Tag Archives: Legendary Creature

Sirin, Alkanost, and Gamayun

Context:

The informant is a Russian-American-Bulgarian woman who spent the first half of her life in Russia. She currently resides in Boston, MA and the interview took place over zoom in which I interviewed her about the Russian folklore that she grew up with and that she feels represents the Russian people and culture.

Transcribed and translated from an interview held in Russian

“In pagan folklore, there were these mythological creatures of three birds: They were known as Sirin, Alkanost, and Gamayun.  I cannot really remember what the distinguishing features were for all of them. I believe Gamayun, I think, is known to be able to tell the future. I do not know a lot about it, but I once heard a song in which it is said that the bird tells the future. Anyway, a more familiar character to me in Russian folklore is that of the Zharptsitsa, it’s like this fire bird that many characters in folktales always seek to find and claim for themselves. I don’t know the origins of this bird, but my guess is that it originates from these older mythical birds.”

Analysis:The immediate oicotype that springs to mind with the Zharptsitsa  is a phoenix. The one main difference being that the Zharptsitsa does not rise from its ashes after it dies. It is unclear of these two originate from the same root, or if they were just created in the folklore of different cultures and happen to have similar features. It is quite likely. Birds exist worldwide, as does fire. Combining the two in folklore to create a legendary creature can occur in more than one culture.

Black Cat; Halloween Mythical Legendary Creature/Tradition

Informant-  When I was little I firmly believed in the Halloween Black Cat creature. The Black Cat would visit the night after Halloween to collect my candy. I would know to gather all of my candy and place it at the foot of my bed. The cat would take all of the candy and replace it with a toy or money. 

Interviewer- Did you ever see the Black Cat?

Informant- No the Black Cat always visited in the late hours of the night. I would stay of late trying to catch the cat but never found him. 

Interviewer- Were you ever afraid of the Black Cat? Did you ever not give away your candy? 

Informant- No, the Black Cat was a friendly creature and always gave me the best gifts or a few 2 dollar bills. I remember my brother always tempted me to not give away my candy but in the end, we both were too excited about the possibility of a new gift. 

Interviewer- Do you remember any specific or recurring gifts?

Informant- When I was younger, I remember receiving toys like dolls or stuffed animals. One year I received a cool new toy called, Chatitude, a walk talky toy I could share with my friends. Later in my childhood, I started receiving money. 

Interviewer- When did the Black Cat stop visiting? Do you still believe in the Black Cat or thing you will carry on this tradition?

Informant- When I was around 12 years old I realized the Black Cat was actually a tradition that my parents carried out to make my Halloween healthier. Even though I no longer believe in the Black Cat, I still believe it is a great family tradition. 

Background: My informant recalled this folk belief from her childhood. The tradition was carried out by her parents every year. She no longer holds the childhood belief that the Black Cat is a real creature, but plans to carry out the tradition with her children. 

Context: This piece was collected when visiting a childhood friend. She grew up in Marin County in Northern California. She believed in the Black Cat for many years. I grew up with her and remember hearing about the new Halloween toy exchange every year. 

Thoughts: Kids are drawn to mythical creatures and tales. The Black Cat represents a legend, occurring real-life and possibly being true. These folk creatures bring the children into a new reality of imagination. Halloween is a very superstitious Holiday with much room for tales and folk beliefs. This belief gave the family a fun tradition to lift Halloween spirits and imagination. 

The Legend of Kurupi

Abstract:

This piece is about a legend from Paraguay called Kurupi who has a long penis and uses it to impregnate girls while they sleep.

Main Piece:

“T: So my dad’s from Paraguay, and here I am, this was maybe five or six years ago. And I’m just walking around in this village place we were just passing through. And all of the sudden, I see this really weird looking statue, it’s made out of wood and not really tall… maybe four feet high. But it’s basically this really creepy looking dude with… a really long downstairs region. Basically, he had very long genitalia that was wrapped around his waist and I was very confused. I asked my father what is this? Why? I thought it was some kind of joke or something. Like some weird tourist gift thing and I was confused. But then my father told me it was some kind of creature from the jungle. I was very confused, but then I googled it the next day and was like “wow this is a real thing.” So apparently what this thing is called is Kurupi. Basically what he is, is this evil guy in the jungle who had… basically he was the king of the jungle, he had dominion over the lands. But he also happened to have a very long penis [laughter]. And basically it had the capability of going inside someone’s house while he was on the outside. So the legend goes that women when they were sleeping in bed could be impregnated during their sleep! By this guy. And sometimes it was used by adulterous women to excuse illegitimate children and their cheating. Also used as a tale to scare young girls because it would say you know if you’re doing bad this guy will impregnate you in your sleep and basically this guy was also used as a possible explanation for some disappearances of young women for his own purposes. But basically yeah, it was a curious piece of my own culture that I found out.”

Context:

The informant is a 19 year old student from USC who has lived in many different places growing up. His father is from Paraguay and his mother is from Lebanon. His family currently resides in Washington DC, but he is not a full citizen yet. He grew up living in Bolivia, Paraguay, and the United States, moving around due to his father’s job. He views himself as an American, but values his cultural background as well.

Analysis:

I think the informant touched on how this legend can be seen in society and the underlying views on females it brings out in Paraguayan culture. The fact that the creature is literally raping girls in the story, and is still viewed as a revered “king of the jungle” already shows how the gender dynamics in Paraguay are set up. Though it is humorous that the creature has a long penis, the idea that he takes girls for his own pleasure is disturbing as well. I thought it was interesting that the informant brought up the fact that adulterous women use him as an excuse for when they become pregnant. This was interesting because in the story the females are being raped – almost like it is preferable to an adulterous woman.

For another version and more information of this story, visit these links:

http://folklore.usc.edu/?p=37051

http://www.native-languages.org/guarani-legends.htm

https://paranormalhub.org/kurupi/

“El Cucuy” Mexican Legend

Main Piece: “El Cucuy is a myth that was basically a tall, furry, red-eyed creature, that had a large red ear which he would use to hear children that were misbehaving. He would live in the hills or the mountains in Mexico, and by using his larger ear he would listen for children that were misbehaving. He would then come down from his cave in the mountains, and would kidnap any kids that he heard misbehaving… he would take them back to his cave… and then he would eat them.”

 

Background: UV said that he lived in an area that was very mountainous, and so this story circulated around from his family and from people that he knew from school. There was always this fear of the unknown in the mountains, and UV said that because kids liked to play in the mountains, this story was another way to scare kids into not messing around in the dangerous area. Additionally, UV said that El Cucuy was often seen as a boogie man, and that essentially this was another way to remind kids to not only stay away from the mountains, but also to be good.

 

Context of Performance: UV told me this story at my apartment while we were discussing the classic stories and myths we were told as a kid. UV mentioned that many of the myths he was told as a kid had some kind of ghoulish element to them, or some cautionary aspect to it. There were also a couple other people in the room during the story, and one of them had also heard this story but he grew up in Arizona, so it was interesting to see that this crossed country lines.

 

Analysis: This story is very interesting to me for a number of reasons. Much like the story of La Llorona that UV told me earlier, this story also functions as a cautionary tale for children. It seeks to remind them that acting out of line or misbehaving, can have serious and drastic consequences. The other thing that sticks out to me is that it would appear that while similar in nature, they differ in their setting. So it would appear that regionally a story such as La Llorona may not work as well for people who live near the mountains or in dryer areas. But setting the ghoulish presence in the mysterious settings of the mountains would certainly draw more fear and believability out of the folk in the area. I find that this story is very much concerned with reinforcing the themes of obedience amongst children, and ensuring that they are fearful of disobeying their parents or other authority figures. And it also functions as a way to keep the children safe, as it discourages them from exploring the mountains where there could be any assortment of dangers rooted in them.

Ogopogo: Canada’s Loch Ness Monster

Contextual Data: After talking about how birthdays were celebrated in Canada, I asked my friend if there were any other “kooky” Canadian traditions or stories. She mentioned that there was this one story she had heard growing up about the “Canadian Loch Ness Monster.” I asked her to tell me more about it, and the following is an exact transcript of her response.

Informant: “Okay, um. So… My relatives all live in Canada, and ay aunt and uncle—well, a lot of my relatives live in British Colombia—um, my aunt and uncle live in Kelowna, which is like a small city. And it’s around a lake. The city is built around a lake called Lake Okanagan. Um…O-K-A-N-A-G-A-N. And, so it’s like… Obviously there’s lots of First Nations people around the area—they actually own a lot the land in Kewlona. So I think it’s like—I don’t actually know really where the story comes from, but there’s lots of, like, myths about the lake and stuff. Um, and the big one is that there’s sort of like a Loch Ness Monster type creature living in Okanagan called Ogopogo, which is an anagram I guess—like the same spelled backwards. It’s just like a a…Just um… The myth is that there’s like this friendly monster with kind of like a serpent, but really big with lots of humps, and um, there’s a statue of it, like, in the town, and stuff. It’s in like children’s books—like everyone knows about Ogopogo. And um, it’s sort of like the mascot of Kewlona, and so there’s all these, like—throughout the times where people claim to have seen it, and like, kind of like, what’s it called [Snaps]… Bigfoot, where they’ll be like this shadowy picture and it’ll be like, ‘See that’s Bigfoot.’ It’s the same with Ogopogo. They’ll be like, ‘That’s Ogopogo right there.’ And it’s like, ‘Where?’ [Laughs.] Like, it’s not exactly—it’s very unclear. And so a lot of people are like, ‘Oh, it’s just two logs’ or ‘That’s just…It’s obviously not real.’ But, um… It’s still like a really big mascot—All the kids in Kewlona know about it…Oh! Not an anagram. A palindrome. Ogopogo is a palindrome. The same forward as it is backward [Laughs].”

Me: “And it’s supposed to be a friendly monster?”

Informant: “It’s a friendly monster, yeah… So it’s—In all the depictions I’ve seen of it. I had little books growing up with like Ogopogo. Like my aunt will give me like Ogopogo or a work of Ogopogo being a friendly monster and guiding boats in the ocean or stuff like that.”

– End Transcript – 

My friend really wasn’t too sure about why people might feel inclined to share this story or perpetuate this legend.

One thought is that it might have to do with the element of the unknown that exists with lakes and other such bodies of water—people can’t see too far below the surface, and so they may invent stories about what exists below, or they might catch glimpses of creatures that they are unfamiliar with and don’t know how to describe, and so they create stories about what they are. The fact that Ogopogo is a friendly monster could speak to the relationship that people in Okanagan feel to the place and to the land—they don’t perceive it as dangerous or threatening, in spite of the fact that what lies beneath the surface of the lake is unknown; they perhaps perceive that whatever is on the other side of this unknown is something positive.

From the sound of it though, Ogopogo also seems very much to be a part of the tourist culture of Kewlona—especially given this idea that it is the town’s mascot. Part of Ogopogo’s prominence in the town could therefore be the residents of the town taking control of this legendary creature as a point of pride and as a way of asserting their identity and identifying what might make Kewlona and the Lake Okanagan area special.

Annotation: http://books.google.com/books?id=EeuXEVththwC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false
The legend was used as the basis for a mystery in one of the installments of the Boxcar Children series (#108: The Creature in Ogopogo Lake). Part of story touches upon the tourist culture around the monster, as people travel to “Ogopogo Resort” to catch sight of the it, but it also taps into this idea of the unknown as the monster becomes a part of the mystery. It thus seems to touch upon two key reasons as to why the legend is sustained.

Orang Minyak or “Oily Man”

This is a male creature, commonly shaped as a human. As can be inferred from his name, he is covered from head to toe in black oil. Sometimes, he is described as naked and sometimes he’s wearing a black pair of swimming trunks. In many stories, he plays a significant roles as a rapist that only targets virgins. There is some dispute over his origins though, it is unclear whether or not he is of human origin or is a creature from the spirit world. Some speculate that the Orang Minyak is the result of a spurned lover that has powers due to his solicitation of either a bomoh (Malayan Witch Doctor) or a contract with a creature from the spiritual world. The Orang Minyak is commonly found in Malayan folklore with appearances made in Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.

This knowledge was imparted to my informant when she was on a school camping trip at the tender age of 16 in Singapore in the late nineteen sixties.  The Orang Minyak is commonly one of the perpetrators and has been blamed for many rapes especially in the 1960s, early nineteen seventies, even though the reports have been few and far between since the 2000s.  According to my informant, the more superstitious Malay students would wear sweaty shirts to give the appearance of someone who had just been with a man.

Strangely enough, while the Orang Minyak has always been part of Malay folklore, there was a surprising amount of hype produced after a series of movies about the Orang Minyak were produced in the 1960s. Before this, there was an occasional sighting and crime committed by the Orang Minyak, however, there was a sudden onslaught of cases and sightings of the Orang Minyak after the movies came out. This prompts many to question if the Orang Minyak became a convenient cover-up for many rapists and rape cases.