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

Witch house, India

This story was collected from a friend, who was born and raised in New Delhi, India and is 20 years old. She told me a rumor that was started when she was younger about a house in her neighborhood.

 

She told me that she had never the house’s owner up until a few years ago. She had only seen 30-40 cats that went in and out of the house. She is not sure about how it started, but all the kids in her locality were scared of looking at the house for more than a minute at a time because somebody started a rumor that the evil witch inside would throw kids into a well inside the house or eat them for dinner. She says it became a fun little test among her friends for seeing who was the bravest by making people stare at the house. Looking back at it now, she thinks it was probably a parent who started this rumor so that the kids would come home right after it got dark.

 

It looks like this is one of those stories parents use to scare children into behaving and not leaving their house at night, like Mexico’s La Llorona or Panama’s La Tulivieja. I like that children turned it into a fun game instead of being scared of it. All of the Indian people that I’ve met are very playful and not easily scared, so that reaction makes sense to me.

Legends

El Cadejo, El Salvador

This legend was collected from a friend, who was born and raised in San Salvador, El Salvador and is 21 years old. It is about el cadejo, a character of the folklore of Central America and some parts of Mexico.

 

She told me the story is about two dogs, one white and one black. Indigenous people believed that dogs help humans to get to heaven after they die. El cadejo is therefore actually a spirit that presents itself in the form of a dog. It is believed that God created a good spirit in order to protect humankind, the white dog, but the devil created a black one that would fight the white one and defeat God. It is said that the black one tends to be seen by people who wonder the streets at night, engage in immoral behaviors, or have an unclean conscience. It chases its victims to scare them and the hypnotizes them with its read eyes and steals their souls. The white one, in contrast, is believed to protect God’s “loyal believers.” She says that her grandfather told her that story, and that he actually believed it, but she never really believed in legends. She also told me that legends were a big part of Salvadoran culture and were taught in school, and on El Salvador’s independence day, there are nation-wide parades and people dress up as the dogs or other characters from legends to commemorate them.

 

I find it interesting that this legend has positive and negative aspects, in contrast to other Latin American legends that tend to be mostly negative. It also incorporates themes of religion and morality, symbolizing El Salvador’s strong religiosity.

Legends

La Llorona, Mexico

This story was collected from a friend, who was born and raised in Monterrey, Mexico and is 20 years old. She told me her version about La Llorona, a widespread legend in the American Southwest, South America, and Central America. A lot of versions of the story exist in different regions, and this is the one her nanny used to tell her when she was growing up. Most versions have themes of maternal love, marriage, and death and suicide.

 

According to my friend’s version, La Llorona is about a woman whose husband left her, which made her lose her mind and kill her three children. When she came into her senses and realized what she had done, she couldn’t live with it so she committed suicide. She couldn’t go to heaven for having killed herself, so she stayed on Earth. She is supposed to go around looking for her children and taking all of the children she can find thinking they are hers.

 

My friend says it didn’t have much of an impact on her since she didn’t really believe in ghosts or anything of the sort, but it did make her scared to leave her house at night when she first heard it since she was so young. She also believes that was its intended purpose; something a parent would say to their child to scare them into behaving more safely, since Mexico has some dangerous areas.

 

I think it’s very interesting that her version has some religious undertones in its incorporation of heaven, since the one that I heard growing up didn’t, which speaks to how religious Mexico is as a country. Also, some other versions portray the woman as “bad,” condemning her behavior saying she intentionally killed her children as a form of revenge yet this version seems to portray her as more of a victim of a terrible situation. This is surprising to me, for Mexico is a sexist country in a lot of ways.

 

For more versions of this legend, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Llorona

Legends

Isla de las Muñecas, Mexico

This legend was collected from a friend, who was born and raised in Mexico City, Mexico and is 21 years old. It is about la Isla de las Muñecas (island of the dolls), an island just outside from where she grew up.

 

The story she had heard was about a reclusive man who lived in the banks of a canal in the island who saw the corpse of a little girl and her doll floating there. He said that he could hear the girl’s screams, so he hung the doll in some nearby branches so that the spirit of the girl would be appeased. Soon, he started to collect dolls and hanging them in trees until the entire island was covered in them. Since his death, it has become a tourist attraction and people even continue to hang dolls there. Some people believe that if you walk there at night, you can hear the little girl’s screams.

 

My friend was so fascinated with the story that she went to the island herself so she could see it in person. She says she didn’t hear any screams but that she could definitely feel a very weird energy while she was there; she says she couldn’t eat right for weeks after her visit to the island.

 

I think it’s really interesting how strong the belief in ghosts is in Mexican culture. It is very evident in their movies and literature, and even in holidays such as el día de los muertos, or the day of the dead. It is also a result of the strong religious background of the country itself that leads back to the Spanish conquest.

Legends

La Tulivieja, Panama

This legend was collected from a friend, who was born and raised in Panama City, Panama and is 20 years old. It is the story about La Tulivieja, a ghost who turns itself into a monster and wonders through abandoned places all around Panama, especially in rural areas.

 

According to my friend, the story is about a spirit who seduced the most beautiful woman in the region. She became pregnant from that forbidden love, and she drowned her baby in a river soon after it was born to hide her sin. However, she couldn’t escape God’s punishment, and she became a horrible monster with a face full of holes from which long hairs came out, bat wings, chicken legs, and a tule hat (which is made from plantain). She eats carbon and ashes, which is why people believe her footprints are found near bonfires. When there is a full moon, she regains her original form and can be seen bathing in the river, but she turns into a monster again as soon as there is a loud noise around. She is condemned to look for her baby for eternity, and her breasts are always filled with milk, ready to feed the baby she will never find.

 

My friend first heard it from her childhood friends and she says it made her very scared. As she was growing up, she heard it many more times in many places. She says it is one of the most popular legends in Panama and everyone she knows has heard it before, she even thinks it is the only actual Panamanian legend she has ever heard.

 

I am from Panama as well, and everyone I know has also heard of this legend, which is not surprising since Panama has a very small population of three million people. I had never heard this legend in such detail, which was also interesting, and I do think it’s one of Panamas most culturally relevant stories that I think has been adapted from Mexico’s La Llorona.

Folk Beliefs
Legends
Narrative

The Legend of the Zodiac Shack

Informant: The informant is Briana, a nineteen-year-old freshman at the University of Southern California. She grew up in Vacaville, California, in the Bay Area, and has lived there for her entire life, until she moved to Los Angeles for college. She is of African descent.

Context of the performance: This performance was done while we were sitting on the grass outside of my dorm building on USC’s campus.

Original Script:

Informant: There’s a legend of a shack out far in the country of my hometown, Vacaville, California. So there’s this little abandoned shack or storage unit, where the Zodiac killer would take and murder his victims. The Zodiac killer, who came up with his title himself, goes murdered multiple women and couples. My friend, April C., told me about this legend in Vacaville. April had visited the shack before, and a lot of people do, for the excitement of exploring the scene. High school students tend to go to the shack most, once they learn to drive, because it’s in the middle of nowhere.

Interviewer: Why do you like this piece?

Informant: I like this piece because it’s connected to my hometown and an interesting story to tell visitors. My family and friends from home and I like this piece because even though we don’t believe it to be true, it’s something exciting for a small town to have. We can get together and visit the site at any time of the year, mainly at night.

Personal Thoughts: I found this piece to be very interesting because I had never heard of the Zodiac Killer and assumed he was created by Vacaville. After Briana shared her town’s side of the legend, I looked into the Zodiac Killer and was appalled yet fascinated by the results. In the late 1960s, he allegedly murdered at least five people and injured two, though he admitted to killing thirty, in the San Francisco Bay Area. After his murders, he would taunt the police and members of the community, providing hints as to who he was, including a three-part cipher, letters, phone calls, and fingerprints. Yet, the police could not solve the case. Perhaps the townspeople in Vacaville came up with the idea that the legend that the Zodiac Killer took his victims to this shack because they felt lost without answers as to his identity. Therefore, they may have used this story for a sense of comfort and relief, so that they could feel that they know some information about him and his whereabouts. For more information, visit http://www.zodiackiller.com/.

 

Folk Beliefs
Legends
Narrative

The Legend of Rozafa Castle

Informant: The informant is Mrika. She has lived in the Bronx, New York for her whole life. She is eighteen years old and is a freshman at Fordham University in the Bronx, New York. She is of Albanian descent.

Context of the Performance: We sat across from each other at a table at a diner in Yonkers, New York during our spring breaks from college.

Original Script:

Informant: In Albania, there is a castle called Rozafa Castle, and it’s not in the best condition right now. These three brothers were trying to build the castle. They would work all day, but when they would go home at night and come back in the morning, the walls would all fall down. So, one day, they came across an old man who said the walls would only stay standing if they sacrificed someone. So the three brothers couldn’t decide what the right thing to do was. The ended up deciding to sacrifice one of their wives. Their wives would always drop off lunch for them while they worked. They were going to sacrifice the first wife who showed up, so that it would be by chance. They promised not to tell their wives about their plan, but two of the brothers lied and told their wives not to bring them lunch the next day. The youngest brother was honest, and when she came, they buried within the castle’s walls. Her name was Rozafa, which is the name of the castle. She accepted this because she thought it was her fate. She figured the city needed the castle, so she could do this for the city, but this role was put on her. It wasn’t actually her fate to show up first. Anyway, she gave in because she thought it was her destiny. She said that she was only worried about her infant son. So she asked to be buried in the wall with one of her breasts out so that she could breastfeed him and one of her arms out so that she could caress him. When the brothers buried her in the wall and came back the next day, the walls were still standing.

Interviewer: Why is this piece of folklore important to you?

Informant: This is important to me because it’s a story about the city where my parents grew up- Shkoder, or Shkodra. My mom told me this legend when we saw the castle while we visited Albania. She believed it to be true, and learned it from my grandma, who also believed it. It has been passed on through my family. Also, the name Rozafa was kept in my family. My cousin’s name is Rozafa.

Personal Thoughts: This legend is definitely compelling, and it is interesting to see Mrika’s connection to it. I loved hearing about how she visited the castle when she was in Albania and that her cousin was named after Rozafa. I actually graduated high school in a church called Our Lady of Shkodra, but I never knew anything about the city itself. Hearing this story made me think about how often I neglect the background information of different places I have visited, even if they are important to me.

Folk Beliefs
Initiations
Narrative

Curse of Dudleytown

Informant is a teacher living in LA.

The story is one from a  summer camp in CT where he and I met originally. The subject of the story is a town called “Dudleytown” which suffers a horrible curse: every 7 years, somebody nearby dies.

“So Dudleytown as you know, is haunted. Every seven years, somebody nearby dies. That’s because Edward Dudley was cursed by King Henry for treason, and the curse followed him across the Atlantic Ocean and caused all their crops to die. Now, nobody’s growing crops there anymore. But the curse still comes up once every seven years……. some things just stick with the location geographically, you know?”

He says he heard the story from other people at the camp when he first got there, as the location was relatively close by. He swears it is real and true but he does so with an air of silliness, indicating to me that this belief is faux-sincerity. I think this choosing-to-believe makes sense: people like the strong narrative of a 7-year-curse more than they want to “ruin the fun” in applying logic. It’s a fun belief and brings people together over a common fear, even if it is just pretend.

 

general
Legends
Narrative

The Origin of Adjorlolo

Context: When I told my roommate about how I was collecting folklore, he offered to talk about some of the stories he’d heard over the course of his life.

BackgroundMy roommate comes from a mixed-race family, one side of which originates from the Ivory Coast of Africa.

Dialogue: It is said, that my great-great-grandfather, who lived inn Ghana, who was the first man to be called Adjorlolo, um, had sixteen wives, and… I’ve heard between eighty-four and ninety-six kids.

Analysis: This one is pretty straightforward in terms of being a simple piece of folklore about a family’s origins. I found it interesting that the number of offspring from the first Adjorlolo was debated amongst the family. Also interesting was the fact that this was only the great-great-grandfather, which leads only so far back in time. A really good example of how a family’s history can be lost to time quicker than expected, to the degree that legends of eighty-something children and sixteen wives can spring up and become rooted in the family’s history by the time its fifth generation comes around.

Folk Beliefs
general
Legends
Narrative

Joshua the Apocalyptic Prophet

Context: When I told my roommate about how I was collecting folklore, he offered to talk about some of the stories he’d heard over the course of his life.

Background: This is something my roommate heard in his religious studies class this semester.

Dialogue: (Note: C denotes myself, B denotes my roommate)

B: …And I think especially the Jesus story is folklore.

C: Based on what your professor told you.

B: Yeah, um… He told me — not me personally but he told my class, uh, because we were studying the origins of Christianity at the time — that there was a man living somewhere in the Fertile Crescent, I think, name Joshua bar Joseph, and he [the professor] was like, “Joshua bar Joseph was an apocalyptic prophet,” meaning, he went around saying that the end was near, and that if people didn’t follow him, that they will die, and they would be s— very sad, and their life would be over. BUT— Wait did I say “if?” Sorry. If they didn’t follow him, they would die die, damnation, whatever. But if they DID follow him, uh, they would go to Paradise when they died, y’know. “The Apocalypse is coming, but, if you follow me, you’re gonna go to heaven.” Um, and then he’s [the professor] like, “Does this sound familiar?” and we’re like, “YEAH IT’S JESUS” and he’s like, “EXACTLY, Jesus was just an apocalyptic cult leader!” Um, and I’m like, “Well THAT makes sense.” So, yeah, that’s what my professor told me. But, I guess that means the Bible’s folklore.

Analysis: This is a really good example at how religion is deeply tied with folklore. From my roommate’s perspective and the perspective of the professor who gave him this narrative, the Bible is considered the alternative way of telling their story, where it would be commonly thought of as the “correct” way of telling the stories contained within. The fact that the story of Jesus allows for such variations—I’ve personally also heard the names “Joshua ben Joseph” and “Jeshua ben Joseph” ascribed to Jesus outside of Biblical context—attests to the fact that the Bible can be seen as merely another, more popular form of  a certain folk belief.

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