USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Fairy’
Folk Beliefs
Legends
Magic
Narrative

Changelings

Background:

My informant is a twenty-two year old student at USC. She is originally from Pennsylvania and came to LA to study screenwriting. As a writer, she makes it her business to be familiar with a variety of legendary creatures from different regions and cultures; she is ethnically Jewish.

Performance:

“This is one of my favorites. There was that Angelina Jolie movie about it, and everything, but that kind of sucked (laughter) so I first heard this from my grandmother sometime in high school, just kind of like, a scary story or something. But I’ve done more research and the basic story shows up across a bunch of different cultures and whatnot. So basically, we think of fairies as like, Tinkerbell, right? Well in most old cultures, fairies were not that fucking benign. Like, at all. Fairies were these sort of horrendous creatures that would sneak into your house and steal your babies and drive you crazy. Like, parents would hang iron over their baby’s crib to keep fairies from getting in and taking their kids. This whole legend grew up around that idea; when people were wondering if their kid was their kid or the fairy replacement, they’d call them ‘changelings.’ Basically, what a fairy leaves behind to mimic your child while the real thing lives on in the fairy realm. Some stories say that these changeling kids were kind of brutal, monstrous little things, and others just say they’re sort of…off, I guess? There’s a lot of variety, which makes it a cool story to build stories off of, if that makes sense. A lot of wiggle room.”

Thoughts:

This legend seems almost mythic, in the sense that it’s a story that was created as a means of explaining and understanding the world around us. As Kieryn mentioned, the changeling story appears in a variety of different traditions; it appears here: https://www.britannica.com/art/changeling-folklore and http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/scanchange.html and elsewhere across print and digital resources. Nowadays, you hear stories about a child one day “changing” and becoming “someone else;” all of a sudden, an otherwise sweet baby grows disobedient or angry or difficult. We would usually go straight to an autism diagnosis or some other psychological explanation, but this offers a more spiritual explanation. According to one of the articles above, there were myths about how to have your child returned from the fairy world, many of which included torture. This story in particular speaks to mankind’s understanding and treatment of mental illness and disability.

Myths

Maria Makiling

Background: Y.G.M. is a 49-year-old Filipino woman who works at Nye Partners in Women’s Health as the office manager. She was born and raised in Quezon City in the Philippines, and lived there until she was 25 years old. Y.G.M. self-identifies as Filipino, and as a result of her upbringing, Filipino culture is very engrained into her personal beliefs. She attended college at Mirian College, and received a bachelor’s degree in Communication Arts. Y.G.M. then immigrated to Chicago, Illinois with her family in 1997, and got her first job working at Citibank in River Forest, Illinois. She now lives with her husband in a suburb of Chicago.

 

Main piece:

Y.G.M.: So Maria Makiling is uh, one of our mythological um, how do you call – creatures – or no no sorry – she’s one of the fairies, uh, that we believe in.  Fairies they call us diwata, usually they are beautiful women. Maria Makiling, she is associated with one of the mountain ranges in the Philippines up north called Mount Makiling. So she is supposed to be like really beautiful lady and in the Philippine mythology she is the one who actually protects the mountains and volcanos and the forests in the Philippines. She is like the guardian of the mountains and um, responsible for protecting the, you know, the mountain. Sorry. The mountain resembles like the body with two breasts and the face of uh, a woman’s face.

 

Q: Where did you learn this from?

 

Y.G.M.: Uh, my Grandma Cion used to tell me this story when I was little. Also, my teacher from 3rd grade told me this story, and… and it was in a lot of children’s books. You know, like books of Filipino legends.

 

Performance Context: This story would typically be told to Filipino children to teach them more about Filipino folklore and legends.

 

My Thoughts: I think it is interesting that mythical creatures are such a vital part of the culture, even in making up the landscape of the Philippines. This shows a close relationship between the pride Filipinos find in their landscape and the pride in their culture and folklore.

Childhood
Legends
Narrative
Tales /märchen

Mound Parties

This is another story told to Marisol by a nanny who was from the Andean province of Ayacucho. The nanny told her that as a child, her relatives always warned her not to get close to parties or gatherings of people in the middle of the fields or on top of hills because these were there to take away wayward children, drunks and gluttons. She warned her that if she was out playing the hills and heard laughter and voices, she was to run away immediately and not get close to the table, no matter how delicious and abundant the meal or how inviting the people because if you ate any of the food or touched the guests, they would take you to the afterlife and the party would disappear and all that your family would find on the hill would be a rock.

This story serves to keep kids in line and keep them away from strangers and unknown places. It is a lot like the Irish tales of fairies. There is also the presence of a magical mound which can be found, most famously, in Irish fairy folklore.

Childhood
Customs
Folk Beliefs
Material

Clovers

My informant grew up in a town outside of Springfield, Ohio, in a relatively small community.  According to her, there wasn’t much to go out and do, so one of the things she loved to do was pick clovers and knock them into a necklace similar to a Hawaiian lei.  Some of her other friends would also make these necklaces with her.  Also she and her friends use to take these clovers and make them into a sort of potion for the fairies, and in exchange for this potion, they believed that the fairies would grant them three wishes.  My informant says she and her friends used to wish for stuff like having the longest hair of anyone they knew, but later in life they started making their first wish to be for a hundred extra wishes, which made the wishing get out of hand.

While I never made potions for fairies, there were certainly times in my life, especially after watching the movie Aladdin, where the topic of conversation between me and my peers turned into “if you had three wishes, what would they be?”  And almost everyone’s first wish was for a hundred extra wishes, or a million extra wishes, or infinite wishes, or something.  Usually we said stuff like that wasn’t allowed.  We certainly weren’t the wish police or the wish distribution bureau, so we didn’t care about fairness per se, but the point of the game was to see what kinds of things people wanted, so limiting someone to thee wishes was in the interests of a fair personality test.

Customs
Foodways
Legends
Material
Narrative

Moon Cakes

The world used to have 10 suns, but a man took arrows and shot them down until only one sun was left. He had a beautiful wife that wanted to become immortal. One day, the wife found her husband’s medicine and ate it, turning into an immortal fairy. She flew away to the moon where all the fairies lived and the woman brought a rabbit with her. Even though the husband was angry, he did not shoot down the moon because he loved his wife so much.

Whenever my informants family buys mooncakes (the Chinese sweet cakes that are consumed on/around Chinese New Year), there is a picture of a lady included in the package. Neither he nor his family is quite sure how this story relates to mooncakes, but they all agreed that the lady in the image is the lady from this story. He first heard this story from his mother when he asked about the picture. Unfortunately, my informant did not remember many of the details from this story, so it is difficult to analyze it without explanations for why she left her husband, however it is worthwhile to note that this story serves as an origin story for the rabbit on the moon visible if you turn your head to the right.

[geolocation]