USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘good’
Folk Beliefs
Humor
Magic

Dokgyebi’s Club

홍두깨도깨비(Hong Du Kkye Dogyebi) – Dokgyebi’s Club

The Informant:

Born in Korea before the split, she managed to escape to South Korea during the Korean War with her husband and family. She immigrated to the U.S. and resides in New Jersey with her eldest son and her grandchildren.

 The Story:

도깨비가 자기의 홍두깨를 치고 다니면 돈이 가득하게 찬 우물하고 분수들이 땅에서 나타난데. 도개비는 머리위에 유니콘처럼 뿔이있고 마술사 같아. 사람들에게 “넌 뭘 갖고싶니?” 하면서 돌아다녀. 좋은 사람들한테만 주지 근데. 나쁜 사람이 돈 달라고하면 아니면 소원을 빌면 그 도깨비는 얼굴이 화나게 변신을하고 그 나쁜 사람에게 불행을 빌지. 도깨비는 밤에만 나타나. 어떤 귀신이라고 생각할수도있고, 하지만 무섭지는않아. 착한 귀신이지, 좋은 사람한테는.

 When the dokgyebi hits its club around wells of money springs out. It has a small horn on its head, like a unicorn. It is like a magician and can make things appear or make wishes come true. It walks around and asks people what they want. When a bad person asks a dokgyebi for money or a wish, the dokgyebi face become mad and wishes the bad person illness. When a good person asks a dokgyebi for money or a wish, it is granted. A dokgyebi only appears at night. It is a type of ghost, but it is not scary to nice people.  

The Analysis:

A dokgyebi appears randomly and only at night. It is a mystical figure, almost a cross between a ghost and a fairy. Instead of a wand it carries around a club, which signifies that it is not only nice but also can be bad. However, it is mean to only people with bad hearts or ill intentions. The meaning of the story is that one should be careful of how one lives, no matter the time and space. You never know who is watching you and so you should always try to lead a give life, inside and out.

 

Narrative
Tales /märchen

Story of Repentance

Informant Background: The informant is a student in Los Angeles. His family is originally from Indonesia. His parents moved to the United States and they now live in New Orleans. He speaks only English but he said his family still practice many Indonesian traditions especially folk-beliefs. He travels back once in a while to Indonesia to visit his relatives.

 

A serial killer who has killed hundreds of people realized at the end of his life how much evil he committed. He thought to himself something like: what am I going to do? Then he had a revelation toward the end of his life. He then heard of this city which consists of good people…you know where those people can teach him how to become a good person if he can reach the city…The people of that city can also teach him how to repay his since so he can reach salvation.

So this guy, the serial killer, starts walking to the good city. But he was really old, you see, so the serial killer dies on the way to the good city. The angels then wonder if he should go to heaven since he did have the intention to become good, or hell since he never made it to his destination. They decided to take the distance between his starting point and the city of good. If the man passes the half way point then he would go to heaven. But he didn’t pass the test, so an angel carried him pass the half-way point and brings him to heaven. So basically this story is pretty much saying that the intention to become a good person outweighs the evil in the past.

A story of repentance form Indonesia. The informant was told this story by his grandparents from Indonesian. The goal was to teach children to be good, want to be good, and continue to do good things despite past mistakes. The intention of the story was to teach that wanting to become good outweighs the bad things in the past.

 

 

I think this story reflects similar principles as karma. The serial’s killer intention to become good is so that he can go to heaven. He knows that his evil past will result in evil ends for him. He is doing good to expect good things in return. It is also evident that the intention to become good is so that he can eliminate or counter balance the evil he committed in the past. I think this story indirectly teaches children about karma and the consequences of good and bad actions.

This also reflects the idea of the ideal binary opposition in morality: the good and the bad. The character and the city are set as complete opposite of each other. The two are separated into pure ideal of how to judge morality. The killer is characterized as the definition of extreme “bad” while the city is defined as extreme “good” and filled with good people. The criteria of judging the good intention of the killer is a binary where the boundary is the halfway point of his journey.

This binary opposition of good and bad is blurred when the angel carried him pass the half way point so he can go to heaven due to his good intentions. The fact that only the intention to become good saves the killer from going to hell, in my opinion, makes the story effective. Since the goal of this story is to encourage people to have intention to do good things regardless of their past, the fact that the killer went to heaven shows how easy it could be to correct the evil past through simple change in attitude.

Folk speech
general
Proverbs

Mexican Refranes (Proverbs)

Here is a series of Mexican proverbs that my informant told me she uses or hears every day as she told me verbatim:

“If you are with bad people, like when somebody tells you a refrán. That means something to make you think about the things you doing.”

“Dime con quién andas y dire quién eres.” (Tell me who you walk with and I’ll tell you who you are)

“If you have bad company, if you have bad friends people can tell you hey you don’t do that because you have a bad friends but you say im not doing anything bad and then people say ‘Dime con quién andas’ ok? tell me who you’re with and I tell you who you are. ‘y dire quién eres’ people are going to think you are the same you have with bad people, but you are not bad. But people are going to think you are the same. ‘Dime con quién andas y dire quién eres.’ Tell me who you’re with and I’ll tell you who you are.”

“Quién con lobos anda, aullar aprende.” (Those who walk with wolves learn to howl)

“You are still with bad people and then you are not bad, you are a good girl but the other person are a bad person. No no bad only they are younger they… you are with a people but you are not bad and then we say ‘Quién con lobos anda, aullar aprende.’ Those who walk with wolves learn to howl. You learn to do the same.”

These two are similar in that they are about who you surround yourself with, in the second case, “wolves.” They’re about how you should be careful because we are easily influenced by others, and perceived in terms of people we choose to be with, even if you are good. Wolves are dangerous vicious animals that run in packs, so this is a warning not to get involved with bad people, who can turn you and make you “howl,” or be bad like them.

“Hacer bien, sin mirar a quién.” (Be good without looking at who)

“‘Hacer bien, sin mirar a quién.’ Be good no matter who are. Be good with a person no matter how a person is. That’s one we use more. Be good no matter. Be good without looking at who.”

This refran is about being good to everyone, no matter who they are, how they may seem. Treating others well is very important to my informant and she believes strongly that you shouldn’t judge others.

“Dime de que presumes y te diré de que careces.” (Tell me what you’re showing off and I’ll tell you what you lack)

“This is a nice one. You know especially we in Mexico, maybe you know people like this. People who, how how you use the word when you have friend and they said ‘Oh I have this Oh this cost me a lot money Oh this very expensive Oh mine’s is better oh blah blah blah.’ They always telling you they have the best or you know if I get if I have my dog oh yes I have dog and then I have a shoes oh I have a shoes or I have a new bed or some ‘I have this’ all the time I’m telling you what I have ok. They always telling you what they have. You know people like this. ‘Blah Blah blah.’ They are always trying to tell. And they they say ‘Dime de que presumes y te diré de que careces’ That means persons talk about they have they have when you realize what they have they have, really they don’t have nothing. That’s why. You telling me you have a lot a lot and maybe when I go to your house, you have nothing.”

Because my informant comes from very humble beginnings in León, Guanajuato, México, she can’t stand materialism and thinks that people who are obsessed with things and showing off are either fake, liars, or as the proverb suggests are lacking otherwise. This lack is likely a more metaphorical lack, like they have something perhaps emotionally or spiritually missing from their lives or are unhappy. This saying has probably become even more applicable since she moved to the United States, where image and things is a part of daily life and are even more in your face.

“No soy monedita de oro.” (I’m not a gold coin)

“If you have somebody… I don’t know if I say in the right way or no. Ok, you ah you like me, ah? Because if I say ‘I love you’ (Te quiero) that means I want you, and if I say you don’t want me, you don’t want me ah? This is when you have somebody and that person don’t like you and we say this most of the time, all of the time all the time because you know you find most of the persons they don’t like you. We answer ‘Oh good, I’m not gold coin.’ ‘No soy monedita de oro.’ If you are gold coin, everybody want you. If you are not gold, not everybody want you. Somebody can say ‘Oh I don’t like her,’ or somebody say ‘Well, I don’t like you.’ Well good, ‘No soy monedita de oro’ and everybody loves gold, so it’s good that they don’t all want you. Not everybody loves me. We use that every time, everyday, all situations. That’s the most popular in Mexico. ‘No soy monedita de oro.’”

I found this refran to be the most interesting because the connotation or the reason why she says it seems somewhat contradictory at first. I’m not a gold coin is considered a positive thing. It’s good that you aren’t gold because then everyone doesn’t like you, everyone doesn’t want you, love you. This tells me that self-esteem in Mexican culture has a different slant in that it truly comes from the self as opposed to from affirmation from others, and also in the sense that not being perfect is a good thing. This saying emphasizes uniqueness and the imperfection of humanity as good and safe. It’s not as important that everyone love you because not everyone is good and you shouldn’t want everyone to love you. That she ends telling me this particular refran, which she explains to be the most popular and commonly used one she knows from Mexico, it really highlights the motif that you need to be cautious with people. You don’t want everyone to like you. It’s almost a giant Freudian defense mechanism, because again, the other motif is that not all people are good, or good for you to be around, though you should treat everyone well (even if you don’t like them).

Folk speech
general

“Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than be good.”

Saying described verbatim by informant and his wife:

“We use that a lot at work, in surgery, in medicine. And there are there are times when (pause) no matter how good a surgeon you are the result is not what you hope it would be, the patient doesn’t do as well. You can do the same operation the same way, you know, the same way on ten people but you can get you know 3 or 4 different results and so. It’s not to belittle anybody’s effort or ability but sometimes it just matters you know how the cards are dealt. And uh an example, another example would be: we take call at night, you work all night. Some nights a guy will be, won’t have any emergency surgery to do and he’ll be able to sleep all night and there are other nights where the guy is up All night uh through no fault of his own just happened to be a night where a lot of people showed up in the emergency room. So we always look at each other and we say ‘Well, it’s better to be lucky than good’ cuz no matter how good a surgeon you are you’d rather be lucky and not be working all night. You’d rather be the lucky one that gets to sleep.

I don’t think that phrase is unique to surgeons or in the medical world.

(wife’s interjection speaking quickly and emphatically: You’ve been saying that since the day I met you. You didn’t say that as a surgeon. You said that, when I met you you were saying that. Because you said you were good all the time and you had no luck. You used to say that all the time, I’d say like you know “You’re so good,” and he was like “Yeah, well sometimes its better to be lucky than be good.” And I was like, “Well what do you mean by that?” You’re like “You know I have no luck” Kay, not for nothing, you’re a pretty lucky guy, you work really hard but some people work really hard and they don’t get places, but that’s for another day)

(In answer) Well, there’s also the expression that you make your own luck, so. But I don’t, I didn’t realize that I said that so often but I don’t think the phrase is unique to me. I think I heard it from someone else.

(wife: No, of course not. But it obviously spoke to you. Right?)

I always think of my brother P. (P is an name substitute to keep confidentiality) cuz my brother P. was kind of an imp of a boy, always in trouble, but he was always incredibly lucky. I mean he he

(wife speaking as he spoke: The luck of the Irish!)

never got caught by the cops, he uh um he did very well playing cards um always had luck with cards (laughing)

(wife: Always had incredible luck with women)

Yeah well, he was very handsome so he didn’t have to be lucky

(wife disagreeing: Uhhh, I’m sorry)

but but uh certainly, Certainly when I’d look around at how hard I was working at school and he was still pullin good grades uh, usually he was lucky he had a good teacher or he had a good friend.

(wife’s question: Did he get good grades?)

He got okay grades, much better than he deserved (laughing) so.”

Obviously this proverb applies to numerous situations. For my informant, it held truth in both his professional and personal lives. With a high-stress high-stakes job as a general surgeon, the subjective reality of treating patients sometimes can only be justified and understood with the concept of luck. Since their work holds great consequence to people’s lives, when things don’t work as they “are supposed to” it can be a heavy blow to both their conscience and confidence. Being a good surgeon and doing things exactly as they are supposed to isn’t always enough to save someone, and that can understandably be a difficult concept to wrap their heads around. Also, the absurdly difficult “On Call” shift in the Emergency Room overnight takes a lot out of surgeons physically and mentally. Having the luck to sleep through the night is often favorable to performing surgery all night; even though you may be a good surgeon and can help people, there’s luck in the sense that people aren’t sick and don’t need help, which in turn is lucky for surgeons who can then get some sleep. So far as my informant’s personal life, he sees his impish younger brother as having luck in the sense that things easily work in his favor. Naturally, a man who by both his wife’s and his own description is a “good,” hardworking person, it’s easy to view the luck and ease his bad-boy brother always had as both irritating and enviable. Good for him that he can smile and laugh about it. In this manner, the proverb is almost a calming truth; not everything is within your power. That luck is an important concept to my informant whose family is a mix of Italian-American and Irish-American, among other things, isn’t so surprising.

Customs
Folk Beliefs

St. Anthony of Padova statue for good weather

My informant told me a superstition passed onto her from her italian grandmother:

“To insure good weather, place statue of St. Anthony of Padova in the window facing outward.”

She told me that she does not usually follow this, mostly because statues of St. Anthony are hard to come by in the United States. In Italy, her grandmother had many little statues, and around the time fo the harvest she would put them facing outward in all of the windows. Although my informant does not practice this belief, she still believes in it.

I have heard many different superstitions about the weather, so this one does not surprise me. I was interested in the fact that my informant did not practice it, but stil does carry on the belief. I assume that the statue is placed facing outward in order to interact with the weather that is outside.

 

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