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Folk speech

Spanish Proverb 2

Original Transcription: “A quien madruga, Dios le ayuda.”

English Transcription: “One who wakes up early, God helps him/her” or “God helps those who wake up early.”

This is another common Spanish proverb. The literal translation of the phrase is “one who wakes up early, God helps him/her.” If this proverb were translated into English syntax, it would read, “God helps those who wake up early.”

The Spanish word “madrugador(a)” refers to an “early riser” or one who wakes up early in the morning. The speaker uses this proverb to describe themselves when they have woken up early, usually before the other members of their family. Due to its meaning, the phrase becomes a form of bragging that shames those who choose sleep over work. Therefore, the proverb inadvertently accuses another person of laziness. If the person being addressed likewise wants God’s help, they must wake up early and begin working.

Although simplistic, the saying intertwines the Spanish cultural values. The proverb communicates the importance of good work ethic and reinforces the value with religious beliefs. The English equivalent of this proverb is “the early bird gets the worm.” The English phrase is a secularized version of the same proverb since it teaches that rewards come directly from one’s hard work. The English proverb places the power of reward into the human’s hands as opposed to the Spanish idea that rewards for hard work come from God.



Halcyon House (Washington, D.C) Albert Clemens

Transcription: “A couple generations later, the house was bought Samuel Clemens’ (Mark Twain) nephew, Albert Clemens. He owned it in the late 1800s. Albert believed that as long as the kept building the house, he wouldn’t die. He built stairways to nowhere, doors that open into nothing, and rooms within rooms. He was adamantly opposed to electricity. He didn’t let anyone bring anything electric into his house. They say that to this day, people will walk into the house and their phones will stop working or light bulbs will burst. When he died, he wanted the coroner to put a pick-ax in his heart to make sure he was dead.”

The same informant who works for a Washington D.C. tour company told me another story involving the Halcyon House. Several decades later, the house was owned by Samuel Clemens’ nephew, Albert Clemens. I did not realize the historical significance of Samuel Clemens until my informant told me I would recognize his pen name, Mark Twain. Therefore, the Halcyon house is not only connected with American history, but American culture.

I do not know much about Samuel Clemens or his nephew, but according to my informant, Albert suffered from mental health problems. Albert convinced himself that he would not die as long as he continued to build and renovate the Halcyon property. Albert likely attached some spiritual significant to the house or associated it with his life purpose. In hopes of postponing his death, Albert built designs that would inhibit the completion of the house. He built stairways to nowhere, doors that open to a wall, and rooms within rooms. He believed these paradoxes of design held the key to his immortality. Albert’s superstitions were not limited to structural design and immortality. He also was opposed to electricity and had a fear of being buried alive. His rejection of electricity could be explained as a fear of progress and technology.

This story combines multiple genres of folklore since it documents the superstitions of an individual, includes a legendary figure, and the history lives on today in the form of a ghost story.


Folk speech

Spanish Proverb 1

Original Transcription: “Más vale prevenir que curar.”

English Transcription: “It is better to prevent than to cure.”

This proverb came from Spain. The literal translation of the phrase is, “it is better to prevent than to cure.” One would use this proverb when you do something that you do not need to do, but you do it as a precaution. For example, a student might say use this phrase while studying their notes in case their professor gives a pop quiz the next day. By reviewing their notes even when unnecessary, the student can prevent (cure) a bad grade. This proverb is a mark of the hardworking, cautionary individual.

English has a proverb that is very similar to this Spanish saying. I thought of this Spanish proverb as the equivalent to the English proverb, “better safe than sorry.”  Both proverbs seek to encourage hard working, forward-thinking behavior. If one is prepared for a variety of possible futures, they will never fall into a precarious circumstance. I found it interesting how these shared cultural values were translated across the world.


Folk Beliefs

La Llorona

Transcription: “In Mexico, there was supposedly a woman who drowned her own kids in the river and then regretted it. Her name is La Llorona. She wears a white dress with a veil–wedding attire–because her husband left her. She appears at all the rivers, crying “ay, mis hijos.” When I go to Mexico, there is a river down the street from my grandma’s house and they say that she appears there late at night. All the kids go down there to check it out, but I have never gone because I was scared.”

For another version of this legend, see

This collection is a variation of the La Llorona legend. The Spanish word llorar means “to cry.” Therefore, La Llorona is the feminized variation of crying. The most common structures of the legend are present. The story takes place at a river and involves a woman who drowned her children. However, the version I collected has more specific details. She includes La Llorona’s clothing, a white dress and veil. At first, my informant did not remember the story line that La Llorna’s husband left her, but after mentioning her clothing, she remembered the meaning behind her attire.

My informant likewise mentioned the words La Llorona is said to be weeping. The phrase, ay, mis hijos, means “oh, my children” which relates back to the idea that La Llorona drowned her children then regretted her actions. I assume that variations of the legend that provide different motives for La Llorona would have her call out different words.

My informant’s variation of the legend was unique to others I have heard since she had personalized the legend. The river by her grandmother’s house in Mexico is rumored as a site for La Llorona. The purpose of the legend is to act as a safety precaution that scares children away from rivers at night. The legend fulfilled its purpose with my informant since has never ventured down to the river at night out of fear. Nevertheless, my informant claims that the legend has had the opposite effect on the those who are fascinated by the supernatural and investigate its validity.


Rituals, festivals, holidays

Sports Tradition: Atlético Madrid vs. Real Madrid

Transcription: “The rivalry is intense. If Real Madrid wins a big game, fans go to Cibeles, and if Atlético wins, they go to Neptuno. The players come too and will jump in the fountains if it was an important game…The only time I will cheer for Atléti is when they are playing Barce.”


Similar to how Americans have several traditions surrounding football, Spaniards have many fútbol centered traditions. Two teams in particular, Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid, have inspired colorful victory celebrations.

Elaborate sculptures and fountains are scattered throughout Madrid, often times centered in the middle of large roundabouts. Each of the soccer teams has their own fountain that functions similar to a mascot. Real Madrid’s fountain is named Cibeles and Atlético Madrid’s fountain is named Neptuno. When one of the teams wins, especially if it was an important game, fans hurry to the respective fountain where they are joined by the team. The team members will even jump into the fountain depending on the importance of the game.  

Since Atlético Madrid and Real Madrid are rivals, the fountain celebrations following their games are chaotic. The fact the fountains are only a few streets apart amplifies the intensity of the celebration. Overall, the tradition signifies a coming together of a community to honor the athletic achievements of their soccer team.

I would compare the rivalry between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid as the Spanish equivalent to the rivalry between UCLA and USC. Both are “cross town rivals,” and when the two teams play each other, the game brings out much tension between fans on each side. The only time Real Madrid and Atlético support each other is when one of them is playing against Barcelona, a common enemy.


Folk speech

Spanish Proverb 3

Original Transcription: A buenas horas mangas verdes!

English Transcription: “The green sleeves arrive at good hours!”

This expression is used when something that you strongly hoped for happens or presents itself when it is no longer useful. The speaker using the phrase would have an exasperated or sarcastic tone. The phrase in Spanish omits a verb. If the meaning of the phrase were fully written out, it would be, “las mangas verdes llegan a buenas horas.” Despite the missing verb, the listener would understand the meaning of the proverb due to its commonly known history.

According to my informant, this expression has a long history. “Los mangas verdes,” or the green sleeves, were an armed political group in fifteenth century Spain. Their official name was La Santa Hermandad, and they were commissioned by the queen to track down criminals. Once they found the criminals, they would put them in prison. However, the green sleeves were notoriously known to arrive late. Often times, the green sleeves would arrive at the scene of a crime after the thief had already fled, thus failing to fulfil their purpose.

The phrase ridicules the failures of the early Spanish criminal justice system, and one would have to know the history of the green sleeves to fully understand the proverb. The fact that the proverb is still used today is significant because the phrase connects Spaniards with their history.



Disney Folklore: Naming Animatronics

Transcription: “All the animatronics in Disneyland have a name. For example, the snake in Indiana Jones is named Fluffy. The Yeti in the Matterhorn is named Harold. Cast members aren’t supposed to pose with the animatronics, but we do and post them in our Facebook groups.”

The naming of the animatronics signifies a way to give life to the mechanisms. Similar to the way we use human names, the rides become more personalized when an individual knows the names of the machines contributing to the ride’s atmosphere.

By giving each machine a unique and specific name, the cast members can create a dichotomy. Those who know the names are on inside the group, while those who do not know the names are outside the group. Overall, knowledge of the animatronic’s names evokes a sense of group identity. The cast members can exemplify their group identity by name dropping the machine’s name.

As Van Gennup said, transitional or unsettling moments in one’s life often become paired with jokes. The ironic nature of the names function as a joke shared between cast members. For example, the snake on the Indiana Jones ride is supposed to jump out and scare people. However, with a name like Fluffy, the snake can hardly be considered daunting. The joke counteracts the tension created at the moment the snake appears.

During times when the ride is powered down, cast members pose and take pictures of each other with the animatronics. The behavior qualifies as breaking the rules, but the cast members are not deterred since it has become apart of their group culture. Not only are their pictures a form of rebellion, they are shared over social media. The Facebook groups on which these photos are shared facilitate the multiplicity and variation of the folklore.


Rituals, festivals, holidays

Disneyland Folklore: The Jungle Cruise

Transcription: “At the end of every night, the Skippers yell, “Goodnight, Jungle Monster.” If you are a new skipper, you must throw a banana over the gorilla camp as a sacrifice. It used to be an actual garbage-panda-possum. Now, we think of it as a spirit…There is even a blog called, ‘Capturing the Jungle Monster’ where people can post stories about the Jungle Monster.” You also don’t want to scare the Jungle Monster by talking too loud or coming into your shift late. Whenever something bad happens on the ride, it is because someone angered the Jungle Monster.”


My informant used to be a cast member on Disney’s Jungle Cruise. As one of the park’s oldest rides, the attraction is associated with several forms of folklore. I asked my informant to describe the folklore. The ride takes visitors around to look at animatronic animals. However, the ride is also said to feature a specimen that is neither animatronic nor a visible. The creature is known as the Jungle Monster. Over the years, the myth of the Jungle Monster has varied. Originally, the creature was thought of as a hybrid animal, but the folklore has since evolved into spirit.

The folklore is lived out on a daily basis when at the end of each day, one lucky cast member gets to whisper goodnight to the Jungle Monster. My informant mentioned that saying goodnight to the Jungle Monster was seen as a privilege because it demonstrated seniority. The myth of the swamp monster has also become an initiation ritual. When a new skipper is added to the team, he or she must throw a banana into the gorilla camp as a sacrifice to the Jungle Monster. Once the new skipper completes this task, they have become an official Jungle Cruise skipper.

As with other mythical subjects, the Jungle Monster becomes a way to explain the world, in this case, the Jungle Cruise. Whenever something Malfunctions on the ride, the skippers reason that someone must have upset the Jungle Monster. One can upset the Jungle Monster by lacking on their duties or forgetting to say goodnight.

Rituals, festivals, holidays

Disneyland Folklore: Ghosts

Transcription: “There are so many ghost stories related to Disneyland. The Haunted Mansion is supposed to be actually haunted because people used to bring the cremated remains of their relatives to the ride. Every now and then, they have to call in a hazmat service to clean up the ashes…People have also done that on the Pirates of the Caribbean Ride too. A little boy died on Roger Rabbit ride in 2002 and his spirit is said to haunt the ride. A little girl died on the Matterhorn and they call the dip where she died, Dolly’s Dip. She is said to run on the tracks and the work lights never function where she died…Walt’s apartment is hella haunted. You can’t get pictures in there because the cameras won’t focus. One of the rafts on the Jungle Cruise, The Zambizi,  is haunted by an old man. Some people think it’s Walt Disney.”

Ironically, the “happiest place on earth” has several associations with death. Disneyland attracts millions of people a year. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that ghost legends have become attached to the amusement park. After speaking with my informant, it seems like each ride at the park comes with a ghost story.

The ashes brought to the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean signify visitors acting on the ritual of spreading the ashes of their loved ones. The spreading of ashes is the final piece of a funeral ritual. By fulfilling the ritual, visitors indirectly contribute to the ghost legends.

Whenever a tragedy occurred at Disney, the ride at which the death took place is given the label of “haunted.” As in the case of the Matterhorn, the specific section of the ride has been given the name of the victim. The ghost stories act as a cautionary tale. Since most of the documented deaths occurred because children were not properly restrained by a seat belt or due to a lack of parent supervision, the ghost stories become a teaching method to reinforce safety on the rides.

Some people claim that Disneyland has several deaths because of the park’s address, 1313 Harbor Boulevard. The number thirteen is considered a cursed number since it is associated with unluckiness. I would argue that Disney’s address offers the superstitious support for their beliefs. Some may argue that the unlucky number acts like a beacon for tragedy.


Rituals, festivals, holidays

Bloody Mary

Transcription: “We played Bloody Mary at sleepovers. I was told to go into the bathroom, close the door, turn off the lights, close my eyes, and say her Bloody Mary three times. When you opened your eyes, you were supposed to see her. If she liked you, you were safe. If she she didn’t like you, she would claw your eyes out. When I was younger, I would always open the door and then turn off the lights before leaving the bathroom because I was scared of being in the dark bathroom for even a second. I also would be careful not to even think the name Bloody Mary when I was in the bathroom because I didn’t want to accidentally summon her.”

For another version of this folklore, see “Bloody Mary.” Supernatural. The CW. 11 Oct. 2005. Television.

Bloody Mary is both a game and a ritual. Like all games, Blood Mary has rules. Participants must close themselves in a dark bathroom and say her name three times. If the rules are not followed correctly, Bloody Mary will not appear. By repeating the game at sleepovers, it becomes ritualistic. Blood Mary is a ritual since it has a specific time and space. This version of the ritual takes place in the space of a bathroom and at night time. The rules can also be read as ritualistic. For example, the repetition of Mary’s name can be considered a chant used to summon the supernatural.

My informant was a child when she learned about Bloody Mary. She heard about the game from other young girls and played the game at a sleepover. A sleepover, as a coming together of girls, provides an opportunity to share values. The premise of a vengeful spirit heightens fear to reinforce behavior. By spreading both the legend and acting out the game/ritual, the girls become their own cultural reinforcement of good behavior. In order to survive Bloody Mary, you had to be good, which creates a distinction between being a good girl versus a bad girl.

I would argue that one of the reasons Bloody Mary takes place in the bathroom is because it is a place in which we are vulnerable and exposed. The ritual is performed in the dark to inhibit a reliance on our most important sense. Overall, the game is designed to unsettle the participant by placing them in an ambiguous space.