Author Archive
Legends
Narrative
Tales /märchen

Russian Little Red Riding Hood

Main Piece

The point of this is if you’re a stranger in the forest, don’t just walk into someone’s house. The story is a guy is walking and traveling. He walked into this road in the middle of the forest because he is lost in the woods. At a certain point, he sees this house and it’s getting dark, so he walks into the house. The guy inside is actually very friendly. They had good conversation and he told him interesting things that happens in the forest. Here comes the night. The guy has been fed and that is good. They are happy. Then they both hear the sound of wolves howling. The host changes his face completely. The guest is wondering what happened. The host said, “My friends are hungry, we need to feed them.” He walks outside. The guest waits a little. Then he walks back in with a gun pointing at this guy and is like, “Alright, let’s go feed my friends.”

 

Context

This is a story my friend heard while he was on a camping trip in Russia. My friend specifically told me that this story is meant to teach people not to always trust strangers and to know where you are going. Also, going alone to places you don’t know is a dangerous thing to do.

 

Notes

Imagining someone telling this story to you in a Russian accent definitely makes it more fun to read – my friend who told me the story has a Russian accent. I personally like this play on version of Little Red Riding Hood the best because it is a little twisted and less expected.

Here is a link to many different versions of Little Red Riding Hood: https://www.pitt.edu/~dash/type0333.html

general
Legends

La Llorona’s Curse

Main Piece

H: “This guy in our town would always tell the story of La Llorana and he died in his house in a weird way. It looked like someone choked him.

My cousin invited us to play Mario kart. So we played and then were like let’s go outside and talk to my uncle. His name was Miguel. We asked him questions about his stutter. We were kids, so some ppl were born that way, but some other people they become that way with a stutter. When I was young he used to speak fluidly. So we asked him why he started talking that way.

 

This woman who lost their children, it dates back all the way to when the Spanish ppl came to the first time to America and they invaded the Mayas. There was this girl who was trying to be a Maya and her husband put her in a hole with her children so they could escape the killing of that the Spanish people were doing. But it started to rain, and she was able to survive but her children died.

 

You can see her ghost and hear her voice asking for her children. The way she said, “Ayy chicos.” It’s just that in there, that there are a lot of people who are able to replicate her voice and they sound like her. I was with my mom and my sister and you started to hear someone in the house, I was looking at the window and was trying to see what it is. And I was scared. She looked at me weird and was like, “Oh, it’s probably someone.” It sounded so real, it was a woman’s voice, when I heard it – my skin got like chicken skin. People use it so people would get scared in communities, so people would get scared and get inside their houses. So people do it so they can steal your animals like cows and pigs. So you get scared and you lock yourself in your house so those people can get your things.

 

Anyways, back to the original story I was telling you. He used to have a parcel, a small land where he farmed corn. The thing is, is that the places where I lived in Mexico, you have the place where you live and the place you farm the corn is far away. So his parcel was a mile away from where he lives. So he had to walk there. people in my town used to work very late, they wouldn’t get to their house until 8pm. So he used to tell us one day he was working there in his parcel, on his way home he realized he forgot his bag with tools, on his way back to the parcel to his farm. First, he started feeling someone was following him. The weather started to get really windy, and then, how do you say it, when you have a lot of mist?”

 

Me: “Foggy?”

 

H: “Yeah it started to get a little foggy. Being a kid he was 12 he started realizing something was moving in between the trees and he actually felt someone threw a rock at him. He saw this girl in a white dress. That’s how a lot of people describe La Llorana – this woman in a wedding dress. When he saw her he started to run, he tripped and when he tried to get up, La Llorana touched him on the lips. So that’s why he stutters, because he was so scared.”

 

Context

The informant told me this story when I asked him to tell me some ghost stories from his childhood because he grew up in Guanajuato, Mexico. He told me about the main experiences he’s had with La Llorana. The context of how my friend heard the story is included in the main piece.

 

Notes

 

It almost feels like these stories came from a documentary or movie. It follows so many creative tropes like the typical old man in the village who has a quirk because he was touched or saw a ghost. Plus, how people will pretend to be ghosts to scare people into their homes so they can steal their livestock. I have heard the story of La Llorana before, but not so many stories that came from one person to where, while my friend was telling me the stories, I started to really believe all of it was true. I don’t actually know if it is true or not, but I was definitely convinced while he was telling them to me.

Proverbs

Leaves of 3, Good TP

Context

My 2 friends and I got together to exchange funny stories with each other. L is the storyteller in this, C is the second friend, and I am ‘Me.” My friend heard this modified version of a proverb from her dad, who read it in a newspaper article.

 

Main Piece

 

L: So you know how there’s like, “Leaves of 3, let it be”?

 

Me: Yeah

 

L: Umm, I think my dad heard it in a newspaper or something. He told me and I can’t stop thinking about it. Where it’s like – it was a newspaper competition to purposely give bad advice, and one of the winners was Leaves of 3, good TP. And so now every time I think of poison ivy, I think of leaves of 3, I don’t finish it with the normal proverb ending, I think, “Leaves of 3, good TP!” and then it’s all messed up in my head.

 

C: Is that because you have to like, itch your…?

 

L: Yeah, like good toilet paper and it’s bad advice. And another one was strangers have the best candy.

 

Notes

Original proverb: “Leaves of 3, let it be; berries white, take flight.”

The original proverb is a rhythm to teach people how to identify poison ivy and stay away from it, as contact with the plant causes severe itching and rashes. The play on words of this proverb in the text above is joking that leaves of three (poison ivy) makes good toilet paper! Well, the point of the newspaper article was to give bad advice. So you would not want to use poison ivy as toilet paper or you’ll have a serious rash in an uncomfortable location…

 

I thought this was a clever play on this proverb. I’ve heard of the original 3 leaves proverb and keep it in mind when I go hiking. Here is a link to another version of this proverb: http://www.stillmannc.org/Poison%20Ivy.pdf

Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Saint Nicholas Day

Main Piece

“Saint Nicholas is like Santa Claus, but in Germany he’s still Santa. His day is December 6thand umm, the night before, you leave your boots out for Saint Nicholas. I don’t remember what the story was, but I remember the traditions that we would do.

So, you leave your biggest pair of boots out, and like, you know – however big your boot is how much you’re going to get. So, you want to leave really big boots out. And he leaves oranges, is like the big thing he leaves. And candies and chocolates and small toys in your boots. So, you leave them out the night before and you get your boots. But I remember oranges being the big thing.”

 

Context

The informant told me this story while we were exchanging fun things we used to do when we were little. We got on the topic of Christmas and told each other traditions we participated in when we were younger. After some research, the oranges are supposed to represent the gold balls that St. Nicholas would throw at children. St. Nicholas day is December 5th and children put out their shoes/boots that night so they can collect them the morning of December 6th.

 

Background Information

The informant was born in Charlottesville, Virginia. She comes from a family where both of her parents are lawyers in the military (jags). She has lived in Germany, Kansas, Virginia, and goes back to Oregon every summer to her family’s main home. While living in Germany, she spent Christmas there and her family participated in the Christmas tradition there.

I have heard of Christmas traditions such as “Elf on the Shelf” and leaving out your stockings to be filled with gifts and candies on Christmas Eve. My Christmas traditions never included these, but we would bake and leave cookies out for Santa on Christmas Eve. I have never heard of leaving out boots so early before Christmas, and wonder why Santa giving oranges was such a big deal.

Customs
Legends

Vietnamese Wedding Traditions

Main Piece

“A long time ago, there were twin men. Both of their parents were dead. So, the twins stayed together in the same house. One of the brothers got married to a woman. Usually the twin who got married first came home from work first. But one day, for some reason, the younger twin came home first. So, the wife thought that he was the younger twin. She greeted him as his brother, made dinner for him, and acted flirtatious with him. The younger twin told her who he really was and she was very embarrassed. The younger twin thought to himself, “I might be a bother to my brother’s family because the wife could not recognize who is who!” So, he left the house and walked and walked, not sure where to go, and died by a river bank. When he died, he became the limestone by the bank. The older brother came home and noticed the other brother left and didn’t know why. He left the house to search for his brother. He followed his brother’s trail to the river bank but didn’t see his brother, so he lied down by the limestone and died too. Then he became the betel palm tree. The wife noticed that her husband never came home and his brother was gone all evening. So, she went to go look for them and followed their trails to the river. But she couldn’t find them and in despair sat down by the bank and died too, becoming the vine and leaves that climbed up the betel tree of her husband, like a wife hugging her husband. This became the symbol of family in Vietnam because they were always very close.”

 

Context

My mom escaped from Vietnam during the war when she was 12 years old. Back in Vietnam, her grandma told her this story as a bedtime store. It is meant to show how close Vietnamese families are and that even after death, they will always be together. My mom told me this story when I was little and I would ask her to repeat it a lot. I got her to repeat it for me again while we were on the phone so I could hear her tell it.

 

Notes

I think it’s interesting that many of the Vietnamese legends explain traditions through things that happen in nature. This legend also acts in a proverb in a way that tells families nature intended for them to always stay together and close. The younger brother leaving the house and dying because he did not want to interfere with his brother’s family also shows the extreme sacrifices nature intended for families to take for each other.

Legends

Why Only Female Mosquitos Drink Blood

Main Piece

“A long time ago, there was a man and a woman who were married to each other. The wife became sick and was about to die. So, the husband called the witch doctor who diagnosed her and said that if the man gives his wife 3 drops of his blood to swallow, then her disease will be cured. So he gives her 3 drops of his blood and she was cured and wouldn’t die. They lived with each other for quite a while. But one day, the man wasn’t home, the wife got kidnapped by a rich merchant. At first the woman was terrified, but then she got used to a life of luxury and refused to go back to her husband. The man was so outraged and asked for his blood back for her betrayal. So the woman agreed said, “Ok, I’ll give you back your 3 drops of blood!” She gave back the blood and died. But when she died, she became a mosquito. So to this day, she searches, as a mosquito, trying to get her 3 drops of blood back so she can become human again.”

 

Context

My mom escaped from Vietnam during the war when she was 12. In Vietnam, her grandma would tell her bedtime stories and this was one of them. When I was little, my mom would tell me this story at the dinner table after we ate to entertain me.

 

Notes

I enjoy hearing legends like this that explain the odd phenomenon of nature that science cannot explain. I think they are a lot of fun to hear and imagine. Science can explain perhaps why it happens, but nobody can really say why it is that way. I also think it’s interesting that the rule of 3’s (common in the U.S.) is in a Vietnamese legend too.

Legends
Tales /märchen

Why the Ocean is Salty

Main Piece

Mom: There were 2 brothers, a rich brother and a poor brother. The poor brother helped other people, so one day, he met an old man (a genie) who begged from the poor brother. He helped the old man who was actually a genie, so the genie gave the brother a grinder. The grinder could grind things that you wish: meat, food, and things like that. The poor brother became rich, grinding things for people and selling it.

 

So, the old rich bother went to visit him and asked him, “Oh wow! How did you become so rich?”

 

The poor brother said, “I have this grinder that grinds things up.”

 

The rich brother was fascinated and asked him how to work it. Then the rich brother stole the grinder from his brother so he could become richer. Then one day, he didn’t have any grinded up salt. So he started to grind the salt. But, he never asked his poor brother how to tell the grinder to stop. So the grinder kept grinding and grinding. The rich brother couldn’t figure it out so he threw the grinder in the in the ocean to get rid of it, so today it keeps grinding and grinding salt in the ocean making sea salt!”

 

Context

My mom escaped from Vietnam during the war when she was 12. While in Vietnam, she had to take a French class and they read a lot of stories in order to learn the language. This is one of the stories she read in her French book. She would tell this story to me when I was little to entertain me. She’d usually do it either after dinner or when I was getting bored in the car. I called her to tell me this story so I could get a fresh retelling of it.

 

Notes

I think it’s interesting that this story is similar to the other stories my mom told me even though it came from a French book. The other stories my mom told me explained things that occurred in nature that could not be explained by the science of its time. These stories are fun ways for kids to put reason to simple things in the world that are different – like fresh water and salt water.

Legends
Tales /märchen

Why Lotuses are Pink and White

Main Piece

There were 2 sisters whose parents died, they were orphans. So one day, this generous Vietnamese opera singer finds them and brings them home to raise them like his children. He taught them how to sing and dance. They grew up and became very beautiful girls who sang and dance. The village loved them for their amazing talents! But…in the next village, there was a rich man who was very cruel. One day, the father went on a business trip and asked the girls if they wanted anything from his trip.

 

The older girl said, “I want white ballet slippers with golden thread and embroidery.”

 

The younger girl said, “I want a pink slipper with golden embroidery.”

 

While their father was away, the rich old man tried to kidnap the sisters. They fought and fought but they both got kidnapped. But the older sister didn’t want to be raped by the man, so she jumped in the pond and she died. The younger sister saw her jump and jumper after her older sister into the pond and they both died in the lake. The father came back and couldn’t find the girls so he went to the lake and cried. At the lake, he saw round, beautiful green leaves as big as the hat his daughters used to wear. Then there was one with white petals and one with pink petals but both with golden pistils, and those were the girls.”

 

Context

My grandma would tell me stories like this when I was little. It would usually be while we were baking, eating, or when she was playing with me. My grandma moved to the U.S. from Vietnam during the war so she knows a lot of stories that her parents and grandparents used to tell her.

 

Notes

There are a lot of different aspects of this story related to Vietnamese culture. One being comparing girls to flowers, loving and caring for your family like how the man took the two girls under his wing, and the bond of family going so deep that even the two sisters die together. It also explains why some lotuses have pink flowers and some have white flowers.

general
Legends
Tales /märchen

Why Ducks Sleep on One Leg

Context

While at my grandma’s house, she was serving me lunch. She used to live in Vietnam and came to the U.S. during the Vietnam War. I asked her to tell me a story she used to tell me when I was little and spend the day at her house. For context of the story, the Jade emperor is the king of heaven.

 

Main Piece

Grandma: “Oh I remember. Do you know why the duck sleeps on one leg?”

 

Me: “No, why?”

 

Grandma: A long time ago, there were 3 ducks that each only have 1 leg. So, the other animals ridiculed them. They were embarrassed and felt that they were short changed.

 

They were talking to each other saying, “It’s really unfair that the jade emperor only gave us one leg!”

 

So, they asked the rooster and the goose for help. Together, they all rode to the Jade emperor.

 

When they got to his palace the Jade Emperor was shocked with himself, “I forgot to give you two legs when I made you,” and decided to give them each an extra golden leg as compensation.

 

But the emperor warned them that from then on, they need to guard their appendages carefully. So now when they sleep, ducks sleep on one leg to protect their golden leg.”

 

Notes

This legend is a fun story to explain something about nature people in the past may have questioned. It also incorporates Vietnamese religion and culture of the Jade emperor who created all animals.

Customs
Festival
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Rubber Ducky River Race

Main Piece

“So, every July 4thin Florence Oregon, they have the annual Rubber duck race. You buy a rubber duck. And usually there are hundreds of people that do this, so it’s like hundreds of rubber ducks. They load them into these trucks. So, you have like, your number and your duck. They put them into this dump truck and they dump them all into the Siuslaw River. And they have this little course. Whosever duck crosses the finish line first gets the prize. I don’t know what the prize is because I’ve never won. But yeah, it’s this nice little tradition we have and it’s a nice, little town too so everyone plays.”

 

Context

The informant told me this story as a fun memory from the informant’s childhood. It is a fun tradition that is nostalgic to the informant because it is a time of the year where everyone in the town gets together.

This is a fun Fourth of July tradition the informant’s town held every year to celebrate the independence of the United States. She was born in Charlottesville, Virginia. She lived in Germany, Kansas, Virginia – but went back to Oregon to live at her family’s main house in Oregon. She only speaks English, but can speak parts of languages like Germany. Both parents are lawyers in the military (jags).

 

Notes

I have never heard of a town having such a large rubber duck race. My hometown has a fair every year and one of the games is a rubber duck race. But dumping an entire truckload of rubber ducks sounds like a fun and extra way to bring everyone in a small town together. It also creates a topic of discussion for everyone in that town to connect on.

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