representations of folktales such as Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty in such manner as to distort and sanitise the source materials.

The Disney Princess Effect on Young Girls and Feminist Theory 

In another example of fakelore, a US campaign against pollution featured a crying Native American identified as Iron Eyes Cody:

He was actually an Italian American actor born Espera DeCorti.

A final thought . . .

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