USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘history’
Folk Dance

Turkish Cricket Dance

P.N. – “Right now, I just realized how much of a theme Nature is in all of our dances.  Nature plays a huge part in our own understanding of the world.  It’s why we have these two characters, Karagoz and Hacivat, who represent the dichotomy of the city and the country, fighting.  There’s a reason why we have this constant back-and-forth of going from the city to the farmland.  I think the reason for this is that there are only a few really big cities in Turkey, and people who live there are very, very different from the people who live in the villages, and we have so many villages . . . Everybody comes from a village, and they move to the city.  Only the newer generations are from the cities.  On that subject, folk dancing has given me a deeper connection with nature. A more sub-conscious thing.  I didn’t see how it impacted me before.  I think Turkish culture teaches you to respect nature.  SO . . .”

-“There’s this dance where, again, we’re crickets; and we have these spoons that we click to sound like the chirping noises.  We dance in a circle together, kinda going around, to the music, and as it slows down the music breaks and somebody sings in the tone of a prayer.  Here, we bend down and click our spoons.”

And that connects you to nature how?

“I guess because we’re portraying nature.  It adds a much more mystical aspect to it, because, like, we have such a disconnect – especially now – with nature as an entity, because we use it more as a backdrop.  These dances help me keep nature here at the forefront.  Because; think about it, we exist because of nature, and I don’t think we focus on that enough.”

 

For me, this dance brings to light a very different topic.  While this person’s other dance reminds her of hardship and oppression, this one brings up thoughts of responsibility.  The environmentalist thought that everything we do counts, and that it is our duty as inhabitants of this planet to be mindful, is mightily prevalent here.  It makes me wonder how the idea of environmentalism, modesty, and perspective play roles in our everyday lives, as well as in our cultures. 

general

Origin of the Cheers Clink

Piece:

“So my friend was telling me that the reason why you clink cups together is because back in like the olden times, when if you match really full cups of beer, people used to clink cups together so that a little bit of each person’s drink would slosh into the other persons drink and it was kind of like about a sharing of a drink and also like to make sure that people weren’t getting poisoned because the cups… the liquids would like mix together.”

Analysis:

While there is truth to the amicable aspect of sharing a drink, the mixing of liquids to prove that no poison is present is just a very well-known and well-shared lie. Firstly, sloshing that much liquid would surely produce more waste than desired in olden times when food was much more scarce, but more importantly, proving a lack of poison was at best unnecessary and at worst rude. Often people drank from shared vessels, where drinks were already in a sense mixed, so mixing them again would be redundant. At the other end of the spectrum, requiring proof of safety may be regarded as the same as using a food taster, which displays a lack of trust and hostility. For these reasons, it doesn’t really make sense that clinking would show trust in lack of poison, although the story is interesting and possible enough that it makes sense the story is still told.
Clinking and toasting, in general, are, at their core, a carryover from those more communal days. By clinking cups and drinking together, drinkers can maintain that sense of camaraderie that comes with drinking of the same container. The sound made by clinking is also rumored to complete the fulfillment of the five senses that comes when drinking something like wine. The remaining four are already satisfied, so by adding in the resonating sound of clinking glasses, the drinkers are pleased in all five senses, which is a rather rare sensation, culinarily or otherwise.

Context:


The interviewee is a 23-year-old male who attends the University of Southern California, pursuing a masters degree in computer science. When he was very young, he lived in India, until he moved to South Africa. He lived in South Africa from then until he moved to New York City to pursue his undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering. He is very into alcohol and the history and science behind it, which explains why he would know and tell this tidbit, accurate or not.
This interview was conducted in person at the interviewed party’s house. The audio was recorded in order to aid in accurate transcription of the dialogue that took place.

Narrative

The Story of “Pile o’ Bones”

Main Piece: Canadian Story (Pile o’ Bones)

 

Full Piece –

“The transformation of the Canadian provincial capital of Regina, Saskatchewan, over the past 130 years has been nothing short of remarkable. Back in 1882, it was little more than a pile of bones – literally.

The location, near a creek, had been a stopping point for buffalo hunters and gotten its name from remains left at the site. The mounds of buffalo bones, some left by Cree Indians, were staggering.

The bones remaining from the hunt were laid out into cylindrical piles about six feet high and about 40 feet around at the base, with the shin and other long bones protruding from the center to make stable and artistic piles.

Because of this, the city was called “Pile o’ Bones.” It was also referred to as “manybones”, “bone creek”, all of which hurt the local chamber of commerce trying to promote the area.

In 1882, Pile o’ Bones was renamed Regina, after Queen Victoria, and the name change resulted positively. It was much easier to attract immigrants to the newly named town as opposed to “Pile o’ Bones.”

 

Background:

 

My mother told me of this story, with some help from the internet to refresh her memory. My mom grew up in Regina, Saskatchewan, and this story is a big part of their heritage as is explains how a town that used to just be an old post for hunters returning from the hunt where they would discard the animal remains. My mom heard this story from her parents, and was told it in school as well.

They take pride about this in Regina, because it is now the capital of Saskatchewan in Canada. This is more so of a creation story in a sense as opposed to a myth or a legend, because it tells of why the city has such an out-there nickname, “pile o’ bones.”

 

Context:

 

Of course, the name Regina sounds oddly similar to another word that would get elementary school kids to giggle (and even the occasional adult), so when my mom would tell people where she was from, she would often give this story as a background to what the city used to be known as, so as to keep the inner 3 year-old of everyone at bay.

This isn’t the type of story that would be told around the campfire or as a bedtime story, but it does give a good idea of how certain places came to be. In this example, it shows how a simple name change can affect the overall attractiveness of a location, and without it, it would most likely never have become the province’s capital, as well as be nearly as populated.

 

 

My thoughts:

 

My mother said that still to this day people refer to Regina, Saskatchewan as “Pile o’ Bones” and unless you were from there, odds are you’re going to wonder why this is. I feel like this story is more so one that is going to be told on a tour of the city right at the beginning as they begin to talk about the history of the city, but could also be adapted and stretched to get a little more interest from the audience.

I like this piece in that it is a cultural heritage type of thing, and the natives to the town have something to hold onto as their own, and like I said not everyone who goes to visit will know why it is called Pile o’ bones, but the citizens will always have that in common with eachother.

general

Family Heritage

Folklore Piece 13

 

Main Piece: Story of the Romanov Family

 

My family is distantly related to royalty through the Romanov family, and my mother told me this story as a part of our heritage.

 

“The Romanov Family rules Russia for over 300 years. The last Czar of Russia was Nicholas II, and he had been in power for over 20 years. In 1917, Russia was on a downturn in terms of following the current diplomatic state of the Czar. Their economy was on the downturn as a result of their involvement in World War 1. The Lenin-led Bolshevik revolution led what was called the Red Army in an attempt to overthrow the Czar, who’s loyalists were attempting to contain the coup, referred to as the White Army.

A curse was put upon the royal family by Grigori Rasputin, who was the advisor to the Czar. The general public blamed their misery on Rasputin because of his poor job of advising the Czar, including getting Russia involved in World War 1. Sensing something was coming, Rasputin warned Nicholas II of a prophecy: ‘Czar of Russia, if you hear the bell, it is telling you that Grigori has been murdered and you must know this: it was one of your relations who brought death upon me, and no one of your blood will live past two years, being killed by the Russian people.’

Both of Rasputin’s prophecies came try. Only two weeks after warning Nicholas II, Rasputin was killed by Prince Yusupov, who was married to a niece of Nicholas II, meaning his death was family related as was prophesized. A year and a half later, the entire Romanov family was executed once Lenin’s Red Army had seized power.

It is believed that Princess Anastasia of the Romanov family escaped the firing squad of the Bolshevik’s, carrying with her many family jewels. It is still unclear what was the outcome of Princess Anastasia, as she disappeared after escaping the overthrown state.

Imposters have tried to identify themselves as her over the years, but in 2008 there were remains found that match her DNA.”

 

Background:

 

My mom Laurie told me this story as a partial history of my heritage. I am distantly related to the Romanov family on my father’s side of the family, and my great grandmother told my mom this story once when my mom and dad still lived in Canada. My mom likes this story because it gives us a small bit of heritage in a royal family, and she thinks that is very cool to be able to say. She likes that it is historical while at the same time has a mysterious side to is, as it is still unclear what was the outcome of Princess Anastasia.

My great grandmother died before I had the chance to really have a conversation with her, let alone remember having seen her, and she had many stories about our family’s past. My Great Grandparents were raised in Eastern Europe during World War 2, as my Grandfather told me the story of how his father lost three fingers on his right hand. He was out playing in the field with his siblings when a grenade landed in front of him, and being a naïve child, ran to it to pick it up. It detonated near him, causing only damage to his hand but blowing off his middle, ring, and pinky fingers in the process.

 

Context:

 

My mother told me this story to give me a sense of where our family came from, and although we are distantly related, we still hold close to our heritage. When people ask what nationality our family is, saying Canadian isn’t exactly intriguing to people, and since my grandparents were the first generation to live in Canada, we tend to tell people we have Eastern European roots, giving this story as a background to where we come from.

This is generally told when someone asks about our heritage, and doesn’t necessarily have much context otherwise. It is usually an attention grabber, as most people would not expect my family to be of Eastern European descent, let alone royalty. Obviously the Romanov’s were overthrown, but to still have a connection to them is something I will hold on to and tell my kids about.

 

My thoughts:

 

As a kid, I loved the movie Anastasia, which was an animated depiction of how Anastasia escaped the Bolsheviks and was on the run to avoid getting executed. I like the mysterious aspect to the story in that we are not entirely sure what ended up happening with Anastasia. I personally would’ve loved to have a distant relative still in royalty but just being related to something so significant in history.

 

general

Story of Dundee

Main Piece: Scottish Story

 

From my friend Liv, who’s grandfather was born and raised in Scotland:

 

“Dundee is a town of around 150,000 residents on the east coast of Scotland.  It is known as the city of ‘jute, jam and journalism’.  Dundee is built on the river Tay estuary and was a trading center dating as far back as the 12th century.  Textiles, trading and shipbuilding were the center of the Dundee economy.  There is a story told to all elementary school kids when telling of Dundee’s glory days:  In the late 1700’s a ship of oranges from Seville, Spain had to seek refuge in Dundee harbor because of inclement weather.  Unfortunately, the delay caused by the storm caused the oranges to age and they were sold at a discount to Janet Keiller.  She was an accomplished cook and baker and she created the first marmalade with a rind present in the recipe and resulting preserve.  The Keiller family, then manufactured a large quantity of this particular brand of marmalade. The international distribution of this marmalade began in the 19th century when it was shipped throughout the British Empire and to this day it can be purchased throughout the world.”

 

Background:

 

Liv is a freshman at USC, and she told me of her grandfather who had been born and raised in Scotland, but is now living in the US. I asked her if he ever told her stories about home, and she gave me this one. Her grandfather told a lot of stories from home, and almost all were new to her because she was born and raised in New Jersey and wasn’t aware of them beforehand.

She likes this story in particular because it gives her a sort of cultural heritage that would not be felt if she didn’t have anything to relate to from her grandfather’s past. Although she is not from Scotland, she still holds this story as if it is part of her and where she was originally from.

 

Context:

 

Liv tells me her grandfather mentioned to her that this is a story told to elementary school kids about the prosperity in Dundee where he is from. This is more so a historical account of the region but it is a sense of pride for the inhabitants because of its mention of an event in history that accounted for the creation of a popular spread used worldwide nowadays.

The only other context this story would be used in would be history books talking about the creation of Orange Marmalade, or something outlining the history of Dundee and how it became to be prosperous at one time or another.

 

My Thoughts:

 

I found this story pretty interesting because I did not know where or how orange marmalade was invented, and I always find those facts to be pretty interesting. I doubt this would be used much outside of the given contexts, but it is a pretty interesting fact to pull up when talking about where their family is from.

Legends
Narrative

Russian Legend: The Tsar’s Gift for his Wife

Interview Extraction:

Interviewer: “You once told me a story about the Tsar, and how he did something very romantic for his wife?”

Informant: “Oh yeah. He was trying to impress his wife because he knew she loved the winter, and he knew that her birthday is during the summer. I think it was in July. So he kept it as a secret, but he built a very very beautiful palace outside of St. Petersburg. And he hired hundreds of people who would like, make you know like cotton balls? But of course they didn’t have cotton balls, but they were the same substance. So they had to rip that stuff into small pieces and put it on the trees. So when it was her birthday the Tsar actually took his wife to that palace and the whole place looked like it was winter time.”

Analysis:

The palace my information spoke of is Peterhof Palace, which is also known as ‘The Russian Versallies’.  Peter the Great built this palace in the early 18th century.  In my research I did not find any connection to the construction of this palace being a gift to his second wife, Catherine I.  My informant first heard this story from her mother, which suggests that this story has been passed down through the generations.  Perhaps the reason why this story has endured over time is because Peter the Great holds a place of high respect in the minds of the Russian people due to the enormous contributions he made to the country, such as the modernization of Russia.  Thus, this story serves as a connection to a major time period in Russian history.  This story serves as a way to preserve the grand image of Peter the Great in people’s minds.  It also gives the ruler a romantic side that lends the legend a more sentimental touch, making this major historical figure more relatable to people today due to the emotional connection this story makes.

My informant was born in 1977, Moscow, Soviet Union (now Russia).  On completing her undergraduate education in Moscow, she moved to California to earn her graduate degree in theatrical design from Cal State Long Beach.  She now works as a faculty member for the USC School for Dramatic Arts.  She became a US citizen in 2012.

Annotation: For more information and photos of Peterhof, St. Petersburg, check out this website.
http://www.saint-petersburg.com/peterhof/

 

 

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Homeopathic
Magic

Theater Occupational Superstition: Don’t Whistle in the Theater!

Interview Extraction:

Informant: “Ok, so you want to hear the story about why you don’t whistle in the theatre? One reason is that supposedly the first riggers* in the theatre were sailors. And sailors received their orders via whistles, which supposedly carried better than voices in the wind. And so you didn’t want to be backstage randomly whistling ‘Two Gentlemen from Veronia’ and have the scenery come crashing down on your head because you were whistling the cue* for the sailors who were doing the rigging.

The other supposed origin of that superstition is, in the days of gas lit theatre there were a couple of stage hands who’s job it was to wander around and relight any gas jets that had gone out because other whys you would get sort of a large pocket of unburned gas that would eventually get to another gas jet and you would have a big fireball and the theatre would blow up and… that was bad. So they were listening for a particular whistling sound that supposedly this gas jet that wasn’t lit would make and you didn’t want to distract them from their fairly important work.”

Analysis:

This superstition was not one that I was aware of prior to my informant mentioning this belief in one of his class lectures.  The belief is that it is bad luck to whistle in the theater, and doing so will doom the production you are working on.  There are no known ways to cut the curse.  The superstition of whistling in the theater is similar to the superstition that walking under a ladder is bad luck.  Both superstitions serve as a way to teach safety, because if someone were to break those beliefs they would get hurt.  Something could fall off a ladder and hit them on the head or a piece of scenery could fall on top of them.  You are more likely to get told to stop whistling in the theater because you are distracting the production crew than you are to be told to stop whistling because it is bad luck.  Working in theater can be very dangerous if you are not aware of your surroundings because crew members are constantly moving heavy equipment.  Distracting people from their job not only serves as a danger to yourself, but to others as well.  In that sense, whistling in the theater becomes homeopathic magic because it really will bring your production bad luck due to the destruction and distraction it can cause.

However it is unclear which one of the two stories is the true origin of the superstition.  There is a possibility that the true origin of the whistling superstition came from the first story my informant mentioned, because that theory is more well known to people in the theater than the gas-jet theory.

My informant was born in 1961, Connecticut.  He has more than 30 years of experience in theater and has worked on over hundreds of productions.  He continues to work on theater productions today, and serves as the associate professor of theater practice and technical direction at the University of Southern California. He lives in Los Angeles, CA.

*Riggers: is term that describes someone in charge of moving or lifting heavy objects using a pulley system.  The term comes from sailing speech, in which a rigger is someone who uses ropes to hoist the sails on a ship.  This is exactly what a rigger in theater does, but instead of hoisting sails they are hoisting scenic pieces.

*Cue: is a term used in theater that means a signal to do something.  A signal or cue indicates that it is time to move a part of the set or play a certain song for the production.

Legends
Narrative

Is That My Name?

Greg Williams

Houston, Texas

April 9, 2012

Folklore Type: Legend

Informant Bio: Greg is my father. He is the hardest working man I know. He really values hard work so much so that he named his daughter after the hardest working woman he ever knew, his grandmother Laura. He grew up relatively poorer or lower middle class, and his father grew up dirt poor in very rural Hix, Texas. Both of Greg’s parents worked, and he started working at the age of ten. He has never stopped since as far as I know. Today Greg is a very accomplished and sought after Corporate Financial Officer. He is also very caring like his father.

Context: My Papa, my Father’s father, died. We were going to have the funeral soon. I knew I wanted to ask my Dad about the stories his grandfather told him because he talked in length about talking about them, but never told them himself. The one he came up with although he was a little hesitant to tell it because it is not very pretty is the story of our last name, Williams.

 

Item:

I spent every summer with them [father’s parents] as a youngster until I started playing football and had summer workouts at home. It was like going to camp except with much better food as my grandmother was an amazing cook having raised 8 kids. I did everything with my grandfather during those summers – milked the cow, tended to the acres of garden, mowed the pasture, rode horses, hunted squirrels and listened to him tell stories usually about people I did not know. He was a small man at 5’ 2” tall and my grandmother was 5’11” tall. They made quite a pair. She was fairly quiet but Lee Williams loved to tell stories while we sat outside at night eating watermelon. My grandfather and my father always thought our last name was different. I asked how they could not know. They said it was a different time. My grandfather had several siblings and they all thought this was true.

My grandfathers’ father’s family migrated from Ireland and my great grandfather lived with his family in Baltimore, Maryland during the civil war. My grandfather’s father got into a confrontation with the law. We think either over union confiscation of horses the family owned or somehow taking up for his brother over something or both? My great grandfather fled Baltimore to New Orleans where he traveled back to Ireland for some period of time. He later returned to the United States via Galveston, Texas migrating up from the coast into central Texas settling about 30 miles west of Bryan/College Station, home of Texas A&M. He settled in central Texas and we think my great grandfather changed his name to Williams to easily blend into society.

 

Informant Analysis: We heard the same stories over and over again. No television, (laughing) no radio, it was pretty much the only form of entertainment. At first it bothered me a lot. You know it’s kinda one of those things where as a kid, Tommy was doing the project, and we were going to go to Baltimore to figure out who we were. And at one point the court house burned down and a lot of the documents were gone, but in the end it is what it is and I know I’m Irish and who I am. The other thing it probably did, is it gave me a sense of you know when they were in Baltimore they had horses and a farm and back in those days that was everything, and then it was all gone. You know he went back to central Texas with the shirt on his back and had to start over, and he had a family and started a new life.

Analysis: This legend really is not discussed in my family. I probably bring it up the most out of everyone because I think it is interesting. It tends to make other people in my rather large extended family uncomfortable. What made it stick in my mind is that the last person I talked to about it was my Papa. I identify with it as a part of my identity that is yet to be explored because I really value my origins. This is something I learned from my father. He knows where he has come from because of where he ended up in spite of his origins, as did his father, and as did my Dad’s great-grandfather. Whether or not all of the details in this legend are true is unknown thus far, but it is the closest thing to an ancestry the Williams family has.

Alex Williams

Los Angeles, California

University of Southern California

ANTH 333m   Spring 2012

Customs
Foodways
Material

German Recipe: Curry Wurst

German Curry Wurst Recipe:

Ingredients: 

Ketchup, 10 tablespoons

Water, 5 tablespoons

Salt, ½ teaspoon

Pepper, 1 teaspoon

Paprika Powder, 1/2 tablespoon

Cayenne Pepper, to taste

Chili Sauce, 1 1/4 tablespoons

Curry Powder, 1 tablespoons

Sugar, 1 tablespoon

Bratwurst sausages

Instructions:

First, cook your sausages on either a grill or pan if you don’t have a grill.  Once the sausages are done cooking, set them aside.  In a saucepan add ketchup, stir in 4-5 tablespoons of water and boil while stirring. Remove from the heat and season with salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, chili, curry powder and a little sugar if necessary. Serve hot!

(Warning: SPICY!)

Analysis:

When I first traveled to Germany, I really wanted to try some local cuisine.  My informant suggested that I try curry wurst, because the fast food dish is very popular and she thought I would like it.  I had curry wurst for the first time at a small open air market in Berlin.  There were all kinds of condiments you could add to the curry wurst such as mayonnaise and hot sauce.  The curry wurst was also sold with potatoes, french fries, and white bread rolls which you would use to dip in the extra sauce.  My informant told me that Berliners normally get white bread rolls with their curry wurst, and I wanted to do ‘the local thing’ so I got a bread roll to go with my snack.  To me, doing things as they locals do them when I travel is my way of trying to get an understanding for the culture.  I hoped that in trying many different types of  German food, I could get an understanding of what kinds of foods Germans like.  Are they the kind of culture that likes spicy, savory, or sweet foods?  German food seems to be a good combination of all those food tastes, like the sweet taste of apple strudel, the savory flavor of potato dumplings, and the spicy kick of curry wurst.  I ended up loving the food so much that I asked the informant’s mother for a curry wurst recipe that I could take back to America with me.  I think the recipe is very close to what I had at the market in Berlin, but of course nothing can compare to the real thing.

The invention of curry wurst is attributed to Herta Heuwer, who created the sauce in 1949 when she obtained ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, and curry powder from British soldiers in Berlin.  Her recipe soon became very popular and her stand was selling as much as 10,000 servings per week. Heuwer patented the recipe as ‘Chillup’ in 1951 and started her own restaurant.  Today curry wurst stands can be see all over the major cities of Germany, and they are a popular form of fast food for tourists and Germans.

My informant was born in 1992 Hamburg, Germany.  She studied at USC from 2010-2011 before moving to Brussels, Belgium to study international policy planning for her undergraduate degree.  She lives part time in Brussels, Belgium and part time in her hometown Hamburg, Germany.

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