USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘lovers’
Tales /märchen

Pakistani Romeo and Juliet

Main piece:

A boy and girl fall in love, but there’s a river between them. The woman knows pottery and they were going to elope together. The girl decides to run away from home because her parents want to have her marry someone else but the girl escapes but doesn’t know how to swim. She decides to use her pottery as a float to help her cross the river to be with her lover but as she floats across the water the pottery dissolves away because it’s made of clay.  

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 heard it from school by a teacher in a literature class when he was learning back at home in Pakistan. It is just a story to him that he knew as a young boy.

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

This story is the Pakistani version of Romeo and Juliet. It is told to children as fiction.

Personal Analysis:

It’s somewhat similar to Romeo and Juliet but it has hints of a culture different from American culture. For instance, the use of pottery as a major item in the story shows that it was a much more common practice and custom. I’m not surprised they have a traditional story like this. Star crossed lovers seems to be common not just in the U.S. but around the world. Kids find these stories entertaining anyway.

Legends
Narrative

The Bird Bridge

The Main Piece
The Gods have always been seen as powerful figures. In this tale, the Gods of our world have revealed their righteousness and sympathy for man. When two lovers have been forcibly separated because of their dueling families, as they are locked away on two separate sides of their households, the Gods decide to intervene in the dispute. They help the two lovers see each other again by calling upon the birds of the region to create a bridge for them once a year. They are allowed to spend their time together upon the bridge until the sun rises. Then, they must depart and wait the long year once again. The performer states “I always thought that it was so cute how they would wait for each other. I mean a year is a really long time and they only had that one night, but that one night must have been super magical.” She did also say that she may have left some parts out of her story since it was a long time ago.
Background Information
My informant is Elizabeth Kim, a current first year undergraduate student and personal friend of mine at USC. Elizabeth was told this story by her father whenever she went to sleep during her youth, around the ages of six and seven years old. It was one of her favorite stories as she imagined finding her perfect soul mate, someone willing to wait every year for just one night with her. There was a time in her life where she would request the story every night. The story is a representation of true love, but also her dreams and goals as a child. As she looks back on it she says “I know it’s lame, but I still hope to find someone like that. It’s the stuff fairytales are made of ya’ know?” She says she is unsure of whether or not her dad made it up or not, but whenever she mentioned it with friends they would claim to have never heard it before.
Context
I was told this unique story as I was interviewing Elizabeth towards the second semester of our freshman year outside of Parkside Apartment at USC. The setting was casual and conversation flowed easily.
Personal Thoughts
I learned a lot about the type of relationships Elizabeth fantasized about and the context of which these fantasies were instilled in her. It was great to hear about her childhood and her love for stories. I was interested in hearing the full story since she did say she felt she may have left some parts out, so I researched more. Although I could not find the version Elizabeth mentioned, there are different versions, some not even including lovers exist all mentioning a bridge of birds. One version is: Barry Hughart’s Bridge of Birds. While plot lines, details, or circumstances may vary in different versions there remains the common factor of a bird bridge being formed which I found interesting.
Works Cited
Hughart, Barry. Bridge of Birds. N.p.: St. Martin’s, 1984. Chronicles of Master Li and Number
Ten Ox. Web. 27 Apr. 2016.

Customs
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Pepero Day

Item:

“Another, couple kind of holiday is November 11. So it’s 11 11, so it’s like four sticks. And this is kind of uh related to uh a popular snack called Pepero, which is like this long bread, like cracker covered with chocolate. And, usually like lovers and couples would either make it or buy a ton of it and give them to each other. And for little children in elementary school who don’t really have like girlfriends and boyfriends, they would give each other like lollipops or like little candies to like celebrate young Valentine’s Day.”

Context: According to the informant, the holiday is massive in Korea, but not as popular among Korean Americans in the States. He says, however, that people still observe the holiday here, and that when he was a kid they “kind of did Pepero day.”

Analysis: Although the holiday, like Valentine’s Day, was created by a corporation in order to increase sales, it has been taken over by the people, who make the day their own and celebrate it in a variety of ways. The holiday can also be analyzed in light of many other traditions discussed in class: using a Freudian lens. The four sticks of 11/11, represented by the Pepero sticks, are themselves phallic symbols. In exchanging these phallic symbols, what the holiday is doing (whether or not this is conscious) is celebrating sexual maturity, the ability to reproduce. The informant later clarified that the holiday is mostly observed by young people and couples. This makes sense in light of what has been discussed. The holiday is only celebrated by those who are capable of reproduction, so it seems. Old people seem to be excluded from this holiday as well as young children, who the informant says share “little candies,” marking their inability to fully participate in the practice of exchanging the Pepero sticks.

 

Humor
Legends
Narrative

The Coconut Tree

Contextual data: My informant (my roommate) told me this story late at night when I asked him if he could think of any stories his parents had told him when he was younger. Another of our friends was present, and she was laughing for much of the performance. According to my roommate, his father told him this story about a coconut thief and two lovers–all of whom have horrible fates–as a joke when they were driving in the car a couple years ago. His father was goofing around and trying to make him laugh, so we can assume this story is usually told as an attempt to be funny. My informant’s father is from Vietnam, and he presumably heard this story there. The following is an exact record of our conversation:

Jackson (me): All right, why don’t you tell me that story that you just told me?

I (my informant): Ok, so once upon a time, there was a Vietnamese farmer. Within his backyard, or farm, or whatever you want to call it, he had a coconut tree. Umm, one day a thief decided that he wanted to steal some of the farmer’s coconuts, so he snuck into the backyard, climbed the really high tree, and . . . umm . . . used his knife to cut off a few coconuts, and put them . . . uhh . . . he tied them around his waist and held a few. And then, underneath the tree was a couple kissing, and when the thief had too many coconuts he accidentally dropped one and it fell onto the man’s head, and he bit off the girl’s tongue. So the girl eventually died of blood loss in her mouth, and the man died of concussion, from the coconut falling on his head from meters above the ground.

J: [Laughing]

I: And, ultimately, the thief was tried for burglary [laughing] and eventually put into jail. The end.

J: [Laughing] All right, do you remember who told you that story?

I: My dad.

J: Uhh, did he mean it as a joke, or like a—

I: I think . . . I think he was just like joking around, but it’s definitely a story that he heard in Vietnam at one point in his life.

J: Ok, so your dad’s from Vietnam?

I: Yeah, he moved over in the 70s—to the U.S. in the 70s.

J: Do you think that the story has a meaning behind it, or something like a moral?

I: Uhh . . . don’t kiss under a really high coconut tree?

[Both laughing]

I: Umm . . . pay attention to your surroundings. Like, if the farmer was actually paying attention, then the thief would have been caught before all this stuff happened and umm the couple would have avoided a tragic fate. And the thief shouldn’t have been so greedy as to grab so many coconuts and dropping them to the ground.

J: Does the story have any personal meaning for you?

I: [Laughing] Umm . . . don’t stand under a coconut tree . . . or any dangerous objects.

Even just judging by our reactions (and that of my other friend who was present), the story is meant to elicit laughter, but it does so through very dark humor. It’s all about people doing things with bad connotations–a thief stealing coconuts and a couple having a romantic rendezvous late at night–and then getting into trouble because of it. As is the nature of all contemporary legends, this story may or may not have actually occurred, but the details have undoubtedly changed as it has been passed on. I think my informant is right about the meaning behind the story; it’s about being aware of your surroundings, but, beyond that, I think it’s about not doing what you shouldn’t be doing. It’s definitely black comedy, and it’s entertaining to listen to, but, in the end, everyone has something bad happen to them almost as punishment for what they’re doing right before. And who knows? As a contemporary legend, it could have actually happened.

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