USC Digital Folklore Archives / Tales /märchen
Legends
Narrative
Tales /märchen

Taily Poo

Context:

The informant – BL – is a 20-year-old white male, born and raised in Seattle, Washington. He spent a lot of time hiking and camping in the mountain ranges near Seattle, and, therefore, had a few campfire stories to share. He shared this story with me in a fairly typical storytelling context – outside, alone at night, after I had asked him if he knew any scary stories.

Piece:

BL: This is the story of the Taily Poo. Once, there was a hunter who lived in the forest with his three dogs. Every other day, he would go out to hunt small game. Just rabbits and squirrels… the occasional deer if he stumbled upon it. And one week, he went out and didn’t get anything. And went out the next day, hoping he would get something, but still…nothing. He didn’t see a single lick of an animal. Um.

The following day, he went out, and he brought all three of his dogs, and he saw a squirrel hiding up in a tree. So he shot it down, blew its head right off. The dogs went and picked it up, but something else caught his eye… to his right. A large shape in a tree that he thought might be a panther… but… it couldn’t be a panther? Right? Panthers don’t exist in… Northern America. Um. He thought maybe a cougar. Either way, he was hungry, and he needed some big meat… (long pause, and some snickering).

So he pointed his gun at the animal… and shot it. And he heard a bloodcurdling yowl, and saw something fall off the tree, and the animal jumped into the night. He went to go look what fell out… off… and it was a tail. A long black tail with coarse hair, but still a fair amount of meat on it. So he decided to take it home and cook it up, – maybe put it in a stew.

So he goes home with his dogs, cooks it up. He and the three dogs eat their meal and then go to bed. Um. He wakes up in the middle of the night to some scratching sound. Um. And it’s pitch black, but he looks at the foot of his bed and sees two bright yellow eyes.

(In a harsh whispering voice) “Give it back… Give me back my taily poo.”

The man is petrified. “I’m sorry, what?” he says. (we both laugh)

“Give me back my taily poo.”

The man, realizing that this must be the creature who’s tail he shot off in the forest, pushes the dogs off the bed towards the creature, and they chase it off into the night. He waits for them to return, but when they come back, only two remain. He goes back to sleep. He wakes up later that night, in the early hours of the morning, maybe 1am… to see the same pair of bright yellow eyes, next to his bed this time. Scratching at the side of it with its claws.

“Give me back my taily poo.” Very startled, uh, the man sicks his dogs on the creature, chasing it away into the night. He waits for their return, but only one comes back.

It’s morning now, and he goes out to look for his two other dogs. He calls their names, but no response. He goes and looks for them, but is afraid of getting completely lost in the forest, and so, by sunset, he gives up hope, realizing the creature must have killed them. So he goes to bed that night, hungry, because the forest is bare. Um. Uhhh. Then he wakes up in the middle of the night to a ripping sound. (BL poorly imitates a ripping sound and we both laugh). He jumps awake, thinking it must be the creature, and he’s right. At the foot of his bed… No… revise, revise. On his bed, the creature is pawing and clawing his sheets, ripping them to shreds. It’s yellow eyes gleam in the pure darkness.

“Give it back! Give me back my taily poo!” The man sicks his last dog on the creature, which chases it outside the house. Only a few moments later, to hear a heartbreaking cry, which he only assumes can come from the dog. Now, shaking in fear in his own bed, in the pure darkness, he hears something walking up to his bed. Two yellow eyes peek over the bedframe. And that was the last we only heard of that man…

(We both laugh).

BL: That was terrible…

Me: That’s just how it ends?

BL: Alright…um. When his friends went to go look for him, because they hadn’t heard from him in days, when they show up at his house… his house was no longer there. The only thing that remained… was the chimney.

Analysis:

I think, for the most part, this story is just an entertaining campfire story, relying on the performer’s dramatic performance determine how well it’s received. BL here clearly did not remember the tale too vividly, as he paused with many “ums” and “uhs” to recall what happens next. Though the story is likely mainly for mere entertainment, it does have anti-hunting connotations, with the hunted returning for vengeance on the hunter, which is a common archetype in tales and stories. Also, the creature killing the hunter’s pets creates an interesting comparison between animals that we hunt and animals that we keep as pets. Stories like this often help us cope with the fact that we hunt and eat animals, as we soothe the moral complexity of the issue with stories of the hunted animals enacting vengeance on us.

Myths
Narrative
Tales /märchen

Native American Raven Creation Myth

Context:

The informant – BL – is a 20-year-old white male, born and raised in Seattle, Washington. He learned the following creation myth in elementary school, on a field trip that aimed to teach students about the Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest. He told me this story after I asked him of any folklore he knew growing up in the Pacific Northwest.

Piece:

Being from the Pacific Northwest, we have a very close connection with our Native American roots. We try to preserve their culture, and language, and stories by passing them down, um, to our children. I learned this one when I was in elementary school, on a field trip where we learned about, uh, the native salmon, the native peoples, and our watershed.

This is a story from the Haida people, who inhabited – and still do inhabit – the coastal Pacific Northwest region. And this is the story of how the Raven – Raven, the trickster – brought light to the world.

In the beginning, the world still existed, but in darkness. Raven existed from the beginning of time, he was on of its first creations, but he eventually grew tired of stumbling around in the dark, bumping into things. One day, he stumbled into something that didn’t feel like a piece of nature. It was a sideways log – many of them stacked on top of each other. Knowing it was a house, Raven peered inside the window, where there was light. And he saw an old man and his daughter. The light was emanating from a box in the corner, peeking out from the cracks of it. Realizing that this must be the only source of light in the world, the clever Raven quickly devised a plan. Um.

He took to the air and flew circles over the house for hours, until he saw the old man’s daughter exit to go collect water from the river. And went she went to the river to fill her basket with water, he transformed himself into a pine from an evergreen, which landed in her basket. And when she drank it, he was ingested. Um. When she returned to her house, he again transformed, only this time, into a tiny human in her stomach. There, he bided his time, waiting until, finally, the girl gave birth to a beautiful baby boy.

The old man was so overjoyed at having a grandson that he quickly took to the raven, thinking that he was his own. But the boy, um, turned out to be very curious and very eager to learn about new things. He always pestered the old man about what was in the box in the corner…what the light was coming from. But, the old man threatened his grandson to never touch the box, and to never look inside it, as it held great treasure.

But, Raven pestered and pestered, until, finally, the old man gave in. He went over to the box and opened it, and light poured throughout the house, illuminating all. The old man reached into the box, and took out the sun and threw it to the boy to play with. But, as the boy caught it, he transformed back into his raven form, and caught it in his beak, and flew through the chimney… there’s a chimney… out into the world where he… released the sun into the world. Um. No no no. So as the old man threw it to him, the boy transformed back into Raven, caught it in his beak, and flew through the chimney. He didn’t know how to release it into the world, so he shook it back and forth, little flecks of light flying off, which then became the stars. Eventually, he threw it upwards, where it continued flying, never losing speed. And that’s how we got our sun and stars.

 

Analysis:

As is common with myths, this creation story is likely steeped in the culture of the Native American Haida peoples to whom it belongs, and, therefore, it seems strange to someone not part of this culture. This can be said of the informant, BL, here, who’s personal disconnect from the story was apparent. It was clear from the way he told the story that it was a story with which he was not intimately familiar, but, instead, learned in school when learning about the native people of his hometown. It was clear that he was attempting to recall parts of the story as he told it, occasionally backtracking to correct himself. Either way, the story is a fascinating creation story, and it is interesting to hear a filtered version of this creation myth told from an outsider who had merely grown up learning about this culture.

For further information regarding the Raven as the predominant trickster archetype in Coastal Northwestern America, see David Vogt’s (1996). Raven’s universe. Archaeoastronomy, 12, 38.

Holidays
Narrative
Rituals, festivals, holidays
Tales /märchen

Le Pere Fouettard

Context:

The informant – MZ – is a middle-aged woman originally from the French Alps, now living in South Florida. Growing up, her mother was French-Moroccan, and her father was Moroccan-Algerian. She is one of my mother’s close friends. The following is from a conversation in which I asked her to tell me about any French-Moroccan traditions she remembers growing up.

 

Piece:

For us in Europe, all across Europe, when we have parades for Santa, there’s always the bad guy, we used to call him Le Père Fouettard. Fouet means whip, so he was the whipper. So we had this guy who was kind of a monk, with a brown cloak. And he would be along with Santa Claus, along with the parade. And during the parade, we’d have Le Père Fouettard, and it was like, be careful if you don’t behave! The Père Fouettard will come and whip your ass.

 

 

Analysis:

Fairly clearly, Le Pere Fouettard is a variation of Krampus. I think it’s very interesting that, though Krampus is a prominent figure all across Europe, this specific variation exists in France’s Christmas tradition.

Childhood
general
Narrative
Tales /märchen

Korean Goblin Tale

Korean Goblin Tale

The following informant is a 21 year-old musician from Seoul, Korea, currently residing in Los Angeles. Here, they are describing a standard Korean tale that has been passed down; they will be identified as M.

M: It’s like Korean version of genie. So instead of genie, goblin. Instead of a lamp, it’s a, like, bat. A goblin bat. I don’t know the exact story of it, but there was a guy, he was very good at singing, but he got a very big tumor on his face, and he was singing at the night, and suddenly out of nowhere, two goblins came, and they loved his singing, and they asked, “what’s the secret of your voice and the singing,” and he was so scared, but he noticed that they loved his singing, and he was very poor before that and then he just lied to them. “oh it’s all from the tumor, this one.”

The face tumor — it was a big one. The goblin trusted that, and said, “do you want to sell it to me, or trade it? Lets trade.” He said, “oh, why not?” For a bunch of gold, and then the goblin swing the bat, and a bunch of gold appeared. and they give it to him, and the goblin touched the tumor, and it just cut it. He become rich, and there was another guy, he was already rich but a very greedy person and got a similar tumor. There was two goblins, so only one got the tumor, and believed “now i’m good at singing,” but the other go to that rich person, but the first goblin told the other that it was a lie, “I figured it out,” but this goblin went to the rich person, they asked him about the secret of singing, but he heard about the previous guy, so he tried to lie and did the same thing.

The goblin figured it out, and was very angry, so they swung the bat at him, so the previous guy’s tumor was on his face, so he had two tumors. And he was already rich, but they took all the money from him and ran away. The greedy guy lost everything. So, the moral is “don’t get greedy.”

Context

This interaction occurred on campus in a dining facility. I was sitting with informant M, as well as other Korean students from both USC and UCLA, whom provided additional contributions. During M’s performance, other individuals provided verbal and gestural affirmation, while one was not too familiar with the tale.

My Thoughts

There is a lot to unpack here. For one, this Korean tale, most likely told to children, is alike to many Western tales that we tell our youth; the root is fear, whereby children will refrain from lying or becoming greedy out of fear of goblin-inflicted punishment. This differs from, say, Native American cultures, where humor is often used instead of fear. It is also interesting how they compared goblins to genies — this, perhaps, demonstrates a cognate relationship between the figures.

For further relevant information, I read and recommend:

Jong-dae, Kim. “Dokkaebi: The Goblins of Korean Myth.” Korean Literature Now, vol. 35, 5 Apr. 2017, koreanliteraturenow.com/essay/musings/dokkaebi-goblins-korean-myth.

In this, Jong-dae shows relationships to Japanese folklore figures; this is interesting, as part of a conversation that occured this day between the informant, their friends, and myself pertained to Chinese linguistic and cultural influence over Asian countries and cultures, and how these “stories” may be related.

 

Narrative
Tales /märchen

Blind Stallion

Text: So basically there was this cowboy, and when he was a little kid, he would go out onto the range with his father. And there was this wild herd of mustangs that was roaming at the time, and there was this one little foal. It was a black stallion foal, and he was like, “One day I’m going to get that horse, and I’m gonna ride that horse.” So he grows up and spends his adult life wandering the hills trying to find the same horse that he saw as child. He wants to capture it. So he finally finds the herd after like a year of wandering, and he starts following it around because he wants to figure out how to catch the stallion. He spent three days following the horse, and with each day, he figured out that the stallion what is the strongest horse, but it always stayed next to its mother. It stayed with the mother horse that the cowboy saw it with when he was little. So he’s like. “Okay, whatever, kind of weird.” But it keeps going. After the three days, he decides that the only way he’s going to catch this horse is if he shoots the mother horse. So that the stallion won’t follow her anymore. So he shoots the mother, which is obviously sad and awful, and horses start running away. But the black horse starts running in the opposite direction and acting wild and crazy and falls off of the edge of a cliff. And then that was when the cowboy realized that the horse was always blind, and that the only reason he was following the mother around is so he could get around. And when the cowboy shot the mother, the stallion couldn’t get around anymore, so he fell off a cliff.

Context: SH is a born and raised Texan studying psychology at USC. Her time in the south led her to be exposed to many different stories with western flairs while she was growing up. In regards to the tale above, she doesn’t remember who told her the story, but it has never left her mind due to the fact that, “It’s so fucking awful.” SH thinks its significance means, “To leave nature be because you don’t always know what is going on behind the scenes, and if you insert yourself into nature it might not go the way you wanted to because you just don’t know.” I was told this piece of folklore over lunch one afternoon.

Interpretation: Tales are recognized as fictional stories that are used as fun ways to entertain and teach lessons to one another. They can sometimes reflect values and teach important lessons on behavior and ethics, or they can simply be stories for stories sake. They are not supposed to be viewed as true and exist outside of the real world. They also like to use groups of threes in their plot structure, a definite tactic employed in the blind stallion. This tale seems to function completely as a way to teach lessons, for there is a lot to be learned from the horrible acts committed in the above story. I will note that the tale does remain entertaining despite the horrible ending, due solely to its shock value and ridiculous logic in how the main character goes about getting what it wants.

I think that SH was correct in that the blind stallion contains some commentary about nature and how people should leave it alone. I also think it has possible lessons rooted in the shying away from greed, impulsive action, and murder. This tale also contains the idea that SH brought up about things not always operating as they appear, and the ghastly consequences that can unfold when people convince themselves that they understand something that they really don’t.

 

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

Legends
Narrative
Tales /märchen

The Golden Arm

The below folk story is a story my friend, who will be referred to as J, told me he had heard from his dad in Columbus, Ohio. J is a middle aged white man who heard this story when he was a young boy.

Text: There once as a woman who got hit by a car. In the car accident, she lost her arm. However, the man who hit her with his car was very rich, and feeling very guilty, he bought the woman a golden arm.

The woman’s husband was an evil man however, and felt tremendous greed that his wife had a golden arm, and begged his wife to sell her golden arm. However, the wife refused, and the thought of all the things the man could buy with the golden arm drove him insane. He ended up killing his wife, by strangling her in her sleep.

The man attended his wife’s funeral, pretending to be heartbroken, and watched her buried into the ground. That night however, the man snuck into the graveyard and dug up his wife, removing her arm from her dead body.

The man was overjoyed and the next night he stayed up in bed holding the arm, and imagining all he could buy with it. However, that night he was startled by a sudden gust of wind that sounded like it was saying, “giveee mee my arrrrm.” The man fell asleep that night however, and had good dreams. The next night, the man heard another another gust of wind, this time definitely saying “giveee mee my arrrrm.” This continued for the next several nights, each night the sound got louder, clearer, and lasted longer. The man began to get very paranoid, locking all his doors and boarding all his windows, clinging to the arm ever tighter. Eventually, the man couldn’t take it anymore, and when he heard the voice saying “givee mee my arrrrm” that night, he shouted out, “Fine, I have your arm and will give it to you.” The voice of his wife responded, “Come outside and give it to me!” Timidly, the man walked outside, and seeing the ghost of his wife, he handed out the arm in payment to her. At that moment, a lightning bolt struck the arm, electrocuting the man. The ghost of his wife took the arm back, and returned to her grave happy and content.

Context: J told me this story when I was discussing folklore he had heard. He said this was a favorite story of his dad’s that his dad would tell this story to him and his sisters when they were young. J emphasized the importance of the oral telling of this story. He said that when he reads this story, it is not the same. What makes it a good story according to J is that there needs to be a talented storyteller, who can shout to scare his audience and keep them tense the entire story. J said his dad told this story primary because it entertained the children, but also because of the moral lessons it taught. J described how this story shows that being greedy will never make you successful, and how committing a crime will always come back to haunt you.

Analysis: I liked this story and found it interesting because when researching this story, I realized just how many variations of this story exist. The story emphasises the importance of oral storytelling to children. As J said, a story being said orally is a great way to entertain children and teach them lessons at the same time. Also, as J described, this story teaches moral such as not being greedy, a belief in Karma, and an emphasis of not taking something from the dead. It is well known not to mess with the dead, especially steal something from them. It plays into the idea that grave robbers are evil and will be cursed later in life, similar to the idea of how the man who open King Tut’s tomb was cursed and died shortly after. All in all this story is an excellent example of folklore because it has multiplicity and variation, is a way for adults to transfer knowledge to their children, and is also a way morals are spread to different generations.


For another version of this text, visit Joseph Jacobs‘s Collection, English Fairy Tales

general
Tales /märchen

Abiyoyo

IN: Okay, so far away in a village in Africa, uhm there was a giant by the name of Abiyoyo. For some reason, he got angry and started rampaging, like towards the village of people. Until this little boy decided to take this guitar and start singing, “abiyoyo, abiyoyo, abiyoyo..” and all of the villagers joined in and it started to make him get happy. The giant started dancing, and he and the boy walked into the sunset singing the song.

JJ: Does abiyoyo mean anything? Or did it start to mean anything after?

IN: No, as far as I know it was just kind of arbitrary, like a cool sounding word. It could mean something I guess.

Context: During a slow work shift I asked the informant if he remembered any folktales from his childhood.

Background: The informant is s South-African American. This was a story his father used to always tell him before bed. It is one of the few ways that his family actively passed down their African heritage to him in the States, so this was a significant story to him growing up.

Analysis: In this tale, we see music as a healing tool and important instrument in society. Music is a huge piece in African culture, and this story undoubtedly expresses that. Music has the ability to calm and tranquilize even a beastly giant, and gives reason for little kids to learn instruments and develop and explain interest in music.

 

general
Narrative
Tales /märchen

Sacred Owls in Hawaii

The informant is marked IN.

IN: There was this one myth about an owl that I kind of remember, like not exactly but I’ve heard it a couple times. So basically there was this kid, called Kapoi, who found some owl eggs, and he like, wanted to roast them to eat and stuff. And this all – by the way – kind of just relates back to how important owls are for Hawaiians. So like he’s about to cook these eggs and an owl comes down and tells him “hey, you can’t do that please give me my eggs” and the kid doesn’t really listen, but the owl asks again and the kid says “okay, come get them and they’re yours.” So the owl comes down and gets his eggs back, and he tells the kid to build a temple with an alter and everything and it ends up that on the same day, the king had set up a temple and he had already dedicated it, and basically just made up a rule on the spot that no one shall dedicate a temple on the same day as the king. So the king sends all these men to kill Kapoi, but the owls heard about this and they decide to intercept the kings men and attacked them all, just pecking and scratching and killing his men. So then like, the owls won, and like the king I guess acknowledged the God that Kapoi had dedicated the temple to, which was basically the owls, and since then owls have been seen as very divine, god-like birds and just show up a lot throughout Hawaiian sacred history and stuff. They just play a big role overall, in like, everyday life I guess and they have to be respected.

Context: I asked the informant during work if he had any Hawaiian folktales.

Background: The informant is a Hawaiian Japanese-American, who was raised hearing a lot of Hawaiian folklore around him. This is a story he heard less often but was an essential piece for understanding the importance of owls in Hawaiian legends.

Analysis: I thought that this was a really interesting piece because it gives the message that if you respect nature, nature will respect you. Treating animals kindly instead of stealing and roasting their eggs will lead to better karma and protection from those animals in the future. I also never knew that owls were prevalent in Hawaii so this surprised me.

Narrative
Tales /märchen

Bear Granny

Bear Granny

Context: The informant is a Chinese student in USC. The collector interviewed the informant (as GL) for tales. The informant then presented a creepy story in English told by his grandfather as a bedtime story. His grandfather is from Chongqing, an inland city in China.

 

 

GL: Okay so, there were two kids. They wandered in the woods. And then they met their granny in the woods for some reason I can’t remember. So they came back home with their granny. And their granny was like, “Okay. You two should take a bath and then we can sleep together.”

Somewhere late at night, the elder sister woke up. She heard some cracking sounds. It came from their granny. So she asked, “Granny, what are you eating?”

Granny said: “I am eating candies.”

And then, you know, some ray of moonlight shone in. The girl saw a lot of bloody intestines and flesh and stuff laying on the bed.  It’s a creepy story. She figured out that her granny was eating her little sister.

So she asked: “Granny, do you want some candies of different flavor?”

Granny was like, “Sure.”

So the girl took a heated, some sort of claws (Collector’s note: he probably meant tongs) from the fire place. (Collector’s note: he probably meant that the girl used the tongs to attack her granny)

And then the girl was like, “Granny, do you want some water to cool down?” and Granny was like “Yeah Sure”. And the girl took some boiling water and killed the Bear Granny.

 

GL: I think it is a pretty prevalence story from where I came from to scare the kids.

Collector: What do you think is this story trying to tell kids? To respect their granny? (in a joking tone)

GL: I had really complicated feelings when I first heard the story. I guess the purpose my grandparents told this story was, you know, I kept asking for bedtime stories before going to sleep, so they wanted to scare me off so they could do their own stuff.

Collector: Do you think it is a typical Chinese story or just a story in Chongqing?

GL: I think it is not typically Chinese but a lot of people from that area (Chongqing) have heard of that story.

Collector: Have you ever told this story to other people before?

GL: Yeah, I told this story to one of the kids in elementary school because he thought I was weird.

Collector: How was the effect?

GL: He was freaked out. (laughing) Yeah, he was freaked out.

 

Collector’s thought:

It is weird that adults tell kids creepy stories as bedtime stories.

I think the story involves an archetype of evil old ladies. But unlike those evil witches in Western tales, this demonic old lady is the grandmother of the protagonist, a dear one in the family. The Bear Granny reminds me of what Professor Thompson said in class that there is a belief in Japan that old people in the family will turn into ghosts (monsters) when they are too old. Maybe this is something common in East Asia. But the tale also resembles the Little Red Riding Hood.

I searched for Bear Granny in Chinese, and saw some articles saying that Bear Granny is popular in Chongqing and Sichuan area. It is called “熊嘎婆 [Mandarin in pinyin: xíong gā pó, literally: Bear Granny]”

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