USC Digital Folklore Archives / Myths
Myths

Genesis/Christian Story

Main Piece:

The following was recorded from Participant/interviewee. She is marked as MJ. I am marked as LJ.

MG: So on the first day….God created land. Second day, I think he…separated waters. Anyways! On everyday he did something different–the celesital stars, animals…On the sixth day, he created humans and the seventh he rested. I just know the story of that…and um..and the story that one day he noticed that Adam was alone…he was just surrounded by animals, here and there. So he just said “I’ll make him a companion.” While he was sleeping, he used a bone…or..he used something from Adam to create Eve. Hence we have Adam and Eve.

And then it was Eve who was tempted by a snake. Serpent I think–either, or. And so, God had told both Adam and Eve, “you can eat from any tree in this garden, from any! Just do not eat from this one.” And the pointed at–well I don’t know if he actually pointed. Hahaha. But he made obvious a certain tree. An apple that you were not supposed to eat from. And so one day, Eve was tempted by a snake to eat from the apple, I mean tree. Eve said “no, God told us not to.” And then he said, “you should. God just doesn’t want you to be as great as him. He doesn’t want you to know as much.” And so she was tempted, and so she ate from the apple. She then turned to Adam, who also ate from the apple. And together they were….they were punished, kindof’. And hence God said, woman will cry at birth, your eyes will be open. And then that’s when they started hiding, because they had been naked this whole time, but thye hadn’t noticed. And so eating from the Tree of Wisdom opened their eyes and nothing was ever the same.

LJ: How did you first learn about it?

MG: Um, from my first communion classes. That was the story they told us. Oh that’s not true. I had heard about it from my parents, I think. My parents were involved in a religious group. And that’s when I started reading the bible. But the story has always been re-iterated in the same manner.

 

Context:

Participant and I were walking at night on the way to an event. This conversation was recorded then.

Background:

The participant is a second year student at the University of Southern California. She was raised in Santa Ana, California in a Mexican/Catholic background.

Analysis:

This is the common Genesis/Adam and Eve story that most Americans know. It was discussed in the Myths section of the the class Forms of Folklore with Professor Tok Thompson. It does not have the formal speech found in the actual bible and in other versions (see below), however, it is very familiar. The apple and snake (which are not mentioned in the bible, but are here) are examples of how folklore shifts between the authored and non-authored spheres.

The participant internalized this information at a very young age, having grown up in a religious household and because her parents were actively involved in the Church. It would be interesting to compare her recount of the story with someone who was not raised Catholic or with someone who is non-religious (i.e Atheist).

general
Myths
Narrative

Yugong and the Two Mountains

Yugong was a ninety-year-old man who lived at the north of two high mountains, Mount Taixing and Mount Wangwu.Stretching over a wide expanse of land, the mountains blocked Yugong’s way making it inconvenient for him and his family to get around.

One day yugong gathered his family together and said,”Let’s do our best to level these two mountains. We shall open a road that leads to Yuzhou. What do you think?”

All but his wife agreed with him.”You don’t have the strength to cut even a small mound,” muttered his wife. “How on earth do you suppose you can level Mount Taixin and Mount Wanwu? Moreover, where will all the earth and rubble go?”

“Dump them into the Sea of Bohai!” said everyone.

So Yugong, his sons, and his grandsons started to break up rocks and remove the earth. They transported the earth and rubble to the Sea of Bohai.

Now Yugong’s neighbour was a widow who had an only child eight years old. Even the young boy offered his help eagerly.

Summer went by and winter came. It took Yugong and his crew a full year to travel back and forth once.

On the bank of the Yellow River dwelled an old man much respected for his wisdom. When he saw their back-breaking labour, he ridiculed Yugong saying,”Aren’t you foolish, my friend? You are very old now, and with whatever remains of your waning strength, you won’t be able to remove even a corner of the mountain.”

Yugong uttered a sigh and said,”A biased person like you will never understand. You can’t even compare with the widow’s little boy!””Even if I were dead, there will still be my children, my grandchildren, my great grandchildren, my great great grandchildren. They descendants will go on forever. But these mountains will not grow any taler. We shall level them one day!” he declared with confidence.

The wise old man was totally silenced.

When the guardian gods of the mountains saw how determined Yugong and his crew were, they were struck with fear and reported the incident to the Emperor of Heavens. Filled with admiration for Yugong, the Emperor of Heavens ordered two mighty gods to carry the mountains away.

This is an interesting myth, and it seems like it tells more than just a lesson about morals, but also about the importance of lineage.

Myths

the barking dog

anOriginal Script: “After dinner, I was laying on the sofa and watching TV with my husband as usual. Suddenly, our dog Meme became very manic; he was barking at us and running to the front door. Meme is three years old and has never been like that; he used to be very quiet. My friend even asked me if Meme was dumb because he never barks. So my husband and I both thought this was very strange.We walked to the front door and look through the peephole. However, it was dark outside and there is no one there but the flower pot was knocked over. My husband suggested if it was an earthquake, but we live on the 19th floor and we could definitely feel the shake if there was an earthquake. And it can’t be people who live here passed by because Meme would not bark at our neighbors. There are always some stories about the supernatural ability of animals. My husband and I were timid and did not walk out to see what happened.”


Thoughts about the piece: There are lots of stories of how animals can predict danger.  This is might because animals are always thought to be the friend of human beings. 

Myths

dream of tooth falling

Original Script: If you dream of your tooth falling out, that means someone you know will leave the world. And there is one day I had the dream of tooth falling out, several days later my grandmother passed away.

 

Background information about the piece: In Chinese folklore, there are lots of stories of dream interpretation. For example, if you have a dream of seeing a frog, you will make a fortune very soon.

 

Thoughts about the piece: The interpretation of the dream in Chinese folklore always relates to mysterious predictions. However, the interpretation of the dream in the Western world is more scientific. For instance, my friend in the US tells me that if you dream your tooth falling out that means you need to cut back on the candy and sweet food.

 

general
Myths
Narrative

God of Fortune

During chinese new year, the god of fortune, there’s a chinese belief that either the third or fourth day of new year, people will put long fireworks outside their home and companies do it too. They choose that day because of that day is…basically you’re inviting the god of fortune into your home. You do the fireworks to get his attention, so he’ll hear the fireworks and come into your home. This is something that is passed on generations and everyone knows about.

After thoughts: The 5th lunar day of Chinese New Year is the Welcome Day for the God of Wealth. Families worship the God and have ceremonies to invite the God of Wealth to enter the house. There are more than one Gods of Wealth in the Chinese society and characters are the historical figures mixing with religious gods, devils, spirits and immortals from Chinese mythology.

Folk Beliefs
Myths

Jinn

My informant talked about the world of jinn. In Arab culture, but mostly from Islam there is mention of the jinn. They are kind of like ghosts that live in their own world. They are not necessarily bad. My informant described the jinn as just a spiritual being that existed in another world next to ours.

 

What I found interesting about this being is the definition my friend gave on what a jinn is. It was not what I had heard before. I had heard jinns being synonymous with genies. It was also interesting to see that these superstitions can be found within the pages of the Quran. (For another version of this spiritual being see “jinn de” in the USC Folklore Archives)

general
Myths
Narrative

Pele and Hi’iaka

Informant: My friend was born and raised in Hawaii. He grew up in a culture rich in stories, myths, and legends, a few of which he shared with me.
Original Piece: “So Pele is the goddess of fire and lava, and Hi’iaka is the goddess of the sea. That’s the background.
So one day, Pele fell into one deep sleep, a sleep so deep her spirit jumped out of her body and started wandering around the island. And her spirit kept wandering and wandering, until it heard the drums of a hula dance in Kauai. And the spirit goes to Kauai and sees the hula, and her spirit takes over one of the female dancers. And she in love with the chief of Kauai, Lohiau. And they fall deeply in love, but Pele has to leave because she has to go back into her body. So after three days she goes back to her body, and she wake up, but she’s too weak to move. So she tells her sister Hi’iaka to voyage to go to Kauai and bring back Lohiau. So then Pele gives her forty days to get Lohiau and come back so that, I don’t know, they can have a wonderful life together. SO Hi’iaka ventures out and… there’s a whole series of events that happen. But then they make it to Lohiau on the island of Kauai on the fortieth day. And they’re like, ‘oh no we better hurry’ because Pele has a bit of a rage problem. So then they find the village where Lohiau was, and they’re asking around for him, but then… then a villager tells them that Lohiau died because his lover left them. So his body’s there but his spirit is gone. So the spirit is just wandering around…and they can’t find the spirit. So Hi’iaka brings the body back to Pele. And Pele sees the body and gets super pissed, and doesn’t even let them explain themselves, and goes full rage and consumes them with fire. And Hi’iaka survives because she’s a god, but Lohiau body gets burned. And Hi’iaka is super mad because she burned the body, so Hi’iaka brings the body to a sacred mountain. So she does a bunch of chants for the body. And then Lohiau’s spirit is still wandering around, but it takes over a guy on Māui, and he climbs up the mountain and finds Hi’iaka with Lohiau’s body, and Hi’iaka and Lohiau fall in love. They fall in love… and they come back down the mountain. Pele finds out about them falling in love, gets super pissed. Hi’iaka and Pele battle it out in the east, and all the fire and water make the big island of Hawaii. Hi’iaka wins and Pele is sent to the pits of Kilauea, the active volcano of Hawaii, and lives there. And Hi’iaka goes back to Lohiau.”
Context of Performance: We were having lunch when I asked him if he remembered any folktales from home.
Thoughts about the Piece: I love this piece, it was beautifully performed and well told. I love how it plays into the modern landscape of Hawaii.

Myths

Selkies

My informant is a 23 year old student who is heavily interested in mythology and myths of other cultures.

“So there are these creatures called “Selkies” and selkies are a mythological creature, so you know like unicorns and griffins and stuff. Anyways, a selkie is essentially an Irish mermaid, except that they are not like fish. Like in water they turn into seals. And then they can come up onto land and appear as beautiful women. And I’m not sure if I, I think I might be mixing up this with classical mermaids where they kind of invite people to their death. I don’t think that’s right. I think a selkie is, they kind of, um, they lure sailors in and then they kind of, they drag the sailor underwater but they live with the sailor and give them eternal happiness, instead of the more morbid mermaid-type thing where they eat sailors. So yeah, selkies are like a, a benevolent, beautiful seal-mermaid instead of the evil version of mermaids that are more like sirens, you know in Greek mythology.”

 

In his own words, the informant explains why this mythology is important to him: “My knowledge of Irish folklore is important because although I’m not mainly ethnically Irish, I am partly. Ireland also has one of the most unique european mythologies due to their relative isolation.”

He learned this myth through research of his own volition.

Analysis:

My informant uses this mythology to connect himself to the culture he partly grew up in. His grandmother is completely Irish and tried to impart certain traditions and my informant and his relatives. He uses this folklore to further connect back to his ethnicity and he is heavily intrigued by mythologies of all kinds.

 

 

Myths

Cóiste Bodhar

My informant is a 23 year old student who is heavily interested in mythology and myths of other cultures.

 

Okay so there’s one little tidbit that I know. So in Ireland, kind of related to the banshees, is the death coach. The Irish is like um, “Cóiste Bodhar.” But it’s kind of, it’s driven by a headless horseman and once it comes, like once it leaves the heavens or comes to earth or whatever, it’s not allowed to return empty. So it has to uh… someone has to get in the death coach. It’s like, it’s a symbol for the inevitability of death – like banshees. That’s why I say they’re related. They’re both symbols of imminent death. So that’s the death coach – Cóiste Bodhar.”

In his own words, the informant explains why this mythology is important to him: “My knowledge of Irish folklore is important because although I’m not mainly ethnically Irish, I am partly. Ireland also has one of the most unique european mythologies due to their relative isolation.”

He learned this myth through research of his own volition.

Analysis:

My informant uses this mythology to connect himself to the culture he partly grew up in. His grandmother is completely Irish and tried to impart certain traditions and my informant and his relatives. He uses this folklore to further connect back to his ethnicity and he is heavily intrigued by mythologies of all kinds.

 

Myths

Cú Chulainn

My informant is a 23 year old student who is heavily interested in mythology and myths of other cultures.

“Okay, so the big bad of Irish mythology is a guy called Cú Chulainn, and he is the Irish equivalent of Hercules. He actually shares a lot of similarities with Hercules too. Um, first off, he’s a demigod. I can’t remember the name of the Irish god that he was born to. But, kind of like Jesus, he’s considered the son of the god while at the same time kind of being an incarnation of him. Anyway, so, he’s a half-god. Um, he was born Setanta, I think is his … born-name. But, um, he became known as Cú Chulainn because he killed the dog – the guard-dog of a king called Chulainn. Cú means hound. So he became known as the hound of Chulainn because, like, by his young honor – ‘cause he was only like, toddler or something at the time – he’s like ‘I’ll replace your guard-dog for you until you get a new one.’ And so he became known as the hound of Chulainn because he spent like ten years of his life guarding that king… as like, a child, essentially. But um, kind of like Hercules also, he can go into a mad rage. Like Hercules is cursed by Hera and when he went into a mad rage he killed his wife and children. That’s a big aspect of the Herculean mythology. But um, Cú Chulainn goes into, like, a madness that’s known as “warp spasm” – and it’s such a weird fucking name for it. The, ‘cause it’s an Irish word and there’s not like a perfect translation in English. So, warp spasm, where he kind of – he Hulks out – he turns into literally a giant, muscly beast, and fucking kills everything around him, like a boss. Um, which he used that ability in like – his biggest thing was that he single-handedly fought off an entire invading army. Like um, I mean this is Irish mythology, so it’d be like, it’d be a couple hundred to a few hundred men. That’s still, like single-handedly fighting off an army. So, yeah, that’s Cú Chulainn. He’s the big… uh, hero. He’d be equivalent to, like, uh – Hercules is the biggest equivalency that you can see. Um also, another good example of an equivalent would be Roland for French mythology, or Lancelot for English mythology. He’s the big hero.”

 

In his own words, the informant explains why this mythology is important to him: “My knowledge of Irish folklore is important because although I’m not mainly ethnically Irish, I am partly. Ireland also has one of the most unique european mythologies due to their relative isolation.”

He learned this myth through research of his own volition.

Analysis:

My informant uses this mythology to connect himself to the culture he partly grew up in. His grandmother is completely Irish and tried to impart certain traditions and my informant and his relatives. He uses this folklore to further connect back to his ethnicity and he is heavily intrigued by mythologies of all kinds.

 

More on this myth can be found here.

 

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