Author Archive
Childhood
Musical

One Child of God

This is an Indonesian church song that the informant’s mom used to sing when she was younger. Her mom grew up Christian and went to a Catholic, all girls school.

Translation

“‘One child of God goes to church, and then he brings a friend, and they go to church.’ And then it starts over, it’s like, ‘Two children of God, one of them brings a friend, and they go to church.’ All of them go to church together and it’s like this growing…”

Background & Analysis

The informant’s parents are from Indonesia, however the informant herself was born in the U.S., but is fluent in both Indonesian and English. The informant and I live in the same residence hall, and for this folklore collection, we got pizzas together and just sat down and ate them in my room while talking and sharing stories.

The name of this church song is “Satu Anak Tuhan” which mean “One Child of God.” When I asked the informant if this song is sung more in youth groups, she said she had absolutely no idea, but that it was just one of those little songs that you learn when you’re younger. This reminds me a a children’s song that most latin or hispanic people know, and that I myself learned from my dad who speaks Spanish, called “Un Elefante se Balanceaba.” The song begins with one elephant balancing on a spider web, and when he sees that it holds him, he calls over another elephant, and then they are both balancing on a spider web. This song can continue indefinitely. Just as with “One Child of God,” it is mostly children who learn and sing this song, and both were probably created to pass the time on long car rides, or to teach numbers and counting.

Folk Beliefs
Legends
Narrative
Signs

Devil in Disguise

I collected this piece of folklore from my dad while he was visiting. We ended up just sitting in the car in a parking lot while he shared some more Chilean folklore with me.


Dad: “When we were little, my mom and my dad were very busy, so they left the Nana with us. The empleada.

Me: “Yeah.”

Dad: “And she used to sit with us and tell us all these scary happenings, like, she used to say there were sometimes babies abandoned in the middle of the road at night, and you walk and you hear this noise, a crying baby, and if you hold the baby, the baby is so sweet, and you get, ‘Oh! Poor little baby!’ But in reality, it was the Diablo (devil). The Diablo, who became a baby, to catch your attention and get out goodness out of you, and you feel compassion and then, a lot of bad things start happen to you if you hold that baby. Then the baby disappear and you cannot explain what happened, and then in one way, the baby choose, make you fall down in that trap, and because you became good with the baby, but the baby was bad. Then a lot of bad things start happen to you like, you can lose your job, your income, some relative dies, you know, all of this stuffs.”

Me: “It’s a bad omen. Can you reverse the omen?”

Dad: “The omen?”

Me: “Can you reverse the bad luck?”

Dad: “Ah, I guess, you know, the religious mentality show you that if you carry a cross with you, you are free of this devil, bad things that can happen to you.”

Me: “Oh, so the point is to try to get everyone to wear crosses.” (laugh)

Dad: “Exactly, well that is the idea.” (laugh) “Kind of. So in reality, a lot of Chileans without education, well even with education, you believe that a cross, that mean Jesus Christ, keep all this bad energy far away from you.”

Me: “So it’s to keep people in the religion?”

Dad: “Yeah, well, it’s probably an idea to keep everyone scared, and then if it doesn’t happen…”

Background and Analysis

My dad was raised in Rancagua, Chile, which is a city outside of Santiago in the 1950s and early 1960s. Back then and still today, religion has a very strong presence in Chile. When he was a young boy, my dad’s Nana would tell him and his brothers these stories, and at that age they believed it all, of course.

Going off of the legend, my dad also describes how, as a child, he was always told that when anything bad happened, if you just wore a cross or made a cross, everything would be okay. But to him, it’s all mostly psychological. This is very true, in that if you believe in something, it probably will happen. If you envision bad things happening, they will happen to you. If you envision good things happening, they can occur as well. What the legend is pushing is that religion can save you, even from the devil, but the mind is just as powerful a weapon.

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Humor
Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Keeping the Workers in Line

I collected this piece of folklore from my dad during the first half of Spring Break, when we were visiting a friend. We had just finished dinner and were still sitting around the dining table, when we began to tell stories.


Script

Dad: “In the past the landlords used to own wineries, and they would put the wine to age, and the peasants, they used to go at night and steal the wine. So, they said… You know, they’re superstitious. They believe a lot of stuff, so at night the patrones (landlords) put the figure of el Diablo (the devil) in front of a light, like a candle or a lantern, and it project the face of el Diablo. And the peasants get scared, and all they run away, to scare them out of the wine, because Chileans, the peasants, they were very drunk, and alcoholic, the majority. They wanted to scare the peasants. My trabajadores (workers), I used to live on a farm, and my father had many campesinos (peasants) working for him. My father used to go have meetings in the attic, and he would carry chains. Big chains, like (makes noise of dragging chain), to scare them, and they used to run away from the place. They used to tell them that if they don’t behave, the ghosts show up and walk on the roof. But it was my father, hiding at night, passing the thing, making noises.

Me: “In other words, your father wasn’t superstitious?”

Dad: “No, no of course (not). Me too. He was the patrón, defending the patrones. You know I found myself doing exactly the same with my Mexican workers. I hired about twenty workers, and we put housing in Kona Kai, in Kona (in Hawaii), and I told them, ‘You know, you have to be careful, because if you misbehave, in this house, a woman was killed twenty years ago, you know, and she hang herself from this roof…’ You know, invent things. And they believe.”

Me: “Did they ever catch you?”

Dad: “Yeah, now we’re friends. But you know they were very astute. It’s like a practical joke you do on then and keep the secret for, until they found out.”

Background & Analysis

My dad was raised in Rancagua, Chile, which is a city outside of Santiago. His father worked alongside the landlords of wineries, and they would perform these practical jokes to keep the workers in line. Learning from his father, my dad implemented this type of pranking with his workers on the coffee plantations he currently manages.

This means of keeping order, and determining who was trustworthy or not, via practical joking, was very clever. Also, my dad described that those who found out or were told, became in on the secret, and this is an example of the liminal theory, and those workers transitioned.

Folk Beliefs
Legends
Narrative
Protection

Hitchhiker on Saddle Road

The informant is my younger sister, and over Spring Break, she and her friend had stayed with me. This is one of the legends she told me while we were getting ready for bed.


If you are driving along Saddle Road, and you see a either a young and beautiful, or older woman with long white hair, who may or may not have a dog with her, you are supposed to pick her up, because she is actually the goddess Pele in disguise. If you don’t, the next time the volcano is erupting, your house will be destroyed by the lava.

The legend that goes along with this superstition, describes two different men. One had been driving on saddle road but refused to pick up a hitchhiking woman with white hair. A second man however, stopped and gave her a ride. When the volcano later began to erupt, the lava flow demolished the first guy’s house, but went right around the second man’s house.

Background & Analysis

The informant was raised in Hawaii, and she had heard the legend from friends telling scary stories at sleepovers. Since the informant is very superstitious, she definitely believes there could be Pele in disguise that wander Saddle Road, just waiting for someone to pick her up.

This legend is specific to the Big Island of Hawaii. Saddle Road, which connects Kailua-Kona on the west side to Hilo on the east side, is known to be dangerous to drive at night. Many of the legends and scary stories associated with Saddle Road stem mainly from the belief that Saddle Road is haunted since there have been a lot of accidents along it. The real causes of the accidents however, tend to be due to low visibility from the fog since the road is at a high altitude, or the rain, and that fact that the road has not been repaved for many years.

This legend is very well-known among residents on the west side, and is a popular one among the tourists as well. Since Saddle Road is often travelled by tourists making their way around the island, they can never resist a good old local superstition to keep their eyes peeled. Also, since the volcano Kilauea is currently erupting and the lava flow has been heading towards parts of Hilo, I wouldn’t put it past some of the strongest believers to be seeking out Pele in her human form to ask for help or mercy.

Folk speech
Humor

Animal Nicknaming and Jokes

I collected this piece of folklore from my dad while he was visiting. We ended up just sitting in the car in a parking lot while he shared some more Chilean folklore with me.


In Chile, people often give each other animal names as nicknames. The animal is supposed to somehow resemble or represent the person, so that they can be identifiable by that name. For example, the tallest kid in the class may be called the giraffe, and the annoying one could be call the mosquito. My dad’s nickname back in grade school was “el mono” or “the monkey,” because he was always seen climbing a tree of some sort.

Jokes can also be made using these animal nicknames and creating a pun with the sound that the animal makes.

Ex) -¿Por qué se llamas el gato? (Why do they call you the cat?)

-Mee-oowbuela me dice [Mi abuela me dice.] (My grandma calls me that.)

Many years ago in Chile, people used to live in the country side more than in the city, so there are many jokes about roosters, and chickens, and ducks, etc.

To foreigners or outsiders, this type of joking might not always make sense, especially if the definition of joking might be completely different. What was particularly difficult for me to get, was the pun-making using animal sounds. Not only do the puns have to match words in spanish, but the onomatopoeia sounds that animals make vary from country to country.

Folk Beliefs
Life cycle
Myths
Narrative
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Feminist Interpretation of Adam and Eve

The informant and I live in the same residence hall, and for this folklore collection, we got pizzas together and just sat down and ate them in my room while talking and sharing stories.


“Women are equal to men, because when God made Eve, he took a part of Adam’s rib. If He had taken a part of Adam’s head to make her, that would have meant that she is above him, because she cam from the highest point of the body. If He had taken a part from Adam’s leg or his foot, that would have meant that she was below him, because she came from a lower part of the body. Since God had taken from the rib, that makes them of equal status since the ribcage is sort of a midway point of the body.”

Background & Analysis

The informant’s parents are from Indonesia, however the informant herself was born in the U.S., but is fluent in both Indonesian and English. The informant’s mom grew up Christian and went to a Catholic, all girls school. Nowhere in the actual bible does it mention this interpretation of Adam giving rise to Eve. When I asked whether the informant thinks that Indonesia has more gender equality, she said no, however in this particular scenario, since her mom had grown up in an all-girl’s school, they were more likely to learn variations on Bible scriptures that undermined the original intent of the Bible.

This particular interpretation of a very well known story, gives me a bit of hope for the future. Obviously gender inequality has gone down over the past years, however with popular culture and strict interpretations of the bible, our society will never make it to the desired endpoint. With folklore coming into play however, I see a trapdoor opening up.

Childhood
Musical

Indonesian Lullaby

This is a lullaby that the informant’s father used to sing to her and her sister.

Translation

“Miel, go to sleep. Miel, go to sleep. If you don’t go to sleep, you’re going to get bit by ants.” The alternate ending means, “you’ll get bit by a fly.”

Informant’s Thoughts

The informant described this as a dark lullaby, and even mentioned that her sister used to hate the song and that it would keep her up. The informant herself said she never had a problem going to sleep, despite the lullaby being dark. Her father most likely learned it from his parents, since it is meant to be a song that parents sing to their children to scare them into sleeping. The informant doesn’t know of any name for the lullaby, but her father would call it “Informant bobo”, meaning “Informant sleep.”

Background & Analysis

The informant’s parents are from Indonesia, however the informant herself was born in the U.S., but is fluent in both Indonesian and English. The informant and I live in the same residence hall, and for this folklore collection, we got pizzas together and just sat down and ate them in my room while talking and sharing stories. I think it is an interesting, if somewhat backwards logic, that parents sing this song to coerce their children into going to sleep, since in American culture, lullabies are generally supposed to be sweet and gentle songs that “lull” a child to sleep. Perhaps the lyrics are supposed to be a sort of joke and meant to be ignored, however it would be difficult not to take the words seriously when living a country (Indonesia) that is home to a host of exotic insect species.

Folk Beliefs
Legends
Narrative

‘Ohi’a Lehua

The informant is my younger sister, and over Spring Break, she and her friend had stayed with me. This is one of the legends she told me while we were getting ready for bed.


 

There was a man named ‘Ohi’a and a woman named Lehua, and they were in love. But the goddess of fire, Pele, was also in love with the man. Out of jealousy towards the Lehua, and to punish ‘Ohi’a for not returning her affections, Pele cursed ‘Ohi’a into a tree so that the couple could no longer be together. Lehua was devastated, and would cry day after day next to her lover who was now a tree. Out of pity for Lehua, Pele turned her into a blossom on the tree, so the couple could be reunited. To this day, if you pick a flower from an ‘Ohi’a Lehua tree, it will start to rain, because you have separated Lehua from her lover, and the rain is her tears of grief.

Background & Analysis

The informant was raised in Hawaii, and she had heard the legend from friends and teachers at school, as well as from the guides when taking tours of different Hawaiian gardens. The informant does believe in the legend and the superstition of Lehua blossom picking, so she will not pick any flowers from the tree. In the past, a classmate of hers had done so once on a field trip, and within the hour, what was a sunny day, became cloudy and rainy.

This legend has a hint of Romeo and Juliet to it, in that the lovers cannot bear to be separated from one another. It’s also a bit tragic, given how when one goes down, so does the other. This legend is very widespread throughout Hawaii, and this particular variation illustrates the power of Pele, as well as the power of love.

*For another version of this legend, see <http://www.lovebigisland.com/big-island-mythology/ohia-lehua/> or <http://americanfolklore.net/folklore/2010/10/peles_revenge.html>

Folk speech
Humor
Riddle

“Ikau” Pun

The informant is a fellow student and a good friend. While going out for smoothies, she shared her Filipino culture with me.


“I’m going to give you a heads up, so ‘ikau’ mean ‘you.’ So they would say, ‘What’s an example of an ugly cow?’ And then someone would say, ‘what?’ And then they would be like, ‘IKAU!’

Background & Analysis

The informant thinks this joke is really corny, but she still uses it with other Filipino people a lot. She learned it from Filipino friends in grade school, who had probably heard it from older brothers and sisters.

This is a more contemporary joke, because it’s in english, but makes use of a pun in tagalog. This joke most likely then originated among subsequent Filipino-American generation children here in the U.S.

Folk Beliefs
Folk speech
Proverbs

A Deal With the Devil

I collected this piece of folklore from my dad while he was visiting. We ended up just sitting in the car in a parking lot while he shared some more Chilean folklore with me.


Original script 

“Un pacto con el Diablo”

Transliteration

” a deal with the devil”

Translation

You use this whenever you see someone in Chile doing very well. Especially someone young and very successful with lots of wealth. They think that people can sell their soul to the devil, and make a trade. If you’re poor and not doing well, you can ask the devil for help, and he will offer you whatever you want , but it will only be temporary, and in the end, the price to pay is often an early death.

My dad was raised in Rancagua, Chile, which is a city outside of Santiago in the 1950s and early 1960s. Back then and still today, religion has a very strong presence in Chile.

This saying can be seen as rooted in jealousy over what you don’t have, and in a way, is kind of like cursing someone for being  successful when you aren’t. This saying is well-known and used a lot in Chile.

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