USC Digital Folklore Archives / May, 2016
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?

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
Riddle

American Proverb.

Subject: Proverb.

Informant:

Brandon grew up in Sacramento 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: This too shall pass.My grandmother on my mothers side always said it, she literally said it for everything.
Happy or sad, she always said this too shall pass, it to me is a reminder to enjoy every moment because nothing lasts forever, sorrow fades as much as the happiness does. To me it’s not negative, it is grounding, and a reminder that change is constant.”

Background Information about the Piece by the informant: The informant had a tattoo of the proverb on his foot. He got it to remind him to always live in the moment.

Context of the Performance: No context.

Thoughts about the piece: Like most proverbs, this one is used to guide someone in times of hardship. I can also relate it to the American Future Worldview that Dundes wrote about in his article “Thinking Ahead”.

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.

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.

 

Digital
Game

Cicada 3301

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: “I learned about it on a web form from being posted to a form I was on. When they post a puzzle they basically come out and say solve this puzzle it will lead to the next riddle and so on and so forth. A lot of highly skilled cryptographers would sort of docu-blog on there progress as they were trying to figure out. The more they progress the more serious it began to seem, people where literarily flying places to solve clues, it was very Dan Brown. Most people who get close to solving disappear. Some people think they have succeeded and ended up requited into an intelligence organization. While it could be a hoax the difficulty of the challenges is genuine. It’s a total Mr. Robot”

Background Information about the Piece by the informant: Cicada 3301 is an Internet puzzles that appear mysteriously on various online chat forms annually. That focus on data security cryptography and steganography.

Context of the Performance: Annual online puzzle.

Thoughts about the piece: It seems to me that the Cicada 3301 is similar to the newer folkloric tales and myths that develop and are spread on the Internet. At the heart of this is the mistrust for the Internet and the mystery that comes with the anonymity one can find on the Internet. The informant is a member of multiple conspiracy theory forms that analyze myths, stories and other mysterious happenings so he is connected to forms that share stories like Cicada 3301.

Folk Beliefs
Folk speech
Magic
Protection

Mashallah

Informant :

Haifa grew up in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to a progressive family. She is a Professor at the King Saud University in Riyadh and considers herself a religious person, but does not believe in a lot of the superstition behind some of the stories. She grew up, and works, around all different kinds of people that shared with her different traditions and folklore of which she has shared some of her favorite.

Original script:                                                                                                                 

ما شاء الله

Phonetic (Roman) script: Mahsallah

Transliteration: Mashallah

Full translation: As god wills.

Background Information about the Piece by the informant: Mashshallah is said to ward off any bad or evil eye from things. When you say something is nice like “you have nice hair” you have to say mashallah after it of you may unintentionally give someone the evil eye. My mother still yells at me if I don’t say mashallah after I say something nice and will even tell strangers to say mashallah if they are complementary or her kids.

Context of the Performance: Said to ward off the evil eye from a person, home or object and used throughout the Arabic speaking world.

Thoughts about the piece: Like a lot of traditional Arabic saying and myths this blends superstition with religion (Islam). While the saying involved the belief that only god can make something happen, it still is used to ward off evil created by humans.

 

Contagious
Folk Beliefs
Magic
Protection

Evil eye

Subject: Evil eye inoculation

Informant:

 Haifa grew up in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to a progressive family. She is a Professor at the King Saud University in Riyadh and conceders herself a religious person, but does not believe in a lot of the superstition behind some of the stories. She grew up, and works, around all different kinds of people that shared with her different traditions and folklore of which she has shared some of her favorite.

Original script: “a lot of Saudi superstition is based around the evil eye. One really prevalent practice is the ingestion of another persons spit…it sounds disgusting but this is how it works. If you have a guest and fear that they may have eye eyed your house or family you take either the water they have drank or you wash the cup they have been drinking coffee or tea from, wash it and drink from the water you wash it with. It is believed that if you do so, you take a trace of that persons essence and therefor inoculate yourself against any evil or malice that comes from them.”

Background Information about the Piece by the informant: Most of Arabic myth and superstition surrounds the evil eye and it’s affects on people and how to protect ones self from its negative affects.

Thoughts about the piece: Saudi’s often employ what would seem to be superstitious practices probably left over from a time before Islam. However, like all good folklore, the myths, practices and superstitions have evolved with the spread of Islam to involve Islamic themes such as using prayer and the name of god to proceed the ritual.

Folk speech
Proverbs

Arabic Proverb 2

Subject: Arabic Proverb

Informant:

Haifa Saud (51): Haifa grew up in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to a progressive family. She is a Professor at the King Saud University in Riyadh and conceders herself a religious person, but does not believe in a lot of the superstition behind some of the stories. She grew up, and works, around all different kinds of people that shared with her different traditions and folklore of which she has shared some of her favorite.

Original script:

مثل إللى يبيع سمك بالبحر.

Phonetic (Roman) script: Mithl illy yibee’e samak bil bahar.

Transliteration: Mithl illy yibee’e samak bil bahar.

Full translation: It’s like selling fish in the sea.

Background Information about the Piece by the informant: Like a lot of Arabic proverbs, this is used by people all over the Middle East to and used to express the uselessness of some act. It is much like the saying “selling sand to an Arab.”

Thoughts about the piece: A lot of Arabic proverbs use humor to get the point across and are used in place of jokes in everyday interactions. This piece, I believe, exhibits the humor in the proverbs that are often centered around comparisons between people and animals.

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