Tag Archives: children

A La Rorro Niño – Lullaby

Informant: this is a song my mom used to sing me when I was little:

A la rorro Niño, a la rorro ro, duérmete Mi Niño, duérmete mi amor;

a la rorro Niño, a la rorro ro, que viniste al mundo sólo por mi amor.

Esos tus ojitos ya los vas cerrando,

pero estás mirando todos mis delitos.

A la rorro Niño, a la rorro ro, duérmete Mi Niño, duérmete mi amor;

a la rorro Niño, a la rorro ro, que viniste al mundo sólo por mi amor.

Por cuna te ofrezco mi fiel corazón,

pues no lo merezco, te pido perdón.

A la rorro Niño, a la rorro ro, duérmete Mi Niño, duérmete mi amor;

a la rorro Niño, a la rorro ro, que viniste al mundo sólo por mi amor.

Quisiste por nombre llamarte Jesús,

como padre amante tú me diste luz.

A la rorro Niño, a la rorro ro, duérmete Mi Niño, duérmete mi amor;

a la rorro Niño, a la rorro ro, que viniste al mundo sólo por mi amor.

En el crudo invierno Mi Dios y Señor,

que sufres alegre del frío y su rigor.

A la rorro Niño, a la rorro ro, duérmete Mi Niño, duérmete mi amor;

a la rorro Niño, a la rorro ro, que viniste al mundo sólo por mi amor.

La gloria te cantan angélicas voces,

para que te duermas y del sueño goces.

A la rorro Niño, a la rorro ro, duérmete Mi Niño, duérmete mi amor;

a la rorro Niño, a la rorro ro, que viniste al mundo sólo por mi amor.

A la rorro Niño, a la rorro ro, duérmete Mi Niño, duérmete mi amor.

Interviewer: What does it mean?

JH: that’s the thing…I don’t know how to even translate it. But it’s sorta like when you swing a baby to sleep, you know what I mean? It’s one of those things that’s just really hard to translate, so it probably doesn’t have a translation. But generally, it’s talking about religion 

Context:

JH was born in America, and her parents are from Mexico. JH is very fond of this song because her mother used to sing it to her when she was a child. This story was collected over a phone call.

Thoughts:

This song goes to show how religion can be a great source of comfort. Listening to the song, it has such a sweet quality that is, of course, reminiscent of a lullaby; it’s interesting that across cultures, lullabies always have a similar quality, no matter the content. They are always happy and light. I think that this is important because it speaks to the fact that the moods that music elicit are similar no matter who you are or where you are––as people often say, music the universal language.

(To hear the song, please see this link:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=12aiZ42gV2Y&t=49s)

The Aswang – Filipino Demon

Main piece:

BR: My grandmother is very religious and even more superstitious, and she was raised in the northern part of the Philippines. And one bit of folklore that she always talked about when I was a kid was the concept of the Aswang, a creature who appears human during the day but becomes a hideous beast during the night. And the Aswang brings bad luck and death wherever it goes, and is considered to be one of the stealthiest demons in Filipino culture, cause it can shapeshift, and usually slips by unnoticed. So my grandma always brought up the Aswang whenever anything bad happened, and it terrified me because she seemed dead serious about it. 

Context:

The informant, BR, was born and raised in the Bay Area. His father is from Hawaii, and their family immigrated there when he was very little from the Philippines. BR was always scared by this story when he was little, and even to this day he is still afraid of the dark. This story was collected over a phone call.

Thoughts:

We talked about in class how there are always a lot of stories that are meant for scaring children, and I think this one is interesting because it appears human during the day as a normal human. This not only encourages children to be on their best behavior (as most other children’s tales that we talked about) but also brings into question your relationships with other people, which is very important. It kind of seems like a metaphor for if you’re in a toxic relationship, or someone is giving you trouble. And that’s an important thing to be scared of, and so it makes all the more sense to scare children of that when they are young because young children have those same issues.

Chinese Children’s-Made Tops

Piece
You put a nail into a piece of wood to make a top. A round piece of wood. You need it to be a little circle. And then use a piece of thread to kind of… circle… around the wood. Then you twist, and twist and then do this throwing thing [mimes a light toss] so it would unspin and shoot off so it would spin away. I didn’t get to make tops though, boys did that kind of thing.
Context
The informant watched the boys in her poor neighborhood in Taiwan make these tops and play with them. The older boys would teach the younger ones to keep the activity going. The girls would watch or play other games instead.
This story was shared when the informant was asked what they used to do as children by the informant’s grandchildren looking for something to do or play.
My Thoughts
This toy reminded me of Beyblades, small, customizable plastic tops that you could attach to a little launcher which, when pulled, would set the top spinning extremely quickly into a “stadium”. I have seen a number of young boys do battle to see who’s tops would keep spinning the longest. The informant’s description of how boys in her childhood town would use string to create the same effect amazes me as it is a much cheaper method!

Llama Song

Background: The performer is my college roommate and friend. She spent the first fifteen years of her life in Minneapolis, Minnesota before moving to Thousand Oaks, California for high school. She is currently in her twenties and attends school at the University of Southern California.

Main Text:

“Happy llama

Sad llama

Totally rad llama

Super llama

Drama llama

Don’t forget Barack-a-llama”

Context: The llama song was traditionally performed around age eight and stopped around age eleven. The performer cannot recall any particular reasons for starting it up, it was just the sort of thing chanted on the playground when bored. The llama hand motion (ring and middle finger touching thumb and pinky and index pointing up to form a llama head) was essential to performance.

Thoughts: I am familiar with the llama song, despite growing up in a different state than the performer. Her version has slightly different, more appropriate lyrics, despite the rhythm and the hand motions being the same. The part that surprised me the most was the final line “don’t forget Barack-a-llama,” because it specifically dates the song around the year 2008, when Barack Obama was first elected as President of the United States. Contextually, I think that this reference is an interesting measure of what children pay attention to—most elementary school-aged children would not be aware of politics before the 2008 election, but the event was memorable enough that proper nouns stripped of all political or historical meaning would work their way into children’s playground folk culture. The preoccupation with llamas is something else I’ve always wondered about, because I recall other childhood songs and jokes about them. I think it’s a combination of the unique spelling (the double “ll” is not common for English speakers), the inner rhyme of the word “llama,” and the fact that llamas were a rarer animal than, say, dogs or horses. For young children just getting familiar with the English language, the word “llama” is both easy to rhyme and funny to describe, as demonstrated with this song.

The Tooth Fairy

Context:

JA is a 20-year-old student from Orinda, California. She recalled this story in an interview.

Text:

JA: I don’t remember when I first learned of it… but the tooth fairy comes to your house the night after you lose a tooth when you’re a kid. You put your baby tooth under your pillow at night and while you’re asleep, the tooth fairy takes it and replaces it with a gift. So, like, in reality, your parents took your tooth and put something there.

But, anyhow, most people use money as the tooth fairy gift, but my parents always gave us these little toys. I think I got a nice marker once. Little toys like that. And I believed it when I was a little kid but I lost my teeth really slowly so by the time I lost my last baby teeth I was pretty old and had my suspicions (laughs.) And then when I lost my last baby tooth that night I felt my dad’s giant hand putting something under my pillow.

I don’t really know what to make of the whole thing, just that it’s a fun game to play to reward your child for the milestone of getting adult teeth. I remember talking about the tooth fairy with my friends in elementary school.

Thoughts:

The tooth fairy is a common legend in America. It is a tradition that marks the transition from childhood to adulthood through the changing of a person’s physiology. As the body changes, the child is rewarded, maybe to allay what Freud calls castration anxiety, or a fear of becoming disincorporated, a fear of alterations in the physical body. The tooth fairy is a way of transitioning kids through that process, celebrating it, and marking it as a significant and positive moment in the life of a child. I remember that my own parents gave me a homemade card for when I had learned how to cut my own nails. This gesture follows the same basic function that the tooth fairy does which is to mark a time of physiological change with a ritual designed to acknowledge mental and spiritual change, to allay the fear of the body being picked apart and to redirect that fear, sublimate it, toward a positive feeling of pride in maturation.

Eidee : Receiving Money for Nowruz

Background: The informant is a sophomore film student at USC. He learned the tradition from practicing it with his mother’s side of the family during his childhood in San Ramon, CA. His mother was born in the US to Iranian parents and moved back to Iran for a brief period of time before moving back to the US. It is worth noting that the informant prefers the term Persian rather than Iranian when discussing his cultural background.  

Context: The following is transcribed from an over-the-phone interview with the informant. The informant and I are well acquainted so the discussion was casual.

Piece: 

Informant: “The reason I’m saying Nowruz really weirdly is that I usually call it eid. So the money, the two dollar bills my grandma would give us that’s called eidee. Usually people don’t give gifts for eidee like eidee refers to a gift you’ve received because of new years but most people don’t give like a physical gift, most people give money. So like I might get like a twenty dollar or a five dollar, you know like it’s usually small. It’s very symbolic it’s sort of like I think Chinese New Year, you get like the little red envelope. So it’s like a similar thing. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a physical thing as a gift for eidee, maybe my mom just gives me chocolates, you know. It’s just a small little gesture.

Collector: “Is it usually family members who give it to you?”

Informant: “In my experience, the way my family we have the literal family but we also have like you know family friends who are essentially family who I would get eidee from. I mean it’s whoever comes to the [Nowruz/Eid] party. But like my mom would not give eidee to her sister, it’s really more of a thing for the kids. In my family it’s really just a thing for the kids. Maybe my grandma gives it to her daughters, but I doubt it.”

Analysis: Children are often seen as the future, the new/next generation. Because of this, many cultures celebrate the new year by dawning fortune upon children. I’ve heard of a very similar tradition for the Chinese New Year, as mentioned by the informant, in which children are given red envelopes filled with money. I was surprised to hear the informant refer to Nowruz as “Eid” because this is an Arabic, rather than Farsi, word for “festival, holiday.” Eidi is also a word used to refer to a gift given by elders to a child (usually money) usually for the Muslim holidays of Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. This practice is very similar to the one described by the informant based on what the gift is and who is giving and receiving it.The informant specified the spelling of “eidee” rather than eidi, but their similar pronunciation and practice is worth noting. In either case, the practice appears to be a way for the past generation (the elders) to invest in the future generation as liminal demarcations of time pass. 

White Rabbit, White Rabbit, White Rabbit

“White Rabbit, White Rabbit, White Rabbit” is an expression used when people are sitting around a campfire. It is used to get the smoke out of one’s face and by repeating these words, the smoke will change direction. The concept is that the smoke is made up of hundreds of minuscule white rabbits. They only go in your face because they don’t feel appreciated and want attention. By saying white rabbit three times, you acknowledge their presence and therefore, will leave you alone.

The informant learned this folk expression through Boy Scouts. It is exactly the type of silly thing that would be made up by kids. The informant heard it from an older scout while away at camp. They still practice it to this day because it shows a fun, non-serious side.

It seems to me that it is a childish solution presented for a childish problem. Many kids enjoy camping or at least are forced to participate in it. Kids are very focused on the moment, so something like smoke in their face would upset them greatly. This “solution” turns this problem into a fun game that holds, in theory, real-world significance.

Childrens Magic Trick: The Disappearing Bracelet Knot

Background: The performance is a magic trick, a form of slight of hand that uses a hair scrunchie or similarly elastic bracelet, the informant (RW) learned it on the playground from one of her friends.
RW: It’s so cool!
MW: What do you like about it?
RW: When you do it right everyone gets really excited!
——————————————————————————————————————–
Context: Informant(RW) is a 12 year old student who’s interests include spending time with family, and riding bicycles. RW shared this particular magic trick with multiple members of her family during their annual Passover Seder, in this case RW, her sister, and I were getting paper from the garage so that RW’s father could teach us to make paper airplanes when she asked to show me a magic trick.

Performance:
RW: Ok, ok, so first you twist the rope like an 8 on your wrist
RW: You do that and you see this part? [RW points to the loop formed by her bracelet]
RW: The under part [she gestures to the under side of the bracelet], and you pull that part into the little circle but not too tight.
RW: If you flick it really fast the knot disappears!

Steps to reproduce:
1)Twist a section of the bracelet into a loop
2)Take the underside of the bracelet a pinky length away from the loop and pull it through to make a knot, loosely
3) Flick the end of the bracelet that sticks out of the knot and it disappears
——————————————————————————————————————–
Analysis:
The trick is a way to “get one over” on one’s peers and even adults. Thus the child demonstrates “magic” that they know to be a reflection of their own knowledge. The informant’s pride is the key marker here, this piece of folklore is a performance passed from person to person for the benefit of the people around them. Likewise this is a display of trickery, the goal is to fool, and thus in harmless deception traverse the social taboo of lying. This gives the performer the space to engage in a behavior that is generally seen as wrong in a way that will actually net them praise.

Great Grandmother’s Murder House

Storyteller: “So my mom’s entire family is from New Orleans, which is essentially the most haunted city in the world…like there is so much tragedy and everyone…like if you grew up there you kind of believe in ghosts? Like you pretend you don’t but you do. No city can have that much tragedy and death and not have stuff wandering around. So my great grandmother had this really nice house. And I remember like being…sort of with it enough as a kid to be like ‘we are not rich, how did she afford this really nice house.’ And it was because it used to be a brothel and there was a murder there and so my family got it really cheap. So it was a murder house right? So the story was that one of the women that worked int he brothel was married. And her husband came in and dragged her up to the attic and they had a huge fight and he killed her. And there were these dark stains on the floor up there that everyone said was blood stains…that would not come out. Whether they were or not I don’t know, but that’s what I know this story was. So, basically they would always tell us that ‘Herald’, essentially, used to live in the attic because it’s where he killed his wife. And we were like ‘yeah whatever. Ha ha. Very funny.’ So my cousins and I are upstairs one day and we are playing in the attic and all of this weird crap starts happening. Like a door slams and a window that like…things like open and not a problem open and like weird weird stuff. And so we were like ‘oh you know what it is. It’s uncle M, he’s trying to scare us…because my uncle was notorious for scaring the kids all of the time. So we were like, ‘it’s just him.’ And then we were like ignoring it and then I looked out the window and my uncle M was downstairs. And we literally screamed and ran downstairs as fast as we could [laughs]. And to this day…NO explanation for what was happening in that attic. We were like ‘maybe it was like the uncle? or whatever…’ but could never prove that it was another human in our family.” [seeing my disturbed face she adds] “Yeah…it’s very upsetting! [laughs] I did not enjoy that! But yeah, that is the story of my great grandmother’s murder house.”

 

Background: The storyteller is from the south (specifically New Orleans) and she got to spend a lot of time growing up there. As a result, she not only has a lot of knowledge on the stories people told about the city, but she also had her own personal experience with a ghost in her great grandmother’s murder house.

Context: I asked her if I could interview her for this project. I knew that she was from the south and after collecting a couple stories from people who grew up in the south, I was fascinated with them and wanted to hear more. She gave me three stories…one of them included this first person narrative of her experience with what she still to this day believes was a ghost. I met up with her and another storyteller for coffee to go over the details.

Thoughts: Like the storyteller already pointed out, New Orleans is famous for being one of the most haunted places in the world. There really is so much tragedy that has occurred in that city throughout the years that it is not hard to believe that there are many ghost stories and legends that derive from it. It is scary to hear and see things out of the ordinary especially when we cannot figure out the realistic cause of it. Many people refuse to believe in such things as ghosts and live in denial with the fact that they may be real. Some things that cannot be explained frighten us.

The Green Lady

The informant is marked IN.

IN: There’s this one spirit, called the green lady, who wanders around this botanical garden, that I think has water or like some kind of pond in it. She has green scales and jagged teeth, very Shape of Water, and her hair is made up of seaweed, and so the story goes that she had visited that garden with her children and one of them got lost and drowned in the lake. Because of that, she died with a broken heart and is apparently supposed to roam that area, in search of her child. And anyone visiting this garden is told not to leave their kids alone, because the spirit will like, take them as revenge or a consolation to her own child, you know.

Context: I asked the informant at work if he had any Hawaiian folklore tales he could remember.

Background: The informant is Hawaiian, with Japanese-American family. He heard this story around from locals in the area around this botanical garden.

Analysis: I think that this story is very similar to La Llorona in nature. It also functions as a story to tell children to get them to stay with you while visiting this area, as it will scare them to be alone with a fish-like spirit with jagged teeth.