USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Monster’
Folk Beliefs
general
Legends
Protection

Aswang

The informant is a fellow student and a good friend. While going out for smoothies, she shared her Filipino culture with me.


Informant: “This is like evil. So basically what it is, it’s like… It’s kind of like a shape-shifter. Like it takes on a human form during the day, and at night it takes on a monstrous form of either a bat, a bird, a rat, or something… Something that’s vicious, you know?”

Me: “Wait, did you say monster during the night? Or just and animal”

Informant: “A monstrous animal-like, animalistic… Yeah, not like a monster, it could be a bat, it could be a rat, uh… a bird… Some vicious creature. And in the day it take son this human form an it’s disguised. And what it does, is at night it feeds on human bodies. Or like, it wakes up humans in the middle of the night and they eat their flesh. And they kind of, they have this thing that they do where they feed human flesh to humans, so that they’re like manipulated.”

Me: “Does that turn them into Aswang as well?”

Informant: “Yeah, yeah. Yes.”

Me: “Ah, ok. So they like sneak into peoples’ houses?”

Informant: “Yeah, they sneak into peoples’, or they wake them up when they’re sleeping. I’m not sure if they actually turn them into Aswang, but they definitely feed on the humans. And they’re kind of like demonic, violent, evil creatures that you should be careful of. I don’t know if there’s any prevention, like… That you have to block your doors is all I know.”

Me: “But who do they target specifically?”

Informant: “Anyone.”

Me: “Anyone? So, like, how do you avoid them? You don’t know?”

Informant: “I don’t know how to avoid. Like, my grandma never told me. They just feed on anyone.”

Me: “Okay, but are they like, uncommon attacks?”

Informant: “I don’t know that part, just that they attack random people.”

Me: “And has she seen one?”

Informant: (shakes head) “I think it’s just a legend.”

Background & Analysis

The informant’s grandma learned about these creatures through oral tradition, and the legend is not particular to any island or culture specifically in the Philippines. The informant also doesn’t believe the Aswang are real, especially because it’s known as a creature that comes in the middle of the night and eats your family. She believes if it were real, there would be some sort or prevention or protection methods against them. For the informant, the lesson of this legend would be to lock your doors at night and not go wandering around at midnight, lest something bad happen. All of the informant’s family members know about this legend and other popular ones as well, since it’s been around for a long time and is so widespread.

What seems to be the trend with legends, is that you can always pull a lesson or a message out of them once you are able to look past the creepy, scary stuff. In this case, the lesson could be something as simple as keeping your doors locked at night, or watching out for those who would try to hurt or take advantage of you.

 

Folk Beliefs
Legends

Jersey Devil

*Note about informant: Laura Zucker is my mother. She grew up in New Jersey.

 

INFORMANT: “So I grew up in Highland Park, New Jersey, and in the southern part of the state of New Jersey, there’s a place called the Pine Barrens, which is a big expanse… uninhabited expanse of pine trees and forest. And there has, for … 200 years been this legend of something called the Jersey Devil that lives down there. And the story is… I mean, it’s kind of like a Bigfoot/Sasquatch thing, but … um, it’s said to be this creature with the head of a horse or a goat and bat wings, and it emits this shrieky… loud, scary, shrieky sound. I don’t know if it eats people or just scares the pee out of them, but it’s, you know, why you don’t want to stay in the Pine Barrens alone by yourself at night.”

COLLECTOR (myself): “Who told you about it?”

INFORMANT: “You know, it was just one of those things that you grew up knowing about. I don’t remember anybody telling me, it was just sort of part of the world that we swam in because we lived in New Jersey.”

Before I posted this, I saw that a student from last year’s class had published a post also called “Jersey Devil,” so I gave it a look and wasn’t entirely surprised to find that my mom’s version of the story and the other informant’s version were pretty different. Some elements stayed the same, like the bat wings and goat/sheep/horse head, but the back stories and the informants’ opinions on the underlying message were very different. While the other informant had a detailed back story about a promiscuous woman, my mom’s version has no such back story – the creature simply exists, and that’s the way it’s always been. The other informant saw the Devil as a warning to women not to be promiscuous, while my mom saw the Devil as a warning for children and others not to spend time alone in the Pine Barrens. I thought it was interesting that the other informant had a more detailed back story, because if I remember correctly, that informant was from Delaware, not NJ. You’d think that my mom, as a Jersey local, would have a richer understanding of the legend than an outsider.

The Jersey Devil is a great example of folklore because the origin of the story is absolutely unknown. My mother can’t even recall a person telling her the story – she says it was just part of the general context of her hometown and her growing up, that it was almost known and understood by default because it was so ingrained in the local lore.

Folk Beliefs
general
Protection

The Devil will pull you under the bed by your feet

Informant (“M”) is a 52 year old woman from Bogota, Colombia. She moved to the United States in 1992, at the age of 30. She has two kids, a boy and a girl, who she raised in the United States. She has four siblings, two brothers and two sisters, she was the second born. She has a 102 year old Grandmother. Collection was over Skype.

 

Transcript:

“M: Cuando nosotros uh… youngers, uh…. younger? Okay and we lied, my mom said to us when you go to sleep tonight… that was scary… the devil is coming and grab you from your feet and taking you with him. Usually we went to sleep and we covered our feet very well, and wore socks, and the next day sometimes we lost one of ours socks. She would say the devil took the socks but didn’t grab us from our feet.

Me: So what this supposed to happen when you were in bed?

Yeah, because we was wearing socks and took our socks instead.

Me: Did he like stay or live under the bed?

M: Yeah! I believe he did, he was under the bed or under old blankets. Later we’d find the socks lost sometimes and believe “oh god the devil was here”. We’d later find the socks sometimes.

Me: So she said that only happened when you lied?

M: It’s only when we lied, ‘’I know you’re lying tonight and the devil will come get you from you feet’’ [imitation of mother].

Me: Was there any way to stop him, like could you confess that you lied or pray to stop the devil?

(Did not address question as I interrupted)

M: That was like 40 something years ago, I believe that was similar in the United States in the 50s. I don’t think it a very funny way to teach to behave.”

 

Analysis:

The monster pulling you under the bed by your feet piece of Folklore appears to exist in the United States, as was noted by “M”, often tied to the boogeyman. There are multiple references to the ‘under the bed monster’ and in American popular studies journals being cited in one article as “…so universal that we no longer stop to think about their origins. “(Shimabukuro, 2014). As identified by “M” at the end of the transcript, it was used as a method to convince her, by her mother, to tell her if she had been lying. This could be used to scare the truth out of a child, or if the child would not tell no matter what, as a way to negatively reinforce such behavior.

“M”s use of socks to protect her from the devil living under the bed appears to be used as a protection charm from the devil, similar to when children hide their heads under the blanket. It was also used as an indicator of the devil’s presence, as the disappearance of the socks may have indicated to “M” that the devil had tried to grab her and grabbed her sock instead.

Work Cited

Shimabukuro, K. (2014). The Bogeyman of Your Nightmares: Freddy Krueger’s Folkloric Roots. STUDIES IN POPULAR CULTURE.

Legends
Narrative

An Encounter with the Yeti

Item:

“So when I was younger, my grandfather would always tell me stories about his experiences with the yeti. And he was very keen, on like, calling the yeti the yeti and not big foot or ice man or anything. And he described the yeti as this monstrous, white-furred creature that lived in the coldest parts of the world. And so he said that one time, him and his buddies were up in Alaska (actually buddy, I remember it was one person), him and his friend were up in Alaska and I had just learned about glaciers in elementary school so I ask him like ‘what’s a glacier?’ and  he told me this story about how he was in Alaska and he was like touring the glaciers, um and him and his friend were in a tour group and went off the track, off the trail. And they were walking around just waltzing about minding their own business when all of the sudden they came up to a giant impasse where one glacier, there was like a giant ditch before the other glacier, um and so they had to get across somehow. So he said they had no idea what to do, they had gone off the trail, completely by themselves, and he said that all of the sudden, the yeti, who I was aware of because of these other stories, the yeti had come from out of nowhere it seemed um and picked my grandfather and his friend up and over the giant ditch and placed them on the other side.”

Context:

The informant stated that even though he “couldn’t actually logically reason it out like oh there has to be a yeti because of this evidence and that evidence,” because his grandfather said it, “it had to be true.”

Analysis:

The story the informant’s grandfather tells is a legend because it takes place in the real world and its truth value is unknown. His grandfather still maintains that the stories are true, most likely reflecting his unspoken desire for his grandson to continue to spread the legacy of the yeti through his own stories told to his kids and grandkids.

general
Legends
Narrative

Georgetown Chupacabra

There was a guy in Georgetown who heard noises outside of his trailer. He grabbed a gun that for some reason he kept in his run-down trailer, he ran outside to find a chupacabra. A chupacabra is like a goat-eater, is what it’s also called. I don’t really know what it looks like. But in this case I hear that what he shot at might have actually been a sick, hairless, bear cub, which is pretty sad. Anyway, the guy shoots at it and misses, then shoots again and kills the thing. He said when he shot it, it was screaming “like a four year old girl.” Which is a really disturbing analogy, because, how, precisely, would he know? Anyway, that’s what I heard. It happened in the town just over from ours. The guy was a big hick, and he went to high school, I think, with our high school economics teacher.

This is a FOAF story that happened in the performer’s hometown. It definitely gives a feel for the town identity. As the performer of this story lives nearby the town where the chupacabra was allegedly found, she knows the area and is familiar with what bear cubs look like. She is fond of the story, because it is quickly becoming a town legend, and has apparently made the town infamous, where before the town was too small to be of any note. The story has become part of the town identity.

Legends
Narrative

El Cucuy

This JEP informant told an urban legend about a nighttime monster named El Cucuy. According to the informant, El Cucuy walks around everywhere after the sun sets. The monster’s distinguishing physical feature is his one big ear that can hear every sound. It does not matter if the sound comes from nearby or far away. The creature can even hear people who stay silent.

The informant learned about El Cucuy from his teacher in second grade. This legend was also reinforced by his mother who told him not to go out at night because El Cucuy lurked outside. The informant is unsure if he believes in the urban legend of the monster.

This legend seems to have been transformed into a means that the storyteller uses to achieve an end: the informant’s mother used it to scare her young son so that he would not leave the house at night. Perhaps worried parents have encouraged the spreading of this urban legend. This legend is probably aimed at younger children who are more gullible and become scared into obeying more easily. The informant, who is almost a teenager, seems skeptical of this mysterious monster that possesses magical hearing capabilities.

This legend is annotated. It can also be found at the following source: http://tucsoncitizen.com/paranormal/2010/06/27/the-frightening-folklore-of-el-cucuy/

Foodways
Narrative
Tales /märchen

Vietnamese Bedtime Story

Story:

“It’s a bed time story that my mom used to tell me about this human eating monster that like terrorized a village in Vietnam. And I don’t know, this one hero got him to like try this delicious Vietnamese chicken dish and he liked it so much that he just ate chicken”

My informant liked this story because was funny and so easily resolved.

In this little story, it connects my informant with her Vietnamese heritage, not only in the location, but also in food.  It presses that Vietnamese food is so good, that it can stop a terrifying monster who now loves it so much, it is all he eats.  It is her mother telling her that their culture is important for her to know.  It is the last thing she hears before she goes to sleep and what she eats every day.  It was important for my informant to hear this because she grew up away from Vietnam in American culture.

Customs
Earth cycle
Legends
Material
Narrative
Protection

Red Envelopes

There was once a village that was terrorized by a monster at the same time every year. The monster targeted children. The townspeople could not defeat the monster and the monster would not leave them alone. One day, a young man with a red pouch went to battle the monster, but the monster ran from him. The man returned to the village, telling the townspeople that the monster was frightened by the color red. So, everyone in the village dressed their children in red. When the monster came to the village, it quickly fled, fearful of the color red. The villagers took the color red as a symbol of luck and gave the children red envelopes every year to ward away the monster and to bring good fortune to the child.

My informant has known this story as long as he can remember. His parents would tell it to he and his cousins around Chinese New Years. The monster described serves as a form of boogeyman, and the fact that the red envelopes given by the parents are needed to ward him away the monster allow for a form of black mail to make the children behave as the new year approaches, much as Santa does around Christmas time for Christians. It would be interesting to know if these traditions developed independently or if one inspired the other.

Customs
Festival
general
Holidays
Myths
Rituals, festivals, holidays

You have to wear red on New Year’s because you want to scare away the monster. The monster is scared of red, which is the color of firecrackers.

The informant is a student at the University of Southern California. She says that she has always performed this piece of folklore ever since she could remember, as her family is Chinese and they participate in the tradition. This belief causes the Chinese to wear red and decorate everything in red. They also set off firecrackers based off of this superstition. She says that this tradition is based off of a Chinese myth where a monster came to attack the villagers a long time ago. To appease the monster, the villagers would offer up food in front of their houses to the monster every year. One year though, they noticed that the monster was scared off by a person wearing red, so the villagers started wearing red and covering the village in red so that the monster would never come back. It is believed that because every year on New Year’s, everybody in the community wears red, the monster doesn’t come back anymore.This folk belief also related to magic superstition, where by participating in the ritual of scaring off the monster by wearing red, one will not have bad luck for the rest of the year. When everybody participates in the ritual, it causes a sense of community as well, strengthening the relationship of the common group that participates in the piece of folklore amongst themselves.

Folk Beliefs
general
Legends
Tales /märchen

Pontianak

Found throughout South East Asia, this is a female monster that appears at first glance to be a beautiful woman with long black hair. On closer examination though, she has sharp fangs and razor like claws.  Unlike most female monsters that only target males, the Pontianak kills and is rather indiscriminate in her choice of victims, though there seems to be a preference for pregnant females and men. Depending on her choice of victims, males tend to have their bodies drained of blood. Whereas, pregnant women usually have their unborn fetuses ripped from their bodies before the Pontianak eats the unborn baby and drains the mother of all her blood. There is no know way to subdue the Pontianak other than not to stop for her, as her preferred location tends to be on highways and abandoned roads late at night.

                  My informant first heard of this particular breed of monster was at a campfire when he was about 15 years old. The Pontianak is a classic horror story told to scare people from travelling alone at night. However, there are real stories of encounters with this monster. Often, they are in a taxi and they pass by a beautiful woman on the side of the road wearing a sarong kebaya and when they pass by, they usually see the pale face, sharp teeth and claws that characterize the Pontianak. Those fortunate enough to live though seeing a Pontianak are few and far between.

                  Like most creatures like this, they are often the center of many a horror film. According to my informant, there are at least 3 movies that involve the Pontianak; however, none of them were made in English but in Bahasa Melayu and Bahasa Indonesia. This is because this is a creature, primarily in Malay folklore and this extends to both Malaysia and Indonesia. There are variations on the Pontianak in the other South East Asian countries, but the Pontianak spans at least three countries on that area of the continent.

                  This can be viewed as a variation of the vengeful female demon/creature in most folklore. While there is various speculation on her origins, for in some, she is the embodiment mother’s who have died due to either childbirth or a miscarriage and she is the bitter result because she cannot stand other people having children when she couldn’t. In other tales, she is what happened to a scorned woman whose fiancé betrays her for someone else and she kills herself in response.

[geolocation]