Author Archives: Mistoura Bello

Märchen – Yoruba

Aja, Alabaun, Ati Yanribo

Aja, Alabaun, ati Yanribo jo nse ore po.  Gbogbo won pa nu po lati pa iya won.  Alabaun ati Yanribo pa iya won sugbon. Aja gbe ti lo pamo si orun.  Igba ti o ba fe lo wo iya e, Aja a ma korin bayi:

Iya, Iya takun wa le O

Alu join join ki join

Gbogbo eranko pa yeye e je O

Alu join join ki join

Aja gbe ti o dorun O

Alu join join ki join

Ni ijo kan, awon eranko ka mo ibi to ti nkorin si Iya e.  Ni won ba ni awon ma lo pa Iya e ni.

Dog, Tortoise, and his Wife

The dog, the tortoise, and his wife were all friends. They all decided to kill their mothers.  The other animals went along with the plan and killed their mothers, but the dog went and hid his mother in heaven.  Whenever he wanted to visit his mother, he would sing like this:

Mother, Mother bring down the rope

Alu join join ki join

All the animals killed their mothers

Alu join join ki join

The dog carried his to heaven

Alu join join ki join

One day, the other animals caught the dog while he was singing to his mother.  They decided that they would have to kill his mother.

Abiola heard this story when she was around eight years old.  She used to visit her grandmother in the village and the elders would tell stories to the children at night.  This story follows in the call and reply format.  The story contains the refrain “Alu join join ki join” which is intended for listeners to reply back to the teller as she tells the tale.  This tale features the most popular character in Nigerian tales, the tortoise, but this tale refers to him as “Alabaun” instead of as Ijapa.  The tortoise has several names that change in spelling, pronunciation, or word from region to region.  This story also features the tortoise’s wife Yanribo.  Once again, the tortoise is causing mischief.  In this story he and his wife decide that all of the animals in the village should kill their mothers.  His friend the dog is with them when they make this decision, he agrees with the animals but

ultimately refuses to kill his mother.  Instead, he takes her directly to heaven to hide her from the other animals.  The tortoise and his wife eventually find out that the dog lied to them when he sings to his mother to let down a rope from heaven so that he can visit her.  When they discover this, they kill his mother.  Abiola says that the lesson that children learn from this is that honesty is always better than deceit.  They also learn to stand up for their beliefs.  The dog should have told the others that it was a bad idea to kill their mothers instead of pretending to agree with them.  In the end he is found out and his mother is killed, which he might have prevented had he been brave enough to be the dissenting voice.


Q: What do you tell a woman with two black eyes?

A: Nothing, You already told her twice.

Q: What does a woman with a broken arm, a black eye, and two cracked ribs do?

A: The dishes if she knows what’s good for her.

The man whom I collected this piece from asked that I not attach his name to the jokes.  He is a social worker for Los Angeles county.  He says that he heard the jokes from coworkers as they finished paperwork in his office.  The men were discussing a domestic abuse case that resulted in the removal of a young child from his home.  Although he says that he laughed at the jokes when they were told, he claims that they would probably have gotten him in trouble with his superiors if the men had been overheard.

The informant stated that there are very few men in the field of social work.  Because he and the other two people in the room, including the individual who told the joke, were all men, the teller probably felt comfortable enough to assume that none of them would be offended.  He said that he does not agree with the jokes, and he would not find the subject funny at all in a real life situation.

These jokes are a great example of conversations that only arise when one is within a comfortable and familiar social group.  The informant describes the situation as a group of men within a field dominated by women.  Because the men realize that they are a minority group in their field, they would not dare to tell the joke in front of their female coworkers.  Spousal abuse is also a taboo subject in popular culture.  This is coupled with the fact that the men work in a field where it is often their job to interact with and protect women and children in abusive situations; therefore, the jokes would be deemed inappropriate by anyone outside of the group who might overhear them.  The fact that the subject of the jokes is taboo also adds to their appeal.  It is common that we find humor in situations that would be deemed politically incorrect simply because of the likelihood of the item to offend.  This is often exemplified by the telling of ethnic or racial jokes.


Q: Why can’t Stevie Wonder read?

A: Because he’s black.

The informant asked that I withhold his name from the project.  He told me that he heard this joke in high school from another student.   He was about 15 or 16 years old when he heard it.  The individual who told him the joke was a white student.  He said that he was offended when he heard the joke because it made him feel that his white classmates were getting to comfortable with him. He happened to be one of the few minority students in upper level classes, and the majority of his classmates were white.  He asked me not to attach his name to this piece because he feared that he would be viewed as condoning racism and bigotry by sharing the joke.

The joke itself combines more than one taboo in its telling.  It expresses long held stereotypes about black people as uneducated and illiterate.  The other politically incorrect topic that this joke touches upon is mocking the disabled.  It is generally known that it is unacceptable to make disparaging comments about the condition or abilities of those who have physical or mental handicaps.

This joke once again exemplifies the lure of taboo.  The individual thought that the joke was funny because of the taboos it addressed, whether or not he agreed with the stereotype or the derogation of Stevie Wonder and his disability.  The situation in which this joke was shared is a very interesting one.  Although the informant is a part of the group being disparaged in the joke, the teller believed that because they were both part of a specific social group, the informant would not be offended.  This illustrates the ability of any one of us to play a role in several different definitive groups at once.  The informant stated that his identity as a member of his racial group conflicted with his identity as a member of the social group that he was involved with at school.  This was often manifested by jokes such as this one, which his peers seemed to enjoy more that he did.


Mexican women are extremely fertile.

The informant asked that I not attach him name to this piece.  He told me this stereotype in conversation as we walked back from the dining hall, and I later asked him if I could include it in my project.  As we were walking, another individual stopped us and asked me if I happened to be Dominican.  I replied that I was actually Nigerian, and we went on our way.  I joked that I should pretend to be Dominican so that I could make free copies in the Latino Student Union when the Center for Black Cultural and Student Affairs was out of ink and the informant; I then made a comment about picking up a Latino boy while I was there, and the informant scoffed.  He then stated that he couldn’t date a Latina girl because, “Mexican girls are so fertile that if you finger one she’ll end up pregnant.” The other male that was traveling with us then stated “Mexican houses have a six child minimum.

When I decided to use the comment in my project, the informant told me that he had heard it from a classmate in high school, but he believed the implications behind the comment to be true.  He stated that Mexican women tend to have a lot of children, and that they usually start very young.  When I went to ask the informant if I could use his comment for this project, a friend of his roommate was in their lounge.  As he answered my questions, a very anti-Mexican sentiment arose.  Their visitor stated that not only was it true that Mexican women are very fertile, but they breed enough to overpopulate their living areas.  He then told the joke:

Q: What do you can a Mexican in the water?

A: Pollution

Both of these comments are examples of Blason Populaire.  The anti immigration sentiment may be partially responsible for these individuals hearing these stereotypes.  All of these individuals attended public schools in the Los Angeles school district, which in most cases are predominantly Hispanic.   These facts most likely fostered an environment where the other students felt threatened enough to begin disparaging the Hispanic population in response to a perceived threat.


A woman dies in a car crash and is sent to her judgment at the gates of heaven.  After St. Paul decides that she lived a virtuous life, she is allowed to enter heaven.  One of the other angels approaches her and offers to take her on a tour of heaven.  He shows her the greatest restaurants, the best theaters, the hottest clubs, the amusement parks, and all the best of heavens attractions.  Suddenly she notices a building with a long line out in front.  As they get closer she hears shrieks of pain and agony.  She asks what’s inside and the angel says:

“That is the room you must enter to become an angel.”

The screaming gets louder and more anguished.  So she asks what is happening inside.  The angel replies:

“First they drill holes in your head to hold your training halo in place, then they drill holes into your back to put your wings in, and finally -”

She stops him before he can finish and tells him that she would like to be sent to hell.  He says:

“You realize that if you are sent to hell you will be tortured, raped and sodomized daily?”

The woman answers: “Yeah, but I already have the holes for that.”

Ariel told me that she heard this joke from a coworker during their break at Taco Bell.  This joke once again deals with social taboos.  It was told among a group of individuals in their late teens to early twenties.  The focus of the joke is somewhat sexual in nature.  It also comments on death and the afterlife.  The joke is one that would not likely be told around anyone outside of one’s immediate age group.


Bind and Binding

Binding Bound

See the sight

Hear the sound

What was lost

Now is found

Bind and Binding

Binding Bound

Ariel heard this charm from her older brother’s girlfriend when she was in eighth grade.  It is a Wicca charm that is supposed to allow the person who recites it three times to find any item that he or she has lost.  The charm follows one of folklores most common rules, the rule of three.  Ariel says that she has used the charm and she believes that it works.


Take a can (soup, Pringles, ect.)

Decorate it green with pictures of money, and coins, and color it.  Put all of your change into it.  Shake it three times. Say “May my wealth increase, so may it be.”

Ariel learned this charm from her older brother’s girlfriend when she was in middle school.  The charm is supposed to increase your wealth if done properly. The chant is supposed to be performed during a full moon.

This charm follows many folklore traditions.  We again see the repetition of three when the can is shaken.  We also see a belief that imitation can conjure something of the like.  The can is decorated to resemble money and this is intended to attract money to the individual who recites the charm.  The charm also implements use of the lunar calendar, as the directions state that the charm must be performed on the first night of a full moon.  Ariel does not know the significance of the first night of the full moon in the efficaciousness of the charm, but she remembers that she was told that the charm would not work if done on any other night.

Folk Remedy

Rub menthol on the soles of your feet to cure a cold.

Ariel’s mother told her that she could cure a cough by rubbing menthol on the soles of her feet.  She says that she has used this remedy to cure a cold as recently as this month.  The only requirements to make the remedy work is to rub menthol on the soles of your feet and cover them with something warm.  Ariel says that she was told that her feet would absorb the menthol and cure a cough without the discomfort that occurs when menthol is rubbed on the chest.  She says that it did not cause her to have a runny nose and the smell did not bother her as it would had she put the menthol on her chest.


Until the lion has his historian, the hunter will always be a hero.

Abisola says that she heard the proverb from a guest speaker at an AFRICA SC meeting.  She believes that the proverb is similar to the saying that history is written by the victors.  She says that it means that we will always sing the praises of the winner until we are informed of the atrocities that were committed against the losers.  Until both sides of the tale are told, only those who come out on top will be able to tell their story.

There is a similar proverb in the book Home and Exile by Chinua Achebe.  He states “the story of the hunt will only glorify the hunter.”

With the advent of the internet and the globalization of culture, this proverb has proven true.  Now that anyone can share his or her story it is much more difficult for those who triumph by force to quell the voices of those they terrorized.  Even some of our most revered heroes in history has been exposed for the atrocities that they committed and their moral indignities.  This proverb states that until there is a way for the voice of the victim to be heard, the victor will be esteemed for his victory without question of the cost.


Ti chen gen fos devan kay met li
A little dog is really brave in front of his master’s house

This is a Creole proverb.  Makini says that she heard it from her mother when she switched schools after her freshman year in high school.  She was being picked on by a boy in her class, and her mother told her the proverb.  She says that it means that it is easy for a small individual to “talk tough” when he/ she is in a comfortable situation.  Because she was a new student and was on his home turf, he felt that he could be brave and torment her.  If he had not felt that he would be backed up by his peers, then he would not have even attempted it.