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

Zirahuen Lake Legend

Main Piece: Zirahuen Lake Legend

 

Full Piece – Transliteration (told in English by a Spanish Speaker)

 

“The Legend say that when the fall of Tecnochtitlan. Spaniards come and was a handsome captain who fell in love with Princess Erendira. She was the daughter of King Tangazoan, the captain wanted to have her for himself so he kidnapped the princess and hid her in the valley surrounded by mountains. The Princess Erendira cry day and night, and pray to her gods to save her from her natural prison. The gods of day and night Juriata and Jaratanga decide to help her; they turn her into a mermaid and her tears were so powerful that a lake was formed in the middle of the valley.

 

Villagers say that the mermaid is still living under the deep of the lake and sometimes she emerges to punish me of evil hearts.”

 

Translation

 

“The Legend says that when Tecnochtitlan fell, Spaniards came with a handsome captain who fell in love with Princess Erendira. She was the daughter of King Tangazoan, and the handsome captain wanted to have her all to himself, so he kidnapped the princess and hid her in a valley surrounded by mountains. Princess Erendira cried day and night, praying to the gods to save her from her natural prison. The gods of day and night, Juriata and Jaratanga, decided to help her. They transformed her into a mermaid and gave her tears so powerful that when she would cry she created a lake in the middle of the valley where she was held.

 

Villagers say that the mermaid is still living in the depths of the lake and will surface sometimes to punish mean of evil hearts.”

 

Background:

 

This story was told by my Mexican nanny, Mirna, of 18 years, and it is one of her favorite stories growing up as a kid. Her mother would tell it to her brothers and sisters as a sort of bedtime story, and to teach her sons what would happen if you were mean to a woman you loved. She likes this story because it gives her a feeling of empowerment as a woman, and likes to think that it gives her a voice in her head that she won’t take crap from anyone. Her grandmother passed on the story to her mother, who then passed it on to my nanny and her siblings.

 

Context:

 

My nanny is a native Spanish speaker, but she told me in English as to help me understand, and I did not get the chance to get the full Spanish telling. The origin of the story is from the Michoacán region of Mexico, where my nanny grew up and where her family still lives to this day. It tells of the formation of the lake nearby where they live, and is more of a creation story from the region.

I think of this as more of the kind of story that would be told around a campfire or to a child as they are being put to bed, because it has both a mythological part in the story of the gods helping out the princess, and also tells of why certain things came to be near their home and gives a reason that almost dictates their way of life.

 

My thoughts:

 

When I first heard the story, I thought it was a variation of the “La Llorona” story, where a similar event occurs in that a woman is distraught by her man and ends up living in a body of water. When I asked if this was a version of La Llorona, she began to explain that this was a local legend from where she grew up, and was a story explaining the creation of the lake near where she lived.

I don’t think this was the entire story, as it seems very short and not very detailed, but it still gets the point across as being a creation story.

 

 

 

For another version of this story, see:  The Leyend of Zirahuen’s Lake (http://ourcommunityblog.blogspot.com/2009/04/leyend-of-zirahuens-lake.html)

Myths
Narrative

Syrena

My informant was born in Boston, but his parents immigrated to the United States from Poland. He is an American citizen, but he has spent a few summers in Poland, and his parents keep many Polish traditions alive in his household. He told me about some of the similarities and differences between the ways that Christmas is celebrated in America versus in Poland. This is his account:

“Okay so, there’s a mermaid, and the Polish word for mermaid is Syrena. I don’t think she has a name. She’s just, like, “the mermaid.” And she frolics the world’s seas, and like waterways, I guess, with her mermaid family, because her dad is the ruler of water. He’s like, the king of water. And then one day she’s just swimming around, and she almost gets caught in a fishing net, and she needs to swim to shore to seek refuge because she’s hurt. And when she gets to the shore, she asks the river—because she can talk to all the waters—she asks the river, “Where am I right now? What’s going on?” And the river’s like, “Oh, you’re in Poland.” And the mermaid is like, “Oh. Okay.” And then the river offers to like, show her the lands, basically. She’s like, “Yeah, just swim upstream, and I can show you the beautiful lands that Poland has to offer.” And the mermaid’s like, “All right. That sounds awesome.” Um… so then they’re swimming, and eventually they swim towards like, a village. It’s called Mazowsze, and she just starts talking to the people there, and they’re all really friendly and hospitable. And she likes them and she decides to like, live with them. So then one day, the tribe is doing a hunt in honor of the prince, for whatever reason. And… But the prince has these golden arrows, and he’s on his last one, and he lost it, and he’s looking around for it on the banks of the river, and he meets up with the mermaid, because the mermaid, it turns out, had the arrow. And so she points him in the right direction of where she saw the reindeer that he was like, tailing. And then they get to this hut of the guy named Mr. Warsz, and he’s very hospitable and gives them food and shelter for the night. So they’re very grateful. And they’re in this beautiful clearing that this guy had like, set up. And then, because the prince was so grateful to this dude, he named the clearing Warszowa, which later became Warszawa, which is the Polish word for Warsaw, which is now the capital of Poland. So that’s the story of how Warsaw came to be.”

Analysis: My informant remembers this story from the times his mother told it to him when he was younger. He thinks she must have learned it from her parents; as he explained, “I mean, it’s a very culturally significant story, so I’m sure she heard it growing up.” This story is classified as a myth because it takes place essentially “before” or “outside” the real world. It has a sacred truth value because it is supposed to be an account of the formation of a nation’s capital; the mermaid likely did not literally exist, but she is accepted as “truth” and as an integral part of the narrative. It can be categorized as an origins story, for, like many myths, it explains how something came to be. These stories are, as my informant says, “culturally significant” because they provide an explanation for why the way the world is the way it is. The fantastical elements—golden arrows, talking mermaids—make the story intriguing, especially for children. Indeed, my informant was a child the first time he heard it. Yet it is also a story for people of all ages; children may be fascinated by the prince and the mermaid, whereas adults may take nationalistic pride in the fact that it is a story about Poland and its capital.

Customs
Legends
Narrative

Camp Lore: Lemonade Tower

Informant: “Every year at camp Kinneret, the camp counselors bring all the campers up to the lemonade tower and give them lemonade from the mermaids who live in the tower.”

 

The informant is currently a freshman in high school and lives in Calabasas, a particularly wooded area for Southern California. The informant recollected this experience from when he was a younger child attending Camp Kinneret, a summer day camp for children aged 4 -14, during the summer. The informant was approximately five years of age when he learned of this legend from his camp counselor.

According to the informant, at some point every summer the camp counselors will take the children enrolled in the camp on a hike to a nearby water tower, give them lemonade, and tell them the story of the tower. The legend was that mermaids lived in the tower and had made the lemonade for the campers who visited them. The purpose of the legend, according to the informant, was that “kids get lemonade and it gets the kids to be excited to be at a camp where there are mermaids who can make lemonade.” When asked how the informant felt about the lore he said that as a child he did believe in the mermaids and that he “thought it was awesome that mermaids were giving me lemonade.”

In the camp, this legend is age graded because as those who attended the camp got older they no longer believed in the mermaids who lived in the tower, but the informant said the counselors would tell them “not to spoil the story for the younger kids.”

I agree with the informant that this legend is a great way to get campers excited to be at camp, especially because the legend is focused on younger members, around four to six, who might be afraid to be away at a camp.

general

“If you go swimming right after you eat, you will turn into an ugly mermaid.”

Name: Veronica Cohen
Nationality: Puerto Rican
Primary Language: English; Other Language: Spanish
Age: 31
Occupation: Housewife
Residence: West Los Angeles

“If you go swimming right after you eat, you will turn into an ugly mermaid.”
Veronica told me that this is something her mother said all the time when she was a child. She said that when she was younger, she loved swimming and would try to do it whenever she could. In order to prevent her from going into the water so soon after she ate, Veronica’s mother would tell her that she would turn into an ugly mermaid if she didn’t wait 30 minutes before jumping into the pool. For the longest time, Veronica made sure to wait after eating, since she didn’t want to become an ugly mermaid.
This can be seen as a sort of remedy because Veronica’s mother had to think of a way to prevent her daughter from getting indigestion in a fun and imaginative way. Children have a hard time remembering rules, especially rules that keep them from doing what they want. Since children are not going to realize that mermaids don’t exist, they are likely to believe that they will turn into ugly creatures when they don’’t listen to their parents.

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