USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘grandmothers’
Legends
Narrative

Grandmother’s Ring

This is a scary story told by my informant’s father to her and her sister when they were children, that he said his father used to tell him.

“Basically this boy and girl, siblings, very spoiled, and they have this insanely rich grandmother that they never really cared for. One day, she passes away and they attend the funeral and it’s very sad, parents are a mess, everyone’s crying and it’s an open casket ceremony. So when they get their turn to get up and see the grandmother for the last time, instead of feeling sad, um, all they can notice is this huge ring on her finger, that’s just got a huge rock on it. And they’re thinking, you know, ‘our grandma was so rich how dare she die and not leave anything for us, she has all this money and we didn’t get a cent of it, and here she is burying herself with all these treasures.’ And so after the funeral, the boy and the girl start scheming, and they decide that they’re going to go visit the grave and get the ring.

Yeah, so, they get shovels and they dress in black and they start making their way to the gravesite and they get there and they start digging, and the entire time they’re just so excited thinking about the ring and how they’re going to get it. And they’re just totally disrespecting the site, and so they finally dig up the grave, open the casket, and there she is lying there looking beautiful with the ring on her finger. And the girl reaches to go for the ring, and she’s like “I can’t get it off! Her fingers have swollen, it’s stuck!” And the boy is like “let me see, like, get out of the way, we can get this off”, and he starts pulling and pulling and pulling and it won’t come off. And so finally they realize they’re going to have to chop off the finger. And so the boy takes the shovel and, um, severs the finger from the hand and they make off with the ring. And I think they kind of shantily throw dirt back on the spot and make it look somewhat normal, but really they were just happy to get out of there.

But the thing is, they live in this kind of mountainey area and it’s winter time, and there’s a storm coming in and, um, it gets very blizzardy and they begin to become uncertain if they were returning the way they came, the correct way, and they start wandering about. And you know, it’s getting colder and colder and they’re hungry and it’s dark and really at this point they’re starting to question whether or not it was even worth it to come out here because they may not make it. And then up in the distance they see a light, and they hurriedly run towards it hoping that its some sign of civilization and they come across a cottage and they’re banging on the door banging on the door, saying “someone please let us in we’re cold we’re starving”, and finally after a few minutes the door opens and there’s this very nice looking lady.

And you know she’s got a shawl on, your classic grandma figure, and she ushers them in and gives them new clothes, gives them tea, and, um, she’s sitting there and asking them do you want anything to eat? And they say yes, we would love cookies if you have cookies, and so she goes into the kitchen and she starts telling them about her life. And, um, how she had a family once but they didn’t really care for her anymore and that made her sad, and, um, sometimes it makes her very angry. And, um, basically she’s bringing them the cookies and as she’s putting the tray down the children notice she’s missing a finger. And the little girl looks at her brother, looks at the grandma, and says excuse me but I can’t help but notice you’re missing a finger, who would ever do something like this to you? And the grandma says in a loud, scary voice, “YOU DID IT”*. And that’s the end. And you never know what happens to the kids.”

*According to the informant, the teller at this moment is supposed to look menacing and bend towards the audience and say that line very loudly.

The prevalent theme in this story is the importance of honoring your family. Regardless of how greedy these kids may be, they should have put their grandmother’s memory first and shouldn’t have been so selfish. This story is a scary story for children that warns against disrespecting the dead and against greed. The scary things, of course, happen at night, in a dark storm, and the kids seek refuge in a warm house with an elderly women and cookies (much like Hansel and Gretel, though with very different personalities). The story is left open ended effectively, letting kids fill in a more terrifying gap than words could really express. Unlike the similar Hansel and Gretel, this story is not guaranteed a happy ending because of the difference of the natures of the two protagonists.

Contagious
Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine

Mexican Egg Massage

Informant Bio: Informant is a friend and fellow business major.  He is a junior at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business.  His family is from Mexico but he has lived in Southern California for nearly all of his life.

 

Context: I was talking to Fabian about Mexican stories and folklore.  He shared with me the following superstition that is prominent in his family’s village where his grandmother still lives.

 

Item: “If someone is feeling bad, not always, but sometimes.  What they do is they get this massage with an egg that has been dipped in holy water.  They just kind of rub it on your back, arms and stuff.  Then they make the sign of the cross on your back, chest and forearms.  It’s supposed to be a blessing kind of thing.  Once you’re done, you crack the egg in a cup of water.  When you do it, the egg, which has been shaken from being rolled around your body, has a very opaque yolk which kind of represents the evil from your body.  The yolk is then released from the egg, and, supposedly the evil, which is contained in that opaque yolk, is then released from the body and dispelled into the water.  This is usually done by older women.  There are some people that have a lot of knowledge/spiritual energy to them that perform a lot of these massages for people in the villages.  A lot of the older women – the grandmothers – mostly know how to do it.”

 

Informant Analysis: Many superstitions in Mexico involve direct contact and touching using crosses, since Mexico is such a religious place.

 

Analysis: This superstition seems to involve the idea of contagious magic, the idea that things that have been in direct contact can have influence and interact with each other.  The informant’s comment that many superstitions involve direct contact and touching seems to reinforce that Mexican beliefs heavily involve contagious magic.  It makes sense that Crosses are used due to the deeply religious nature of the country.

 

The opaque egg yolk symbolizing the presence of evil brings about the idea of order being good and disorder being bad.  Something being jumbled up represents disorder, something that civilization and society has tried to eliminate.

 

The fact that older women usually perform this ritual exhibits the very powerful position that they have in Mexican familial hierarchy, as they are revered as being knowledgeable and beyond reproach by anyone else in the family.  The informant recounted a time when he yelled at his grandmother and was ostracized from his extended family for months after.  It is possible to disobey/yell at other family members, but the grandmother is off limits, showing the position they hold in Mexican familial structures.

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