USC Digital Folklore Archives / Myths
Folk speech
Humor
Myths
Narrative

Bhutan Folktale.

Informant:

Bandar is an American who was traveling in Bhutan when he heard this folktale. He is an abid traveler and student with a masters in International Relations.

 

Original script:

Two friends, monkey and hen live together. Monkey is always sent to work everyday hen stays at home and cooks for the monkey. The hen of course lays egg.

One day the monkey is working hard, right? In the field he works, while the hen gets to stay home, you know? So the monkey says, “ Now I’m going to cook for you, YOU go in the field and work”

Before, he watches the hen how hen does cooking and cleans everything up. What monkey sees is hen laying an egg over the pan. Monkey send hen to the field, she cleans everything up. She starts to cook and like the hen she sits over the oven and squeezes. No egg come out but of course other things come out, the poops come out, and it splashes the oil and burns off all his fur. So then we say its not always good to copy”

 

Background Information about the Piece by the informant: Bandar was traveling in Bhutan when the guide he was traveling with told him this folktale and recorded it for me.

 

Context of performance:

Told to my informant on a long car ride up in Bhutan.

 

Thoughts on this piece:

The story like most tales reflects belief system in the Bhutanese culture and provides a moral story on common sense. It is interesting that the narrator switches the sex of the Monkey and Hen. Does this mean that gender roles are not as important in Bhutan?

Myths
Narrative

The beehive

Informant:

Liz was born in a traditional English household but grew up traveling around Southern England and the middle east because her father was in the Royal Air force. Her mother was a Nurse and her father a serving officer. She had two siblings a brother and a sister. Her family was not religious but consider themselves members of the Church of England.

Original script: “In the 60’s everyone had their hair in beehive that entailed going to the hairdresser and having it backcombed to death, it would stay up for a week sometimes! There was a report that a roach had got inside and laid eggs in the woman’s beehive.”

Background Information about the Piece by the informant: In the 1960 the beehive hairstyle was very popular among women. It is in this setting that the story takes place.

Thoughts about the piece: Like stories of spiders laying eggs in the body, this piece illustrates the fear of being invaded by creatures that live with, around and in us without our knowledge. It may also serve as an example of how vanity may be hiding something ugly underneath.

Myths
Narrative

Tongan Creation Myth

Tongan

Informant:

Cate grew up in Sydney, Australia to her adopted family. She grew up in a Catholic household near Sydney as an only child. She later married her husband who is of Tongan decent, moved to Queensland, Hervey bay, where she runs a small bookstore and raises their two children.

Original script: “An ancient Tongan called Maui went to an old fisherman to ask for a fishing hook. The fishermen put up all the hooks for Maui to choose from. He told Maui to choose wisely. Maui chose the oldest hook and the fishermen said he’d chosen well. When Maui went fishing, he hooked what he thought was a big fish and kept reeling and reeling. Eventually, he could see something black rising out of the ocean on the end of his line… and it turned out to be New Zealand.”

Background Information about the Piece by the informant: Cate says: “When my husband was growing up in Tonga, his grandmother used to tell him stories like this all the time. There’s a very strong tradition of story telling in the islands. It’s a bit similar to Aboriginal dreamtime stories in that they’re not real but there’s still some semi-belief (if that makes sense.)”

Context of the Performance: This is a story told to children to explain the origin of New Zealand.

Thoughts about the piece: Passed down through oral tradition this story is similar to a lot of Origin stories and creation myths it is a story which contains a plot and at least one major character, in this case the fisherman. It is also typical of creation myths in that it takes place in some unspecified time. What is interesting about this story is the choice the main character has to pick the hook. There is meaning to the older hook being the “right choice” to create a new land.

Myths

Ghosts at your waist

My informant is an American from New York, whose family originally came from Poland 100 years ago. His grandfather was a baker and his grandmother was a peasant girl.

“It was back to the time when I was at Oxford University in England. The library there is about 800 years old. All these very serious professors, scientists and scholars they all studied there, but the library has its own ghosts. It’s interesting that everybody says that ghosts were like floating “ooo ooo ooo”, you know, appeared like that, but they only come up to your waist. These were short. One scientist figured it out was he said that as the world gets older, the ground shifts, and there is more stuff piled down, and the level of the ground is actually higher now than it was in 1200, so he’s walking like on his ground. He’s walking at his time period. Isn’t that interesting? It’s like a snapshot, a photograph from thousand years ago. It’s just a guess from the scientists. Well people who saw them said they can’t see their feet. You could believe it or not, I don’t know!”

I think there’s a very interesting relationship between science and these mysterious phenomenon. Since science started with bunch of people with strong curiosity to those strange phenomenon that hasn’t be explained at that time, and then after they have used series of experiments to prove their hypothesis right in their way, they become a sort of authority to many people nowadays. However, there are still so many strange things in the world now that could not be explained with a solidified answer that majority people could agree with. It’s like what been implied in Akira Kurosawa’s movie “Rashomon” (1950) that the same event could be phrased in totally different ways by the people who have actually involved in it, and there is no way to prove the fidelity of their words and thus there is no truth at all.

 

 

Myths
Old age

Vision before death

My informant is an American from New York, whose family originally came from Poland 100 years ago. His grandfather was a baker and his grandmother was a peasant girl.

“In my family, when my relatives are dying, they will always see someone who is dead before them, like they’re calling them. Like when my grandmother died, she saw her husband. (But how do you know about that? They’re dying right?) Yeah, but you know, like, when my grandma was dying, she would say ‘did you see grandpa? Grandpa was here.’ It’s within a few days, that week. And my aunt did that too, ‘I saw Raman’, which is her husband, who died 20 years before. I don’t know, who knows?”

There might be some other scientific explanations on that phenomenon, but I think it also make sense to me that when people are dying their brain uses this way of reasoning to release their fear toward death: there is still a good side about death that you’re gonna meet with your beloved one who has also been dead.

 

Myths

Maria Makiling

Background: Y.G.M. is a 49-year-old Filipino woman who works at Nye Partners in Women’s Health as the office manager. She was born and raised in Quezon City in the Philippines, and lived there until she was 25 years old. Y.G.M. self-identifies as Filipino, and as a result of her upbringing, Filipino culture is very engrained into her personal beliefs. She attended college at Mirian College, and received a bachelor’s degree in Communication Arts. Y.G.M. then immigrated to Chicago, Illinois with her family in 1997, and got her first job working at Citibank in River Forest, Illinois. She now lives with her husband in a suburb of Chicago.

 

Main piece:

Y.G.M.: So Maria Makiling is uh, one of our mythological um, how do you call – creatures – or no no sorry – she’s one of the fairies, uh, that we believe in.  Fairies they call us diwata, usually they are beautiful women. Maria Makiling, she is associated with one of the mountain ranges in the Philippines up north called Mount Makiling. So she is supposed to be like really beautiful lady and in the Philippine mythology she is the one who actually protects the mountains and volcanos and the forests in the Philippines. She is like the guardian of the mountains and um, responsible for protecting the, you know, the mountain. Sorry. The mountain resembles like the body with two breasts and the face of uh, a woman’s face.

 

Q: Where did you learn this from?

 

Y.G.M.: Uh, my Grandma Cion used to tell me this story when I was little. Also, my teacher from 3rd grade told me this story, and… and it was in a lot of children’s books. You know, like books of Filipino legends.

 

Performance Context: This story would typically be told to Filipino children to teach them more about Filipino folklore and legends.

 

My Thoughts: I think it is interesting that mythical creatures are such a vital part of the culture, even in making up the landscape of the Philippines. This shows a close relationship between the pride Filipinos find in their landscape and the pride in their culture and folklore.

Myths

Filipino Creation Myth

Background: Y.G.M. is a 49-year-old Filipino woman who works at Nye Partners in Women’s Health as the office manager. She was born and raised in Quezon City in the Philippines, and lived there until she was 25 years old. Y.G.M. self-identifies as Filipino, and as a result of her upbringing, Filipino culture is very engrained into her personal beliefs. She attended college at Mirian College, and received a bachelor’s degree in Communication Arts. Y.G.M. then immigrated to Chicago, Illinois with her family in 1997, and got her first job working at Citibank in River Forest, Illinois. She now lives with her husband in a suburb of Chicago.

 

Main piece: So in the Philippines mythology – the creation – there’s this one region up north that it says like creation started first – there were like three gods – Bathala, who was the caretaker and then Ulilang Kaluluwa and Galang Kaluluwa.  So those three gods did not know each other, then when Ulilang Kaluluwa met Bathala (the caretaker, which is one of the gods) they um kind of competed with each other and um he um like a how do you call that – was into a fight with Bathala to see who was the best and then finally he dies, so he was buried and the third god, which Bathala met – they were getting along with each other – he also died.  So when those two – when Bathala buried those two gods, then um he saw that there was like from the buried bodies like a tall tree grew with like a round nut and then from there he opened – Bathala opened that nut – which is like a coconut and then it looked like inside eyes, nose, ears so that’s when he kind of figured out that he got lonely that he has to create man and woman.  So that’s where creation started in that thing.  From the trunk of the coconut – that’s where he built the house – the house for men and women that he created. And the leaves of the coconut and the food for those people they got it from the coconut juice and the meat – that’s where he fed the people with those from the trees. So that’s where creation started.

 

Performance Context: This story would typically be told to Filipino children to teach them more about Filipino folklore, myths, and legends.

 

My Thoughts: I think that because the coconut is such a symbolic and important element in this creation myth, it shows how vital and central the coconut is to Filipino culture and the Filipino people. The central theme of the coconut may also reflect that the Filipino people have a tradition of making their livelihood through agricultural goods, and they find pride in this.

Folk Beliefs
Myths
Narrative

Ravin (Myth)

My informant is Marc. Marc is a 19-year-old student at USC but was born and raised in Mumbai, India. This year was the first time he lived in the United States but he still speaks very good English but with a noticeable accent.

 

Marc: “So there was this King of Lanka, which is now Sri Lanka, that was a ruler but the gods had given him gifts so he wasn’t mortal and then he got greedy and he tried to steal someone’s wife. After this happened people tried to kill him by chopping off his head but every time someone would try and decapitate him he would grow a new head. In his final form when he fights a god he had ten heads. I don’t know the whole story exactly but that’s where he came from so people use him to scare little kids now.

How do they do that like by dressing up?

Marc: “No it’s more like you have to eat all your food or Ravin is going to get you!”

Oh so they just use him as like a monster?

Marc: “Yeah exactly but there is a story behind it that the kids know and they know he is bad”

Why did the gods give him power if he was bad?

Marc: “I think he used to be pious and really good but turned and reached his downfall like Lucifer”

How old were you when you first heard of Ravin?

Marc: “I would say I was about seven”

Do people still say it there?

Marc: “Yeah throughout India it has to be super common and its mostly grandparents or parents saying it to kids not kids to kids”

Does this have any meaning to you?

Marc: “I mean I had heard it a few times when I was a kid but I never took it seriously it was more of a joke that would scare younger kids”

 

This myth of folklore is an ancient figure being used as a scary monster to persuade children into doing something. I feel like in the United States we do this a lot to persuade children but less with monsters and more with positive reinforcement. For example, “If you don’t eat your vegetables you won’t grow”, which isn’t true but children want to grow and believe it. It makes the world feel smaller knowing in India they use the same methods because it could just as easily be another country and another monster but the same general background.

Myths
Narrative

The fight of the goddesses and creation of Hawaii: Pele and Hi’iaka

The informant, T, is 19 years old. He was born and raised on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. His parents were also born and raised on Oahu. His grandparents on his mom’s side came from Japan and from his dad’s side were raised on Oahu. He is majoring as an Industrial and Systems Engineer. He considers himself American and is full Japanese.

T- “I did a hula performance a couple years ago and it was based on the story of Pele who is the goddess of volcanoes and her sister Hi’iaka, the goddess of the ocean, and they’re fighting because I think Hi’iaka had a boyfriend, and Pele took him away from her and Hi’iaka got pissed at her. So she chased her around and that is how the islands were formed. Pele would make an island because she is the island of volcanoes and her sister would go there and then Pele had to leave and she had to make a new island and yea”

How did you hear this story for the first time?

T-“My hula teacher or hula kumu”

Is that a common story that everyone knows or is it just a hula thing?

T-“Pretty much just hula people or people who are immensely into Hawaiian culture. Not a lot of people know that story”

Analysis- While this myth is known as an explanation to something as big as the creation of the islands, it is odd that only a small group of people really know the tale and actually tell it. This could be due to the fact that the traditional Hawaiian dance is meant to tell stories of the past as well as to be a way for the people to connect and give something to the Hawaiian gods. In the islands, one can see the constant change of the islands as they are formed by volcanoes and how the lava pours into the ocean to create steam and land. This constant and real fight of the land and the ocean is depicted as the two goddesses fighting.

Myths
Narrative

Maui and the creation of the islands

The informant, T, is 19 years old. He was born and raised on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. His parents were also born and raised on Oahu. His grandparents on his mom’s side came from Japan and from his dad’s side were raised on Oahu. He is majoring as an Industrial and Systems Engineer. He considers himself American and is full Japanese.

T- “There was this regular boy named Maui who went out with his teacher and they went out on a boat and his teacher told Maui to throw his fishing line into the water and hold it but not look at it. So he would pull at stuff but he would not look at it. He would pull at heavy things and he would fight it and fight it but he would not look, and then like after a while he gave in and looked back and realized he pulled out the islands”

Where did you hear this story?

T-“I’ve heard it many times. I think the first time was in fourth grade we had Hawaiian history class and I think this is one of the histories they went over”

Where do you think the story came from?

T-“There is a lot of fishing in Hawaii and that’s one of the biggest sources of food that they had before the westerners came.”

Is this story more common than other myths about the creation of the islands?

T- “Yea this one is more common. I think so”

Analysis- As mentioned by the informant, Hawaii consists of a lot of fishing, which provides food to the people. During the earlier times, when the stories were beginning to be told, fish would have been a main supply of food. The figure of the child Maui is originally known to be a trickster demigod figure in Hawaiian mythology. The form of the teacher in Hawaii is very common, especially as hula teachers. This is mirrored in the myth combined with the idea of fishing to explain a natural event, the creation of the islands.

For more information see:

Westervelt, W.D. (1910). Legends of Maui, A Demi-God of Polynesia. Retrieved from http://www.sacred-texts.com/pac/maui/maui04.htm

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