USC Digital Folklore Archives / Narrative

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.



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


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.


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).


California Poppy

I was probably like six years old, and out in front of our house in Campbell, at the base of the light post by the sidewalk, there was a clump of poppies. I saw it, and I grabbed one to pull it up, and my friend Joe Bloom who was a little older than me, probably 8, said “you can’t pick those, it’s against the law and you’ll go to jail”. Clearly that moment stuck with me. From that moment with forward, and I probably shared it with everyone that I came into contact with. Fast forward to when my daughter is the same age, she heard the same thing from her friends.

This is something I definitely heard too when I was younger, from my friends while I was in elementary school. In reality however, the law is that you aren’t allowed to pick any flowers on state property, so it’s interesting that this legend has persisted.


Bloody Mary

I was probably in fifth grade, and my friends were describing how you would go into the bathroom, and turning off the lights – and this was on the playground at my elementary school – that you’d close your eyes, turn around three times and say “Blood Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary,” and when you open your eyes you’re supposed to see Blood Mary in the mirror. And the lore was someone’s cousin did it, and Bloody Mary came out of the mirror and killed him. My brother had nightmares for years around that stuff, because he heard the same stuff.

I heard this growing up as well, around third grade from a friend. I remember it very distinctly as well, because it was so scary at the time. I never wanted to be in a bathroom with the lights off, fearing Bloody Mary would appear even if I didn’t do the ritual.


Mirror Shoes

When I was at Campbell Junior High in the 70s, there was this teacher that had been infamous for wearing mirrors on shoes. His name was Mr. B. He was rumored to use them to look up girl’s skirts and got in trouble with the school district the previous year. When I became a seventh grader, I heard that rumor. I was four years ahead of my brother, and I had never mentioned it to him. Fast forward four years, one of the first things my brother came home and said was that Mr. B had gotten in trouble for wearing mirrors on his shoes last year—the same story I heard when I was in school. I remember laughing so much because I had heard the same thing years ago.

This is a really interesting legend, as it was not only the content that persisted, but the time frame of the event happening “last year” that persisted as well. The informant likes this because it’s a bit of folklore he shares with many people who went to the same school as him.

Stereotypes/Blason Populaire
Tales /märchen

The Cook and the Cowhands

There was a joke that my grandpa used to tell. It’s a little off color but not so bad. But he told the story, and then my mom told the story, and I haven’t really told it but I can tell it to you so you can hear it. It’s a little bit racist but you can take the race out of it and it works just the same. This is a story that my grandfather’s older brother and father told him. So there was a ranch in the West somewhere, probably Colorado or California. There were cowhands, and they were working all day on the ranch, and they had a cook named Wong. They thought they would play some practical jokes on him. When Wong was sleeping, the cowhands they would tie his shoes together with lots of knots. The next day they waited for a reactions, but nothing happened—he just fixed his shoes and didn’t mention it. The next day they put thumbtacks on his seat. They waited to see his reaction, and when he sat down he kind of grimaced, but just swept them away and didn’t really care. The next day they either short-sheeted his bed or soaked his sheets with water—I don’t really remember. They waited for a reaction, and no reaction. So they finally decided to talk to him. “So Wong, you’ve been a really good sport, tying your shoes in knots and putting thumbtacks on your seat, and messing with your sheets, so we won’t do that to you anymore.” In a different voice; “You no more put knots in my shoes?” “No, no more knots in your shoes.” “You no more put tackies on my seat?” “No, no more tacks on your seat.” “You no more soak my sheets in water?” “No, we won’t soak your sheets in water anymore.” “Good, well I no more pee pee in your soup.”

This story is important to the informant because of its history, and it having been passed down for multiple generations. It reminds him of how different the world used to be regarding the treatment of minorities, and their portrayal.

I find it interesting that the racist aspect of this narrative isn’t actually essential to the story– it could be told just about the same, without making stereotypical voices or mentioning the races of the characters.


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.



He’s just a furry guy that walks around the Santa Cruz Mountains. All I can picture is Chewbacca in my mind because they kind of resemble each other a bit. It’s something I remember from my childhood as being a big story, and they even have a museum in the Santa Cruz mountains. We used to go backpacking all the time when I was a kid, and it used to be a big thing, back in the 70s. It seemed like people were actively searching for him.

The legend of bigfoot is very popular and widespread, but I hadn’t heard the variation that he lives in the Santa Cruz mountains. I usually only heard that he lived in the Pacific Northwest, like Oregon or Washington.


Rituals, festivals, holidays


The following is from an interview between me and my friend, Brie, while I walked with her to the grocery store. She told me about a tradition in her family of telling stories called “Whoppers”, which were kind of like campfire stories. Her grandfather, or “papa”, was the one to mainly uphold this tradition within the family.

Brie: “In my family we always told ‘Whoppers’, so we’d always tell, like, stories around the campfire.”

Me: “‘Whoppers’, it was called?”

Brie: “Whoppers. And basically they’re just not true stories. And… he was really good at that, my papa…”

Me: “Can you give me an example of a Whopper?”

Brie: “The Green Monster…”

Me: “The what?”

Brie: “He would always say, like, The Green— or, what was it…? The Shadow… my papa would do this voice, like (raspy), ‘The Shadow,’ and it was like… I’m trying to remember. It was just terrifying. But… hold on, let me think real quick…”

Me: “How do you spell ‘Whopper’?”

Brie: “‘Whopper’? Um– I think, like a– you know, like a ‘Double Whopper’.”

Me: “Oh ok, like Burger King?”

Brie: (Laughs very hard) “Yep. No, it was just a thing in my family, telling Whoppers. I never was good at it, but my cousins would come up with really good Whoppers.”

Me: “Do you know where–uh– where your grandfather got, like, the term ‘Whopper’ from? Did he just make that up or what was it?”

Brie: “So he grew up in, like, South Boston… one of eight kids, and… you know, Scotch family, Catholic, um… he… I don’t– I think it was his dad that began the Whoppers.”

Me: “What made a good Whopper?”

Brie: “A good Whopper was, like, got you on the edge of your seat, like… you know, it was kinda scary, kinda suspenseful, but also, like, funny and far-fetched. So a little of, like, all of that, kinda.”

It was really cool to see that, basically, just by assigning a name to the more general idea of campfire stories, Brie’s family created a kind of tradition that was all their own.


La Carreta Nagua

The following is taken from an interview between me and my friend, Javier, who is from Nicaragua. We were sitting in the lobby of the Caruso Catholic Center. He decided to tell me about a certain piece of Nicaraguan legend. By the way he described it, I’m pretty sure this is a legend, though he referred to it as a tale.

Javier: “Um, this tale that I know of, it’s called ‘La Carreta Nagua’, which is, um– which translates to ‘The Carriage of Nagua’. Um, basically it’s like this, um… carriage that is, um… being pulled by two horses, but the two horses are just, like, their bones. So, they’re not, like, actual horses. And then, on top of it, um.. it’s, uh… the figure of Death carrying a… (gesturing chopping motion)… carrying… the axe?”

Me: “Scythe?”

Javier: “The scythe…?”

(We both laugh for a bit)

Javier: “Carrying it… yeah. And, basically, um, it just comes at night, and… it is– it is, like… it’s said that, um, it shows up… whenever someone is close, like, to death, or just to, like… um, bring people to– to death.”

Me: “So, where did you first hear this from?”

Javier: “Um, definitely just, like, tales from my mom and my dad that would just… they would tell me some legends or like, um… or, like, stories that are, like, yeah– that are from… home, Nicaragua. Yeah.”

Me: “And do you know if this was… just confined to Nicaragua, or if it spread out to other regions?”

Javier: “Uh, I’m not really sure. Um, I do think there is, like, very… specific from Nicaraguan, um… definitely, uh… yeah. Definitely something…yeah, I’ve never heard it from, like, other cultures or so. So yeah, just from home.”

I actually ended up hearing this same legend from multiple people after I had already collected it from Javier, so it reminded me of how prevalent the idea of death is in Hispanic cultures, especially with all there is done with the Day of the Dead ceremony.


La Tetona

The following is taken from an interview between me and my friend, Javier, who is from Nicaragua. We were sitting in the lobby of the Caruso Catholic Center. He decided to tell me about a certain piece of Nicaraguan legend.

Javier: “Um, this one that I know is called ‘La Tetona’, which basically means…(laughs)…a lady who has big boobs. Um, this one basically, um… is like– it’s just like a very old tale which just, um… just explains how, like, when the conquerors came to Nicaragua or something there was this… this was this, um, lady who was just, like, living by herself or something, and then, um… she would just, um, want to, like, get money from like the rich conquerors or so, and so she– she would be like very, um… very provocative with the rich, um, like, conquerors and stuff and then she… yeah she– she had like… big…boobs, uh, so, (laughs) she, uh, but that was the way how she would, like, um… like, uh, bring, like, uh– the conquerors attention and then she would…yeah, steal their money.”

Me: “Who first told you about this one?”

Javier: “Uh, yeah, this was not my parents, definitely. This was, uh, a friend from, like, school, like we were in Spanish class or something and then we were just discussing some tales and then he came up with this one.”

I thought it was really interesting how the idea of the femme fatale in this lady living by herself who uses her feminine wiles to her benefit made its way into this legend. It was also hilarious to see the struggle by which a Catholic man tells a story about a woman with large breasts.