USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘king’
Humor
Narrative
Tales /märchen

There Was a King

“Ek thaa raja.  Ek thee rani.  Dono margaye.  Khatam kahaani.”

That is a folk story in Hindi which roughly translates to:

“There was a king.  There was a queen.  They both died.  End of story.”

CONTEXT:

“When I was young I always wanted to hear a bedtime story before bed, but on nights when my parents didn’t feel like reading me a real one they would tell me that terrible story instead and then leave before I could ask for another one.  I hated it growing up, but now I do the same thing all the time to my little sister whenever she asks me for a bedtime story.”

ANALYSIS:

What I especially like about this piece of folklore is how quickly it was passed down from the parents to the informant and then from the informant to the little sister.  It shows a very clear lineage of the folklore, which is what folklore’s all about.  There’s also a very unique and self-aware sense of humor to this piece that I find really charming and wish I saw in more pieces of folklore today.

Tales /märchen

Rabbit and Turtle

Main Piece:

 

큰 병을 얻어 임종을 눈앞에 둔 물 속 나라 용궁의 용왕이 병을 낫기 위한 방법을 수소문 한 결과 토끼의 간을 먹으면 낫는다는 이야기를 듣게 된다.

 

하지만 물 속 나라의 백성들은 전부 물고기인지라 뭍에 사는 토끼를 잡아올 방법이 없지 않은가. 그 때, 용왕의 신하인 자라가 자신만만하게 나서며, 손바닥 뒤집듯 쉽게 토끼를 잡아올 수 있을거라 말한다. 자라는 물과 뭍을 오갈 수 있기 때문에 뭍으로 올라와 토끼를 찾아 간다.

 

토끼를 만난 별주부는 달리기 경주에서 승리하여 온갖 아양과 아부를 떨어 토끼를 설득하며, 결국 토끼는 별주부의 등에 타고 용궁으로 가게 된다.

 

토끼를 본 용왕이 대뜸 “내가 살기 위해서는 니가 죽어야 한다.” 라고 말한다. 이에 토끼는 잠깐 당황하지만, 기지를 발휘하여 “안타깝지만 지금은 나에게 간이 없다. 나만 아는 곳에 몰래 감춰두고 왔다.” 라고 말한다. 토끼는 잔꾀로 용왕을 속이고 무사히 탈출한다.

 

토끼의 배웅 겸, 몰래 감춰놓았다던 간을 받아올 겸 해서 별주부가 다시 토끼를 데리고 육지로 올라가나, 토끼는 “거짓말이야”를 외쳐주고는 산속으로 도망가버린다.

 

이에 허탈한 별주부가 자살을 결심하려고 할 때 지나가던 도인이 “그대의 정성에 하늘이 감동했다” 라며 신선들이 사용하는 약을 건네준다. 별주부가 “어르신의 존함은 뭡니까?”라고 묻자 도인이 “나는 패국 사람 화타다”라고 자신의 이름을 밝히고 이야기는 끝난다.

The King of the country in the water got very sick and heard that only the liver of a rabbit can cure it.

 

But all the people of the country in the water are fish, so there is no way to bring the rabbit. At that time, Yongwang(The King)’s servant, the turtle says that he is able to grab the rabbit easily. Because he can go to water and land, the turtle went up to the land to visit the rabbit.

 

The turtle that meets the rabbit wins the running race and eventually the rabbit rides on the back of the turtle and goes to the palace.

 

“You have to die for me to live.” the king says. The rabbit panicked for a moment, but said, “Unfortunately, I have no liver now.” The king is suspicious, but let the rabbit go to get the liver.

 

The rabbit shouted to the turtle, “It was a lie” and run away into the mountains.

 

Disappointed, the turtle tried to commit suicide, a stranger gave him a medicine from heaven that can cure the king’s illness. The turtle asked “What is your name?” and the stranger answered “I am Hwata from China”.

 

Background Information:

This is a very old Korean novel. It figuratively shows how Choonchoo Kim of Shilla escaped from Kokuryeo.

Interestingly, this story can be viewed from the rabbit or from the tortoise.

 

Context:

This is performed as puppet animation or graphic animation for children.

Personal Analysis:

The ending is a bit of a plot twist and also a bit random. The rabbit is very sneaky, and the turtle is a faithful servant. From the rabbit’s point of view, he was just trying to protect himself and did what it takes to survive. He became a victim at one point because the king asked for his life to keep his own. On the other hand, from the turtle’s point of view, the rabbit is the bad guy for running away with a lie. We want to pity the turtle and side with him especially when he wants to die, but he was given the task to kill a rabbit which is cruel. It is an interesting story because it correlates with history. These animals are a popular choice in lead characters in children’s stories, because they contradict each other.

Legends
Narrative

The Persian King and the Plate

“Uhh, I am going to tell you about the, one of the, Iran’s king. That… umm… He loved France and he used to travel over there. And so finally they send a salesperson to his castle to sell, sell him some china from France. And they bring their best china and say, ‘Oh, you need this, you know, for when you have a party and this.’

And he just picked it up, and look at it, and he says ‘Okay, let’s go outside.’

And the guy just look at him and say, ‘Why do we have to go outside?’ [laughs]

He says, ‘Well, we just, let’s just go outside.’

So he goes outside and he tells one of the, uhh, uhh, person that it was was selling him, go get some of the, umm… the plate we use. So he goes and bring the, the plate they were using that time, it was, uhh, made from, umm, copper. And they would put the, umm, zinc over it, they would make it really hot, and put the zinc over it, umm… with a cloth they would just go all over, and it turns white, just like a silver. And they had to do that every year.

So he, they go and bring a set of that, and then, he’s sitting on the horse, and going around, and then, he just picked up the china, and keeps throwing them, and then they would break. And then he gets the, the, umm… copper one, and he keeps throwing it, and it doesn’t break.

And he says, ‘Why do you think I’m gonna pay all that money for the things you throw it, it breaks, and I have this, I’ve been using it for years, and it still looks the same?’

And then, the, the salesperson just look at him, and he just leave the uhh… umm… castle, and he just goes and never comes back. So that’s the story of the Persian king that he didn’t want to spend his money for something is not good. It just, like, to him, it was like wasting money. If it can use those plate instead of that. [Tells story in Farsi].”

Analysis: This legend is told in order to teach people the value of thrift and tradition. Its central moral is similar to the English phrase, “Don’t fix it if it ain’t broke.” The King of Iran, as the protagonist of the story, attempts to illustrate that traditions exist for good reason, and that just because somebody else thinks something is nice, it doesn’t mean that you should, too. While a nationalistic tale of sorts, the story is used to impart important lessons to the audience.

Game
general

King’s Cup

“You have like a big, giant cup or pitcher, typically in the middle of a circle at a party and everybody who sits around has their own drink, and you take a deck of cards that are mixed up in the center of the table around the pitcher and you go around the circle, one by one, and you pick up a card and depending on what card you choose will depend on what you have to do with your drink. So if you draw an ace, like that means that you drink, just you. If you draw a two, that means you get to choose someone to drink with you. If you draw a three, then you choose someone to drink. If you draw like a four, like you can come up with like the different rules, but the way I’ve played it like a four . . . all the women drink. If it’s a five, all the men drink. If it’s a six, you do categories, so somebody, like the person who pulls the card would say, ‘Animals’ and then you have to go around in a circle and at like a really quick speed name an animal off the top of your head and when someone pauses or can’t come up with one, they have to drink. Um, and after they drink they pour a little bit in the middle. And then if you pull . . . it goes on, till the end, but if you pull a king, you just have to pour in the middle pitcher.”

 

Interviewer: “What are the other cards?”
“I don’t know all of them off the top of my head, but I know you can, like, there’s one that’s like . . . a rhyme and so like you can say, ‘fish’ and the person next to you has to rhyme with it and say like, ‘dish’ and then it goes around in a circle and if you can’t come up with a word, or can’t come up with a word that rhymes, you have to drink and then pour some in. And so at the end, the point is basically whoever draws the last king of the whole game has to drink the pitcher in the middle and it’s really disgusting because there’s usually like different alcohols involved so it’ll be like a mixture of like whiskey, and like tequila, and beer, and something that’s not tasty . . . There’s [a card] where like if you start to drink the person next to you has to start to drink and when you stop, they can stop, but it goes around like consecutively in the circle, um, so the last person can’t stop until everyone else has stopped in the circle, if that makes sense . . . I wanna say like ten, like the card ten, you drink for ten seconds. Um, I think seven rhymes with ‘heaven’ and I think we all drink. And then one card you have to do, like, ‘Never Have I Ever.” So like you put up five fingers and you say, ‘Never have I ever . . . kissed a girl’ and then anyone who’s kissed a girl, despite your gender, um, has to drink. And you do it, you have, um, you do it until your five fingers are down. And that’s King’s Cup.”

 

The informant was a 21-year-old USC student who studies communication and minors in dance and is a part of a prominent sorority on campus. She grew up in a relatively small town in southern California and was the captain of a prominent sports organization. She has danced for her entire life and, when she was growing up, would often drive for long stretches of time with her family to dance competitions. This interview took place late one night in my apartment’s living room when I began asking her about different games she knew. When I asked her where she learned “King’s Cup,” she said, “I couldn’t tell you who specifically, like a name, but, um, at my first party that I went to in high school, um, it was a game that was very often played and it’s typically more fun with the more people who play it, and so I was kind of like forced into playing it. And so I was forced into like learning the rules and for like my 21st birthday was when I played it with my closest friends and like my mom and we were all playing it. And we kind of just like took the rules that I knew and like would put a twist on it. So like we would change the card numbers, so instead of, I think the typical is like an ace being you drink, we would say like that would be the rhyme one. Like we’d confuse which ones were which, but we would write it down so we knew which card we drew.”

 

When asked why she practices it, she said, “It’s fun and it’s like a social atmosphere and it’s supposed to be funny to like . . . ‘Cause you could be the one who pours in a ton of alcohol and be like, ‘Somebody’s getting fucked up tonight! . . . I mean, screwed up tonight,’ and then, um, you end up screwing yourself over because you’re the one who ends up drawing the last king so then you have to drink the pitcher which is you pouring your whole entire drink basically in there trying to screw someone else over. So it’s supposed to be like funny and it’s like a game of fate, you kind of just, you don’t want to pick the wrong card, but there’s no one to blame but yourself if you do. I don’t know, I feel like people aren’t super serious about drinking the pitcher at the end because everyone kind of knows that if we’re all drinking different drinks it’s probably not gonna actually happen. But also like, people get sketched out, like they don’t want to pour all their drink in knowing the last king’s still out there, you know?”

I asked her what she thinks it means, and she said, “We’re all alcoholics! No, uh, I think it’s uh, I think it means . . . instead of standing around and drinking and talking or like forcing conversation, it’s like an excuse to be in a group and drink whether you know the person across from you or not, it’s just  like a group game and you don’t have to know everyone in the game to play it.”

 

Looking at King’s Cup in particular is really interesting to me because it is an extremely popular drinking game within parts of my generation, yet I have never met two people who play it the same way. Despite the fact that the informant is sure there are some official rules somewhere that would be the “correct” way to play, she does not know what these are and it does not seem to matter. What matters is that there are specific rules and actions associated with every card that someone pulls, and that these are strictly followed once the game begins. In addition to this game being entertaining and a reason for a group of people to get drunk together, it also acts as a way of dividing up the group and defining the people playing it. Many of the cards pulled mean only a part of the group drinks, e.g. the men or the women present, and this draws a subtle, but perceptible line between the people playing. The frequent involvement of other games such as “Never Have I Ever” occurs to reveal embarrassing or “secret” information about the participants to the rest of the group, thereby bonding them to one another or singling out someone at whom everyone else can laugh.

Legends

Xuanzang and Journey to the West

Item:

“I remember my grandma always talking about some Chinese monk and I never really pieced together until like… until I was much older that the show I watched was exactly that.”

The legend of Xuanzang, a Chinese buddhist monk who traveled from China to India on a pilgrimage, lead to many stories, authored works, and even some anthropomorphic tales that became prominent in popular culture. The informant grew up watching a TV show, Journey to the West, based on the legend. It covered the story of Sun Wukong, the Monkey King, who was an anthropomorphized version of Xuanzang who went on a journey similar to that of the monk, but with obvious fictionalization for the purpose of the show.

 

Context:

For the informant, watching the show was a big deal. Being born in America but having only Chinese roots created a bit of a clash between cultures, especially at a young age. Hearing the story of Xuanzang from parents and grandparents, and then watching the show provided for her an entertaining connection to her culture. Beyond that, it was also a opportunity to talk to other 2nd generation kids about something they had in common outside of being just that.

 

Analysis:

It’s perhaps appropriate that the popularization and fictionalization of an authored work based on folklore is what it takes to connect some kids to the actual folklore in the first place. A TV show can captivate kids really easily, and then through curiosity they go about connecting with the actual folklore at the same time. Also, a lot of this comes from the 16th century novelization (also called Journey to the West) which can be found here.

Customs
Foodways
Legends

Bamboo Leaf and Rice

There was once an evil king that did not care about his people and did not listen to anyone. A kind governor tried to help the king, but the king would not listen. The governor was so distraught that he committed suicide by jumping off a cliff, into the sea. The people under the governor’s rule loved him immensely and they did not want the governor to be eaten by the fish in the sea, so they covered sweet rice with bamboo leaves in order to satisfy the appetite of the fish, so that their governor’s flesh would not be eaten.

My informant first heard this story from his parents on May 1st as a child, as it is tradition to eat bamboo leaves and rice on that day in honor of this event. The fact that the governor committed suicide out of shame due to failure and an unwillingness to continue to work for an evil king is an interesting moral lesson to teach to children through this legend. Respect for the elders and the dead is also features prominently in this story as it does in traditional Chinese culture and explains why the tradition is still practiced today.

[geolocation]