Author Archives:

The River God

Main Piece: “My grandparents always use to tell me a story about Nyami a River God in Africa. Nyami was a God who usually was depicted as a snake like creature thing but no one actually knew his length.Legends has it that the water stains red when he swims past and that he can smell blood. A well known African chief saw him once but the river god has been in hiding since the white people arrived in the country. According to my grandparents he lived under a large rock close to the present day Kariba dam wall. No one would go near it because those who would were sucked down with their canoes in the whirlpools and never seen again. The lake that he lives in is said to be to separate him and his wife. However, my grandparents say that this has threatened the peace of the valley and this angers him.”

Background Information: The informant learned this story from his grandparents who are from Zimbabwe, Africa. The informant says this story affected the way his grandparents relatives lived in Zimbabwe, and this story has an effect on the way he sees nature. Because of this story, the informant says he has a deep appreciation for nature because everything has a spirit.

Context: In the informat’s house

Thoughts: This story displays the importance of nature and earth in the African culture, and this story seems to be a warning sign to those who try to cross the river. It is interesting to see how this story has affected those across generations like Justin’s grandparents and now him. It is also interesting that Nyami is feared rather than loved, and that people still respect him as a God even though he killed people who tried to find him which makes Nyami more of a powerful figure in African mythology and life.

Bloody Mary

Main Piece: “There is a scary story that I used to play when I was a young girl during sleepover parties with my friends called Bloody Mary. It’s basically when you go into a bathroom and you turn off all the lights. Then you say “Bloody Mary” three times and flush the toilet. Then you are suppose to see Queen Mary appear in the mirror and then she kills you and scratches out your eyes and your spirit is forever in the mirror and you can’t escape. I was actually never brave enough to play the game because I thought I was gonna die. Still to this day it freaks me out a little bit but it was a big part of sleepovers with girls.”

Background Information: The informant learned this story from her other friends who were girls when she was around age 7. The informant would play this game during every sleepover and the informant describes it almost like a social experience with her friends. The informant said the game had a deep impact when she was younger and still bothers her today even though she knows it is not true.

Context: In the informat’s dorm room

Thoughts: This story seems symbolic of womanhood. As Alan Dundes said/analyzed, this story can be seen almost like a transition of young girls to womanhood since there is blood involved (mesntration cycle). For young girls, this transition into womanhood is terrifying so this story may be symbolic of those emotions. The number three is also important as well, because three is a very common used number in American culture.



Opportunities is everything

Main Piece: 机不可失,时不再来 jī bù kě shī, shí bú zài lái – Opportunity knocks at the door only once

Background Information: The informant frequently heard this saying from his parents and grandparents when he lived in China. The informant also said that this proverb hung on his math teachers’ classroom door and he would notice it everytime he would walk in. To the informant, he has taken this proverb to heart and wants to work hard so he can repay his parents who have given him so much by sending him to University in the United States. The informant describes this proverb as a typical Chinese proverb that teaches kids to be the best of the best and seize any opportunity even if it may seem out of reach.

Context: In the streets of downtown Los Angeles

Thoughts: This proverb might play a role in the competitive learning nature in China. Chinese kids are taught at a very young age to seize a lot of opportunities, as the informant stated and that education is the way of doing this. But I wonder if this creates a negative atmosphere for young  children since there has been an increase of attention surrounding the academic environment in Asia/China and if it is healthy for kids. 



Dragon Boat

Main Piece: “Once upon a time, there was once a poet called Qu Yuan who lived in China. When the kingdom was about to be attacked, the king asked Qu for his advice. Qu gave some pretty honest, so the King didn’t like him and then banished him. When the poet returned, he found that the warring state had taken over his state. He drowned himself in the river on the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar year because he was so depressed.The people who lived in the area there tried to stop the fishes from devouring his body by throwing rice into the river. Then they started sailing their boats to search for Qu.”

Background Information: The informant learned this story from his parents who were born and raised in Hong Kong, China. The informant describes this story as being a part of many Chinese festival’s, in particular the boat festival. The informant says that looking for Qu is marked by the Dragon Boat Festival a great Chinese festival, like the Chinese New Year.

Context: In a coffee shop in Los Angeles

Thoughts: After doing some research on a dragon boat, it is a slender, long wooden boat shaped like a dragon; with a dragon’s head in front and tail at the back. Also, teams cross the river in a race with dragon boats. It is interesting that these boats still have cultural significance despite its original use of finding Qu’s body. Even people throw parcels of sticky rice into the river and bang drums in commemoration of the hero poet during the Dragon Boat Festival.


Main Piece: “So there was an old woman who would go to a riverside in Japan to wash clothes. One day she found a sweet peach and wanted to take one home for her husband so he would be happy. Then  the peach just magically appeared next to the woman and the woman took it to her house. When she tried to cut the peach in half, a human boy just came out out of nowhere. They called the boy Momotaro (which means the peach boy). Momotaro grew super fast and became huge like a man. He helped the old couple with house chores. But then there were some evil devils bothering the villagers and Momotaro decided to fight against the devils on the devils’ island to repay the old couple.  He told the old woman that if she made special dumplings for him he would beat the devils because he needed fuel. So, the woman made special dumplings that can give a human being something of like 100 times their power. When he got to the island he beat a huge devil. Momotaro then gave the treasure that the devils had secretly equally to all the villagers”

Background Information: The informant learned this story through her parents who grew up in Tokyo, Japan. The main message behind this story is to always give back and be humble (for example, the peach boy giving back to the villagers after his parents had given him dumplings). The informant says that this is a very common folk story in Japan which parents tell their children.

Context: Next to a grocery store in Los Angeles

Thoughts: Peaches are significant in Japanese culture as being “Kami”, or the Mother goddess which is a symbol of fertility and magic powers. Peaches are in many other different Japan mythology and are said to have magical powers. This story seems to have a symbolic importance with the peach as good luck and not just a morally important lesson.



Main Piece: “My mom use to tell me a story about a Japanese legend. Back in the day there lived an old woman in a village at the foot of Mount Takao in Japan. She would always cook up food like traditional Japanese food like rice and bamboo shoots for the Tengu, (which are magical looking creatures, to eat). One day, the old woman was super sick so her son became worried and went to get water from some hot spring far away. However, he was clumsy so he tripped just before reaching home and spilled all the water. He was pretty disappointed and thought his mom would get mad at him, but then he noticed water springing up from the ground so he gathered it for his mom. When the old woman bathed in this water, she became healthy again. Everyone in the village said it must have been the Tengu who caused water to spring up as a way of saying thank you to the woman for all the meals she cooked for them.”

Background Information: The informant describes Tengu as a type of legendary creature found in Japanese folk religion and are also considered a type of Shinto god (kami) or yōkai ( supernatural beings). The tengu were  thought to take the forms of bird like creatures. The informat learned this story through his grandparents who live in Japan, and he says that this is one of the most classic and well known stories that involve supernatural beings. He also said this story made him less scared of ghosts when he was a kid because in the story the Tengu help heal the woman.

Context: At a restuarant in downtown LA

Thoughts: This story contains magical elements, will the special healing water which reminds me a little bit of the water of immortality. This story also demonstrates the importance of good deeds, and that you should treat others the way you would want them to treat you (the woman making food for the Tengu and the Tengu healing the woman). This story also contains important aspects of Japanese culture, like food (rice and bamboo shoots). After talking to the informant, he said that his grandmother makes rice and bamboo shoots for him when he is not feeling well.

The Two Frogs

Main Piece: “Once upon a time in Japan there were two frogs, one that had a home in Osaka I think, which is on the sea coast while the other dwelt in a clear little stream in Kyoto. Since this was a large distance they had never seen each other, but the same idea popped into their heads that they should visit Osaka. So they went on the journey and the road to get to Osaka and it was very tiring. When they reached the top to their surprise they sae each other.  One frog said that it was a pity that they weren’t bigger so that they could see the town from the hill. But the other frog said to stand up on their hind legs and hold onto each other to see Osaka. This idea pleased the Osaka frog so much that he stood up immediately and the other frog did too. But at that moment they both looked into each other’s eye and forgot about the beauty of the city and only about each other”.

Background Information: The informant learned this story from his grandparents, and he comes from Japanese descent. The informant says that this is a very popular Japanese Folk story but with many variations, but this is the version his grandparents taught him. His grandparents said the morale of this story is to always stay in the moment and that it is about the journey and the people you meet along the way, not the destination.

Context: At a coffee shop in Los Angeles

Thoughts: This story is interesting because it contains information about Japan itself- Kyoto and Osaka. I am curious why frogs were chosen and not another animal, and if this means that frogs are culturally significant.

Rouhmi Cryus

Main Piece: “Do not be around people who cannot fan your flames.” Rouhmi

Background Information:  The informat learned this saying from his grandparents in Iran when he was having trouble making friends in school. The informat says that this is a typical persian saying that most grandparents or parents tell their children when they are adolescents. The main message behind this is to be around people that can calm you down and ease your nerves. The informat says he takes this into consideration every time he is trying to meet new people and new friends.

Context of Performance: In the informant’s house in San Diego

Thoughts: This proverb seems telling of the Persian culture, especially of who you should surround yourself with. This is different from most proverbs because it is saying to surround yourself with people who can calm your down vs other proverbs that say be around happy upbeat people. This also relates to the Persian value of being humble, and being arround people who can ground you instead of always praise you.



Raman Grewal

Main Piece: “He who cannot handle the thorns cannot have the rose”- Raman Grewal

Background information: For the informat, he learned this from his parents who learned it from their parents. His parents learned this saying from their parents when they immigrated from Iran into the United States. When the informats parents were struggling to make a living and felt overwhelmed, their parents back in Iran told them this proverb that is common in the Persian community, especially upon immigrating to the United States and other countries. The basic premise behind the proveb is that something so beautiful will always have rough edges, and that  you can not have a good thing if you can’t handle the negative aspects of what come with it. This can apply to people but also also relationships as well. For the informat, he now lives by this and realizes that hardships are always unevitable when you are trying to achieve something you want.

Context of Performance: Outside of a gas station in San Diego

Thoughts: I think that this proverb is interesting because it is important for people in situations of people immigrating to another country, like the informants family. This means that people from other cultures realize that the “American Dream” might be very hard to achieve and might not be easy. Especially with the debate of immigrants and if they should be let into America and other countries, this proverb can be applicable in many different cultures because it demonstrates the reality of achieveing an appealing dream. 



Rustam and Rakhsh

Main Piece:“There is a story that my dad always use to tell me about a man called Rostam. So, the King of Iran used to be a man called Rostam way back in ancient times. When Rostam (the king of Iran) was older, he knew he would be a great warrior and he wanted to be the best. So because of this, his dad Zal promised to find a horse that was good enough for him so he could fight properly. In particular, his dad wanted to find one that would be courageous and obedient whenever Rostam was fighting. Because Rostam was king, he could basically do whatever he wanted and choose from any of the horses.. He ended up picking one that was famous for its speed and spirit. This horse was almost impossible to catch  since almost three years warriors had attempted get it but had failed. Rostam was impressed: He caught the hourse named it Rakhsh, the Persian word for lightening. After that they became best friends and they went on the have many adventures together.”

Background information: For the informat, this story has significant cultural significance. Her father would tell her stories about Rostam ever since she was a young child. In the Persian culture, this is the most influential epic poem which is written by Ferdossi; this is also the longest. A lot of stories within the epic tales have lessons of family and themes of evil vs good,  but also working out things within yourself. This particular story about Rostam and his horse is an example of Rostam being humbled through his journey. To the informat and her family, being humble was something that was highly regarded, especially in the Perisian community. This is because those who flaunt their wealth are looked down upon. For the informat the idea of remembering where you came from and your roots is something she constantly thinks about.

Context of performance: At the informant’s house in San Diego 

Thoughts: The significance of this story seems to correlate with Persian culture. The story of Rostam and his horse signify that being humble is one of the most important values, and that it is important to think of others and not just yourself. The horse also seems to carry significance as a symbol of a companion and power which has a parallel to American society where dogs are thought to be companions for men.