USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘bedtime’
Folk Beliefs
Protection

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep

Informant is a 19 year old female who was born in Chicago and currently lives in Los Angeles. She is my roommate.

Informant: So there’s this bedtime prayer and it goes like “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the lord my soul to keep, and if I die before I wake, I pray the lord my soul to take.” When I was younger, I had a doll and every time I squeezed her, she would say that. And when I went to bed, my mom would squeeze the doll, and the doll would say it and I would say it, and then it became a ritual that we would have. And in my mind, as a child, I didn’t think that it was scary until it started being incorporated into American horror movies. So when I was 10 or 11, I remember watching a horror movie, and this very scary doll saying the same lyrics. So now, it’s a common prayer that started to be associated in multiple horror movies, and the origins are definitely from the bible, but it’s not a typical religious saying. In my generation, it was common that stuffed animals or dolls would say it. But now they don’t really sell these things anymore, because it’s turned into a creepy symbol in American culture, and it scares people.

Collector: Who gave you this doll originally?

Informant: My mom gave me the doll. I just remember having it. In my mind, it was like a protection spell, like it protected me in my sleep. Like in my mind, it never registered as something that was scary, until I started seeing it in horror movies, because of the way that they made the dolls say it. It was in such a creepy manner. It still exists in some parts of culture. I’m not saying it’s completely a horror movie thing, but in my perception I’m very scared of it now. The earliest version was from 1711 I think, like it dates back that far. It technically is a prayer, but it turned into this ritual between my and my mom when I was a kid. And I know other of my friends who had that said to them, when they were kids, mostly because I was also raised by a Christian family and went to a Catholic school.

Collector: Does this particular piece of folklore have any special significance to you?

Informant: It has meaning to me because it’s a big representation of my youth. That like, when I was younger, it was this comforting thing to me, and it’s shown me like how, as I got older, my perceptive of the world has changed.

For another version of this myth, see “Standard Publishing Editorial Staff. Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. N.p.: Standard Pub, 2011. Print.”

Because I have personally never watched a horror movie, I cannot say that I find this particular phrase creepy. However, I can see why it has been used in multiple scary stories, as it is very suggestive of death. I think it’s interesting how people actually manufactured and bought dolls with this saying inside of them, and I think that might have been something that contributed to the rise of this saying in horror movies. When I actually think about the prayer though, it makes sense as a protection spell, and really isn’t scary at all. Basically, it asks God to protect your soul while you sleep, and if anything were to happen to you at night, then to at least bring your soul to heaven. I think it is the particular phrasing and word choice of the prayer that has made it such a creepy horror icon today.

Digital
Narrative
Tales /märchen

Auntie Cockroach (kids)

When he was four or five, his grandmother and mother told him a story about “Auntie Cockroach”. This folktale is a very popular Persian fairy tale for kids and it was a popular bedtime story for Arya. Her mother and grandmother would always end their retelling by asking him to answer what the moral of the story was (being generous, helping people and welcoming guests into your home).
He told me the following rendition from what he remembers:
On a very rainy night, auntie Cockroach received many visitors from animals who needed shelter. There was the zebra, the horse, the cat ad the mouse. The zebra asked to come in because his roof was leaking; the horse came next and asked for some food since he had been traveling all night and hadn’t been able to stop anywhere. Then came the cat seeking the warmth of a fireplace and finally, the mouse whose mousehole had flooded with the rains. Auntie cockroach let all the animals in and tended to their needs; the next morning, all the animals left and were eternally thankful for Auntie Cockroach’s generosity.

What’s interesting about this story, is that Arya revealed that there is another version that goes by the same name: “Auntie Cockroach and Mr. Mouse” and is the adult (more elaborate) version of the kids’ one he’d heard growing up. This version can be found online as a PDF and is titled “Auntie Cockroach (Khale Suske) and Mr. Mouse”

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