USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘children’

Three Hatchets


In Korea there was a boy who had a silver hatchet. One day he was working chopping down tree when he accidentally loses his grip on the hatchet and throws it into river. After he loses his silver hatchet a man comes out of river and and asks the boy one is your hatchet I’ll return it to you. Is it this gold hatchet, is it this silver hatchet or is it this copper hatchet? The man points to each hatchet one by one as he speaks. The boy lies and says the gold hatchet is the one he lost but the old man knows he’s lying and says because he lied and he is greedy he won’t receive any of the hatchets. He also tells the boy if he had spoken the truth he would have received all the hatchets.

Background and Context:

The informant is a Korean American sophomore at USC. He was born and raised in Northern California but he lived in South Korea for six months right after highschool. I collected the folklore on a Wednesday night in a very casual setting. My informant learned this story growing up as bedtime stories from his parents.

Final Thoughts:

I believe this story is used to teach people a lesson. As the moral of the story is not to steal or lie. This is the moral because in the story the boy lied to the river man and was punished by not getting his hatchet back, while he would have been rewarded with all three hatchets if he had told the truth. Overall this story is interesting and unique because instead of creating two parallels between two characters you have one character learning what his opposite actions could have caused.


Folk Beliefs

Dragon Dream


This is a true story when my informant’s mother was pregnant with him she didn’t tell his grandmother because she became pregnant out of wedlock. At the time his mother lived in the United States while his grandmother in South Korea. However one day out of the blue the grandmother calls his mother asking if anyone is pregnant or dead. As she had dreamed of a huge dragon which in Korean culture signifies that a huge event has happened. The grandmother had called asking because none of their relative in South Korea had anything significant happen to them, so the grandmother knew my informant’s mother was pregnant from a different country. She also had the same dream with a smaller dragon when his mother was pregnant with his younger brother.  

Background and Context:

The informant is a Korean American sophomore at USC. He was born and raised in Northern California but he lived in South Korea for six months right after highschool. I collected the folklore on a Wednesday night in a very casual setting. My informant learned this story when he was young from his parents. He believes this to be a true story.  

Final Thoughts:

I think this is one of the most interesting pieces of folklore I have collected because my informant completely believes it to be true and I find it very believable too. It is also interesting how the dragon can symbolize life or death two completely different aspects of life. What was also amusing was how the dragon in the dream changed sizes for the first born son vs the second born son. This is also a view into Korean culture as usually the first born sons birth is the biggest celebration for births.



Peach Boy


This story is a Japanese folktale and begins with an old woman going to the river to do her laundry, at the river she finds a huge peach floating down towards her. Inside the peach she finds a baby boy and decides to raise him with her husband. The old couple names the boy “peach” and he grows up to be a very energetic boy. When the boy grows older he decides to save the village from the demons who torment them. To get to the demons he must journey to the mountains, for the journey his mother packs for him four mochis. During his journey he eats one mochi. He meets a dog and convinces him to join him against his fight with the demons by giving him a mochi. He also meets a peacock and monkey who join him, as he offers them a piece of mochi. Eventually they arrive at the demons hideout and waits for the demons to get drunk, when the demons are drunk the boy and his animal companions attack. While the boy is strong the animals use their individual strengths to fight, an example being the peacock who uses his beak to peck at the demons. In the end they defeat the demons and take the demons treasures back to the boy’s village.

Background and Context:

This folklore was collected from a current freshman at USC. It was collected in a casual context over lunch after class one day.  The student is an international student who is ethnically Japanese but grew up in various places in Asia. Before coming to USC she lived in Singapore for seven years and before Singapore the longest she lived in a country was Japan for five years. She learned about the folklore through school as folklore was part of school curriculum and in textbooks. In the story she refers to the boy’s name as peach but is traditionally peach in Japanese. However she does not recall the Japanese translation for the name. She also explains what a mochi is, a traditional Japanese rice cake usually shaped into a ball.

Final Thoughts:

My thoughts on the story is that it gave an important message. The message of the story is be kind and good to others, as all the characters in the story are rewarded for their good deeds. Examples being the old couple who take the boy in and raise him as eventually he saves their village from demons. Another example being the boy as he gives each animal a mochi so they decide to help him in his journey. Other morals that can be taken from this story is don’t be afraid to ask for help as the boy asked the animals he just met to help him defeat the demons and they agreed. Overall the story is an interesting and unique intriguing it’s readers.


Another place you can find this piece of folklore is in the children’s book Peach Boy: A Japanese Legend by Gail Sakurai.

Folk Beliefs

How to get kids to finish their meal (Taiwanese)

Background information:

My friend introduced me to a piece of folklore about how one can effectively get children to finish their meals. He is of Taiwanese descent, as he was born in San Francisco, California and both of his parents were born in Taipei, Taiwan. His family moved to California since before he was born and have assimilated into the American lifestyle but still stay very true to their Taiwanese roots.


Main piece:

My friend explained to me a saying that is often used in Taiwan to get children to finish their meals and not leave any food on the plate. The saying goes that if one wants a child to finish their meal and eat everything on the plate, they tell the child that if he or she does not finish their meal, they will marry someone with facial blemishes growing up. He said that his interpretation of this as a child was that he always thought of the remaining food pieces on his plate as signifying the multitude of blemishes that would be on the future spouse’s face when he grew up. Therefore, in order not to risk this, he would always quickly finish his food.


Personal thoughts:

I think that this piece of folklore is quite comical because there is no way that there could possibly be any correlation between finishing a plate of food and one’s future partner having acne. I enjoyed that this was a very different saying than what I was used to hearing in the culture that I am immersed in today, as it is refreshing to hear something that I have not heard before. I did find it a bit strange, however, that it would be considered a fear factor to have a partner with acne or facial blemishes because I do not think that this is what one should focus on when considering potential future partners.

Folk Beliefs

La Llorona


This story is well known throughout general Mexico and is titled La Llorona which translates to the weeping women and is a ghost story. The story focuses on an indigenous women who marries a Spaniard and has three children. However the husband leaves the woman and marries a wealthy Spanish woman. In the indigenous women’s anger she kills her three children. Right after she kills them she regrets killing her children, so she drowns herself. In the end her soul cannot move on so she roams lakes and rivers at night calling out “mis hijos” which translates to my children.

Background and Context:

This story was told to me in a casual setting in middle of the evening on a weekend. The informant is a Sophomore at USC and is Mexican American but grew up in Southern California. She was told this story by her mother in her teenage years. My informant also told me it is a ghost story and it is believed that anyone who hears the wailing woman is destined for bad luck, it is also told to children so they won’t wander outside at night.

Final Thoughts:

This was not the first time for me to be hearing this story so I believe this story is very popular and has many different variations. I also agree with the notion that this story is used to prevent children from wandering out at night, it would be effective because it would scare the children in fear of receiving bad luck by hearing the wailing women. I do not believe in ghost but I  do believe ghosts are a possibility so this story would deter me from going out at night as a child.



Rituals, festivals, holidays

Ferias De Cali

Cities are important to the location, each city has its own party, they call it ferias, the feria de Cali just happens to be during Christmas time , the carnivals are in Barranquilla Carnival. These carnivals are huge festivals in which the Colombian people showcase different sets of parades and a lot of other different stands just to show off their different type of foods or even toys for the kids to have fun with.These carnivals last for many weeks sometimes in order to celebrate through the time change of the seasons.Alex is a Colombian native who immigrated here when he was just a little boy. His family left Columbia in response to all the violence that was emitting from Pablo Escobar’s reign of terror. In order to keep his family traditions alive, his parents constantly told him about the vast events and beauty of his homeland and people


Bath Time – Japan

My informant was born and raised in Japan, but moved to America to finish her college degree at the University of San Diego. She told me about a childhood custom that is common among Japanese families.

“In Japan a little daughter and dad shower and bath together is normal–with son too. People from other countries say that’s disgusting. (But) it’s because normally dads don’t have time to communicate with their kids cause the work, so bath time is perfect time to have kids time to them. We did until I was 7 or something.”

I knew she had an older brother, so I asked if her dad would shower with both of them simultaneously or one by one. Her response was:

“Both! But that’s only when we’re little like 3 or 4. After that let’s say probably when I’m taking the bath my dad join me after. We just talk and play in the bathtub. Maybe he help me wash my hair, but not the body.”

I thought it was interesting how my informant pointed out how other countries saw this custom as strange, and felt the need to provide an explanation (almost in a defensive manner). I think it is because in Western culture it is more commonly heard of for mothers to take baths with their children since they are the ones to have given birth and are the “caretakers” of the family. A father  taking a bath with his child–especially a daughter– could be interpreted as inappropriate or even as sexual abuse.

However, baths are a huge part of Japanese custom. Japan has numerous public bathhouses located all over the country, varying from rural to urban areas. These bathhouses have large communal baths that are typically segregated by gender. Visitors comfortably bathe and walk around nude in front of complete strangers. With this information in mind, I was not surprised to hear that it is typical for children to bathe with their fathers.


Morning Song – Korea

Original Script:

아침해가 떴습니다

자리에서 일어나

이빨 닦고 세수하고

학교에 갑시다


Phonetic (Roman) Script:

achimhaega tteossseubnida

jalieseo il-eona

ippal dakkgo sesuhago

haggyoe gabsida



The morning sun has arisen

Get up from bed

Brush your teeth, wash your face

Let’s go to school


My mom was born in South Korean, but moved to America when she was 16 years old. She told me that she had learned this song about 45 years ago when she was in first grade. She isn’t sure if they still teach this song, or if it is something that all schools taught or just hers. Everyone was taught to sing this song during music class. Music is a great way to reach students; it can help discreetly teach important lessons. My mom said students were taught to sing this song in particular as a way to encourage them to get up for school and help them develop a morning routine. When I was little, we used to sing this song together all the time. It was actually really effective in getting me out of bed, and made it more entertaining to get ready in the morning by singing along with her.


Heal, Heal, Butt of a Frog

“Sana Sana Culo de rana. Si no sana hoy sanara manana.”

(Heal, heal, butt of a frog, if it doesn’t heal today, it’ll heal tomorrow.)


Interviewer: What is being performed?


Informant: Ritual Song by Steph Elmir (Genre: Childhood)


Interviewer: What is the background information about the performance? Why do you know or like this piece? Where or who did you learn it from?


Informant: It’s a nursery rhyme in Spanish, I love it because it is used after someone is hurt. My mom taught me this in Miami. It’s silly and makes children laugh.


Interviewer: What country and what region of that country are you from?


Informant: USA- Miami


Interviewer: Do you belong to a specific religious or social sub group that tells this story?


Informant: Catholic/ Hinduran/Lebanese Descent


Interviewer: Where did you first hear the story?


Informant: My mom. My home.


Interviewer: What do you think the origins of this story might be?


Informant: Frogs have magical qualities in Latino Culture and are considered good luck.


Interviewer: What does it mean to you?


Informant: It makes me feel safe. It reminds me of home and a good relationship with my mom.


Context of the performance- Conversation with classmate before class


Thoughts about the piece-  Relating childhood folkways is an emotional experience for most students living far from home. Mothers in many cultures use song to comfort their children. Here is a video of the song in Spanish, featuring Kermit the frog.

Is it culito (ass) or colita (butt)? That seems to depend on which country you are from:



Folk Beliefs
Gestation, birth, and infancy

The Golden Dragon

Interviewer: What is being performed?

Informant: Folk belief by Crystal Soojung Choi

When a Korean mother becomes pregnant with a son, she has a dream that a golden dragon appears to her.


Interviewer: What is the background information about the performance? Why do you know or like this piece? Where or who did you learn it from?

Informant: My dad told me this story because my grandmother (his mom) had that dream when she was pregnant with my dad. I really like this story because of the mystical qualities surrounding it.


Interviewer: What country and what region of that country are you from?


Informant: I was born and raised in Los Angeles, but my dad was born and raised in the Boseon area of South Korea.


Interviewer: Do you belong to a specific religious or social sub group that tells this story?


Informant: It’s a dream that Korean mothers have when pregnant with a son so I suppose it is prevalent in Korean families.


Interviewer:  Where did you first hear the story?


Informant: From my father before I went to sleep one night.


Interviewer: What do you think the origins of this story might be?


Informant: It could be part of the values of royal families in older generations that a son was desired for offspring and thus, they were welcomed as a precious treasure before and after birth.


Interviewer: What does it mean to you?


Informant: With the appearance of the golden dragon, it could show how precious a child is in a family and that they are treasured and loved.


Context of the performance- conversation with a classmate


Thoughts about the piece- Other portents of sons include dreaming of cows, tigers, snakes and pigs but dragons are the luckiest. Daughters are symbolized in dreams by flowers, jewelry and other delicate objects. More Korean dream interpretation here: