USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘love’
Narrative

Kabir ke dohe (Kabir’s couplets)

Main piece:

Kabir ke dohe (Kabir’s couplets) are couplets from India.

Here is one of them:

“Pehle Agan Birha Ki, Pachhe Prem Ki Pyas

Kahe Kabir Tub Janiye, Naam Milan Ki Aaas”

Translation:

“First the pain of separation, then the thirst for love

Says Kabir, only then will you know joy of the union.”

Background information (Why does the informant know or like this piece? Where or who did they learn it from? What does it mean to them?):

Informant’s grandmother used to teach her these couplets because they were popular.

The informant believes that this couplet means first you experience the pain of separation then you can feel love. Only from the pain of separation do we feel the pangs of love. Then there is hope of union. This is the story of life – lovers meeting, separating, and realizing their love for each other then holding the urge for union and an eventual union. In Sufi tradition, it is a reflection of man and God – realization of the separation from God, the pangs of love and urge for union with God, and the eventual joy of union.

Context (When or where would this be performed? Under what circumstance?):

It is shared with children in school.

 

Personal Analysis:

I never grew up with couplets, so it’s strange that other cultures see this as regular. The meaning is universal though and it can be said for lovers, family members, God, and anything else we love.

 

Myths

Pele, the volcano goddess

Main piece:

Pele is a volcano goddess in Hawaii. She’s feared by people and known to be mean, because she spurts magma. She became that way because she fell in love with a guy and he betrayed her.

 

Background information (Why does the informant know or like this piece? Where or who did they learn it from? What does it mean to them?):

The informant attended a public elementary school in Hawaii. She first learned about Pele in a mandatory hawaiian culture class. The class was about Hawaii’s history, culture, and language. Pele doesn’t mean much to her. When she grew up, Pele was like Santa Claus- a fictional being. The informant respects the culture, but it’s not her own culture so it’s different from what she identifies with. Growing up, she had a lot of different cultures and races around her but she didn’t know about the others in depth. She knew that Japanese had a god for everything which was similar to Pele. She always doubted the existence and truth of these stories because of her own skepticism.

 

Context (When or where would this be performed? Under what circumstance?):

It is taught in elementary schools in Hawaii. It is regional folklore, similar to greek myth which is taught not as fact but part of culture. Pele is thought of as a story to tell kids growing up.

Personal Analysis:

I’ve never heard of Pele before, but I’m not surprised by the fact that the Hawaiians have a god for their volcanos. The idea of gods seems much more integrated into the Hawaiian culture, but it is more foreign in Los Angeles. Even those who aren’t religious can know these stories like Pele as a part of culture.

 

 

For another version of this proverb, see Kane, Herb Kawainui. Pele: Goddess of Hawaii’s Volcanoes. Captain Cook, HI: Kawainui, 1996. Print.

 

Folk speech
Riddle

Cuban Riddle

Original Script: “Un muchacho le pregunta a una muchacha, ‘Cómo te llamas?’ Ella le contesta, ‘Si el enamorado es entendido, ahí va mi nombre y el color de mi vestido. La respuesta correcta es, ‘Su nombre es Elena y su vestido es morado.”

Transliteration: “A boy asks a girl, ‘How do you call yourself?’ She to him responds, ‘If the lover is understood, there goes my name and the color of my dress.’ The answer correct is, ‘Her name is Elena and her dress is purple.'”

Translation: “A boy asks a girl, ‘What’s your name?’ She responds, ‘If the lover is understood, there goes my name and the color of my dress.’ The correct answer is, “Her name is Elena and her dress is purple.'”

 

This riddle only makes sense in Spanish because the Spanish word for lover, enamorado, is a combination of the last three letter’s of the girl’s name, Elena, as well as the color of her dress, morado. ena+morado=enamorado. Furthermore, the word enamorado is preceded by the word el in the joke. El translates into “the” in this context. The woman in the riddle is testing the man to see if he’s clever enough to figure out  her name using only the clue, rather than just asking for it.

The source said she heard it at a bridal shower. They were telling wedding riddles, and this one came up. It’s a coy riddle, with the woman sounding very flirtatious. It seems she’s interested in this man, but only if he’s smart enough to beat her game. It seems odd that her dress would be purple rather than white, though. Perhaps in some earlier version of the riddle, the man was a prince? Because purple is known to indicate royalty.

 

For another form of this riddle:

Ortiz Y Pino De Dinkel, Reynalda, and Dora Gonzales De Martínez. Una Colección De Adivinanzas Y Diseños De Colcha = A Collection of Riddles and Colcha Designs. Santa Fe, NM: Sunstone, 1988. Google Books. Web. 23 Apr. 2016.

Customs
Humor

Top Place to Go On a Date in Shrewsbury

“Okay, so, umm, the guy who created the pill, um, invented it in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. And there, the first factory where, um, they started, like, getting manufactured or whatever is in Shrewsbury. Umm, and now it’s like a thing, I guess, where you like take your significant other on a date to the factory where the pill was first made. So, that’s a thing people do in Shrewsbury. Or, like, not my generation but like, people who are, like, slightly older, that’s what they do.”

 

It’s an interesting and funny story. You can understand the connection between dates and the pill factory, I guess? It seems odd, but the way I see it, dates lead to love which lead to sex which leads to a need for the pill. Perhaps whoever first started this trend was hoping to have a happy, birth-free relationship. It’s cutely ironic and sounds like something that was meant to be a joke, but perhaps became mainstream after one couple did it.

What’s also interesting, though, is what the source says about this not being part of her generation. It’s something that occurred among an older generation and then died before her generation go to following in their footsteps. Perhaps it’s because the factory was still in use during this older generation’s childhood. They may have seen and known of the factory, probably even heard about it once a week, what with what they were manufacturing. So when it shut down, it was more relevant for that generation to sneak in and see what was going on and, eventually, start going on dates there.

The source’s generation, however, would’ve grown up never knowing about the factory. Had they not researched it or heard about it, they might never have known what was made there. If they don’t know what the factory was for, then it loses the attraction as being a “hot date” spot. The irony and comedy of it is lost.

general
Musical

Tadpole Song

I think I’ll eat a tadpole,

maybe even a bug.

I’ve got some worms down in the garden

that I recently dug.

You said you didn’t love me,

you told me it was true,

so darling this is really, really,

what I’m gonna do.

 

I think I’ll eat a tadpole,

then I’ll lay down and die

and you’ll be sorry,

oh so sorry,

that you told me goodbye.

 

So if you really love me,

just tell me with a hug

before I eat a tadpole or a bug.

I really mean it,

before I eat a tadpole or a bug.

 

The informant was my father, a 49-year-old engineer who currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, but who grew up in the area surrounding Austin, Texas. The song is one that his mother used to sing to him and his siblings when they were little. The informant says his mother had a beautiful singing voice and would either sing hymns or songs like this before the children would go to bed because she was always in charge of this activity. He says it is interesting to him because “it must have come from some popular pop music of some age” and he “almost suspect[s] that it’s a fragment, but it was passed down to us as a whole,” “almost a vignette.” He also heard it from his older sister as she was learning to sing it for her children. He performs it because it reminds him of his mother, but also because “it’s just, it’s the cutest concept of a song . . . you know, it’s a child’s concept of love combined with a child’s concept of mortality. Uh, you know, you left me, I’m gonna basically hold my breath and die if you don’t come back. You know, and eating a tadpole is going to kill you, you know, it’s just all, I just love the construction and the cuteness of it.” He sees it as a way of teaching children that breaking somebody’s heart is a big deal. He also admits that the whole thing is “a little twisted.”

 

This song was collected while I was home for Spring Break and performed in my living room. It was interesting to me because my father also used to sing it to me and my sister when we were children. It’s a song with a nice tune that seems harmless, but it has lyrics that are actually pretty dark. I remember it as being sad when I was much younger, but looking at it now it strikes me that the subject of the song is suicide, even if the narrator is not going to die from eating a tadpole. I think the song is mainly meant to be cute and entertaining, but I also agree somewhat with the informant’s assessment that the song is about teaching children the effect their actions and words can have on another person.

 

A version of this song was performed and released (“I Think I’ll Eat a Tadpole”) by Sue Thompson in 1966. Thompson’s version has the above version as its chorus and additional verses. While the chorus is recognizable as the informant’s version, many of the words have been changed and the overall tone of the song is different. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHnlZfJAHT0

Thompson, Sue. "I Think I'll Eat a Tadpole." The Country Side of Sue Thompson. Ridgeway Music, 1966. CD.
general
Initiations
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Competition to see who loved the other the most

Informant “J” is a 19 year male old college student at the University of Southern California, he is studying Neuroscience and is a Sophomore at the time of this interview. He was born in Danville, California to a Jewish father and as a result J has regular exposure to Jewish traditions and customs. Though he does involve himself with Jewish traditions, he does not practice Judaism and considers himself non-religious.

Bolded portion is a quick summation of the the particular piece of Folklore.

 

“J: So when I was growing up, and, to this day, my Grandma, what she liked to do was, she liked to challenge me to see who loved each other more and we would do that by someone saying “I love you” and someone saying “I love you more”, and someone would say I love you the most.

J:So what would happen when we were kids, when we were at the pool, is we would try to figure out who loved each other the most, so instead of just saying it more we had to wait five minutes before some could say it again in order for the time to reset. So we’d be doing something, we’d be swimming in the pool and than all of a sudden someone would be like “oh I love you the most” and they would love you the most for those five minutes. And, ever since, ever to this day everytime we finished talking we’d always just go “I love you the most”, “nope, I love you the most” and try to say “No, I love you the most I’ve loved you before you were born”, so it’s something that we do with our family.

Me: Um, when you say, wait five minutes, is it sort of like the first person to say it wins? Or is it that, they sort of, for that entire five minute period they are the winner and then they until they are “challenged again”?

J: It was just kind of like you just couldn’t say it right away and whoever did it was the winner for that five minutes. It would restart five minutes later. Whoever could say it than obviously loved the other the most because they were paying such close attention in order to tell the other person.

Me: So let me get this straight, somebody would say “I love you the most” after a sort of like ‘escalation’, and than you’d wait five minutes…

J: It went to the point where you didn’t even have to start it off, it just began when you said “I love you the most”.

Me: Okay , so who started that tradition?

J: My grandma.

Me: And did she do that with her, uh, family as well with her Great Grandparents or… did it happen spontaneously?

J: Uhhhh…  I think it kind of just happened spontaneously, I wasn’t alive for my Great Granparents on her side of the family, it would have been a long time ago. ”

Analysis: The game appears to be a game that reiterates the loving feelings among family members while allowing friendly competition between family members, this sort of ‘endearing competition’ allowing family members to prove their caring for one another. The tradition, started by his grandmother, who is American born (as he told me after the interview), had parents that were Ukrainian, so the tradition could have been generated or duplicated in the United States or Ukraine. His grandma’s use of the game allowed the use of the game to reiterate the feeling she has for her grandchildren, and the competitive aspect could help motivate the children to play along, while allowing them to express admiration for each other and her. As “J” described it, all members tried to answer first, and the competitive aspect was taken seriously.

 

Adulthood
Customs
general
Gestures

Haircuts and Rejections

The Informant:

My friend is someone I met two years ago when I first came to USC. She and I lived on the same floor and had similar classes. She was born in Japan and immigrated to the U.S. when she was less than four years old. She heard this reference when she was visiting her friend back in Japan in high school.

When a girl cuts her hair to make a drastic change, it means she was dumped by her boyfriend or rejected when confessing to someone. 

The Analysis:

The saying falls along the lines of a sort of remedy to channel the girl’s sadness or frustration at rejection. It represents the rejection but also a new beginning that comes after a type of failure. The cutting of one’s hair signifies that one has abandoned the faulty past and is working to move one to the future. The hair is significant because a maiden’s hair is a major form of attraction for men. Cutting off this form of attraction can mean that the boy had no attraction towards the girl so she might as well cut it off. The importance of hair in the Japanese culture accentuates the act of cutting it and this in turn accentuates the meaning behind it.

general

A Rose to Remember

The informant (A) has been married to her husband (D) for 24 years. They got married in a non-religious outdoor ceremony when A was 24 and D was 29. Though I do not recollect them being overly romantic while their children were at home, this changed slightly after their youngest son left for college. I asked A if she remembered anything she wanted to share with me about her wedding and told me of a practice that the reverend suggested on their wedding day and they continued to do for a couple years after their wedding. The reverend was of no special importance to them other than that he could legally marry them. When the reverend was talking to them before the ceremony, he said that they should give each other a single red rose whenever they needed to remember that they loved each other enough to get married. This could be in response to an argument, a special day like an anniversary, or just because. A continued to say that she gave D a red rose on their anniversary, and they maybe did this a couple of other times in the first couple years of marriage, but as life went on they forgot about the practice when other things became more important. A did not seem upset that she and her husband had stopped the practice. It was just something to do.

The romantic nature of a red rose itself has little to do with this gesture other than being a pretty story. The red rose could be replaced with anything: a favorite candy bar, a stuffed animal, a card. The meaning to this gesture seems to be in the kindness of remembering to give the red rose rather than the red rose itself. Effectively, giving the red rose simply says “I remember that I love you, and I want to show you that I remember.” A and her husband stopped doing this a couple of years after they got married, which coincides with when they had their first child. This is the point at which I think that they ceased to be a “couple” and started being a “family,” which does not need special gestures to show that there is love between them. A rose pales in comparison to looking at a child that you created with another person. Being romantic and stereotypically sappy does not seem to be a part of A and D’s relationship.

Childhood
general
Humor
Riddle

A Romantic Knock Knock Joke

My informant here recounts a knock knock joke which was spontaneously told to her by an adolescent:

So I was babysitting this kid, and he started telling me this knock knock joke: he was like “knock knock” and I was like “who’s there?” and he was like “window!” and I was like “window who?” and he was like “window to your heart,” and I was like “wow kid that’s really deep.”

Although my informant said she felt as much amusement as genuine gratitude in return for this knock knock joke, she mentioned how “awesome” it was since it had come from a child. Indeed, the propensity of the cheesiest lines to touch us when recited by children can only be due to their pure child-like honesty. In fact, It was this selfsame pure benevolence, which comes through this knock knock joke, and so touched my informant.

Adulthood
Customs
Initiations
Life cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays
Signs

Custom Henna

In Indian weddings in general, Henna is very very important. And it is said that the darker it is, the more your husband loves you.
This belief, while known to be a mere superstition, is still venerated and guarded as paramount to the success of a marriage. So much so, that there are articles and tips in Indian wedding magazines and blogs as to how to obtain a darker stained Mehndi. Some brides, Mayuri mentioned, go so far as to bleach the skin around their upper and nether limbs in order to have the henna stand out more from their skin and appear darker.

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