The oral tradition has long been studied by social psychologists and cultural anthropologists for the insights it can provide: folklore both mirrors and shapes the anxieties, fears, hopes and understandings of societies and of groups within it. This paper uses traditional and contemporary legend in an attempt to gain some understanding of the consumption experiences and decision-making processes of families. It finds that the modern oral tradition overwhelmingly reflects the worries that parents feel for the safety of their children: fear of abduction, of poisoning, of violence and other forms of victimisation; these parental concerns are highlighted also in many of the more conventional studies used to help ground the theory in this paper. These anxieties in turn shape family consumption decisions in the areas of housing, leisure, food and transport. But although understanding the conditions of late modernity can be useful in explaining the socially constructed realities which families share, the evidence of traditional folklore, dating back before the 19th century, suggests that these worries may yet have a deeper basis.