USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘drowning’
Gestation, birth, and infancy
Legends
Narrative
Signs

Marina’s La Llorona

My Grand Aunt Marina, my grandfathers sister, swears the following legend of “La Llorona” is absolutely true. She knows there have been other stories about La LLorona but hers is the “god’s honest truth”, the real story. She told it on Good Friday at a dinner at my grandmother house

When they would go out to the country for a family camping weekend near the Magdalena River, my aunt said “that on nights with a full moon if you went to the river at dusk or dawn you were sure to see a Llorona/The Crying Woman. She tells me that a young woman drowned her own children in the river because her husband did not care for them and had abandoned them for younger woman (Marina rolls her eyes at this point of the story and murmurs “typical”).  Marina continues but more feeling her voice… “no matter how hard she tried to forget her husband, he had left them without any money and had taken all of their meager belongings. She tried to find work but with four young children to take care of, it proved to be impossible and in a moment of desperation after hearing her children cry all night from hunger, she drowned her children at dawn, letting the river take away their bodies downstream and when she saw her child were no longer with her she cried out in grief and after no longer able to bear the pain she kills herself. St. Peter finds her at the gates of heaven and deems her unworthy for purgatory or even hell because of the gravity of her sins and was sent back down to earth and to find her children. For this reason she roams around at dusk and dawn, crying as she looks for them.”  Marina assures me that she had heard La Llorona on many occasions down by the Magdalena River but only saw her once. This is where Marina gets super serious and lowers her voice to almost a whisper… “One early morning she woke up and saw it was only dawn, she tried really hard to hold back her need to go to the bathroom but was unable. She thought if she was quick enough nothing bad would happen but on the way back to the campsite through the misty dawn she saw a woman wearing rags down by the river crying. She says she felt her blood run cold and ran to the campsite arriving in a cold sweat!” Seeing La Llorona is considered a bad omen and Marina says she was inconsolable all day, finally the family headed home that day to find that grandmother Celestina had passed away. She never went camping to the river again. Marina finishes the story with tears in her eyes because she says that she felt some kind of responsibility for Celetistina death. My Abuelo thinks this is absurd mainly because Celestina was very old and lucky to have survived as long as she did. He cannot collaborate his sister’s story because he was already living in the U.S. but Marina swears it is the God’s honest truth “te juro ha dios” and she is very Catholic. My Abuelo said he did have a dream where his grandmother Celestina talked to him at length, telling him all that was to come in his life, the night before she past away.

Analysis: Although there are some aspects of the supernatural and personal loss, overall I found the story very melancholy and haunting. The way she spoke of La Llorona made me believe that she believed what she had experienced was true. She was so upset during the retelling, she had to get up and leave to the restroom, when she came out she was dabbing her eyes and refuse to tell me any more stories. I feel fortunate to have been allowed to have such a personal retelling.

general

La Llarona

INFORMANT: “So, La Llarona, sometimes in English it’s referred to as “the Woman in White,” and basically it’s a story about a woman who, um, was in love with a man but he didn’t love her back so it was unrequited love, so she drowned her two children in the river in order to be with the man that she loved, but he didn’t want to be with her. So after being refused by him, she then drowned herself in a river in Mexico City. And so, basically with the whole heaven and hell aspect of life, she’s kind of stuck in the in-between, and she kind of wanders around at night in Mexico City, so today a lot of parents use this story as a way to keep their kids from wandering out at night. Or else La Llarona will come and kidnap them. Basically she is said to appear at night around rivers in Mexico, and that’s it. I heard about it in Spanish class and then I went home and asked my mom about it, and she was like ‘oh, yeah.'”

COLLECTOR (myself): “How did your mom learn the story?”

INFORMANT: “I think growing up. It’s a traditional Mexican story that a lot of Mexican parents will tell their kids growing up.”

This legend appears to be a Mexican story within the widespread genre of ‘legends parents tell their children to keep them in line.’ This breed of legend seems to exist in almost every culture – I suppose childrens’ fear of the supernatural is culturally ubiquitous, because they’re more compelled to obey their parents if there’s a supernatural risk involved.

This story was also an interesting case because my friend Taylor is Mexican-American but not very in touch with Mexican culture. She told me that she felt her mother purposely tried to separate her from her Mexican heritage, so she was never told this story as a child, even though her grandmother told it to her mother. In fact, Taylor didn’t hear about the legend until she read about it in Spanish class. On a related note, Taylor did not know Spanish until she took classes in school, another point that makes her feel alienated from her heritage.

ANNOTATION: Several films have been made about the legend of La Llarona, including the Mexican movie La Llarona (1960) and Her Cry: La Llarona Investigation (2013).

Folk Beliefs
general

Don’t Swim After Eating

The belief:

“If go swimming after you eat, you’ll drown.”

 

The informant doesn’t remember where he heard this rumor, but he thinks it was probably from a friend’s mother during his childhood. He doesn’t think it’s true now, though. In my opinion, I think this is a popular statement told to children by their parents so that they let their food digest before they get back in the water to swim. Another popular belief is that you’ll get cramps if you swim right after eating, so maybe the parents who say this more extreme belief are just trying to protect their children from painful cramps.

Folk speech
Game
Kinesthetic
Musical

Lilli Lilli Auzak: Farsi nursery rhyme and hand game

Context: The informant is a grandmother of 8 whose parents were originally from Afghanistan but settled in Pakistan. She also lived in Saudi Arabia for many years and has a working knowledge of Farsi, Arabic, and Punjabi along with her native Urdu. The following nursery rhyme is one in Farsi that she and her siblings learned from their mother when they were very young, but that few of their children (and subsequently grandchildren) learned in their turn.

Audio File

Text in Farsi:

Text in Farsi for Nursery rhyme "Lilli Lilli Auzak"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Transliteration:

Lilli lilli auzak

dowre auzak sauzak

Tutti (murghe) aamad au khord

Paish lakkad au bourd

Ee gereft, ee pukhte kard

Ee rasad kard, ee khord

Ee  aamad:

     “Khala khala?”

               “Jaane khala.”

     “Rasad-e-ma kojaast?”

              “Meene doli.”

     “Meene doli neest.”

               “Peeshek khourd.”

     “Peesheke softe neest?”

               “Une aamad, miaouw, miaouw, miaouw”

Translation:

[note: This translation was not a line-by-line rendering; rather, the informant gave a general idea of what the little narrative was about, in Urdu. The conversation was then translated into English, which is what appears below.]

Inf.: There was a auzak, you know, like how do you say?

Me: Like a fountain?

Inf.: No, not fountain.

Me: A pool?

Inf.: No, not a pool–but anyway, there was–and you know how at the edge of the water that greenish chip-chip [sticky] stuff that grows you know? Around the auzak that slippery stuff was growing and a murgha [rooster*] came to drink water, and his foot slipped on the green stuff, so, he fell in and drowned. One got him, one cooked him, one served him on the table, one ate him; and the fifth came and said, khala (mother’s sister=aunt), where is my piece? And she said, It’s in the doli (pot). And he said, No it’s not. And she said, Then the cat must’ve eaten it. And he says, the cat’s not here, there’s no trace of the cat, and she said, No look, here he comes going “meow meow meow”.

*[note: in the transliteration above, both murgha (rooster) and tutti (parrot) are mentioned; in the audio, the informant almost says tutti but says murghe instead; and in the written text, only tutti is mentioned, but spelled two different ways.]

Physical description: Like the Western nursery rhyme “This Little Piggy”, this rhyme also has a tactile/physical component. The performer takes the child’s hand in theirs and begins the first two lines by tracing a circle on the child’s palm. At the third line, the performer imitates a bird’s peck coming to land in the center of the child’s palm (representing the rooster/parrot coming to drink water from the pool) then twists the tips of the fingers around to indicate the drowning. At lines 5 and 6, the performer closes one finger into the child’s palm for every action mentioned (i.e., “one caught it”=a finger down, “one cooked it”=second finger down, etc.) and at the seventh line, the performer holds the child’s thumb and wiggles it to match the conversation between the little boy and his aunt. At the mention of the cat coming (“meow meow meow”) the performer usually walks their fingers up the child’s arm and tickles them.

Analysis: This nursery rhyme is one of the only ones that is somewhat familiar to the informant’s children, who are all Urdu-speaking themselves, not Farsi-speaking. It is relatively easy to remember because so much of it rhymes and many of the words are the same in Farsi and Urdu (like rooster, parrot, foot, pot, aunt, etc.). Like many nursery rhymes with a physical component, this one in particular may be popular with young children because an integral part of the performance is the physical contact and the subsequent connection established between the parent (or other beloved adult) and the child, who relishes the special attention. The tickle at the end especially is eagerly waited and enjoyed, because the child and the adult both know it’s coming, and the slow buildup to it is part of the appeal.

As for the content, it seems to be a common occurrence in nursery rhymes, both Western and otherwise, for animals or even people to be violently injured or killed, and/or cooked and eaten (for instance, Sing a Song of Sixpence). The cat taking the blame for the boy’s missing share is an interesting element: the aunt (and other family members, of course) have eaten their find and left none for the boy, who immediately notices and outright asks the aunt, who outright lies to him and redirects his attention elsewhere. Both are quite aware of what the other is up to, but engage in this playful banter anyway. I think this may exhibit and model a joking relationship between aunts and their sisters’ kids, or more generally, between children and their parents’ siblings that is also present in real life. In the informant’s family, for instance, her youngest sister is only a few years older than the informant’s oldest daughter, and so the aunt and niece maintain a very casual, joking, teasing (but still respectful) relationship.

Folk Beliefs

How the Irish keep from drowning

My informant told me of an old Irish superstition that he learned from his father:

“If you bless yourself before diving into the water, it keeps you from drowning”

My informant swims often, and he said that he always blesses himself before going into the water. He does not remember a time when he didn’t, and believes that he would surely drown if he did not.

I have seen my Irish relatives make similar gestures before doing things like: crossing the street, getting on an airplane, or even carving the Thanksgiving turkey, so it did not surprise me that crossing or “blessing” yourself before diving into water was also practiced. It again highlights the strong connection between the Irish and religion, and the fear that comes along with it. In this case, the fear is drowning.

 

[geolocation]