USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘folklore’
Folk speech
general
Proverbs

“Lift your feet up when you drive over a bridge.”

This little saying was told to me by one of my buddy’s older brothers, Emilio.  Their family grew up in Irvine, CA and to get to school everyday, they had to drive over a bridge.  Everyday, throughout elementary and middle school, their mother would tell them to lift their feet up when they drove over the bridge.  He recalls his mom telling him pick up his feet and look out the window because they were ‘flying’.  Unfortunately, Emilio’s mother passed away a few years ago.  He says when he drives over a bridge now and lifts up his feet, it gives him a fond memory of his mother.

 

Narrative

The Motel’s Hat

“A spooky story, we were away, Sue and I and another couple, and we were in this old really rundown motel, kinda– bed and breakfast.  We were skiing and uh, so we go check in in the lobby waiting room thing, ya know, where you go to get your room keys, and the lady behind the desk was kinda weird, little odd.  There was this big old picture behind the counter, it was portrait of this old guy.  Long skinny face.  White hair pokin’ out at the ears and he had this hat on.  It was like a hat you’d see guys wear back in the 1920s, 30s, great depression era kinda thing, not one you’d see out today.  Anyway, the picture caught my eye, cause they guy looked spooky, just very gaunt.  In writing at the bottom it said “Founder” and then the guy’s name that I don’t remember.  And then the dates of his life.  He had died like 15 years ago or something.  Anyway we get the keys, and go to the room and I found my way makin’ it down this creepy hallway and there was this door at the end that didn’t really seem to go anywhere, so I opened the door… and I was reaching for the light switch and I stepped into the room and fell like two feet into the room, so the door was like two feet higher than the floor of the room.  So now I’m gettin’ just a little bit of light from the hallway comin’ into the room and somebody reaches in and finds the lightswitch and there’s just a hat….  on the floor, and that was the only thing in the room, it was barren, just the hat.  Looked just like the one the guy was wearing in the picture.  So now I’m pretty spooked.  And I picked up the hat and looked at it and it said:  “I am the hat, touch me not.”  And we just looked at each other, dropped it, and ran out of the room.  It was the creepiest night I’ve ever had.  We thought the guy was comin’ back to haunt us or something. We were scared to death.  Ran down the hall like little kids.”

 

Conclusion:

 

This story was told to me by my Uncle Steve.  He said this happened when he and my Aunt Susan were in their late twenties, early thirties.  I find any ghost stories that spook legitimate adults to be pretty funny.  When he tells the story now, Uncle Steve seems to think it was just a crazy coincidence that the hat he stumbled upon looked exactly like the hat worn by the creepy looking founder of the hotel in the portrait.  Either way however, I think a small part of my Uncle could still believe in the supernatural based off of this one experience.

general

Love or Riches

Informant: My informant, G.L., is 19 and was born and raised in West Lake Village. G.L. parents both run their own company together. She has one older brother and her family is mainly Italian but is completely Americanized.

Folklore: “When money stops coming through the door, love flies out the window.” G.L. heard this story from her dad after he found out one of his friends from college was getting divorced to his wife of 20 years after going through financial problems for several years. He told her this saying as a lesson for her to never let money be the reason to get in the way of a relationship. She said that her parents have been together for almost 30 years now, and have never considered getting a divorce even when her family was struggling financially when they first got married.

Analysis: I’ve never heard this piece of folklore like this but have always heard of people splitting up because of their financial status. To me it just felt like this was common sense because people who are constantly struggling to make ends meet usually lose their love along the way. This is a very common phrase known around the world now, and its origin is unknown.

Holidays

Dia de los Muertos

Informant was a 19 year old female who was born in Mexico and currently lives in Brazil. She came to visit me.

Informant: So there is the day of the dead in Mexico. In Spanish, it’s called the dia de los muertos. Basically, it’s a day where you worship… well not exactly worship… it’s a day dedicated to remembering all of the people who passed away and celebrate their life.

Collector: I’ve heard it’s like Halloween. Is this true?

Informant: No, its not like Halloween. On this day, normally you go to the person’s tomb with their favorite food and you place it there like you’re offering them your favorite food. And you also eat it, not theirs but you have a plate of their own.

Collector: Do you eat the food with them?

Informant: Yes you eat it with them on their tomb, and then you decorate their tomb with a bunch of flowers, and everyone dresses up like skull candy, like skeletons but in a fancy way, and then you also save them their favorite alcohol, and you have to drink like your drinking with them, and you play their favorite music, and its like you’re having a party with the tomb.

Collector: Do you pour the alcohol on their grave or do you just leave it there?

Informant: You just leave the cup there with their favorite food. There not actually supposed to be eating it, it’s a more symbolic thing, just to honor them.

Collector: Have you done this before?

Informant: I’ve done it before both in Mexico and in Brazil. But since all of my family is buried in Mexico, I don’t go to the graveyard in Brazil. Instead, I do kind of an alter, like you build an alter for them in the house if you don’t go visit their tombstone, and you can put their favorite food there, and there’s a special bread that you do for that celebration that’s basically a sweet bread. It’s called Pan de Muerto. Bread of the dead.

Everyone kinda gets together during this holiday and it doesn’t really matter who are are, cuz youre celebrating the dead. Who you are and where you come from doesn’t really matter.

Collector: Who have you celebrated?

Informant: I celebrated my grandfathers and Frida Kahlo. It’s not just for family members, you can celebrate whoever you want if their dead.

Collector: Why do you like it?

Informant: I like it because it’s a big party and you don’t mourn them you kind of celebrate them. You look at death with more of a positive attitude. My mother would do it at home when I was young, she would decorate the house and she would celebrate my grandparents. I think its good to remember the people who pass away because sometimes we forget them.

I found it fascinating how in Mexican culture, they have an entire day to celebrate the dead. Generally, when people think of dead people, the thought tends to be accompanied with feelings of mourning. The Mexican culture turns the tables on this feeling, and takes one day out of the year to celebrate the dead and interact with them as if they were living. I also found it interesting that you don’t necessarily celebrate only family members. I would think that when mourning or celebrating the dead, it would be people that you knew rather than strangers, but I think it’s interesting how they really embrace the whole celebration of the dead thing.

Tales /märchen

Saci-Perere

Informant was a 45 year old female who was born in Brazil and currently lives in Brazil. I talked to her over Skype.

Informant: Saci-Perere is like a story of a black boy that has only one leg and he always carries a pipe and a red cap that gives him magical powers. And he’s a very mischievous boy, and he loves to do mischievous things like burn food or wake people up with laughter. This was in a tv show for kids called Sitio do Pica Pau Amarelo (The Farm of the Yellow Woodpecker) that I used to watch when I was a kid.

Collector: Do you know where the story came from?

Informant: I heard that it started like an Indian story, and that was at first an Indian boy that was a curomim – a type of indian. But with the African influence, he became a black boy that lost his leg fighting capoeira, which is a mix of fight and dance typical to brazil. The red cap came from European influence, like a lot of Europeans would wear them because Brazilians wouldn’t wear it in the heat.

Collector: So you said you saw it in a TV show, did the TV show create this character or did it take the pre-existing tale and make it into a character?

Informant: This was something that was in our folklore and Sitio do Pica Pau Amarelo used the story and I knew it through Sitio do Pica Pau Amarelo. Sitio do Pica Pau Amarelo was a story, not a soap opera, but was a story of a boy and a girl. And this girl had a doll called Emilia, who was a talking doll. They lived with their grandmother in this farm, and they had lots of stories that was placed in the country side of Brazil. So in the show it happened a lot of things that kids usually play in the country side. Another character was Cuca, who was like a monster like an alligator and all the kids used to be afraid of and had other characters from folklore. Cuca was the villain, and every time Saci-Perere came he was funny, and we used to laugh.

Collector: Why do you like this particular piece of folklore?

Informant: I liked Saci-Perere because he was fun, and everytime he came on the show he would make funny things and we used to laugh. It was a very big part of my childhood, we would talk about it a lot at school.

I personally like the story of Saci-Perere because I remember from my childhood in Brazil watching the same show that my mother watched “Sitio do Pica Pau Amarelo,” and seeing him in it. As a young child, I never really registered who he was or thought about the reasons why he was the way that he was. He was just a form of comic relief, and I very much enjoyed watching him on the show. I think it’s interesting that the true story of Saci-Perere came from a mixture of a lot of Brazil’s cultural history, such as the original indian tribes and the slavery of African Americans and capoeira, which is really famous in Brazil.

Digital
Legends
Narrative
Protection

New Form of Kidnapping (Ladies – be aware – worth a read)

“NEW FORM OF KIDNAPPING

Please take a minute to read this. This is very scary and could happen to
any of us.. Seems like every nice thing people do for one another can be
perverted.
A new twist on kidnapping from a very smart survivor:
About a month ago there was a woman standing by the mall entrance passing
out flyers to all the women going in. The woman had written the flyer
herself to tell about an experience she had, so that she might warn other
women.
The previous day, this woman had finished shopping, went out to her car and
discovered that she had a flat.
She got the jack out of the trunk and began to change the flat. A nice man
dressed in a business suit and carrying a briefcase walked up to her and
said, ‘I noticed you’re changing a flat tire. Would you like me to take care
of it for you?’
The woman was grateful for his offer and accepted his help. They chatted
amiably while the man changed the flat, and then put the flat tire and the
jack in the trunk, shut it and dusted his hands off.
The woman thanked him profusely, and as she was about to get in her car, the
man told her that he left his car around on the other side of the mall, and
asked if she would mind giving him a lift to his car.
< BR>She was a little surprised and she asked him why his car was on other
side.
He explained that he had seen an old friend in the mall that he hadn’t seen
for some time and they had a bite to eat, visited for a while, and he got
turned around in the mall and left through the wrong exit, and now he was
running late.

The woman hated to tell him ‘no’ because he had just rescued her from having
to change her flat tire all by herself, but she! felt un easy . (Trust that
gut feeling!)

Then she remembered seeing the man put his briefcase in her trunk before
shutting it and before he asked her for a ride to his car.

She told him that she’d be happy to drive him around to his car, But she
just remembered one last thing she needed to buy (Smart woman!!)

She said she would only be a few minutes; he could sit down in her car and
wait for her; she would be as quick as she could be

She hurried into the mall, and told a security guard what had happened, the
guard came out to her car with her, but the man had left. They opened the
trunk, took out his locked briefcase and took it down to the police station.

The police opened it (ostensibly to look for ID so they could return it to
the man). What they found was rope, duct tape, and knives. When the police
checked her ‘flat’ tire, there was nothing wrong with it; the air had simply
been let out.  It was obvious what the man’s intention was, and obvious that
he had carefully thought it out in advance. The woman was blessed to have
escaped harm.

How much worse it would have been if she had children with her and had them
wait in the car while the man fixed the tire, or if she had a baby strapped
into a car seat? Or if she’d gone against her judgment and given him a lift?

I’d like you to forward this to all the women you know. It may save a life.

A candle is not dimmed by lighting another candle. I was going to send this
to the ladies only; but guys, if you love your mothers, wives, sisters,
daughters, etc.., you may want to pass it on to them, as well.

Send this to any woman you know that may need to be reminded that The world
we live in has a lot of crazies in it. Better to be safe than sorry.

PLEASE BE SAFE AND NOT
SORRY”

 

This email was originally received by my real estate agent, she resent it to me with the message that I should be, “extra careful!” especially since I am a single woman living away from home.

What first threw me off about this narrative was that the woman remembers the man put his briefcase in the trunk of her car; however, when she is narrating what he put in the trunk, she doesn’t mention the briefcase. It was inattention to detail like this that made me look it up and as it turns out, it’s an urban legend that’s been around since at least 1998.

My real estate lady is older, and she sent it to me because as a single young woman living in a big city like Los Angeles by myself, she thought I was more at risk. I guess this goes along with the stories and legends you hear about how dangerous and gang-infested big cities are.

Foodways
Legends
Narrative

Potstickers myth

My informant is a high school student who has been taking Chinese in school since kindergarten (age 5), to make a total of 10 years of study. She traveled to Taiwan last summer doing a homestay. She was born in Wisconsin, but raised in a suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota. She is very knowledgeable of Asian culture; she has had a passion for learning languages and learning about different cultures since a young age. She also studies Japanese Language and culture. My informant heard this legend explaining how potstickers were invented from her Chinese instructor, who is from China. She told me this story because of her interest in Chinese culture.

Informant: This emperor from China asked his chef to make him some food. So the chef decided to make dumplings. Then, he forgot about them in the pot…When he came back to the kitchen, they were stuck to the pot. He was going to make more food because he messed up, but the emperor really wanted to eat. Because he did not have time, the chef brought the overcooked dumplings to the emperor and told him that he was trying something new called “potstickers” because they stuck to the pot. The emperor thought they were tasty and voila, potstickers!

Me: Where did you learn this from?

Informant: From 8th grade Chinese class

Me: From who?

Informant: Tan Lao Shi (Informant’s Chinese instructor)

Me: Where is she from and who did she hear it from?

Informant: Mainland China and her parents told her the story.

Me:Why did your teacher tell you this story?

Informant: Because we were doing a project Chinese folklore. We had to find a story and then make a presentation about the story. She told us this story as an example of a story we could do for our presentation.

I thought it was interesting that my informant had to do a folklore assignment for her Chinese language class. Her Chinese teacher gave this story as an example of a common piece of folklore that is passed down in China. It was interesting that my informant heard this from her Chinese teacher who is actually form China, because it seems like a story that Americans could have developed to explain how this food came to be. It reminds me of the story about how pretzels were invented which was My informant told me that she tells this story when at Asian restaurants to her friends, because it is like a “fun fact.” She is interested in any Chinese stories and says that she gets them from her high school in structors how are from mainland China.

[geolocation]