Author Archive
general
Narrative
Tales /märchen

The Woodcutter and the Angel

The 22-year-old informant was born in South Korea and moved to the U.S. at a very young age. She chose to share this story because it is commonly told in Korean culture.

“So there’s this woodcutter, and he’s in the woods and he walks to find some water and he comes down to this lake and sees all these angels bathing in the lake. So he keeps coming back day after day to watch these angels bath, and he notices that when they bath, they take off their wings and all their clothes and everything. So one day, he just picks one of the angels and grabs her wings so she can’t fly back up to the heavens when all the other angels go. So she’s lost there and crying and he comes up to her and is like, ‘Hey do you wanna come home with me and be my wife?’ and she says yes. Basically the woodcutter had found out to take the wings from this old fortune-teller, so after the angel takes the woodcutter home, he goes back to the fortune-teller and is like ‘Ok now what do I do?’ and the fortune-teller’s like, ‘Make sure to not give her back her wings until you have more than 2 children’ and the woodcutter’s like, ‘Ok sure.’ So basically they live together and they’re happy and they have 2 babies, and he remembers that the fortune-teller said to wait until after 3 children, but he’s like, ‘Eh whatever, I really love this person and she loves me,’ so he gives them back to her and she puts them on and takes one kid in each arm and flies back up to the heavens. So then the woodcutter is left alone without children.”

I found this story to be quite sad, despite the wrongdoing of the woodcutter in the first place. If there’s a lesson, I believe that it’s “What goes around, comes around,” for the most part. Sure, the woodcutter and the fallen angel were happy and had a family together, but that was all because he stole her wings so she couldn’t fly back up to the heavens. So, in the end, the woodcutter kind of got what he deserved.

Folk speech
general

The Goose and The Pearl

The 22-year-old informant was born in South Korea and moved to the U.S. at a very young age. She chose to share this story because it is commonly told in Korean culture.

“So in this one folktale, there’s this traveler, who needs a place to stay so he asks this farmer if he can stay in his house, and the farmer’s like, ‘No, but you can stay in the barn.’ So he’s sleeping there and he sees this little girl running, and she drops a pearl and he sees a duck eat it. And then in the morning, he’s shaken awake by the farmer who’s like, ‘I’m gonna call the police! You stole my daughter’s pearl, it’s missing!’ and he’s like, ‘No I didn’t, just wait until your duck poops.’ So then the duck poops and they find it.”

The moral of the story is to be nice to people. According to the storyteller, this story is a common one amongst Korean people.

I find this piece interesting because it talks about such a simple concept that is a sign of human decency, however, it doesn’t always come naturally to everyone, which is why this story is more relevant and eye-opening that one would think at first. People are always quick to point fingers or let others take the blame for things and it’s important to remember not to assume anything.

For another version of this story, see Kim, Jinrak. The Generous Scholar. Seoul: Baramedia Publishing Inc., 2007. Print.

Folk speech
general
Riddle

Russian Riddles

The 26-year-old informant was born in Russia, but moved to the U.S. at a young age. During his undergraduate studies at Dartmouth College, he was a teaching assistant for a Russian folklore class and found these pieces of folklore to be particularly interesting or representative of Russian culture.

“Another sort of interesting thing that occurs in all sort of Russian folklore is riddles. Like, in fairytales you’ll often have heroes having to solve riddles. So one riddle is:

In the morning it’s seven feet long,

At midday it’s seven inches long,

And in the evening, it reaches across the field.

So the answer to that is a shadow.

Another one is:

Can’t be measured,

Can’t be weighed,

But everyone’s got one.

And the answer to that is the mind.”

general
Narrative

Nightingale the Robber

The 26-year-old informant was born in Russia, but moved to the U.S. at a young age. During his undergraduate studies at Dartmouth College, he was a teaching assistant for a Russian folklore class and found these pieces of folklore to be particularly interesting or representative of Russian culture.

“So in this epic tale, there was this monster called Nightingale the Robber that had human and bird-like features, and he was able to fly. So he lived in a nest, but he had a human family. He was said to live in a forest, and would sit in a tree to scare strangers with his great ability to whistle. It is said that his whistle was a so strong that it would bend the forces of nature.

So the legend is that Nightingale the Robber was defeated by being shot in the eye with arrows. He was defeated by Ilya Muromets who was the lone survivor after Nightingale’s whistle killed everyone else. Ilya then took his wounded body to the Prince to prove that he defeated him. The Prince wanted to hear the Robber whistle, but he said he was too wounded and near death to whistle, so he asked the Prince for wine to drink in order to heal his wounds so he could whistle for the Prince. The Prince gave him wine, and Nightingale drank it. He whistled and all of the Prince’s palaces were destroyed and also killed a lot of people. After this mistake, Ilya cut off Nightingale the Robber’s head so that he could never wreak such havoc again.”

 

This story is a bylina, or a Russian epic tale. This bylina ties into the Russian superstition that whistling, especially indoors, is bad because the wind is believed to be a demon, so by whistling, one is essentially summoning a demon, which brings bad luck.

 

 

Magic
Tales /märchen

The Frog Princess

The 26-year-old informant was born in Russia, but moved to the U.S. at a young age. During his undergraduate studies at Dartmouth College, he was a teaching assistant for a Russian folklore class and found these pieces of folklore to be particularly interesting or representative of Russian culture.

“So there’s this prince named Prince Ivan who has two older brothers. Their dad, the King tells them that they have to find wives and they must do so by shooting arrows in different directions to find their brides. The first two brothers shoot their arrows and they land in the houses of noble and wealthy merchants. Ivan shoots his arrow, and it lands in the mouth of a frog that lives in a swamp. Ivan gets upset and is like, “How am I supposed to marry a frog??” but the King says he must because that was the agreement and he must meet is fate.

So Ivan marries the frog and his brothers marry their beautiful brides, and after, the King tells his sons that he wants each of their wives to bake him some bread for the next day. Ivan is freaking out and goes home and his wife, the frog, asks him what’s wrong, so he tells her what his dad just asked of him and his brothers. The frog tells Ivan not to worry and that she’ll take care of it. She tells him “morning is wiser than the evening,” and so Ivan goes to bed. That night, the frog takes off her frog skin and turns into a beautiful maiden and bakes the bread. The next day, the King is impressed and likes the frog’s bread best.

He then asks the three wives to make him a full silk carpet, and that night, the frog does the same thing and makes the best carpet. The next day, there’s a ball at the palace and wants all the princes to come with their wives. Once again, Ivan is sad because how can he go to a ball with a frog? But the frog tells him to go to the ball alone, and when he hears thunder and the earth starts shaking, just tell the other guests not to worry and that it’s just your frog coming in a little box. Ivan does this.

At the ball, the frog performs other magical feats. One thing she does it pour some water into her left sleeve and bones into her right sleeve. So as she dances, she swings her left sleeve out and creates a lake. She swings her right sleeve out and swans appear on the lake. The other wives are understandably jealous and try to do the same thing, except since they have no magical powers,  they just spray water and bones at the King and the guests.

Meanwhile, Prince Ivan sneaks away back home and finds the frog skin lying on the ground. Since he wants his wife to stay in human form, he burns the skin. When his wife gets home, she’s like, “What did you do? If you had just been patient for one more night, I would’ve been free from this curse, but now you must find me 33 kingdoms away in the castle of Koshei the Deathless,” who’s like a major evil figure in Russian folklore.

So Ivan sets off on his quest, and he first sees an old man. He tells the old man of his misfortune, the old man says, “Why’d you burn the frog skin?” But he decideds to take pity on him and gives him a magic ball of yarn. and tells him to follow it to find the right path. Along the way he sees a bear, which he wants to kill, but the bear speaks to him and says “Don’t kill me! I’ll be useful to you in the future,” so Ivan takes pity on him.

Next, he sees a duck, and wants to kill it, but the duck also asks him to take pity, so Ivan takes pity again. Next, he sees a rabbit, and the same thing happens. Then, he comes across a fish trapped in a shallow pond, and the same thing happens.

So then, he reaches the home of a witch named Baba Yaga, who lives in a magical house on chicken legs. He tells the house to turn to face him, and it does, so he’s able to enter. Baba Yaga can be helpful or sometimes a cannibal, so she’s like, “What are you doing here, young man?” and he tells her she’s got bad manners because she’s asking a guest questions before offering a meal and a bath, which is really representative of Russian culture. So Baba Yaga then provides both, and then Ivan tells her of his dilemma.

Baba Yaga’s possibly the only creature that knows where to find Koshei’s death, which is on the tip of a needle. The needle is in an egg, and the egg is in a duck, and the duck is inside a rabbit, and the rabbit is in a big chest, chained to the top of a tall oak, which is hidden. So, Baba Yaga tells Ivan where to find the oak.

When Ivan gets there, he doesn’t know how to get to the chest. Suddenly, the bear he spared shows up and destroys the oak, and breaks the chest open. Out of the chest springs a rabbit, which runs away, but the rabbit that Ivan spared appears and kills it. Out of that rabbit, a duck flies into the sky, but the duck that Ivan spares kills it. Then, the egg with the needle falls into the sea, but the fish that Ivan saved retrieves it from the bottom of the sea. Ivan then breaks the needle, and now Koshei is mortal, so he defeats him, getting his wife back and living happily ever after.”

 

For another version of this fairytale, see Vasilisa the Beautiful. Dir. Vladimir Pekar. Soyuzmultfilm, 1977. Film.

general

The Shaman

The 21-year-old informant was born in the Philippines, but moved to the U.S. (Hawaii) at the age of 9. As ghosts and other mythical creatures play a large role in Filipino culture, the informant recounts personal stories and myths that she encountered during her time in the Philippines.

Informant: “My family’s super religious, and so they had a priest come through and bless the whole house when I lived in the Philippines. Or–was it a priest? I know they had it blessed, but then there was also… I think there was also like, a person who could feel ghosts or souls or whatever?”

Collector: “Oh, like a shaman or something?”

I: “Yeah, yeah! Whatever they’re called.”

C: “Or a medium?”

I: “Yeah a medium. And the medium said that one of the ghosts started having a crush on my uncle that lived there *laughs*. I don’t know the extent of the truth on these stories. I remember hearing that.”

C: “Wait, so do they bless the house, just like, when you move in?”

I: “Yeah, just like, my family– they always bless the house that they move into… But I guess since it was my grandma’s house, and people kept kind of like, coming in and out–like not really living there permanently– it was left vacant for so long that they said it’s like a sign for ghosts–or like, it attracts ghosts. Like, big empty spaces attracts souls.”

C: “Ohh, interesting!”

I: “Yeah, and the shaman said that a lot of the souls that were in the house were kind of confused… Like they didn’t know they were dead.”

C: “Like they still needed to ‘cross over’?”

I: “Yeah, exactly.”

Folk Beliefs
general
Myths

Duwende

The 21-year-old informant was born in the Philippines, but moved to the U.S. (Hawaii) at the age of 9. As ghosts and other mythical creatures play a large role in Filipino culture, the informant recounts personal stories and myths that she encountered during her time in the Philippines.

Informant: “So there’s this thing called a ‘duwende’– literally, dwarves. My parents had a concrete farm, and they had like, employees that lived there too. It was kind of a huge lot.

Collector: “Is this still in the Philippines?”

I: “Yeah still in the Philippines… And I guess they said like, they kinda live by trees or whatever, and then if you happen to just run by a tree, or like, kick a tree or whatever– just disturb where they live, they would follow you and like… what was the word for it…? You know like, exorcism? You know how you get like, taken over?”

C: “Oh like, they possess you.”

I: “Yeah! They possess you. There’s like a good kind, and then a bad one, and I remember one of the employees’ daughter that lived there apparently got possessed by it. I never met her ’cause I was little and my mom was just like, telling me about it, but she didn’t want me near her.”

C: “Wait, so there’s a good kind?”

I: “There’s a good kind and bad kind, and the bad kind possessed her apparently.”

C: “Oh so this was like, an actual thing?”

I: “An actual thing, yeah. Well so, my mom said that the dad said this, but she was like, ‘Maybe she’s just crazy’ haha.”

general

Haunted House in the Philippines

The 21-year-old informant was born in the Philippines, but moved to the U.S. (Hawaii) at the age of 9. As ghosts and other mythical creatures play a large role in Filipino culture, the informant recounts personal stories and myths that she encountered during her time in the Philippines.

Informant: “When I was little, I was with my brother and we were at my grandma’s house, and we had a babysitter with us, so it was just the 3 of us. I was like, 3 or 4 years old maybe? I think it was a 5-story house– it was a pretty big house, which people were saying it was so big that it wasn’t as inhabited as it should be, so then like, ghosts started coming in and like, taking over the space or whatever.

But um, we’re just playing and then we heard like, chains on the stairs, just like (*makes a few thumping noises with her hand*). It kept stepping on the stairs and we heard chains just clanking on the floor, and as a child I was just like, ‘Fuck is that?’ And there’s a foot on the stairs, and it was all bloody. It was literally just a foot, and it had chains around it– all bloody. And it just kept stepping, not really going anywhere.

And then, I talked to my brother, and up ’til this day, he’s like, ‘No, I swear I saw it,’ and he was 7 years old then? Maybe I was 4… I was 3 or 4.”

Collector: “Was it like, a solid foot?”

Informant: “Ya, it was just one foot. I forgot what that house used to be… like, what used to be there before the house was built… but I know there was some mystery there.

And there was another one… like, the house was pretty haunted. I heard stories that–well, when we weren’t there–my other cousins lived right across that house, and her grandma would say that she would see like, a white lady just walking across the rooftop, and no one was there ’cause everyone was like, in Hawaii or like, the mainland or whatever… So that was another one of the stories.”

general
Myths

Aswang

The 21-year-old informant was born in the Philippines, but moved to the U.S. at the age of 9. As ghosts and other mythical creatures play a large role in Filipino culture, the informant recounts personal stories and myths that she encountered during her time in the Philippines.

Informant: “I remember hearing about this when I was little… It’s one of the most common Filipino monsters. They’re shape-shifters who are human by day, and then at night, turn into a bat.

Collector: “What’s it called?”

I: “Aswang. A-s-w-a-n-g. Uhm, what I’ve heard about them is they like to go to pregnant womens’ homes, like right on top of where their room is, and just like, eat their child from there.”

C: “Do they turn into a bat when they do it?”

I: “Yeah they turn into a bat. It’s like half-woman, half-bat, and they go after babies.”

general
Magic
Narrative
Tales /märchen

Water of Kindness

The 24-year-old informant is originally from Rhode Island, but currently resides in New York, NY. Her parents are both from China, making her a first-generation American Born Chinese. This story was one that she heard as a child and has been engrained in her mind ever since.

“This beggar woman is going around town and she’s knocking on peoples’ doors. And this first woman answers the door and is really mean to her and is like, ‘Go away!’ So the beggar woman goes to the next house and they’re like sure, ‘We’ll take you in.’ Oh, and what she asks, like, what the beggar woman asks is for a bowl of water to soak her feet in, to clean her feet. So the first person says no, and the second person’s like, ‘Sure, I’ll do that.’ So she washes her feet and covers the dirty bowl water with like, a cloth, and she tells the lady who gave her it–she says, ‘Keep this over night and then dump it in the morning.’ So the lady’s like, ‘Ok that’s weird,’ but she does it. So the next morning she takes the bucket and goes outside to use the dirty water to water her plants and she realizes it’s really heavy, and she spills it open and it’s all gold. Uhm, so people like, hear about it and come and see, and then that first lady that got asked by that beggar woman was like, ‘What did you do?’ and she told her what happened, and the first lady’s like, ‘Ok, I will do this too.’ So the next time, the beggar woman comes back and knocks on the first lady’s door, and the lady’s like ‘Oh yeah, come in, like totally’ and gets her this like, giant-ass bucket of water. And the beggar woman’s like, ‘Oh yeah, thank you, you’re so nice.’ and the lady’s like, ‘Yeah of course, I don’t know why I didn’t take you in the first time.’ and the beggar woman’s like, ‘Yeah it’s messed up but it’s whatever, it’s cool.’ So she’s like, ‘Ok cover this with cloth and don’t dump it until tomorrow morning’ and the lady’s like ‘Ok cool.’ So the beggar woman leaves and the lady–in the morning takes the bucket and rips open the cloth and it’s all these bugs and mud flying at her. So the moral of the story is, don’t be an asshole.”

 

To me, the moral of this story is not only to not be mean to others, but also to not be greedy. The first woman in the story was generous and kind, and only good things came to her. The second woman was not only unwelcoming the first time a beggar woman came, but she was also greedy for gold the second time, and she got nothing but sludge and dirt, which is a testament to “you get what you deserve.”

[geolocation]