USC Digital Folklore Archives / Narrative
Folk Beliefs
Narrative
Signs

Time Myth

 

Informant:

Brandon grew up in Saccremento California to a practicing Jewish family. He is an only child and works as a financial advisor at a back in New York City.

Original script:My father always used to say that if you are in a group or someplace where people are talking and everyone goes quite at once and you look at your watch it will be 20 past the hour.”

Background Information about the Piece by the informant: The informant has a strained relationship with his parents. It’s interesting to me that his father uses this time related myth as a way of explaining lulls in conversation.

Context of the Performance: When there is a lull in the conversation.

Thoughts about the piece: I had never heard this before but it is a good way to break the awkwardness in social situations. Like a lot of tales, proverbs, and other folkloric things it helps people in social situations.

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?

Legends
Narrative

Le Chuza

Informant:

Jackie grew up in Sonsonate El Salvador to a traditional catholic close knit family. She has 7 brothers and sisters and is close with all of them. She believes in the stories and relates them to me as stories that have happened to people she knows. Her Grandfather, Miguel is the person who she has heard most of the stories from.

Original script: “ My grandfather told me of a story from his friend in Mexico. His friend’s grandparents lived in a rural area in Mexico in a village. That night, everybody went to bed and his grandmother had a 6 month old baby. They were all sleeping and at midnight they heard a very loud noise and heard the baby crying, but they couldn’t move, their bodies were very heavy. The next day, they woke up and the baby was dead with birds mouths all over his body (bites). His family looked for help with people who does Magic Blanca (white magic). They told him his grandfathers ex-girlfriend was jealous that he married someone else and she sent this owl witch to the house to take her baby away. That’s why we call it Lechuza, a woman suspected of being a witch turn into a Lechuza.

Background Information about the Piece by the informant: Jackie’s grandfather would tell them stories like this when usually when the conversations would turn to someone who had suffered a loss or a sickness. The whole family believes that these stories are 100% true and have happened to people they either know or come from the same village.

Context of the Performance: No real context.

Thoughts about the piece: This story has notes of stories such as La llorona and La Malinche, presenting both the mother (grandmother) and the Whore (the ex-girlfriend) paradigm. In most stories of this kind, the woman is the one who punishes and is punished. Although the grandfather in this story is affected, it is the grandmother who is the object of jealousy and in turn the person marked by the scorn of the ex-girlfriend.

We also see another character that makes appearances in different folklore throughout the world, the owl. The owl’s nocturnal nature makes it a mysterious character that is often seen as a bad omen or as a bringer of death or sickness in societies ranging from the Native American, Arab, and Romans. Here, the owl is a weapon used by the Witch to cause harm to the baby.

Folk Beliefs
Legends
Narrative
Tales /märchen

La Descarnada

-La Descarnada (El Salvador)

Original script: “my grandfathers friend had a chilling experience with a beautiful and sensual woman who appeared in the desolate roads asking for a ride. When he asked where she was headed she said a few kilometers. Then she got in the car and began to touch and kiss him then something dreadful happened; the skin from her body fell off! He was found in a total state of confusion and a lot of people said La Descarnada is a bad spirit of a bad witch.”

Background Information about the Piece by the informant: Her grandfather believes the woman to be the witch “La Descarnada”

Thoughts about the piece: A lot of the Myths and tales from this area of the world seem to center around women and the evil behind there seductive powers. Perhaps they serve as tales of caution not to mess around with lose women or maybe deep down they express a fear of women.

 

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.

Folk speech
general
Narrative

The Law of The Stick

Subject: Indian tale.

Author: Erin P. Moore

Book: Gender, Law and Resistance in India.

Original performance: “A clever Brahman received a buffalo from his patron. The buffalo was fat and looked as if it had a lot of milk. Taking the buffalo the Brahman walked the direction of his village. The road was deserted and dangerous. Halfway there the Brahman saw a man carrying a walking stick [lathi] in his hand. The man tried to make friends with the Brahman and walked with him for a while. After a bit he stopped and said “Brahman, Maharaj, your buffalo if very strong, give it to me. “Why give it to you?’ the Brahman said.” No reason” the man said, swinging his stick in the air. “Quickly, give me the buffalo. If you don’t give me the buffalo immediately, with this I’ll smash your skull to pieces. To the extent possible, I want to save myself from the sin of killing a Brahman. Otherwise, I’ll put an end to you.

The Brahman was startled. He too was strong. But upon looking at the stick in the mans hands he became worried. He thought for a moment then said happily “ brother, if you want to take this buffalo, give me something in exchange. If you take it without paying, wont this is a sin for you? I am a Brahman. If you give me something, it wont be a sin.” “What do I have to give you?” the man said. “If I had something id give you for sure.” “You have a stick,” the Brahman said, smiling to himself. “Give this to me. I am a Brahman- what does the stick mean to me? I am a Brahman and in this way you can save yourself from sin. I understand your dharma. Exchange the stick for the buffalo and you will be saved from sin.”

On hearing this, the man was very pleased. He thought, “this Brahman, what a fool he is! He is exchanging just a stick for this sturdy buffalo.” He immediately gave his stick to the Brahman. “Move aside, move aside! “The Brahman said loudly. “Move away from my buffalo. If you don’t I’ll break your skull.” He swung his stick in the air. “What is this Maharaj?” the man said nervously. “Why wont you give me the buffalo in exchange for me stick?” “You don’t know?” the Brahman scolded him.” The one who owns the stick owns the buffalo, now go away.”

Background Information about the Piece by the informant: this story is shared by villages in Rajasthani to display their vision of justice that “might makes right.”

Thoughts about the piece: This piece is interesting because it exhibits the view of justice held by the villagers of Rajistani, which is very different to those of the West. While the west believes in trial and equal sharing, the unfair might of the powerful is what drives justice in these villages.

Citation:

Moore, Erin P. Gender, Law, and Resistance in India. Tucson: U of Arizona, 1998.

Print.

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.

Legends
Narrative

Thunderbird

Informant:

Zack was born in Boston Massachusetts and grew up in a house in rural Norwell Massachusetts in a secular family. His father is a musician and his mother a homemaker. Zack is a photographer who works with musicians and has traveled extensively both in his childhood following his father on tour and in his current occupation.

Norwell, Massachusetts

Original Script: “I am from a rural town 45 minutes south of Boston. Idyllic, but not without its dark history. I grew up on a 17-acre woodland just north of a long bend in The North River. Our property had been desirable for some time…European Settlers decided that it would make an ideal place for a military outpost and shipyard, so, they settled it by force. I literally grew up on an Indian battleground. This history came with a plethora of odd occurrences that would happen on our mostly wooded acreage. One time in particular, which I didn’t find out until much later, is actually considered to be Native American folklore. On a particularly hot summer day I was on my knees playing with my Star Wars figurines in the dirt near a tree line. It was midday and the sun was hot and directly overhead. It was quiet and then everything went dark. I cocked my head up to see what had happened to the sun when I saw a massive eagle breach the line of pines that surrounded our yard. Years later I learned of Thunderbirds and their presence in Native American folklore, so I’d like to think that maybe I was allowed to catch a glimpse of one.”

Background Information about the Piece by the informant: The informant grew up in a very rural area where there is a long history of battles and death.

Thoughts about the piece: Like most stories about spirits the setting for this story is the major character and one that is familiar to many, the Indian burial ground. The battles fought in the area and the animistic beliefs of the Native American peoples are expressed here in the form of a Thunderbird.

 

Humor
Musical
Narrative
Tales /märchen

Prince story

Informant:

Zack was born in Boston Massachusetts and grew up in a house in rural Norwell Massachusetts in a secular family. His father is a musician and his mother a homemaker. Zack is a photographer who works with musicians and has traveled extensively both in his childhood following his father on tour and in his current occupation.

Original script: There is a fable amongst the rock and roll world and its about prince. Prince was known even amongst the inner of inner circles that he was a puzzling guy. Story goes, a new guy gets brought on the road to be Prince’s guitar tech. If you have been hired to be princes guitar tech it mean you’re probably a great guitarist, that said everyone’s first day at work is nerve-racking. Show begins everything is going well, the guitar tech has done all the work he should’ve done, at this point of the night he hands princes his various guitars between songs. Half way through a particularly boisterous and well-lit performance of a song, prince signals off stage towards the tech to approach. The tech sheepishly crosses the stage and leaves in to prince to hear what the problem is; prince says two words, star wars. The tech retreats into the wings of the stage in a panic. He begins consulting his new colleagues about what star wars might be, is it an affect on one of his guitars, is it some sort of pyro technic happening that is coming. The guy starts freaking out. Finally a grizzled roady halts the tech in his track and asks “what’s the problem” the tech says “prince said he wants star wars, I don’t know what he means!” the roady laughs and says “oh man its ok, he just wants star wars playing on his tour bus when he gets off stage”.

Background Information about the Piece by the informant: This story is shared by roadies and other members of the crew that work for musicians. The informants work as a rock photographer places him in the situation where he hears stories like this one about the sometimes outrageous demands of rock stars.

Context of the Performance: This story is told in the close-knit circle of crew that work around and for performers.

Thoughts about the piece: The occupational folklore shared here is not focused on the artist but on the nerves experienced by the new member of the team who is a fish out of water. Prince the artist could be replaced with any over the top performer.

 

Childhood
Tales /märchen

Big Cookie Hero

 

My informant is an American from Minnesota, who has ancestors from Czech republic and Sweden, back to 1880.

“My grandmother used to tell me a story of a big cookie that could roll around and have adventure.  Sometimes it was oatmeal cookie sometimes it was a chocolate chip cookie, but they would roll around have adventures, save kids…She may have the story come down from her ancestors. Sweets are big product in Sweden. She may possibly hear this from her mother. It was like a bed time story. The big cookie was the hero. He would roll down the streets and rescue a lot of stupid kids. I think the cookie did talk, say things like ‘you stupid kid, how did you stuck in the mud? how did you lock yourself in the room?'”

“My grandma, who lives in St. Paul now, she still always has a mass amount of cookies and pastry that she baked before we came. So much culture pass down through food. ”

As an animation filmmaker and teacher, Christine loves this kind of tales that she heard from her family, which has also inspired her a lot in her creation.

I think this kind of folklore tales is really playing a positive role in people’s childhood, which could make the children grow up happily and imaginatively.

 

[geolocation]