Author Archives: Marie Griffith

The Crying Lady – Mexico

When I was little, my grandma used to tell me this story called, “The Crying Lady.”  

It’s a Hispanic story about this beautiful woman named Maria.  She was beautiful, the prettiest woman ever alive, and she was very conceited and full of herself.  She wouldn’t give anyone the time of day, she wanted the most handsome man in the world.  She then met a man that was just as beautiful as she was, a guy that can play guitar, a guy that can sing.  But not really knowing him, just knowing that he was a good looking man, she ended up marrying him.  They were happy for a few years, had a couple of boys, and he then returned to his old ways: he would party, not come home for months at a time.  One day on her way home, she caught her husband with another woman.  She was so angry and hurt that she drowned her sons in a nearby river.  She regretted it right away, and tried to save her sons but it was too late.  She died of grief on the river bed, and is still said to haunt Mexico.  And so goes the story of Maria the Crying Lady.
Just because you are beautiful, doesn’t mean you are beautiful on the inside.  You must be humble, and nice to people even if they aren’t beautiful on the outside, because it is the inside that counts.  I just remember growing up she would constantly tell me this story.

Francine thinks of this story as a lesson of character, not a ghost story.  However, she told me that this story isn’t generally seen as a “moral story,” but is instead a very well-known ghost story in Mexico.  But her grandma, who wanted to instill good morals in her, told her the story stressing the character flaw in Maria.  She told me that, even though her grandma told her this story quite frequently as a child, her grandmother would sometimes even leave out the part of Maria still haunting Mexico as a grieving ghost, because she didn’t Francine to focus on the ghost aspect of it.  The message really resonated with Francine, as a pretty Mexican woman herself, and plans on telling her children the story once they are old enough to understand.

This is not an uncommon theme in stories.  When a person is so wrapped up in themselves that they somehow end up being bitten in the butt later on (e.g. the story of Narcissus). But I can really appreciate the fact that Francine’s grandmother wanted the emphasis of the story not to be the superstitious element, but the moral element.  Especially in regards to children, ghost/superstitious stories can stick with a person for their whole lives, as I saw with many of my other informants.  Maybe telling more superstitious stories at an older age would not have such an effect, because children are very, very impressionable at a young age.  I mean this isn’t the most horrible/gruesome ghost story around, and the moral component is very evident, but I still think it was smart of the grandma to play that part down.

Kyoto and Osaka Frogs – Japan

These 2 frogs lived in Japan but did not know about each other: one lived in Kyoto, and one lived in Osaka, and they were both happy frogs.  But they would both wonder what the other town looked like.  The Kyoto frog thought, “I wonder what Osaka looks like,” just as the Osaka frog thought, “I wonder what Kyoto looks like.” And so coincidentally, on the same day, both of these frogs decided to leave their happy homes and travel down a road to the other city to see what it looks like.  They set out on their journeys on opposite ends of the country on the same road, and little did they know that a long and hard journey laid ahead of them.  They both reached this mountain and thought, “Oh man, I will never be able to climb up this mountain!”  But they did it anyways, and right when they reached the very top of the mountain, they saw each other and couldn’t believe what they saw.  They started talking about where they were from, and what they were doing, and decided to take a rest on the mountaintop.  And then they got this great idea: if they were a little bit taller, then they could look over the mountains and see what the other city looked like, and wouldn’t have to venture all the way to the opposite city.  One of the frogs said, “what if we stand and lean against each others’ shoulders, then maybe we can see the cities?”  So frogs stood up, shoulders leaning against each other and noses pointed towards the city they wanted to see.  But little did the frogs know that their eyes are on the back of their head, so they were actually looking at the city they came from.  So the Osaka frog thought, “Kyoto looks just like Osaka!” and the Kyoto frog thought, “Osaka looks just like Kyoto!”  Both of them decided there was no point in traveling any further, so they said their goodbyes and headed back to their respective cities, and lived out their entire lives thinking Kyoto looked just like Osaka, and Osaka looked just like Kyoto.

Lisa says that this story did not have any particular meaning to her, but she enjoyed hearing it as a child.  Her grandmother, or obaachan, wanted to instill some Japanese heritage in Lisa, since she is only half Japanese and lives in America.  She says that it has helped her feel more connected to her Japanese side, because she feels like her family has been very Americanized.  And since her children have even less Japanese blood – they are only a quarter – she plans on passing on these stories so they have some appreciation for their Japanese heritage.  She has also been to both of these cities, and she finds this story amusing because the cities are both extremely different.

I can appreciate the fact that her grandma is trying to connect Lisa to her Japanese heritage, because my mom tried doing the same with my brother and I when we were younger.  Except we didn’t really understand what she was trying to do at that point, so we weren’t very receptive and my mom stopped trying.  But even now, through this project, I feel a little more connected to my Filipino heritage, and, like Lisa, want to pass it on to my children so they don’t lose appreciation for their ethnic culture.  I have also found learning about other heritages very very interesting, as these stories play huge roles in cultural identity.

I mean I’ve never been to Japan, so the story probably isn’t as amusing to me because I have no idea what either city looks like.  But it has been on my brother and my bucket list for a while, so when we finally go I want to make it a point to go to both Kyoto and Osaka so I can compare them.  Also, I never knew that if a frog were to stand up on their two feet, their eyes would be looking behind them.  So I guess I learned something from this story!

The White Lady – Philippines

When I was little, all of the stories I was told tended to be very supernatural oriented, as the culture in the Philippines tends to be very superstitious.  There were a lot of ghosts, exorcisms, and other spooky stuff.  So I remember a story that my dad, grandpa, used to tell me, which was an account of something he actually saw when he was a teenager.  I didn’t know this was even a folktale until much later in life. 

He said he was walking along the road with his friend at night, it was dark, and he felt like there was somebody behind him.  So he looked behind him, and he said it was a lady with dark hair, long dark hair, wearing all white.   She was wearing a long white dress, and he thought she was real. He yelled to her, and he said she was just kind of floating and coming towards him, so he and his friends started to run.  And I remember he told me that story when I was a little girl, so I went into the closet with my friends and I swore if we just sat there and waited we would see the lady in the white dress. 

Then I started looking at Filipino folklore stories – I even bought you and your brother a book, but you found it to be very boring – and I came upon a story called “The White Lady”  and it is a very popular folklore ghost story that the Filipinos tell.  It is about a Caucasian-European descent female  that had been killed on the side of the road by a taxi driver.  And she appears as this ghost in a long white dress with long dark hair.  However, she is sighted all over the Philippines, and continues to be seen by many Filipinos, whether it’s in the mountains, on the road, by the beach, so I don’t know.  Apparently grandpa saw the white lady in the white dress.

I remember that because ever since grandpa told me that story, I’ve been afraid of walking alone by myself in the dark.  So I always sleep with a small night light or a candle or something whenever Dad is gone and I have to sleep by myself.  When people tend to Westernize, or come to America, they don’t seem to talk about the ghosts anymore.  And when I was little, I remember seeing voodoo dolls.  I didn’t know what they were then, I didn’t figure it out until I was much older.  Witch doctors were huge as well.  So superstition huge in the islands.  But once they come to America the superstition seems to evaporate – which is a good thing.

Like I said in one of the earlier posts (“The Crying Lady – Mexico”), superstitious/ghost stories resonate with children of young ages.  As seen by my mother, the effect of this story has stayed with her: she is still afraid to be alone in the dark.  I didn’t even know that.  But according to my mother, these Filipino superstitions seem to evaporate as the later generations come to America.  She told me that she used to be much more afraid when she was actually in the Philippines, but now that she lives in America, she feels like the stories only apply to those living in the Philippines. But her fear didn’t completely go away.   I myself am SUCH a baby when it comes to scary stories, so if I lived in the Philippines I would probably sleep with the lights on every day.  That’s probably why my parents never told us scary stories, showed us scary movies, and discouraged me and my brother from sharing scary stories with each other.  And it’s not like we really lived by anywhere “haunted,” because I feel like superstitious/ghost stories in the United States if very dependent on location, while stories in the Philippines, such as this one, transcend throughout the whole country.

Polydactyly – Philippines

A belief that was pretty popular in our Santo Domingo Illocos Sur township, and I am pretty sure that it was believed in other provinces in the Philippines…  But it doesn’t matter, because folklore is beliefs and superstitions and parables that fall under the same guise.  I was told this ever since I was a little girl about having extra fingers or extra toes. 

It has been said in our little town that any baby that is born with an extra or an extra toe is going to be very lucky in life, and most likely going to be very wealthy and successful. 

So, obviously, with my having the extra toe (that I got removed), I believed since I was a little girl that I was going to be very successful in life.  And I wonder if that is why I was always kind of started new projects without any fear of failure, without any doubt that I was going to do extremely well and you know, better than it was ever done before, so to speak.  So that is a belief that was obviously important for me.  I think everyone in the province as well was much more convinced about the accuracy of that belief because of Lola Maria [Lola Maria is my great-grandmother, who is currently 103] because she is the wealthiest woman in our township and she was also born with many extra digits.  The Filipinos are very superstitious,  so it is no surprise that everyone sees that as the reasoning behind Lola’s success.

This folk belief was instrumental in my mother’s self-identity.  She has always told that she had no fear of failure in the business world, and went very far very quickly because she had the utmost faith in her abilities.  I had no idea that this was why my mom had such a supreme work ethic.  And it’s no surprise that she looked at her grandmother as a perfect example of this folk belief, as she is the wealthiest woman in our township and basically runs the place.  Polydactyly, for some reason, has been passed in my family for generations.  My mom was never ashamed of her polydactyly, and in fact saw it as a blessing because it aided in her success.

I myself was born with an extra toe that was removed as an infant (no, my feet are not super deformed), and I grew up being extremely self conscious about that part of me.  Even though the only remnant is a thin scar on the side of my foot, I always felt like a freak growing up.  But now that I’m older, I’ve come to terms with  it, and this belief has helped me cope as well… I didn’t know this folk belief until this project.  If my mom can take it and make it into a positive, so can I.

How the Raven Gave Light – Haida Gwaii (Canada)

I cannot remember which year it was, but one of the years I stayed behind on the Queen Charlotte Islands for the fishing derby, I had a chance to talk to one of the natives of Masset (which is part of the Haida Gwaii territory) who was selling Haida paraphernalia at the Masset Airport.  He was of Haida descent, and upon asking him about the significance of the numerous raven figurines – I was aware of the significance of ravens in native American legends, but wanted to know how it fit into the heritage of the indigenous people of Haida Gwaii –  he told me the story of how the raven gave light to the world.

At the beginning of time, the world was consumed by darkness.  The Raven had existed since the beginning of time, and was growing tired of living in the dark.  After some period of time, the Raven came across an old man who lived with his one and only daughter.  The old man had a little box that contained all of the light of the universe, and the Raven decided to steal it from the man and his daughter.  Once the daughter went to the river to gather water, the Raven transformed himself into a fir needle and floated in the the daughter’s basket.  She drank the water, needle included, and the Raven found himself in the stomach of the daughter.  He then changed into a human fetus, and was eventually born as the grandson of the old man.  The Raven convinced the old man to allow him to hold the box of light, but when the old man was handing it over, the Raven transformed to his original form and stole the ball of light in the box.  He escaped the house of the old man, and gave the ball of light to the universe.

I’ve gone to Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands) every summer since I was 8.  It’s our families annual deep-sea fishing trip, and have met many of Haida people.  There are many Haida natives still living in Masset, which is where the airport is.  I have seen many Haida people in my lifetime, as some even lead tours to show off their many totem poles and historical residences.  I am going back this summer, and who knows, maybe I’ll get my own story.  But once again, we see an animal-centered native story.  And I’ve always thought of the raven as an animal of darkness, but in this case the Raven is a source of light.

Momotaro – Japan

This is a story my obaachan (grandma) told me as a little girl, the story of “Momotarō,” which means “peach tarō” or “peach boy.”
Momotaro was sent to earth in a giant peach, and he was found floating down a river by an elderly couple who were washing their clothes in the river.  And the old woman took the peach home to her husband, and he helped her cut it open, and lo and behold he found inside little Momotaro.  He told the couple he was sent from the heavens to be their son since they had never had children.  They gave him the name Momotaro and raised him happily as their son.  When Momotaro grew up into a big boy, he ran away to a far away island to fight Japanese demons.  During this journey, he met 3 animals: a dog, a monkey, and a pheasant.  He became friends with these animals, and all four of them fought these Japanese demons together.  They were successful in their venture: they captured the chief, plundered the treasures, and brought them back to Japan where Momotaro, his friends and his family lived happily ever after.

Lisa says that this story did not have any particular meaning to her, but she enjoyed hearing it as a child.  Her grandmother, or obaachan, wanted to instill some Japanese heritage in Lisa, since she is only half Japanese and lives in America.  She says that it has helped her feel more connected to her Japanese side, because she feels like her family has been very Americanized.  And since her children have even less Japanese blood – they are only a quarter – she plans on passing on these stories so they have some appreciation for their Japanese heritage.

I thought it was a cute story, and kind of reminded me of James and the Giant Peach, even though the premise is a little different.  I can appreciate the fact that her grandma is trying to connect Lisa to her Japanese heritage, because my mom tried doing the same with my brother and I when we were younger.  Except we didn’t really understand what she was trying to do at that point, so we weren’t very receptive and my mom stopped trying.  But even now, through this project, I feel a little more connected to my Filipino heritage, and, like Lisa, want to pass it on to my children so they don’t lose appreciation for their ethnic culture.  I have also found learning about other heritages very very interesting, as these stories play huge roles in cultural identity.

Tam and Cam (Vietnamese Cinderalla Story) – Vietnam

Once upon a time there was a young girl named Tam, whose mother died early and so her father remarried. Soon after, her stepmother gave birth to a daughter named Cam. When Tam’s father died, stepmother began to abuse Tam and forced her to do all the housework, while Cam lived luxuriously. Stepmother’s hatred of Tam was intensified by the fact that Tam was much more beautiful and fair than her own daughter Cam, even though Tam was forced to do all the laboring under the sun.
One day, stepmother sent Tam and Cam to fish, promising to reward the girl who caught the most fish with a new, red silk Ao yem. Cam knew her mother would never punish her and so played carelessly while Tam worked hard fishing. When Cam noticed all the fish Tam had caught, Cam advised Tam to wash the mud out of her hair or else she would be scolded by mother. As Tam washed her hair, Cam poured all the fish Tam had caught into her own basket and ran home.

When she discovered she had been tricked, Tam sobbed until the Goddess of Mercy (or in some versions, the Buddha) appeared to her and comforted her. She told Tam to look into her basket to discover the one remaining little carp. She told Tam to take the carp home and put it into the well at the back of the house, reciting a special greeting whenever she came to feed it.
Everyday, Tam would come out to the well a few times to feed the carp, always reciting the greeting beforehand so that the carp would come up from the water. The carp grew fatter everyday that Tam fed it, and stepmother began to suspect Tam’s behavior. One day, stepmother sneaked out close to where Tam was feeding the fish. She waited until Tam was gone, and went over to the well, finding nothing. Stepmother repeated the greeting she had heard Tam reciting and to her delight, saw the carp come up from the water. Stepmother caught and killed it to put in her rice porridge.

When Tam discovered this, she broke into sobs. The Goddess of Mercy again appeared to Tam and consoled her, and instructed her to salvage the bones of the carp and bury them in four separate jars underneath each corner of her bed.
A short while later, the king hosted a large celebration. Tam pleaded to go along with Cam and stepmother, but stepmother schemed to keep Tam at home. Stepmother mixed together countless black and green beans and ordered Tam to sort them out before she was allowed to go (Tam did not have any decent clothes to wear anyway).

Tam waited until Cam and stepmother had gone for a while and called out to the Goddess of Mercy, who appeared and turned the nearby flies into sparrows that sorted the beans for Tam. Tam was then told to dig up the four jars from the corners of her bed, and found extravagant treasures in each, including a beautiful silk dress, jewelry, golden slippers and even a horse. Tam dressed herself splendidly and made her way to the celebration, but in her excitement she dropped a single slipper into the river.

The slipper flowed along the river until it was picked up by one of the king’s attendants. The king marveled at the beautiful slipper and proclaimed that any maiden at the celebration whose foot fit the slipper would be made into his first wife. Every eligible lady at the celebration tried on the slipper, including Cam, but all to no avail. Suddenly, a beautiful young girl dressed in a magnificent silk gown appeared whose foot fit perfectly into the slipper. Stepmother and Cam were shocked to discover the mysterious lady was Tam. Tam was immediately brought on the royal palanquin into the imperial palace for a grand wedding celebration, right in front of her seething stepmother and stepsister.
On Tam’s father’s death anniversary, Tam proved her filial duty and made a short visit home to honor the anniversary with her family, despite the abuse she had suffered at the hands of stepmother.

Stepmother asked Tam to climb an area tree and gather its betel nuts for her late father’s altar. Tam obeyed and as she climbed to the top of the tree, stepmother took an axe and chopped the tree down, so that Tam fell to her death. Cam put on her sister’s royal garb and entered the palace in her place. Tam had reincarnated into a nightingale and followed her sister into the palace.
The king remained despondent and dearly missed his late wife, while Cam tried hard to please him. One day, a palace maid hung out the king’s dragon robe to the sun, when the nightingale appeared to sing a song to remind the maid to be careful with her husband’s gown. The bird’s song captivated everyone who listened to it, and even drew the attention of the king. The king called out to the nightingale to land in the wide sleeves of his robe if it really was the spirit of his late wife. The nightingale did exactly as the king had asked and ever since then, it was put into a golden cage where the king spent most of his days as it sang songs to him. Cam became increasingly incensed and asked her mother what she should do. Her mother instructed her to catch the bird and eat it. Cam did as she was told and after skinning it, threw the feathers over the gate of the palace.

From the feathers of the nightingale rose a tree bearing a single, magnificent fruit. A poor old woman who worked as a water vendor walked by one day and saw it, begging it to fall to her, and promising that she would not to eat it, only admire it. Indeed it fell to her, and she did not eat it. The next day, the old woman found that when she came home from her errands, the housework was done while she was gone and there was a hot meal waiting for her. The next day she pretended to leave but stayed back to spy, when she saw Tam emerge from the fruit and begin to do the household chores. The old woman emerged and tore up the peel so Tam could no longer turn back.
One day, the king, lost while hunting, stopped by the hut. The old woman offered him betel, and when the king saw how the betel had been prepared, in the peculiar special way his late queen had always prepared it he asked who had prepared the betel. The old woman told him her daughter had done it, and the king made her produce the daughter, and saw it was Tam. He was overjoyed and Tam was brought back into the palace as the king’s first wife.

Cam was distressed and saw that Tam was as beautiful and pale as ever. She begged Tam to reveal her secret of how she was so beautiful and fair-skinned, and that she would do anything to be as fair. Tam told her it was simple and that she would just have to jump into a basin of boiling water. Cam did and died.  The Queen survived both of them, and lived happily ever after, and she definitely deserved it.

The story appeals to me because at the end, good overcomes evil. It also has a dreamy quality, an Asian girl with envious white skin (most of us have dark skin), wearing beautiful clothes to meet the King and he falls in love with her.  It plays into every girl dream.  A side note, Tam also could reincarnate into the bird and the tree.  How cool is that?
This story was collected over telephone, because Dr. Ren is very busy.  On one hand, it is a feel good story because Tam prevailed in the end, but it is a much more gruesome story than the Cinderella story Disney has made popular.  Especially with the “sequels” Disney makes that ensures everyone ends up a good guy and happy (such as Cinderella 2, when one of the stepsisters finds love).  But this story reminds me of what we talked about in class, and how originally children’s stories were filled with violence and sex. I don’t consider having Tam tell her sister to jump into boiling water to her death particularly kid-friendly.  Or the fact that Cam and her mother killed Tam numerous times.  But I agree with Dr. Ren that having Tam reincarnate as a bird and a tree is pretty cool, because there isn’t any reincarnation in Filipino culture.

Legend of Coconut Tree (Hina and the Eel King) – Tahiti

So this is known as the legend of the coconut tree, or the legend of Hina and the Eel King.  It’s a story my grandfather used to tell me as a kid, and was told to a lot of kids in Tahiti.  Their grandparents or older people who still speak Tahitian most often tell it to the kids at home.  So it goes something like this: Once upon a time, a long, long, time ago, there was a beautiful girl named Hina.  She had the longest, silkiest hair in the district, and she made her parents proud because of her beauty, and brains, and – well, she was perfect.  By the time she turned 16, she had been promised to marry the Prince of Eels, and it was supposed to, how do you say it?  Well back in the day marriage was more of a social-economic thing, so her marriage was supposed to bring together the people of the oceans and the rivers and the people of the earth.  But Hina was very repulsed by her fiance’s looks, so one night she ran away and found refuge with the god of hunting and fishing, whose name was Hiro.  She told him her story, and he was so baffled by her beauty  and so into her story that he decided to help her.    He made a fishing line with her hair, then they went out to the river and fished the Prince Eel.  After they caught him, and before Hiro killed him, the eel told Hina that whether she wanted it or not, she would kiss him.  Hiro cut the eel in piece and put his head in leaves and put it in a leaf basket and gave it to Hina for her to keep, and he said “Until the head is gone, do not put the basket on the ground.”  So she went back to her village, happy that she didn’t have to marry him.  One day they went down to the river and everybody was bathing, and all of Hina’s friends were calling her to the water, and she said she couldn’t, she had to keep an eye on the eel head.  But it was really hot so she thought, “what will happen anyways?” So she put the basket on the ground, and when she got out of the water she found that in the place of the eels head was now a tree that looked very much like an eel – It had a long trunk and hair-like leaves at the top – and she didn’t think it was a bad thing.  But not long after the dry season came, and everybody was running out of water, and she found these fruits, coconuts, and heard from the fruit that there was liquid in it.  So she started drinking the liquid and was drinking from the coconut when the head of the eel materialized – the coconut has three holes, so it was two eyes and the mouth of the eel – and the eel said, “I told you one day you’d kiss me.”  And that’s the story of Hina and the King Eel.

My grandfather used to tell it far better than I do.    He threw in Tahitian words, but I don’t remember them now.  I used to tell this story to my little brother, but I think even he thinks I’m a bad storyteller.  But when I was a little girl, I used to think that when I drank a coconut I was really kissing the King Eel.  I think eels are disgusting so I stayed away from coconuts for a while.

Tam grew up in Tahiti, and her family has been there for many generations.  Her grandfather, the one who told her this story, was the primary storyteller in her family.  He spoke Tahitian, but Tam does not, so the Tahitian-language elements have been lost.  But according to Tam this was her favorite story, and her grandfather told her it quite often.  And after he passed, she took it upon herself to tell it to her little brother to keep it alive.

I never really thought the coconut looked like a eel, but I guess if you look at it after hearing this story you can kind of see it.  I found the fact that traditional elements of the story were lost over generations is becoming very common.  With this age of technology and transformation, I feel like a traditional culture/heritage can be lost more easily.  I know for me, at least, I didn’t really even know much of my own cultural folklore until this project.  And I even think Tam recognized the fact that the legend lost some cultural value between her grandfather telling her the story and her telling her brother the story.  But at least she’s keeping it going!

Table Mountain and Devil’s Peak – South Africa

I’m South African, and I’ve always grown up hearing the story about how the 2 main mountains in my hometown, Cape Town, Table Mountain and Devil’s Peak, got their names.  Table Mountain is a really long, flat mountain that resembles a table, hence the name, and occasionally a wave of clouds will come over it and are extremely flat and resemble a table cloth.  And so from a young age – I can’t remember exactly who told it to me for the first time – but it’s kind of like Santa Clause or the Easter Bunny back home.  Everybody knows the story.  

And the story goes that there was a man named van Hunks, whose wife would not let him smoke at home, so he always had to walk outside to smoke.  And one day he ran into another man who challenged him to a smoking contest.  They smoked for a long, long, long, time, and eventually the man won.  And then the man realized that his partner was actually the devil, so that’s how the second mountain, which neighbors Table Mountain, got the name Devil’s Peak.  And the “tablecloth” that goes with the table symbolizes the smoke from the man who won the competition and his home life and his enjoyment of smoking.

Konstanze (Stanzi) told me that this story has been around for ages, and is passed down in many families in Cape Town. Her family has been in South Africa for at least 7 generations, and has been passed down in her own family for a very long time.  Stanzi (my roommate) has invited me to visit her in South Africa this winter, and said she would make it a point to show me the mountains so I know what they look like in person.  It is a very unique story, I think, because I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a smoking match.  That’s just not something you hear about very often.

How Ram Married Sita – India

So Sita’s dad wanted to marry Sita off, so he found this huge bow, like a bow and arrow, that was so heavy it was almost impossible to lift.  So whatever man could lift that bow and shoot an arrow, I don’t know if he made it a game or something but basically he told the men that whoever could lift the bow and shoot it could marry his daughter.  So all of these people came, and no one could do it.  So Ram’s trainer, because he was trained in martial arts, went to Ram and told him they were going to work on it so Ram would be able to go and shoot the bow.  So he and Ram trained for the event, and when they got there, Ram was the first man to come who was able to lift the bow, so Sita’s father allowed him to marry his daughter. That is why we celebrate the festival Vivaha Panchami, to celebrate the marriage of Sita and Ram.

I didn’t even know this story until recently.  I called my father to brush up on the other story of Ram and Sita, and he told me this story over the phone.  Apparently there are a lot of side stories that come from the story of Ram’s 14 years in the forest, such as this one.  But since I was born in America, I never really celebrated Vivaha Panchami, but I knew it existed.  I just didn’t know the story behind it.

I find it interesting that the culture of India has been sustained since this ancient story.  The marriage of Ram and Sita was, essentially, an arranged marriage, a practice that is still very common in India today.  Yet this story, despite the fact the marriage was arranged, was the start of a very deep and real love between Ram and Sita.  It may be making a statement of the success of these kind of marriages, as they generally have less problems than non-arranged marriages.  Regardless, it reminds me a lot of the story of how Penelope (from the Odyssey), after being pressured by the suitors to choose a husband, told them that whoever could string and shoot Odysseus’s bow could have her hand.  This shows that there can be common themes in folklore despite the geographic and cultural differences (in this case, India vs. Greece).