Author Archives: Emilio Guerra

Never lick envelopes- Egypt

Informant: “their is this story in Egypt.. its like.. its not an ancient legend, its like a legend a from recent history cause it’s about envelopes right..that um if you lick envelopes… you never never lick envelopes you put the water on it… if you lick envelopes there is this one lady who cut her tongue and when it healed it healed over an egg that a cockroach had laid on the envelope and then the cockroaches crawled  out of her tongue when they were born. It was disgusting so you never lick envelopes  (laugh)

Collector: how did you hear about this?

Informant: my mom told me about it.

Collector: who told her about it?

Informant: uhh i don’t know we are Egyptian.



I recorded this from Sam Yassa while we were studying for other homework earlier in the semester. what i find interesting about the story is it’s logic. A cockroach could definitely lay an egg on an envelope and the egg could probably hatch within a tongue. I don’t know if the original story is fictitious but the idea that it could be true i don’t think can be dismissed, furthermore. It has enough belief so that many people as sam’s account tells don’t lick envelopes in Egypt. Another possible reason for this custom could be manners or a belief that envelopes are dirty and therefore ought not be licked and have it’s contents ingested. The Last possible analysis that i could imagine is that companies or people who sell the little bottles with water and sponges could have spread the story in order to find use in their inventions.

Tres Elefantes- Spain-South America

The following are lyrics to a never ending song that i learned as a child and to my surprise so did kids in Panama, Peru and Spain. The following was recorded from my friend from Spain Ana Mula Diaz. The only difference between the song that I remember and the one she tells us is the word she uses for balancing. which speaks of a slight choice of words difference between Mexico and Spain but the meaning is the same.

Informant Singing in a 1-2 1-2 1-2-2-3-4 rythym

Informant: Un Elefante se balanceaba sobre la tela de una arana.. y como veia que resistia fue a buscar otro elefante….. dos Elefantes se balanceaban sobre la tela de una arana y como veian que resistia fueron a buscar otro elefante..tres elefantes se balanceaban sobre la tela de una arana y como veian que resistia fueron a buscar otro elefante…


Informant: One Elephant was balancing over the thread of a spider and since he saw that it resisted he went to find another elephant…. Two elephants were balancing over the thread of a spider and since they saw that it resisted they went to look for another elephant… three elephants were balancing over the thread of a spider and since they saw that it resisted (held) they went to look for another elephant…4


The song never ends it keeps going on an eternity, I was shocked that the song is so old that kids in Spain sang it too. The meaning is very imaginative and it probably came as tok says from a creative genius child. we didn’t realize at the time that we sang it that it was so illogical for an elephant to balance himself over a spiderweb let alone 100 elephants. but this song was a part of our childhood and when we were really little the loser would be the one who couldn’t count that high or the one who wanted to stop singing.

La Llorona

Collector: Que me vas a contar

Informant: solo me se la de la llorona

Collector: quien te la conto?

Informant: Mi mama desde chiquito

Collector: tu mama de donde es?


Informant: es de Tijuana y de San Diego.

Informant: Puta básicamente la historia dice que la llorona perdio su hijo en la calle que se lo mataron que se lo mataron y lo busca y va vestida de boda porque se iba a casar el proximo dia… entonces tiene un vestido blanco de novia.. pero va buscando las casas por sus hijos.. y su frase es Mis hijos mis hijos.. y toca la puerta y si sales te chinga.. te mata.. pero pendejo que sale porque te mata esta vieja.. no se si es de todo Mexico pero esa es la version que yo se.

{{Translated }}

Collector: What are you going to tell me.

Informant: I only know La Llorona.

Collector: Who told it to you?

Informant: My mom, since i was a kid.

Collector: Where is Your mom From?

Informant: Shes from Tijuana, and San Diego.

Informant: Fuck, well basically the story says that the “weeping lady” lost her son in the street, that someone killed him.. that someone killed him and she looks for him dressed for a wedding because she was getting married the next day… and so she has a white brides dress… and so she goes around the neighborhood looking for her children.. and her phrase is ” Mi children My children” She knocks on the door and if you go out she fucks you.. she kills you.. but only an idiot would go out cause that bitch would kill you… I don’t know if this is all of Mexico but that is the version that i know.



I found this variant of ” La Llorona very interesting because it speaks of how stories change and adapt to the surroundings of the people telling them. The version of “La Llorona” that I am familiar with was probably made in the country side where there are rivers and natural bodies of water because she drowns them in a river. Contrastingly this story is similiar except because our informant and his family are set in the “City” of tijuana there are no rivers but streets and houses instead.




Kalevipoeg- Estonia

Informant: So in Estonian folklore probably the most traditional and famous epic is the epic of a man named “Kalevipoeg.” Which like.. literally translates to the son of Kalev or the son of Kevin. Back in the days of old, there was this man named Kalev. He was the king of Estonia. He was the biggest guy, coolest guy there was. He had three sons. I forget their..umm.. their names but the youngest one was Kalevipoeg which means Kalev junior or in English Kalev’s son. And he was the strongest, he was kind of like the Estonian Hercules. Uh, once Kalev, like the king died, kalevipoeg, kalev junior, he became like the king and wanted a good sword. He left Estonia to Finland and met the best blacksmith there. He grabbed the best sword and split and anvil in half with it. He had kind of like a temper problem. He has a bad temper in this epic and kills the blacksmith. And he tries to, uh, uh, meet one of these Sirens on his way back home from Finland and sadly when he was trying to meet this woman and she fell off a cliff and passed away so you kind of see heartbreak as well as almost, I don’t know, theft. So when he came back to Estonia hoarded off the devil in one of these epic wars in the swamps. Estonia is mostly swampland. It’s a long epic excuse me haha. Um. Yeah Kalevipoeg ended up getting this fantastic white stallion. And he, um, builds, during his reign as king, and Estonia flourished a lot of great new infrastructure although he has his temper they love him though. However, uh one day a troll tried to steal his sword from him in the swamp and the troll took the sword. Kalevipoeg beat the troll with his bear hands but the sword was stuck in the water. So Kalevipoeg put a curse on it. Whoever stole this sword, er, or whoever tries to steal this sword will have their legs cut off. And he left. Another war breaks out in Estonia and Kalev goes to hell and wrangles the Devil himself. He beats the devil in a fistfight. And he goes, uh, back up, back to the swamp to pick up his sword again after the war is over. The thing is though, when Kalev or Kalevipoeg killed the blacksmith back in Finland, the Fi.. the Finish guy said, “you stole this sword from me because you killed me”. So when Kalev tried to go and pick up his sword from the swamp again his legs were cut off. He passed away and he was sent to heaven. Up there, Heaven really liked what he did for Estonia, they gave him legs again and I guess like a spirit version of his horse and sent him back down to hell to guard the gates of hell against whoever comes and doesn’t deserve it. So Kalevipoeg is kind of like the Hercules, almost Hades of this style Epic of Estonia.

Collector: Who told you this Story?

Informant: I learned it, I hear it every year when I go to Estonian camp.

Collector: From like a camp counselor or something?

Informant: Oh yeah there’s a really old camp counselor there who does like this hour and a half presentation of this story.

Collector: How many times have you heard this?

Informant: I’ve heard it about eight times. And it’s all in Estonian too, so this is.. as you know.. Translated.

Collector: Your family is from Estonia?

Informant: Yeah my family is from Estonia. They’re all from Estonia.

Collector: What part or areas? North? South?

Informant: Tallinn, the capital.

Collector: It’s very small.

Informant: One million people, it’s a small place.

Collector: So what so like, what in particular do you like about the story?

Informant: The story? I don’t know, I just love the scale of it. He does so much in his lifetime. And I love how it pertains back to Estonia and that every Estonian knows this story as well. Like, and like there’s actually monuments and statues of Kalevipoeg. And a lot of Estonian art derives from him breaking the anvil or of him riding the stallion. It’s all on woodwork, leatherwork, in every tavern or just anywhere in Estonia too.

Collector: What’s like, what do you think doesn’t translate from the story to our culture, like Estonian culture to American culture?

Informant: The fact that he killed the blacksmith, the siren died, and him basically cutting off his own legs cuz he was an idiot. He, he had a temper problem and wasn’t the brightest guy, but he made Estonia a better place nonetheless. And I think.. Estonians still love him to death whereas when we tell the story people think he’s just an asshole.




I think this story and Mikk’s interview tell us of differences in humor and how important folklore and stories are in creating a national sense of humor.  Whether humor was first and then the stories is like trying to figure out if the chicken or the egg came first, but what I think can be analyzed is how over time stories that are retold and retold over and over sediment themselves in a culture so as to create a national humor with them. For some reason one story was liked better than another, and this could be an account of humor being chosen, but looking at this specific story there are other elements which make it so compelling and thus could have been a factor in it’s choice over the other stories, this might suggest that over time the story chosen for it’s entire appreciation forced or molded its audience with it’s specific humor. What i mean to point out in my analysis is that stories are very powerful not just because of the message they give but because of how we appreciate them and bring them into our lives as well. Humor holds a lot of power in how we perceive the world.

teeth- Venezuela

Informant My parents told me this story and I practiced it as a kid..So.. In the US the tooth Fairy is what picks up children’s teeth when they fall out… but.. in south american culture we change the tooth fairy for the “Mouse Perez” or  in Spanish its  the…”El Raton Perez”  and… the practice is the same … as the .. um … american.. where the child puts the tooth.. under the um.. pillow .. but it’s a mouse.. instead of a ferry.

I recorded this From my friends Girlfriend, Sara Segura, they both gave me an account of teeth customs, and i think together both accounts can be analyzed not as variants but similiar rituals. While this specific account can be analyzed as oichtype of the tooth fairy. She was raised in the United states but both of her Parents are immigrants from Venezuela.


Informant: If you lose your upper teeth you have to throw it.. bury on the ground.. in the ground.. and if you lose your lower teeth you have to throw it on the roof and this is because.. its a wish for growing your next teeth.. growing straight up.. that’s it.

Collector: did you do this as a kid?

Informant: Yes.


My friend Junsuke who was born and raised in Himeji Japan, told me this story one night that we had been drinking a tad. In comparison to many cultures i have noticed that there are many things that come with teeth. a ritual of sorts and a wish or treat. this may be universal or just widely spread because all humans lose their teeth as kids.

Ghost spirit in our house- Los Angeles

I was headed home from friends house and decided to use the lyft application, not knowing what to talk about i asked the driver Charles “Carlos” Van Stuesen if he knew any folk lore, he asked and i explained and he told me a rather interesting, supposedly factual story his mother had told him she witnessed, Afterwards he told me this:

Informant: Well there is a.. feels like a ghost sprirt in our house umm.. me and my roommates named him Prior Walter for like the Walters before him.. but.. just a funny name that we gave him .. but everybody that comes to our house.. kind of feels this..  that spends the night their question the next day is is there a ghost in the house cause they always feel something..but umm.. he’s not ever evil.. he seems like he is always at the entry way .. its a split level home so when you come in your either going to go up down or at that main level..and he seems like he is always at that main level.. like to me it seems like he’s waiting for family to come home but they are no longer there.. and he doesn’t know any better.. whats the weirdest thing is .. is when my dogs will walk around him they will go up do a U and go.. keep on walking they do not walk through him and thats the weirdest thing to see… um but.. like i said he’s never been evil or bad or anything.. just you feel a presence every now and then and like i said everyone who has stayed the night has always asked that the next day..

Collector: where do you live?

Informant: In montabello … i’ve kinda gooled but nothing comes up.. but we’ve always just said we have a ghost named Prior Walter.

Collector: Do the dogs look at the ghost as they walk around him.

Informant: umm yea actually all of them would look and walk around him except for one.. she would sometimes just sit at the bottom of the stairs and just stare at him.. she would just look at his direction when there was no one there to look at.


This story definitely raises some flags to me, i have personally asked the question of whether there was a ghost or not and people have responded.. everyone asks that. This consensus of “feeling” of a ghost might shed light on why we believe things. There could be multiple reasons why people are feeling this without it being a ghost but we begin to believe in the unbelievable, when multiple people are experiencing and witnessing an inexplicable phenomena the tipping factor of belief might be that it is a unanimous or majority consensus. Also for some reason Dogs always sense spirits as shown above as in the movies as well. Dogs have a great sense of smell maybe whatever is causing these sensations also gives off a smell which triggers the Dogs attention. Regardless the Dog’s attention is a contributing factor in the weighing of odds of whether or not there is a spirit, and as my informant has told us he believes that there is a Ghost because (1) he himself feels a presence (2) multiple people have felt a presence without foreknowledge of others’ feeling. and (3) because the Dogs don’t act as they usually do near where this presence is felt. These three pieces of folk-evidence might be sufficient to inspire belief in Ghosts.

A beautiful man- Family- New Mexico

I was headed home from friends house and decided to use the lyft application, not knowing what to talk about i asked the driver Charles “Carlos” Van Stuesen if he knew any folk lore, he asked and i explained and he told me a rather interesting, supposedly factual story his mother had told him she witnessed.

Informant: So this is a story that my mom told me.. um she was um.. silver city New Mexico and there was a prom that she was attending… and there was this beautiful guy that was there at the dance and um.. all the girls thought he was handsome all the guys thought he was handsome but no one knew.. of him.. they where just all googoogaaggaa over him good looking he looked and he had been there all night long and that um…finally at the end of the night though one of the girls actually noticed his feet and he didn’t have shoes on but they were like of goats hooves almost like devil you know.. and so of course the screams started yelling and other people started noticing …his feet and then everybody then evacuated… the prom and in the chaos the guy just like poof he disappeared .. he didn’t exit they went in and looked for him he was not there but everybody had seen him and seen that he had like hooves for feet not feet the description was that it was just like a goats foot. that was my moms story and she said it was so creepy even how gorgeous he looked.. even the straight guys just fell in love with him and the girls were just all over then one had to notice his feet and it was hooves

Collector: so your mom told you this

Informant: yes

Collector: of what decent is your mom

Informant: Mexican

Collector: how old was she

Informant: she now is 7f she was probably in 11th or 12

Collector: so in the 60s?

informant: before 64

Collector: do you think this could have been the devil?

Informant: when she tells it yes it totally seems like it was the devil  visiting for some reason  idk but yes it totally seems like this could have been the devil in disguise and his disguise was attracting people because of how good looking he made himself

Collector: is your family religious?

Informant: yes my mom is super Catholic

Collector: was this a catholic school per chance

Informant: no wow

Collector: was this a Catholic area

Informant: i mean most people in new Mexico then were catholic.


This story is bizarre, i’ve tried to try to explain it with science in my head but the only thing i could imagine is a hallucination or a dream that was told as if were real but the informant claims that an entire town saw this an so it kind of rules out those two. unless this was a practical joke i don’t understand this as anything but a belief that an entire class prom was visited by the devil or some supernatural creature with devilish characteristics.

Culturally, as my interview shows the people in this building primarily came from a catholic background and most of them if not all would have been familiar with this fear.

Tyler’s Grandpa- Dutch Immigrant- Family

“this story starts with my grandfather… he comes from a really wealthy family.. really high up in the dutch east indies trading company.. theres a boat in the dutch indies trading company that was like named after my grandfather.. owned shiton of art .. its now in the reiks museum .. but the war happened .. world war 2.. and it was a very shocking experience for my grandfather. it terrorized his family his mom died and his dad married someone else..everything about the Netherlands just traumatized my grandfather.. he doesn’t even like the Netherlands. he doesn’t even like dutch he considers himself american even though he was dutch all growing up. So He kinda came from a very posh back ground but he wanted to run away from it. So in order to do that… his dad was going to pay for medical school anything he wanted to do… he wanted to go to farming school. cause he wanted to become a farmer so he could  go to the states or canada whichever one would take him. And at the time the states was accepting way to many immigrants at some point they cut them off right when my grandfather was applying to come to the states so he ended up going to Canada. So my grandfather is going to go work on a farm in Canada. and um.. he gets there.. and hes got.. he dresses for the… he takes like a year of agriculture school which is not really like a learning agriculture university its just literally like how to be a farmer.. you know like probably no one from his socio-economic status has ever been like I want to learn how to be a farmer.. but thats what he wanted to do so he does that goes for one year and then gets sent to Canada.. He arrives to Canada and.. he dressing for the part. so he’s wearing like a flannel shirt and overalls which he assumes is dressing for the part he has no idea. you cant research that on the internet or whatever…. He gets to Canada he gets a bus or whatever to the station.. takes the train.. and then he is just waiting at the train it’s just him. his accordion. and his duffel bag full of just clothes…. He comes and gets picked up by mr . muir.. no mr. hillicker.. Perse Hiliker. Perse Hilliker comes and picks him up.. drives him back to the farm doesn’t say a word to him he’s just like “alright get in your the worker lets go”. They go back to the farm and then that’s where he meets my grandma for the first time. Love at first sight all this stuff.. And then um.. He works for him for a little while like two weeks, and then Persie says they are going to go hunting and they invite Ralph my grandfather. and so… my grandfather is very exited that he is invited.. he’s brand new working on this farm, and he has a thing for my grandmother and now the Dad is inviting him to go hunting. But my grandma comes from a family where there is like 9 kids, like 6 dudes and three girls or something.. but theres 6 dudes going on this hunting trip and all of them have clearly hunted before… My Grandpa grew up in like downtown Amsterdam in like a nice.. his dad was a doctor and all this shit.. you know he’s never been hunting .. he’s like been rowing .. but he’s never been outdoors out doors.. So he thinks he should really practice.. At this point working like 10 hours a day on a farm. he decides hes going to wake up really early like 430 or 5 am and practice shooting for a little while before work… he doesn’t want to embarrass himself when he goes on this trip. So he wakes up really early.. I don’t even know how they probably had alarm clocks back then. So he wakes up really early  he goes to the gun rack and pulls out one of the Guns and he goes out and brings in the tripod thing that they set up or whatever. And he goes out to a lake and theres a bunch of ducks and he’s going to shoot one of these ducks. …like my grandpa is like… he comes across as a war hardened guy but he’s a really soft guy when he comes down to it.. He’ll like cry in a movie and then when you confront him about it he’ll be like “i have no idea what your talking about” and um.. So he starts feeling bad, he’s about to shoot this duck but its more important to him that he makes a good impression on his dad because he’s trying to get this girl. So he lines up the gun and he’s going to hit the duck and he pulls the trigger and he hits the duck but not a headshot.. its hard to get a headshot its got a little… and the duck is flapping around going crazy all the other ducks fly away.. and this duck is clearly suffering. And so my grandfather grabs the gun and runs for the duck..not like to get his catch.. but like he doesn’t know what to do theres like a suffering animal.. he’s never been through this before.. so he grabs the gun holds it by the barrel and tries to hit the duck in the head..right when he does, the gun hits the ground, it fires and he shoots a bullet that goes in the bottom of his ass and out the top of his ass cheek. ………interruption………It started out with my grandpa wanting to make a good impression now he’s clearly not going to make a good impression he shot himself in the ass.. so he goes back to the truck .. grabs clothes rags everything and stuffs them in his pants to stop the bleeding… he gets back to Persies house.. goes in his room wraps it up as best as he can with whatever he has and never told anyone including my grandmother for like 25 years.


Collector: Who told you this story?

Informant: My grandfather under pressure?

Collector: Who knows the story?

Informant: The story can be told to you from anyone in my family

Collector: Do you think you will tell this story to your kids?

Informant: Yea for sure


I guess in analysis what i take from this story is how culture specific a story can get. We may all belong to certain cultures but within that culture there is subgroups and and so on, the family and the family stories represent a really small culture subgroup in my opinion and this story is proof. this story is shared by all of tyler’s cousins aunts and uncles and one day his kids and hopefully so on. I now share in this story and feel as if i know my friend a bit better.


Dave is a name dropper- Joke- USC Law School


Dave works for a big corporation and they are all grabbing drinks one night..

Dave is a name dropper

He claims to know everyone

Pretty much every you can know who is famous

Dave knows them

They go out grabbing drinks and his boss calls him out : “there is no way you know everybody.. Ill make it easy for you since we are going back to LA tomorrow lets go hang out with tom cruise since you know tom cruise .

They fly back to LA, they get off the plane.. on the first day of work… his boss goes “if you have a minute let’s go back to Tom Cruises Place .

They get up to the Gate at Tom Cruises place, the boss is  in the drivers seat.. rolls down the window

The security guard says “sorry sir this is a private residence. “

Dave leans over and goes: “O hey Johnny hows your day going”

The security guard says DAVE! Holy shit you should have told me you were coming

The gate rolls open. And sure enough tom cruise comes out of the house walks up to dave and gives him a secret handshake.

They grab a couple drinks together… and the boss wants to leave because dave proved his point and he thinks he got lucky.

Next day at work the boss says to dave

“I got a person you definitely don’t know”

“just to prove my point this weekend me and you are flying on a company jet to DC. Lets see if you know barrack Obama.

Dave is Down and his boss thinks he’s bluffing

Friday evening they pack their bags and fly to Washington DC. They go to the white house where Barack Obama is giving a press conference, Obama is answering all these questions and when he finishes he sees Dave in the Back, he tells the Secret service: “Holy shit Dave is here its fucking dave!”

Secret service guy goes up to dave and dave says Holy shit Larry I haven’t seen you in forever.

Larry says common back smoke a cigar in the back yard with barrack.

Dave says : can my boss come?

Larry the secret service guy says: Of course a Friend of Dave is a friend Of barracks.

They get to the Back, Barack and dave are catching up on old times but barrack is a busy guy so he finishes his cigar and he tells dave: don’t be a stranger, you should come back more often but I have to fly off to japan, So dave and his boss fly back to LA

On the plane the boss tells dave :

“This is ridiculous how do you know the president of the united States.

Dave says: We used to play basketball together in High School

Well how do you know Tom Cruise >

I used to date Tom cruises sister.

The boss says alright.

Next weekend we are settling this

We are going international

There is no way you know the POPE.

They go saint peter’s Basilica the next weekend for mass

The pope is on the Balcony, Dave and his boss are in the audience.

Dave goes: There is just way too many people out here he is not going to see me out here. Im going to go tell Giovanii i’m here

Boss: who is Giovanni ?

Dave says he is a security guard.

The boss is down there waiting for the mass to start while dave is going up to find the pope.

Dave goes up there and does his thing with the POPE

Comes back down real quick cause mass is coming up shortly

Dave comes back to the spot where he left his Boss. And the boss is on a stretcher getting taken away, he’s unconscious

Dave goes “ Shit what the Hell Happened?

One of the random people goes, All I said was who is the guy in the funny hat hanging out with dave and your boss feinted.



Tyler Sheets is a grad student at the University of Southern California, Gould School of Law. He grew up in Hawaii and has lived in a wide range of places from Denver to Kansas, to Hawaii to San Diego to Amsterdam. He is a surprisingly good story teller and writes as a hobby. This specific story he says was heard at the law school.


Not much strikes the eye immediately, but I think this can be seen as an account of a culture that is obsessed with celebrity and hates name droppers or show offs. I have spent too much time hearing people talk about how they met someone famous. For some reason our culture is happy seeing people they see on tv in real life, getting to know them would be one thing, but saying hi and snapping a picture suffices. The boss represents the care people give to celebrity, as if dave proving his coolness and his knowing them, while dave is represented as more famous in the end and as someone who doesn’t really care about celebrity but rather revels in it without need. Furthermore i found the hierachy of celebrity intersting. Tom Cruise from Hollywood, to The leader of the “Free world ” to the Pope