Author Archives:

Tough Love

Main Piece: “I brought you into this world and I can take you out”

Background Information: The informant said he constantly heard this from his mother when he was growing up as a middle schooler. The informant is African American and grew up in a rougher area of New York. The informant said this saying is typical in his community, and the main lesson is that you need to treat your mother with respect because she is the one that has given you the opportunity to be in this world. The informant describes this saying as comical but also an important saying in his life and community.

Context: In a gas station in Los Angeles

Thoughts: This saying may seem harsh for a young kid to hear from his mother, but after talking with the informant it seems to fit the informants culture and community. The informant lived in a predominately African American community in New York that was very rough; there were constantly robberies and murders and it was not typical for people to go to school. It seems that mothers try to get their kids attention and control in order that their kids would not fall into a bad path. This proverb seems to be a warning to kids to not misbehave or disrespect their mothers which in turn will help them in the long run. 



The Clown in the Kitchen

Main Piece: “ I had a weird experience like two years ago that really scared me. Two years ago my friend and I were in his house playing video games in his living room. It was like almost midnight and we were both getting kinda tired so I wanted to leave. As I was grabbing my stuff from his room I saw a shape of a clown in his window, and it just looked like it was just staring at me. Usually I don’t get freaked out by this stuff so I didn’t care. I went back downstairs and I noticed something was wrong with my friend. He looked white and like he was sick. When I asked him what was wrong he said he saw a figure that looked like a clown in his window in his kitchen and that it stared at him for like three minutes. After that I told him what happened and we both got so worried we each got kitchen knives to defend ourselves in his kitchen (informant starts laughing). I think since I started to believe there actually was a clown I started to hear things too, like girls laughing and stuff. I don’t know if there were actually girls laughing or if that was in my imagination. But after we had our knives we realized we were probably overthinking it and that it was a weird experience. I can’t lie though ever since then I have been scared of clowns.”

Background Information: The informant had this experience when he was nineteen at his friends house in San Diego. He said that this contributed to his fear of clowns and that his friend is also scared of clowns as well.

Context: During a walk with the informant in San Diego

Thoughts: This is different than a typical “ghost story” than I expected the informant to tell. This is because instead of a ghost, there is a clown. There has been a surge in the fear of clowns in the last couple of years, especially with movies like the IT, Clown, and 31. The fear of clowns seems irrational since they are usually linked with happiness and entertainment. It is interesting how clowns are becoming as scary as ghosts and why that is; maybe it is because clowns invoke a sense of uncertainty within us or because their facial expressions don’t make us happy or entertained. It will be interesting to see if there is a increase in clown folklore replacing traditional ghost stories.


Heungbu and Nolbu

Main Piece: “ This is one of the most well known stories in Korea it is about two brothers. Heungbu and Nolbu were brothers. Nolbu, the older brother was super greedy and annoying but his younger brother Heungbu was kind and the opposite. The day that their father died, they learned that he was ordered to split his fortune in half for each of them. Nolbu tricked Heungbu’s family and threw them out in order to keep the entire fortune to himself.  But Heungbu didn’t complain. One day Hengbu helped a bird get away from a snake. The next year the bird  came back and gave Heungbu a seed as a thank you present. Heungbu planted the seed in his backyard and found gold inside. Since gold basically means that you are rich they bought a new house and became very wealthy. Nolbu ended up finding out about this and met Heungbu and asked him how he became so rich so quickly because he was jealous. Nolbu heard the secret and did the same with the bird. The bird brought Nolbu a seed the next spring, and Nolbu planted it. But there were no gold and instead his life sucked because there were only elements of destruction, like no wealth and stuff like that so Nolbu and his wife lost all of their wealth. But they finally realized their mistake and asked Heungbu to forgive them and they all lived together happily ever after.”

Background Information: The informant learned this Korean folktale from her parents and she was also born and raised in South Korea. This story is important to her because it taught her that what goes around comes back around and that people who treat others with kindness will always win.

Context: In the informant’s apartment

Thoughts: This story is interesting because of the dynamic of the two brothers, and that this story is about family compared to other folk stories that I have collected that are about individuals. This might suggest that family is very important in the Korean culture, and values like kindness and being humble are important as well.


Chinese Autumn Story

Main Piece: “ So there’s a story that’s called the Chinese Autumn Story. Basically, a really long time ago in China there were about ten suns in the sky. So, obviously because there were ten suns it was pretty hot and there was a drought. People were running out of water to drink and the crops in the rice fields were withering and in China rice is pretty important. But, a famous archer, his name was Hòu yì, was asked to shoot down 9 of the suns in the sky.  He did it successfully and was rewarded a “pill of the immortality.” Hòu yì went home and gave this pill to his wife, Cháng’é to keep safe. But, a visitor of the archer’s heard about this pill and wanted to steal it from his wife. As the visitor was about to steal the pill from her, the archer’s wife Cháng é swallowed it. After she took the pill she felt super light. Then she started to float and she flew all the way to the moon. When Cháng é got to the moon she coughed up the pill and the pill became a rabbit.  The rabbit was the only companion Cháng é (the Moon Fairy) had on the moon and is named the “Jade Rabbit.””

Background Information: The informant learned this story from his parents who were born and raised in Hong Kong, China. This story talks about how the Autumn festival is what it is today. The festival is time to enjoy rice and wheat with food offerings made in honor of the moon. It is still an occasion for outdoor reunions among friends and relatives to eat mooncakes and watch the moon, a symbol of harmony and unity. The informant describes the event as a massive gathering of friends and family.

Context: In a coffee shop in Los Angeles

Thoughts: The moon in this story seems to be symbolic for women as well. Moons are usually telling in that they correlate with a menstration cycle, so this moon story/goddess might be symbolic of that. It is also interesting that during the festival people eat mooncakes, which again is related to the idea of the moon and how this is important for females. In this story, the wife does not get punished for swallowing the pill which is different from other stories like Adam and Eve where Eve gets into a lot of trouble for trying the apple. This might suggest a difference in culture and also more high regards for women in Chinese culture.

For another version of this story see the book “Mooncakes” by Loretta Seto

Goldilock and the Three Bears

Main Piece: “There was once three cute bears that lived together in a house in the woods. Each of the bears had their own porridge bowl, chair, and bed. One day the mama bear made porridge for breakfast but it’s was too hot to eat, so they took a nice long walk in the woods while their porridge cooled. A cute little girl with super blonde hair who was pretty naive broke into the bears house while the bears were out. She ate the Wee Bear’s porridge breaks the chair and falls asleep in the bed. Then the bears come back and find her but they don’t kill her and let her leave, I’m not sure why that is.”

Background Information: The informant learned this story when she was in nursery in Southern California. She had trouble remembering the details of the story when I asked her and says she doesn’t understand the point of this story but she was very entertained by it so much so that her parents use to tell her the story almost every night.

Context: In a grocery store (Trader Joes) in Los Angeles

Thoughts: This tale seems to be a cautionary tale to children to not wonder off into strangers home. This tale is also interesting because it does not have a “happy ending” which is different from most children stories. This might be a story to show the reality of life that not everything is always happy or good.

Girl and the red skirt

Main Piece: “ If you go into the girl’s bathroom on the third floor of the building, and walk to the third stall,  knock 3 times and call her name a little girl in a red skirt will be there named Hanako-san. She will have a bloody hand and grab you, or be a animal that eats you. I was so scared going to the bathroom when I was in middle school in Japan, it was a game that a lot of girls would play but it really made me scared as a kid. I don’t know why it was so popular to be honest.”

Background Information: The informant learned this story in Japan through her friends in middle school when she was about eleven. The informant says that this is a very popular story and game in Japan among girls. She hasn’t played it since or heard it since being the United States.

Context: In a coffee shop in San Diego

Thoughts: This story seems very similar to Bloody Mary and has a lot of parallels. First, the number three is in both of the stories. Second, blood is in both stories and the “scary” being is a female. I wonder if this story has the same meaning as Bloody Mary, that it symbolizes the transition of girls becoming women and going through their period. It is interesting how this story, even though it is in Japan, is similar to an American story.


La Llorana

Main Piece: “There use to be a game I played with my friends called  La Llorona where if you say that name three times and splash water on the mirror a lady called La Llorona would appear and kill you. La Llorona was a Mexican lady who had two kids but they were abducted. After that she was traumatized and would always cry in the middle of the street trying to find her kids. My earliest memory of the game was being in elementary school and being in the girl’s bathroom. My friends and I would splash water on the mirror and say her name three times which was “La Llorona. La Llorona. La Llorona. But to be honest was just seeing who could stand being in the darkroom and seeing how long we could stand there waiting for her to come out of the sink and my friends and I would just start screaming and run out”.

Background Information: The informant learned this game with his friends in middle school, and most of his friends were female who were also Mexican. He said this was a very popular game for young girls and he was one of the only boys who would play but he was always too scared to actually do it.

Context: Next to a park in Los Angeles

Thoughts: This story seems to also have parallels with Bloody Mary in terms of it being popular with young girls, and that a mirror is involved, and the number 3 is significant. I am curious why the number 3 is also significant in this context in other cultures and not just America, and if the origin of these bathroom stories came from one person or one culture specifically.




Main Piece: “There’s a story that a young girl lived near a river bank with family. Everyday she would go down to the river to do chores. One day as she went to collect water, she decided to cool off so she swam. As she swam, a young man appeared sitting at the edge of the river. They started to talk and she began to fall in love with him. From then on they hungout almost every day and spent each night together.  Her dad was kinda concerned so he confronted her. But the girl told him that she was in love so she wanted to marry the fisherman. The father surprisingly agreed and invited the guy to stay the night. But it was weird cuz the father noticed that the man would leave every morning coming back only in the evening. But one night, the fisherman he forgot to wake before dawn, and when the young girl woke up she found a pink dolphin in her bed. The dolphin tried to escape but the father shot it. The fisherman never came back since it was the dolphin so the poor girl began to believe that he left her and it was bad cuz she was pregnant. Nine months later, she died of giving birth and the father found that the baby was a pink dolphin. He realized then that the fisherman was the dolphin he killed. From then on all girls were warned to not talk to guys found near the river bank.”

Background Information: The informant learned this story through his cousin who has Brazilian roots when the informant was a young boy. The informant said he was scared to talk to strangers after hearing this story and had a fear of dolphins for a period of time.

Context: During a car ride with the informant

Thoughts: It is interesting that females are being warned, which hints that in the Brazillian culture woman are looked out for and protected. The boto dolphins are actually becoming very extinct and there is a cry from many Brazilians to protect them.  These pink dolphins usually live in the Amazon River
and make up the largest population of river dolphins in existence. It is interesting that an animal that was a legend in Brazilian culture is now becoming extinct, and I wonder if these stories will continue.




Main Piece: “So my mom said when she was a kid, she never use to go to Kuldhara, a abandoned town in India because it was haunted. She told me a story that there use to be, Salim Singh, then minister of state, who fell in love with a pretty girl of the village chief. However, Salim was super irritating so he threatened to steal the villagers money if they didn’t get him married to her. The chief of the village felt like Salim wasn’t the right man for his daughter and saw his request as ludicrous along with those of the nearby 83 villagers. So, they decided to abandon their village of Kuldhara. My mom said people also say that the villagers cursed the village that no one could ever inhabit the land.”

Background Information: The informant learned about this through his mom who lived in India until she was ten years old. The informant describes this story as “freaking him out” when he was young. This story also taught the informant that it is never good to make demands and instead it is always better to negotiate.

Context: In a restaurant in San Diego

Thoughts: This is an interesting type of horror/ghost story, because it does not have traditional elements like a ghost or “evil spirit”. Instead, the village is deserted and the reason why has to do with marriage and asking a girl to get married. It seems like the elements of tradition especially when it comes to marriage are important in the Indian culture, since Salim did not ask the girl to be his wife in a proper way.




Main Piece: “My mom use to tell me this story every night. So, there once lived a spider named Anansi. And his wife was a pretty good cook. But Anansi loved to taste food that other people in his village made for themselves and for their families because he was kinda greedy.One day, he stopped by Rabbit’s house who was his best friend. He wanted the rabbit’s food but he knew if he would stay he would have to do jobs that the rabbit would do. So Anansi said he would spin a web and told the Rabbit that when he was done to tug on the web so Anansi would know. Anansi made 8 different webs cause he could smell all the food like a dog in the village from other animals and made the same deal with them as well. But all the animals finished making their food at the same time so they all tugged on Anansi’s legs so hard that they became thin and he wasn’t able to move so he was salty.  So, to this day, Anansi the Spider has eight very thin legs and he never got any food that day at all.

Background Information: The informant, who has an African American background learned this story through his mom who would tell it to him every night. The informant said that the main lesson he learned from this story was to always be humble and not ask for more than you can’t take because it will hurt you in the long run. The informant says that this is a lesson he takes with him for the rest of his life.

Context: In the informant’s house

Thoughts: The Anansi stories are typical in African culture and is trickster who tricks other characters into getting what he wants which is evident from the story the informant said. It is interesting that this story is still alive in America with people who don’t have direct African heritage (I learned this story in kindergarden).